Debt Help Getting Rid of Debt

How to Eliminate Debt Faster

Erica Sandberg
Written by Erica Sandberg

When you owe more consumer debt that you can quickly delete, the situation can seem hopeless. Even when you’re making the required payments, interest and fees are piled on to the carried-over balance, so the difference in the principal is barely noticeable.

According to the credit card curator ValuePenguin, the average credit card balance per indebted household is roughly $16,000. If you’re that much in and just make the minimum payments – which start out at $480 and then gradually decline – it would take about 19 years to pay off, assuming a 17 percent APR. Over $13,000 in interest charges would have been tacked on, too. Sticking with the $480 until the balance is zero is better, but it would still take you nearly four years and cost over five grand to be back in the black.

So how can you pay off your debt in record time and at the lowest possible cost? Here are 6 ways to expedite the process.

  1. Purge property for profit. Examine your personal environment carefully to identify anything you can spare that’s worth selling. Sports equipment, electronics, clothes, furniture, baby items, etc. — all may be just within reach. You might be surprised by how much some things can go for. A pair of decent tennis rackets might sell for $50, and an iPhone 6 plus (maybe you just upgraded and it’s sitting in a drawer) could put a couple of hundred dollars in your wallet. Assign a weekend for a sell-off spree. Drag stuff into the front yard for an old fashioned garage sale or use any of the apps that are designed to help you unload, such as LetGo. Assign every penny you earn from the sale to your creditors.
  1. Send newly charged stuff back. If you’ve recently bought something with your credit card that can still be returned to the seller, reassess what you truly need to keep. A luxury item, like a $400 Dyson hair dryer, is not an essential item! Send it back and get your account re-credited. Don’t worry, you can buy whatever it is again later when you’re in a better financial position. In the meantime, make due with a $20 dryer from the drugstore.
  1. Drive your debt down. If you have a late model vehicle, you’re over the age of 21, and meet other basic requirements, you might want to drive for a car share company when you’re already out and about. You can pick up paying passengers any time you’re on the road to earn more in a random fashion. Or you can make a pact to generate a specific amount every month. Whatever the case, apply the extra funds to the amount you owe.
  1. Do not-so-hard labor. Babysitting, dog walking, house cleaning… these are the kinds of jobs that you can do on an occasional basis that pay somewhere between $10 and $25 per hour (it depends on your area and experience). Entertain all reasonable options. For example, you might be able to care for the neighbor’s kids so the parents can go out every Saturday night, a gig that can bring in a few hundred dollars per month. Again, don’t spend it – immediately send the money to your creditors.
  1. Eliminate at least one expense. Examine your budget to identify something you spend money on that you can, at least temporarily, suspend. That might be lunches that you buy at a restaurant instead of bringing your own. Even fast food can easily run you $10 a pop. Brown bag it while you’re in repayment mode. It takes a little prep work but if you get into the habit it won’t be so bad. Of course it costs to make your own sandwiches, chips, and fruit, but it’s far less than if you were to buy everything from the deli. Calculate the savings and toss that amount into a jar earmarked for debt.
  1. Stop paying for what’s bad for you. If you’re a smoker, this is the perfect impetus to get both physically and financially fit by quitting. In most U.S. states a pack of cigarettes runs between $6 and $8. So if you’re ready to stop, deposit your pack-a-day money into that debt jar at the end of every successful day. Not a smoker? Maybe you play the lottery on a daily basis or buy high calorie coffee drinks or sodas. Figure out how much those indulgences are costing you and reroute it into something positive – your debt fund.

How much of an impact can all this have? Huge. Let’s say you started out with that overwhelming sum of $16,000. If you reduce it to $14,500 by selling and returning items, then add $500 more each month to your income by taking on a little additional work, and cutting $400 out of your spending, you will have $900 more in your budget. Add that figure to the $480 flat payment in the initial scenario and you’ve got a whopping $1,380 to commit to your creditors.

Prepare to be astonished by the difference in pay-off time: It would take just 13 months to repay that debt, and the finance fees would be approximately $1,600.

Therefore, if you can sell what you don’t need and work a little extra every month while also spending less, even a massive balance can be entirely wiped out in a relatively short time. Oh, and your credit rating will also benefit, since a perfect payment history plus a rapidly declining debt translates to a higher credit score.

For even more inspiration, project a little deeper in t the future. After your obligations are a thing of the past, the money that you had been sending to your creditors will be yours to keep. Sock away that $1,380 each month and in one year you’ll have amassed $16,560! Go ahead and dream about what you can do with that kind of cash. It just may be what you need to make the powerful adjustments that will dramatically change your life.

About the author

Erica Sandberg

Erica Sandberg

Erica Sandberg is a freelance editor at large, reporter, and advice columnist covering all things fundamental finance. She’s been KRON-TV’s on-air money and credit expert for over 15 years, and has appeared on virtually every national news show, from Fox to CNN. She hosts Making it with Erica, a video program highlighting ways to live adventurously on any budget.


  • I would like to thank the author for this article. It hit home in a few areas. Thank you Mike Roberts, for bringing out this article. Thank you for your column. I wish I could afford the program. A fixed income is very difficult as you have most likely heard from many seniors. Again, thanks to both of you.

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