Tired of chipping away at debt a few dollars at a time? Here’s how to knock out debt in record time.

5 minute read

Racking up thousands of dollars in credit card or other debt is easy. Paying it off, not so much. However, if you’re committed to getting rid of credit card debt, student loans or other debt, you may be able to reach a zero balance faster than you think.

Are you ready to begin a life without multiple monthly payments, late payment fees and bill collectors hounding you daily? People pay off huge amounts of debt all the time, and their methods vary, but the key is usually focus, commitment and a heavy dose of frugality, at least temporarily.

Below are eight ways you can speed up paying off debt and move on with your life.

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1. Know what you owe

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If you’re serious about paying off debt, write down exactly how much you owe each creditor and the total amount of debt you want to eliminate. Write down the balance, interest rate, monthly payment and dollar amount you pay in interest every month.

Don’t let the total amount scare you into doing nothing if paying it off seems like an insurmountable goal. Once you know how much debt you need to get rid of, you can then lay out a plan to get out of debt as quickly as possible.

2. Create a debt payoff plan

Create a debt payoff plan

To pay off debt faster, you’ll need a plan. For example, you can employ the snowball method, in which you pay off the smallest debt first. Once that debt is paid, you move on to the next smallest debt, adding the payment amount of the paid-off debt to your normal payment for the next debt. When that debt is paid, you add that payment amount to the next debt you want to pay.

Eventually, you’re making substantial payments and progress on reducing debt. Another method is to start by focusing on paying off the debt with the highest interest rate. For help creating your debt payoff plan and managing debt, consider consulting a counselor from a nonprofit credit counseling agency.

3. Pay more than the minimum payment

Pay more than the minimum payment

When you’re stretched thin, it may be tempting to pay only the minimum monthly payment on credit cards. However, that practice is one of the worst ways to pay off debt, since you’ll pay for a much longer period and fork over more in interest.

In fact, paying only minimum payments is so detrimental that federal law requires credit card issuers to disclose on your monthly billing statement how long it will take you to pay off the balance when you make only minimum payments and the total cost of how much you will pay, including interest and principal payments. Credit card companies must also disclose how much you would need to pay every month to pay off the balance in 36 months.

4. Negotiate with creditors

Negotiate with creditors

Just because you’re paying a certain interest rate doesn’t mean that rate is off-limits for negotiation. Contact your credit card issuer by phone (since it’s easier to say no to someone by e-mail), explain that you’re trying to pay off the credit card balance and ask for a lower interest rate.

There’s no guarantee you’ll get a lower rate, but you have nothing to lose except a few minutes spent on the phone. Then again, you may get a lower interest rate, which can speed up the payoff process.

5. Transfer debt to a 0% credit card

Transfer debt to a 0% credit card

If you’re paying high-interest rates, transferring credit card and loan balances to a credit card with an introductory 0% APR on balance transfers may be a good option, especially if the offer extends for a year or longer. That way, all payments during that introductory period will go directly toward the principal.

Before transferring balances to a new credit card, make sure that the fee for a balance transfer isn’t more than you would pay in interest if you left that debt on the other card. Also, focus on paying the transferred debt each month so you won’t have to pay interest after the intro period.

6. Increase your income

One of the fastest ways to pay off debt is to earn more money so you can make larger payments. Take a second job or start a side hustle like pet sitting for your neighbors. Then apply that cash directly to monthly debt payments. You’ll be surprised at how quickly those extra payments can obliterate a debt.

What if you land a higher-paying full-time job that allows you to make larger monthly payments? Then when your debt is paid off, you’ll have extra cash to put in savings or spend on all the splurges you denied yourself while getting to that zero balance.

7. Make multiple monthly payments

Don’t stop with making only one payment a month on that pesky debt. When you have any extra money, even $25 or $30, make an online payment rather than blowing that cash on meaningless things that you won’t even remember next week.

You’ll be amazed at how quickly making multiple small payments each month can eliminate a debt.

8. Live within your means

Live within your means

The crazy idea of living within your means doesn’t go over well with most people, since it means you can’t have everything you want just because it’s pretty, stylish or fun. However, living within your means works especially well when trying to pay off debt. You may have to make ruthless cuts, some temporary and others permanent.

For example, if you get rid of cable and subscribe to Netflix, Hulu or another inexpensive streaming service, you could probably save $100 a month. Take your lunch to work or prepare most meals at home, and you could save hundreds of dollars each month. Then pay all that money toward debt. You can live large later, after your debt is paid off.

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About the Author

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp is a full-time freelance writer based in Kansas City, Mo. Deb went from being unable to get approved for a credit card or loan 20 years ago to having excellent credit today and becoming a homeowner. Deb learned her lessons about money the hard way. Now she wants to share them to help you pay down debt, fix your credit and quit being broke all the time. Deb's personal finance and credit articles have been published at Credit Karma and The Huffington Post.

Published by Debt.com, LLC