Debt can feel like drowning - especially when you’re the only person you know in the water.
But when you see someone swimming, that struggle can turn to inspiration. While it’s fun to imagine paying down your debt fast, it’s also important to remember: just because you took longer than others, doesn’t mean you failed. Take these stories of paying off debt fast as inspiration and motivation, not as a competition.
Or even better, take it as a challenge to yourself like Lauren did when she paid off $8,000 in 90 days. But that’s not the only story.
Here are five more stories of people who conquered their debt - and five lessons you can apply to your own situation.
Sell Everything You Can
Deacon Hayes of Well Kept Wallet paid off $52,000 of debt in 18 months. To do so, Hayes had to make a choice that not many would have the gumption go through with: he and his wife sold their brand new car they still owed money on. The cash they got from selling the car, plus other things around the house, led to him paying off the auto loan.
This was huge for us because it gave us almost $400 more each month to tackle the rest of our debt.
Takeaway: See what’s dragging your budget down. Is it a car you can sell? Or a home you can downsize? Getting rid of big monthly payments will open up your budget and allow you to pay off debt significantly faster.
We just talked about selling everything you own earlier this week in our 10 crazy ways to make money - it's possible!
Put All Extra Money Toward Your Loans
Eric Rosenberg of Personal Profitability tackled his student loans by paying more than the minimum every month. But that’s not the only way he was able to pay off $40,000 in two years.
Every time he got a windfall like a work bonus or tax refund, he immediately added it to his student loan balance.
I was already used to living without it, so it didn't sting when I paid thousands of dollars into my loans at a time.
Takeaway: Every time you find yourself with unexpected cash, use it to pay down your loans instead of splurging or putting it in savings. Right now, a perfect example of this is to use your tax refund to pay down your debt.
Take On Extra Jobs
Michelle Schroeder-Gardner of Making Sense of Cents got rid of her student loans by finding ways to earn more money and putting that extra income toward her debt.
I mystery shopped, was a staff writer, completed surveys, sold items from around my home and more so that I could pay off my debt as quickly as possible.
She paid off $40,000 of student loans in seven months mainly using this method.
Takeaway: If your debt payoff is stagnating, consider getting a part-time job or finding more ways to earn money. Remember, there's always two sides to the personal finance equation: you can spend less or earn more.
If you need ideas on how to earn more money, here's a list of over 50 different ideas for earning extra income each month.
Cut Your Expenses
Melanie Lockert of Dear Debt paid off $81,000 of loans in 9 years - the last $68,000 in 4.5 years. One of the first things she did was cut back on all her expenses so she could focus more on paying off debt.
I got a haircut once a year at the local beauty school. I didn't have a car, health insurance, cable, gym membership, pets, and rarely went out.
Takeaway: Cutting expenses should be one of the first steps to take if you're trying to pay off debt. Moving to a more affordable apartment or giving up your car will have the biggest impact on your loans.
If you don't know where to cut, here's out list of different ways that could save you $500 per month.
Refinance Your Debt
When John Schneider and David Auten of Debt Free Guys saw they owed $51,000 in credit card debt, they knew they had a tough road ahead of them.
Instead of going out on Friday for happy hours and dancing like we used to, we stayed home for movie and game nights. We put this savings towards our debt and brought it down to $40,000. We figured out how to lower our interest rates to zero and used the extra money to bring our balance down to $25,000.
Takeaway: Whether you have credit card debt or student loans, refinancing can save you hundreds or thousands on interest and expedite your debt payoff process.
We recommend Credible for refinancing your student loans because they compare multiple lenders for you to find you the best rate. You can get a quote in 2 minutes to see if you can save money - with no hard credit check. Check out Credible here and see if you can save: Credible Student Loan Refinancing.
Final Thoughts On How To Pay Off Debt Fast
There are a lot of ways to pay of debt fast. You might even be thinking "these aren't even that fast". But when you're talking about $40,000 in debt - a year or two is incredibly fast.
The common denominator across all of these stories that they got organized, created a plan, and took action. If you want to make real progress on paying back your debt, you need to do the same.
Check out the free tool Personal Capital and get your finances organized. Once you know what you have and where you're spending it, make a plan and take action.
I'd love to know your progress on your debt. Share your story in the comments below!
Robert Farrington is America’s Millennial Money Expert® and America’s Student Loan Debt Expert™, and the founder of The College Investor, a personal finance site dedicated to helping millennials escape student loan debt to start investing and building wealth for the future. You can learn more about him here and here.
He regularly writes about investing, student loan debt, and general personal finance topics geared towards anyone wanting to earn more, get out of debt, and start building wealth for the future.
He has been quoted in major publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox, ABC, NBC, and more. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes.