Per CNBC, the typical American household carries $38,000 in personal debt. It’s no surprise that everyone is trying to conjure up the magical secret that will make it all disappear. If you’ve searched the internet, you’ve probably stumbled upon the same old advice. Everyone tells you to cut Starbucks, brown-bag your lunch, have a garage sale, and cut out unnecessary shopping trips. But what if you’ve done all that and you still want to pay-off debt faster? Read the 5 crazy and unconventional ways I saved money to pay off debt.
3 Straight-Forward Ways to Pay-Off Debt
- Cut expenses. Use the savings to pay off debt.
- Sell unused items. Use the cash to pay off debt.
- Increase your income or use savings to pay off debt.
Crazy Ways to Cut Expenses
Cut your Hair at Home
Sounds crazy, I know! The idea came out of necessity more than anything else. To be honest, I completely forgot about including haircuts in my budget. I rarely cut my hair before, maybe once or twice a year. So, it’s no surprise that I completely forgot about it until six months into my debt snowball.
Contemplating spending most of my $50 monthly personal budget on a haircut killed me. It was hard enough sticking to a $50 personal monthly budget for makeup, and clothes.
My first idea was to try to do it myself. I scoured YouTube and watched video after video until I felt confident enough to try it myself. I bought hair cutting shears and was ready to go. But a horrifying high school memory of a bad DIY bang trim flashed in my mind and I chickened out. Probably not a bad thing now that I think about it.
I somehow convinced my hubby to cut my hair. How I came up with the idea, I don’t know. Talking him into it was hard. I promised not to get mad at him if things went wrong, which, thankfully, it didn’t.
I won’t lie though. The first few haircuts were easy, just a simple trim all the way around. I have wavy hair, so I figured no one would notice if it wasn’t straight. To my surprise, the first few haircuts were decent, and his technique has improved with each haircut.
He’s been cutting my hair ever since. Now that I’m debt-free, I’ve considered going back to the hair salon, but why not save the money instead?
Use your library
If you love to read, check out your local library. Download their app and read digital books or magazines at home without stepping one foot in the door. Rent movies, magazines, and audiobooks. Most offer free activities, classes, or museum tickets too.
I stopped going to the library after I bought a Nook, a digital reader. I easily spent at least $20 a month downloading books. When I started my debt snowball, purchasing digital books was one of the first expenses I cut. I also cut out the entertainment budget. I was bored, miserable, and just plain cranky.
But then I remembered the library! I could finally read some quality reading material that I didn’t have to pay for. But I found out that I had an outstanding $50 library fine. To clear it, I used all of my monthly personal spending money, but it was worth it. I fell back in love with the library. I borrow as much as I want now.
Look for Hidden Fees
Check hidden fees that you can easily cut out. Check your internet bill and see if there is a charge for a wireless router. If there is, consider buying one yourself, and canceling the rental fee. You’ll earn your money back in no time.
When I hit the bottom of the barrel for cutting expenses, I analyzed all of my recurring monthly bills. I realized that I was paying $15 a month to rent a wireless router. After calculating how much I paid over the years, I realized I could have purchased several high-end routers.
I didn’t even have to spend any cash out of pocket. I had a $50 Best Buy gift card and used $75 in credit card rewards. And just like that, instant savings of $15 a month. Plus, my new wireless router was faster and more reliable than the rented one.
Crazy Things to Sell
Sell Spare Vehicles
Back when I started getting serious about paying off debt, we owned six cars for three drivers. Granted, none of the cars were fancy or new. All were paid off, except for a 2010 Prius.
With that many cars, each of us had a spare car all to ourselves. To say we were over-prepared was an understatement.
Deciding to sell the cars wasn’t easy though. I loved the security of having a spare car. In my mind, paying for car insurance, registration, and maintenance was worth it. But it was a waste of money for cars that just sat in the driveway most of the time.
I rationalized that the ownership costs were minimal. When you factor in annual registration, insurance, and maintenance, is it really worth it? If your car needs repairs, you can rent a car, use Uber or Lyft, or bum rides off friends.
I’m so glad that I decided to sell the extra cars. Motivation kicked in when I saw my debt balance shrink so fast. I couldn’t wait to find more ways to pay off the debt.
Crazy Ways to Use Savings
Drop your Savings/Emergency Fund to $1,000 and Use the Rest to Pay-Off Debt
This was the hardest Dave Ramsey baby step I followed. I always had money saved, so the thought of a $1,000 emergency fund was terrifying.
If you follow Dave Ramsey, you know that baby step #1 is saving a $1,000 emergency fund. Before I learned about Dave Ramsey, I had one savings account. It held all the savings for car repairs, vacations or emergencies, but I never wanted to use it.
At the same time, I started using my credit card for reward points. Problem was that I never wanted to withdraw money out of my savings to pay off the credit card.
In the beginning, I could have easily paid off the credit card, but I didn’t. Soon enough, my balance outgrew my savings account. I always thought that I would pay more next month, but I just couldn’t do it. I also couldn’t force myself to draw down savings to pay it off. So my credit card balance grew while my piddly savings account stayed intact.
So I made the leap of faith and drew my savings account/emergency fund down to $1,000. I used the cash to pay off debt.
My emergency fund sat at $1,000 for two and a half years during my debt snowball. It was uncomfortable, but it forced me to make changes and get serious. I learned how to set up mini savings accounts called sinking funds to pay for car repairs and holidays. And I actually used them!
Having only a $1,000 emergency fund may sound crazy and uncomfortable for most of you. Paying hundreds of dollars in interest annually compared to the piddly earnings my savings account earned changed my mind.
Plus, knowing that I only had a $1,000 emergency fund pushed me to pay the debt as fast as possible.
Final Thoughts on Crazy Ways to Pay-Off Debt
When I started paying off debt, I cut the most obvious expenses like eating out and shopping trips. I freed up hundreds of dollars, but I wanted more. An obsession to pay it off faster became my mantra. Most of these ideas may seem crazy to you but they helped me pay off $72,000 of debt. Normal is broke in this society. Get creative, check for hidden charges and sell big-ticket items you’re willing to part with. Question everything you buy and check if you can use your savings to pay off debt. You’ll surprise yourself at what you’re willing to do to save money and pay off debt faster.
What crazy things have you done to save money or pay down debt? Please share in the comments below.