7 best debt-busting tips from top money bloggers
By Alyssa Ammirato
February 10, 2016
If you’re mired in credit card or other debt, there’s no time like the present to start taking action. But where to begin? Money bloggers have been where you are and their tips, tricks and strategies can help.
Here is some debt-crushing advice from seven leading personal finance writers, who collectively eliminated hundreds of thousands of dollars of loan and consumer debt. Here’s what they suggest to put debt in your rearview mirror:
1. Round up to pay off debt faster: “My favorite hack in paying off your debt faster is to round up the payments to the nearest $100,” says J. Money, founder of RockstarFinance.com. ”So if your minimum payment is $138, round up to $200. If it’s $1,601, round up to $1,700.”
J.Money is a pseudonym for a Washington, D.C., former graphic designer who now rakes in the big money with a portfolio of personal finance sites and as a business adviser.
”Then when rounding up becomes too easy (hah),” he adds, ”challenge yourself to go up to the second nearest $100 and the debt will melt away faster than an ice cream in the summer! Or at least the spring!”
2. Take on side jobs to raise extra cash: ”My best piece of advice would be to make extra money and put that extra money toward your debt,” says Michelle Schroeder-Gardner, writer and blogger at Making Sense of Cents.
”I started quite a few side jobs when I was working on paying off my student loans, and it allowed me to pay off $40,000 worth of debt in just seven months,” she adds. ”Most of it came from me starting my online business through my blog.”
Schroeder-Gardner, a former financial analyst turned freelance writer and ”serial solopreneur,” says on her website that she has credit cards but pays them off every month.
”The thought of credit card debt scares me honestly,” she writes. ”I do love the rewards I get from them, and that is the main reason why I have them.”
3. Tackle your highest-interest debt first: ”In order to get out of debt, focus on paying off high-interest debt first, and take on a side hustle to earn more,” says Melanie Lockert, founder of DearDebt.com.
Hers is the voice of experience. She paid off the last of her $81,000 in student loans in December 2015, one year before her self-imposed deadline. How did she do it? ”By focusing on high-interest debt first and working extra gigs nights and weekends,” she says.
Lockert, a former theater major who now blogs full-time in Portland, Oregon, says keeping your eye on the debt-free prize is a great motivator. ”Put words or images on your credit card, such as your debt-free date, your dream vacation once you’re debt-free, etc.,” she says.
4. Set a goal to focus your debt-busting efforts: ”My best tip for getting rid of debt this year is to name your goal — choose something catchy and then use it for all your bank and credit card passwords,” says Carrie Smith, founder of Careful Cents.
”Last year mine was GTFOTX15 which stood for my husband and I to finally move out of Texas and relocate to a new state,” says Smith. ”The catchy name was fun and helped us be more motivated to save for our goal, plus we had a daily reminder of what we were working toward every time we logged into any of our bank accounts.”
Smith, who made $78,000 with her blog in 2015, now lives in Boulder, Colorado.
5. Don’t beat yourself up as you beat down your debt: ”My current best debt advice is to stop beating yourself up,” says Chris Enns, founder of From Rags to Reasonable.
”Debt isn’t a simple math problem. If it were as simple as it looks on paper there would be a lot less debt,” says the Canadian tenor who paid off his tax debt and student loans over a year and a half.
Enns recounts his success story on his website: ”Every month the first money out of the gate was dedicated to paying off my debt, and when there was extra cash in a month I swung it over to chip away at the principal.”
The end result? ”Over $10,000 of dark scary looming spectre that had been ruining my sleep. Now I sleep better. Not just because of the debt, but because I’ve built emergency funds, a buffer, I pay myself a salary and am slowly increasing my savings.”
6. Spend less than you earn to erase the red ink: “Getting out of debt — and saving money — become possible when you spend less than you earn,” says Holly Johnson, contributing editor at The Simple Dollar. ”To get out of debt, you must take control of your spending one way or another.”
And how do you do that? ”Cut unnecessary luxuries and household expenses, find new ways to save on things you’re doing every day, learn to live on less, and throw every extra dollar you free up toward your outstanding debts,” Says Johnson, whose online bio says her ”obsession with frugality, budgeting, and travel plays a central role in her work.”
7. Tighten the purse strings to conquer your debt: ”If you’re in debt, spending is likely your Achilles heel,” says personal finance writer Andrea Murad. ”There are many ways to rein in expenses, like making coffee at home, bringing lunch to work, shopping in your closet and dining with friends at potlucks rather than restaurants.”
Murad, who has worked on Wall Street and Main Street and now pursues her passion for words, adds, ”Every dollar makes a difference, and by cutting your expenses, you’ll have that extra cash that you need to reduce your debt,” she says.
Whatever you do, tackling debt is a process, money bloggers say. It’s a journey. For some, it helps to have goals to keep you focused. For others, it’s finding a strategy, such as paying off your highest-interest debt first, and sticking with that. Just find something that works for you and begin digging your way out of debt. As Lockert says, ”Getting out of debt requires a complete lifestyle and mindset shift, but it’s so worth it!”