How to Get Out of Debt: 13 Expert-Backed Steps for Success

You try your best to make your payments, but interest charges eat up all your progress. Next month, you’re back to square one. Sound familiar? Don’t worry: You don’t have to be stuck with debt forever. We reached out to several experts and got their best tips for how to get out of debt.

1. Find Your Motivation

Before you get into the nitty-gritty of debt payoff, start by figuring out the big reason why you want to be debt-free. This is crucial for keeping yourself motivated when things feel difficult, according to Fo Alexander, founder of Mama & Money and author of “Dump Debt & Build Bank.”

2. See Where you Stand

Once you identify the motivation for paying off debt, it’s time to figure out where you currently stand and devise a basic budget. “You need to know what goes in and out of your household and whether those expenses can be covered with your income,” said Leslie H. Tayne, a debt solution attorney and managing director of Tayne Law Group, P.C.

3. Identify Poor Spending Habits

Once you have a basic budget in place, take a look at your discretionary spending (AKA your “wants”) and look for opportunities to cut unnecessary spending. Don’t worry: You don’t have to live on a barebones budget forever.

4. Increase Your Income

You can only scrimp and save so much. In addition to cutting your spending, another way to pay your debt more aggressively is to earn more income. “It doesn’t have to be a part-time or full-time job, either,” Tayne said. “Side gigs, such as baking, photography, dog walking, babysitting, ride-sharing, or turning unoccupied space in your home into a rental, can all generate extra income.”

5. Narrow Your Focus

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when tackling your debt. There can be many competing priorities, including keeping up on the bills, paying off debt, saving for retirement, buying a house, etc.

6. Set Micro-Goals

Becoming debt-free is a big goal that will likely take a long time to accomplish. If you only focus on that one big goal, it can feel like you aren’t making progress, and you might get discouraged.

7. Start a Debt Snowball

When it comes to paying off debt, the standard advice is to tackle the debt with the highest interest rate first and work your way down (also known as the “debt avalanche” method). From a mathematical perspective, this is the best way to save money in the long run.

8. Pay More Than the Minimum

Paying the minimum payment due on your debts will ensure you avoid late fees. But when it comes to getting rid of your debt completely, it’s important to pay more, according to Tegan Phelps, founder of The Blissful Budget.

9. Set up Automatic Payments Another mental roadblock to paying off debt is having to take money out of your bank account and send it off to your lenders. Physically moving your hard-earned money between accounts can be a mentally painful process.