How to Pay Off Debt Fast! 5 Proven Practices We Used to Crush $60k of Consumer Debt in 12 Months

Today I am going to share five key ingredients to pay off debt fast. And this isn’t your typical A+B=C. N,o we really did pay off over $50k in only 14 months and we learned a lot along the way.

In the last fourteen months my husband, Ben, and I paid off over $50,000 in consumer debt. This debt included 11 credit cards, 1 student loan and 2 car payments. We did this following Dave Ramsey and the debt snowball. Today, we are so excited to be on the next baby step in Dave’s plan! In the last year, there were some months that we crushed it. Other months we could have definitely done better. Looking back at our budgets from November of 2021 to now, I do think we could have paid off the entirety of our consumer debt in 12 or even 10 months instead of 16-18.

So, with those numbers in mind, I want to walk through what I would do if we were back at the beginning of this journey to crush the debt even faster.

pay-off-debt-fast

Set a Goal

I don’t know why we didn’t do this, honestly. But if you want to pay off debt fast, you need to have a goal! If I was starting over today, this is the first thing I would do. Set a goal. What I mean is set a date. “We are going to be debt free by January 1, 2024.” ATTACK that goal with the ferocity of a toddler trying to get to the candy bin in your pantry. It is a non negotiable date and it DOES NOT MOVE (unless something crazy or tragic happens, obviously).

We never set a goal date and I think that would have changed some of the…dumb spending we still did over the last year or so. With a goal date in mind I think we would have had a better “vision” to go after. Instead of an end date, we did a lot of forecasting and that definitely helped. But I think a hard date would have been a lot easier to tell ourselves no about things.

No Spend Months

We only had two true No Spend Months in the last year. December 2022 and July 2023. Let’s say we jumped in a time machine and went back to November 2022, I would definitely do more of these. If you are in the same position we were, I think a good starting place would be at least once a quarter. Preferably, every other month if you can’t swing months in a row.

What does a no spend month look like?

Anything that isn’t a necessity is GONE. That means no eating out, no spend on new shoes or clothes, no date night, no fun money, no nails done. You are covering your expenses (housing, cars, food, phones, debt) and anything on top of those month in month out expenses gets a $0 on the budget.

NOTE: I always still put at minimum $100 in a my miscellaneous category for when something random pops up.

Side Hustle

I am a stay at home mom and just now at the end I started looking into little side hustles to bring in some extra cash flow. I 100% wish I had looked into these ideas sooner. For example, just this fall I decided to try out Instacart. I have since only gone out that one time, but in two hours I made $25 while the kids were in bed and Ben was at home. If we were back at square one, I would do this sooner and try to create some kind of schedule. Maybe 2-3 nights a week if possible to bring in an extra few hundred a month to throw on debt!

Maybe I’d look into freelancing to bring in some kind of income to add to Ben’s.

Follow The Baby Steps

As I’ve stated, we started following Dave Ramsey for this journey and 10/10 recommend. But, I wish we had gone ALL IN DAVE sooner than we did. For the first eight or so months we didn’t pause retirement investing and were putting a little extra on the mortgage payment. If we had paused investing at the very beginning as Dave lines up in his Baby Steps, we would be two or three months ahead of where we are!

Keep the Focus

Finally, we really needed to keep our eye on the prize more than we did. In the time that we worked to pay off this debt we made dumb purchases. When Ben got his yearly bonus we made some impulse buys that added up to almost $2,000. And then, for Christmas, we more than doubled the budget from Christmas the year before. With just those two mistakes in mind, we would have signed our LAST check this month instead of being 2-3 months away from Baby Step 3!

KEEP THE FOCUS. When Dave and his team say Gazelle Like Intensity I really think it is the key. And this bullet point is the baby sister of set a goal as stated above. Keep your eye on the prize, keep focused and keep reminding yourself of how great it is going to be when all of these payments go poof!

Forecast and dream as you go. Celebrate each debt that has been paid off and have a little dream date night. Put the kids to bed, make yourselves an out home steak dinner (within budget of course) and dream of what it is going to be like when you don’t owe anyone a dime! What can you accomplish without payments hanging over your head?

Some Final Thoughts

Finally, if you are looking to get excited and get intense I recommend listening to the Ramsey Show. I turn this on every so often and it always pumps me up to keep on keeping on. I also just recently read George Kamel’s book “Breaking Free from Broke.” It is basically the updated, millennial version of Dave’s “Total Money Makeover,” full of Taylor Swift lyrics and puns to keep you going.

And if you have any questions or need help getting started, I am happy to talk and help you walk through creating your first budget!

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