No matter how careful you are with your money, anyone can end up in debt. Whether you’ve had to borrow money to buy your home or your car, or you’ve been left in bad financial shape after a divorce, debt can happen to anyone. Debts can also have a real emotional impact so it’s important to manage them properly and pay them down as soon as you can.
Here are some ways you can reduce your spending and save some extra money to help you clear your debts.
Know where you’re starting from
Take an audit of the current state of your finances. Write down any income you have coming in. Include your salary, any benefits you receive and any other regular income, whether that’s online surveys, cashback or side gigs. Start a spending diary, and write down everything you spend, from the water bill to buying lunch at work. See where you could save money, such as making lunch at home, cutting out the gym membership you never use or reducing your food bill. Prioritise your debts in order of highest interest first.
Take an audit of your debts
How much do you owe in total? One total number gives you a solid goal to aim for, helping you to focus on money-saving and clearing debts, instead of being confused by several smaller debts.
Ask for help
Debts can be hard to manage, and you shouldn’t try and struggle on alone. If you are struggling to meet payments and manage your debts, speak to a professional who can help you to get things in order and cope better. Some services offer free debt counselling to offer advice. If you need to negotiate payments, seek help from a specialist law firm like McCarthy Debt Settlement Law.
Have a good clear out at home and sell on unwanted items to earn some extra money
Items like clothes, CDs, DVDs, books and children’s toys can be all be sold. Go through everything and find items that you can sell on eBay or Depop. Hold a garage sale to declutter the house and earn some money to put towards those debts.
Give your income a helping and by taking on a second job part-time
If you have some time to spare, take an evening job in a bar or filling shelves at the local grocery store. If you can’t take a part-time job, you can still earn more money with casual work like pet-sitting, babysitting or dog walking. If you have skills you could monetise, go for it, and advertise your services as a copywriter, a tutor or a seamstress. Every little bit of extra cash flow helps when you’re trying to shift debt.
Get used to living with a budget
Living with a budget is a great way to help you save money on everyday things. Saving daily gives you some extra money to put towards debt payments. Be sensible, and choose ways to save that won’t make life all that different. Some easy ideas include things like swapping the brands for supermarket own brands, giving up a takeaway coffee and packing lunches for work instead of buying them. If you get emails from favourite shops, unsubscribe from the emails so you don’t get the temptation of sales and new lines arriving in your inbox, encouraging you to spend when you should be saving.
Don’t make repayments late
Most creditors charge late fees, which can soon add up a lot of money. By missing payments, you also run the risk of creditors deciding not to allow you to pay in instalments anymore. If you know you can’t make a payment, contact your lender to warn them as soon as possible. By being honest and upfront, they may be more willing to work with you and rearrange your payment date so they can actually get their money.
Shop around for new quotes for things like your insurance and utilities
If you can, find a better deal to switch to, and you can save a lot of money, which can then go towards debt repayment.
Clear your debts with your savings
After you’ve overhauled your spending habits, you should find you have more spare money than you used to. Don’t be tempted to spend this new cash on treats, and instead put it all against your debts. When the debts are paid, you can use that extra cash for something fun.
Use coupons and look out for deals
If you’re a smart shopper, you can find deals on the things you’d be buying anyway, like the grocery shop. Don’t be lured by a good deal on something you don’t actually want or need though. It’s only a good deal if you already wanted it.
Start shopping secondhand
If you have children, you’ll know all too well how quickly they grow out of clothes and even their toys. To keep costs down, you can buy some of these things in thrift shops or auction sites online. Facebook Marketplace is a great place to buy toys. For adults, thrift shops can be a good place to buy clothes, books and DVDs.
Trade nights out for nights in
Saving money doesn’t mean that you have to give up socialising altogether though. Explain to your friends that you need to save money, and if they’re good friends, they’ll be happy to find cheaper ways to spend time with you. Instead of going out for dinner, invite people round for a potluck dinner instead, where everyone brings a dish. You can still see your friends without spending a fortune.
Make use of your local library
New books, CDs and DVDs can really add up, but you can borrow all of these things for free from the library, saving a lot of money.
Meal plan and use a shopping list
At the weekend, plan out the menu for the next week, and write a grocery list to shop for it all. At the shop, stick to the list to avoid impulse buys and other spending you don’t need to do.
Find a way to enjoy your hobbies for less money
Could you swap the gym to running for free? Could you swap the cinema for watching a film at home? You can do the same with your weekend entertainment. Concerts and days out like bowling or theme parks can soon add up a lot. Instead, look out for free things you can do in your local area, like free music evenings, movie screenings or guided walks. If you have kids, swap the expensive trips for fun at the local park or a long bike ride.
Think about selling your car
You can earn some extra cash for your debt payments from the sale of the car, and you’ll have more savings when you’re not paying for the costs of running a car. Take the bus, walk, or lift share for a much cheaper way to get around.
Get rid of your credit cards
Credit cards can be very tempting, and they can very easily pull you into further debt. If you can, get rid of the cards altogether. If you do need a credit card for emergencies, leave it at home. If it’s in your wallet, it’s too easy to use it. Instead, keep it somewhere safe at home, so it really is only for emergencies.
Try leaving the cards at home and only using cash
Some people find that handing over physical cash helps them get a better sense of what they’re actually spending than when they pay on plastic. Try this to see if it works for you. Work out your budget and withdraw that week’s money each week and stick to it.
Stop trying to keep up with more well off friends
Making comparisons between their lifestyle and yours will only make you feel worse, and you can easily find yourself justifying something you can’t really afford that your friend can. A real friend won’t push you to spend when they know you need to save.
Don’t get sucked into a debt spiral
A debt spiral is when you borrow to cover the costs of daily life, repay that debt, and then need to borrow again to cover the gap left in your finances. Payday loans are a classic way for this to happen. Instead, try to manage your finances to avoid living above your means and needing to borrow to pay for everyday expenses.
Check into what benefits you may be entitled to
If you have young children, are out of work, or are on a low income, you should be able to claim some form of benefits to help you out. This can help you with the cost of living, giving you more room to save for debt repayments.
Keep an eye on your credit report
Your credit score and a full report can really help you to identify problem areas in your finances and handle them before they grow into much bigger issues that could drive you into further debt.