21 Ways To Get Out Of Debt On Your Own In 2023

Get out of debt

Written by Agatha

February 4, 2021

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This week, I was reminded of the importance of talking about money, especially inter-generational conversations. I was talking to a lady who is 18 years my senior about money disorders and negative money emotions. I was explaining to her what Financial Dependence Disorder is and how it manifests in people’s financial lives.

I told her “Financial dependence can take many forms, including a dependency on a partner, parents, trust funds, and/or the government to take care of one’s financial needs.

It is a primary reason that victims of domestic violence return to their abusers, and a common source of conflict and frustration among family members.

Financial dependence can stifle one’s motivation, creativity, self-esteem, and independence. This, in turn, can lead to feelings of incompetence and low self-esteem. Money received often comes with strings attached, and it is common for the financially dependent person to feel anger or resentment related to the money they receive.”


Debt dependency


Then I proceeded to ask her to share examples of financial dependence in her life. Instead, she shared an observation that she has made over more than 2 decades she has been working as a civil servant.

Civil servants in Kenya have the privilege of having access to cheap, unsecured loans from banks and other financial institutions because they have the security of a paycheck. In fact, she says that these financial institutions are always offering them these loans. They have unlimited access to credit.

Since some of the civil servants do not have the financial literacy required to discern the difference between good and bad credit, the long-term implications of the interest rates, the hidden costs of the loans, and how to come up with a good debt structure that informs them when to stop taking these loans, they end up being dependent on these loans throughout their working lives. Some are so dependent on these loans that they end up borrowing from unregulated sources such as shylocks.

The cycle continues for years which leads to most of them retiring into poverty.

Of course, there are many other factors that lead to civil servants retiring into poverty such as poor pay, underemployment, corruption etc but for today, we’ll address how to get over debt dependence and other ways to pay off debt faster.


Debt payoff planner and debt payment calculator


Click here to download an easy to use debt payoff planner and debt payment calculator.

get out of debt

8 Ways to get out of debt


1. Use debt responsibly, as a financial tool


The debt dependency example above reminds us that ‘debt begets more debt.’

Economists have a term for this dependency: debt spiral. “It is a situation where an individual, or a business, or a country sees ever-increasing levels of debt. This increasing levels of debt and debt interest become unsustainable, eventually leading to debt default.”

People who are stuck in debt will often take more debt as they entertain self-defeating thoughts such as ‘I’m already in debt so why not take more or everybody is in debt anyway.’

get out of dent

If you have access to cheap and unsecured lines of credit, that is a privilege. Use it to advance yourself financially instead of landing yourself in debt disaster as shown in the illustration from safalniveshak.com. Mismanagement of debt causes disaster and suffering.

Since the financial institutions are offering you the loans, use that as an opportunity to negotiate better interest rates. Only take up debt to acquire an asset or to start a business, and always come up with a debt payment plan before you sign up for the loan.

Keep in mind that in this case, addition is multiplication. The more debt you take up, the more you multiply your interest rates and stress.


2. Have an accountability system


My experience helping people get out of debt so far has taught me that people who are stuck in debt need an accountability partner to get the ball rolling.

The world is wired to tell you that debt is normal. Look around you. Your family members, colleagues and friends are likely struggling with debt. If we’re exposed to such environments for long, we associate living in debt as the norm. As JL Collins says “debt doesn’t have to be for you, you weren’t born to be a slave.”

If you’re in debt, get yourself an accountability partner. Find a financial advisor or a friend who will make sure you act on your plans to get out of debt. A good accountability partner will help you break down the process into small manageable steps to avoid feeling overwhelmed.

To start you off, check the 3 proven ways to get out of debt that will help you come up with an actionable debt payment plan.


3. Get a part-time job


If you’re deep in debt, you won’t get out by just cutting back your expenses.

After tracking your expenses and establishing that you’re living below your means, the next step is getting a part-time job so that you have more money to put towards paying the debt.

My debt-payment plan since April 2020 has been to pay $100 every month towards my student loan. Sticking to that plan meant that I’d be debt-free by February 2022, I was okay with this plan but I still explored other sources of income.

Starting this blog has brought me three extra sources of income:


  • Personal finance consultancy

I help people who are struggling with debt, people who are unable to make budgets that work, people who want to grow their savings, people who want to improve the quality of their lives and people who are looking to diversify their investment portfolio to attain financial freedom by offering personalized financial advisory.

Halla agatha@thewealthtribe.com


  • Affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing is simply promoting and selling other people’s products or services. I link great Amazon products in this blog which earns me a commission when a reader makes a purchase.


  • Selling advertising space

Google, through Google Adsense, places relevant ads on this blog. I get paid for every 1000 people that view the ads and also get paid when blog visitors click the ads.

I will teach more on these in a different blog post.

These three sources of extra income have allowed me to more than double the amount I pay towards my student loan, which means I’ll attain debt freedom sooner!

Consultancy, for example, is one of the easiest ways to make extra money as you already have specialized knowledge in a particular field and there are no barriers to entry. Package your offer, establish your hourly rate and voila! you’re a small business owner.

Other side hustles include Bartending, front desk, house sitting, dog walking, virtual assistant, and local tour guide.


3. Create a debt payment & debt management plan


The easiest first step is to include debt payment in your budget. Establish an amount that you will put towards getting out of debt every month.

Getting out of debt is more sustainable if you approach it as a marathon, instead of a sprint. This allows you to stay consistent which prevents debt fatigue. Pace yourself, because, at the end of the day, you have to pay back what you owe.

Check this article on three debt payment plans that you can implement to get out of debt faster this year.


4. Build a 6-months emergency fund


A friend recently mentioned that her major cause of debt is household emergencies. She gave an example that she recently was in a supermarket shopping when her son called to tell her that they had run out of cooking gas.
Since she doesn’t have accessible savings, her immediate action was to get a mobile money loan to cover the cost of the gas. She called this an emergency situation.

The truth is, that wasn’t an emergency situation. Cooking gas is a basic, recurring cost that should already be in her monthly budget.

Having an emergency fund will prevent you from being desperate in such situations which leads to taking even more debt. Paying yourself first will not just help you get out of debt, but also stay out of debt in the long term.


5. Adopt good financial habits


Debt management is just one aspect of your personal finance journey.

There are many other aspects such as saving, investing, building passive incomes, preparing for retirement, giving/black tax, spending money to improve the quality of your life and more. The only way to stay out of bad debt sustainably is to focus on having good financial habits.

Being good with money involves recording your expenses on a daily basis, going through your bank statements on a weekly or monthly basis, automating your savings & investments, reviewing your expenditure every end of the month, having accountability sessions….I could go on!

It’s not something you do once a year when you’re hit by the motivation bug.

You have to commit to changing your behaviour in order to beat debt. You can’t stick with the same lifestyle that got you into debt.


6. Stay consistent


Consistency and treating yourself with kindness which means forgiving yourself when you mess up are the best hacks to beat debt.
Your debt-freedom plan might look like it’ll take years, but it’ll take even more if you’re not consistent. It might look like paying that $5 towards the debt makes no difference, it does if you commit to not digging yourself into a deeper hole.


7. Celebrate milestones


Getting out of debt is hard! To stay motivated, decide which milestone you have to achieve in order to reward yourself.
For example, reward yourself for every $500 you pay. But remember that this reward system shouldn’t involve getting yourself into more debt.
The idea is to make constant significant progress which doesn’t mean that you imprison yourself from anything fun. Even when you’re in debt, you’ve got to live a little.


Extreme debt payment methods


Some circumstances, such as a 40-year-old who’s deep in debt and hasn’t started saving/investing for retirement, call for extreme debt payment methods.

I learnt most of these methods from Refinery29’s Money Diaries which you should add to your personal finance reading list asap.

It’s a gem that covers everything you’ll ever need in your financial freedom journey; how to negotiate for a raise, investing for total beginners, the cost of raising a child, how to pay for your mortgage, prenups, the cost of conceiving when you’re in a queer relationship and more!


1. Consolidate your debt


Debt consolidation means combining your debts (mostly high-interest debt such as credit card debt) into one debt with a single monthly payment.

It’s great if you get a lower interest rate, this saves you money in the long run. It also significantly reduces your total debt and helps you get out of debt faster!

Debt consolidation is offered by banks and debt consolidation companies. If you have multiple high-interest debts, call your banks and ask them if they offer debt consolidation. Make sure you negotiate with them for better, more comfortable payment terms; this includes lower interest rates and an amount you can afford to pay each month.

As much as debt consolidation sounds rosy, the catch is that the banks or debt consolidation companies have a time frame within which you’re supposed to pay back all the debt. You should be sure that you can pay within that time frame, otherwise, it will cost you more.


2. Cut out non-essential stuff from your spending.


These include Netflix and cable subscriptions, expensive dinners with friends, extra clothes and shoes that you don’t need.

Have a self-assessment meeting to determine which of your current spending habits are unnecessary. The best way to do this is to track your spending for at least 3 months which will give you a clear picture of where your money goes!


3. Ask for a raise or change jobs.

“75% of people who ask for a raise get one, but less than half of Americans have initiated the conversation with their managers.” Payscale

Career coaches say that one of the best ways to raise your salary is to change jobs every 3 years. I’m notorious when it comes to this one, I’ve been changing every two years and I make sure I’m paid more every time.

Reading Refinery29’s Money Diaries taught me that there are managers out there who are always wondering when millennials will have the guts to ask for a raise. You have to root for yourself, shoot your shot and ask for that raise no matter how difficult the conversation is.

It’s better to ask and get turned down than to not ask and leave money on the table.


4. Change your housing situation


People spend 25 to 35% of their take-home pay on housing.

You can move back home with your parents if it’s an option.

I have a friend who’s an age mate. We often update each other on our net worths. I realized that her net worth is double mine because she doesn’t spend money on rent and food, she lives with her parents. Unfortunately, I don’t have the same privilege but if I did, I would also live with my parents for as long as possible in order to secure my future.

Rent, food and transportation make up 60% of our expenditure. Instead of cutting back on small expenses such as coffee, focus on cutting back on these big expenses as they’ll have a significant impact on your debt-freedom journey.

Move to a less expensive house, a smaller house, or get roommates.

If you own the house you live in, consider subletting or listing one of the rooms on Airbnb.


5. Sell stuff you don’t need


For example, if you move to an area where public transportation is reliable, you can sell your car and use the money to offset your debt. You can also consider trading it in for a cheaper model.

Look around your house for valuable stuff that you can sell. While paying debt, every extra dollar matters!


6. Renegotiate your bills


I learnt from Ramit Sethi that you can call your car insurance, phone and internet bill companies and renegotiate your packages.

Oftentimes, they have cheaper packages than what they sold you when you didn’t know that you can negotiate. You can get even better deals when you tell them that similar companies in the market are offering cheaper options. Throw in a little threat that you’re considering moving to another company.

You should also always shop around for cheaper options especially when your current bill contract is almost ending. It’s usually a good time to negotiate for a better, cheaper option which leaves you with loads of money to put towards debt payment.


7. Live on one salary


If you live with your significant other, you can come up with a plan to live on just one salary, or one and a half (use 50% of one salary to pay debt). This is just an example, curate one that works for you.

The point is, you can get rid of unnecessary expenses from your budget so that you can reach debt freedom faster. You have the privilege of combined forces, do what you’ve got to do!


8. Take a break from shopping


A lot of purchases we make are caused by the fact that we’re subscribed to newsletters from our favourite stores. Get rid of those triggers by unsubscribing from those newsletters, avoid shopping malls, and delete your card information from shopping apps.

Doing this will make it harder to shop without a plan. I don’t save my cards from any shopping apps apart from the grocery stores. This has helped me stick to my minimalism journey.


9. Get rid of your credit cards


If you have completely lost control of your swiping habits, block your credit card or get rid of it completely. As Warren Buffet once said, you cannot get ahead while paying 18% in interest rates.

But I advocate for learning how credit cards work and using them to your advantage as opposed to avoiding them.


10. Use gift money or bonuses to pay debt


If a relative, friend or significant other gifts you money, use that to pay off debt. A lot of people use such windfalls to acquire even more liabilities.

Whether you got the money from your salary, as a gift, from your side hustle or even won the lottery, what you do with it matters. Always use your money to stay ahead.


11. Share bills


I share my internet bill with my neighbour because why pay two bills when the internet is strong enough in both houses? Also, there’s no shame in asking your neighbour, family or friend to share a bill.
I have saved loads of money by splitting my internet bill because internet in Dubai is literally the cost of my kidneys!


12. Use public transport or carpooling


Yes, I’m still one of those people who’s yet to get a driving licence lol and I still don’t think I’ll own a car soon because I’m committed to investing in my business and increasing my number of assets. For now, public transport or carpooling will do.

Don’t get me wrong, I would love to own a car, in fact, I can’t wait. But I will not own one if it means getting myself into debt or being in a situation where I cannot afford the maintenance costs and insurance.


13. Thrift shop and buy stuff in bulk


During sales, buy house supplies such as tissues, kitchen towels, soaps, shower gels etc in bulk. Not only does this hack save you money, but it also leaves you with money to put towards debt. And, never running out of house supplies is a sure way to always feel rich.

Sometimes we get into debt due to circumstances beyond our control such as student loans, medical bills, or other disasters. Adulting 101 demands that we have to take up this responsibility. You can get out of debt, you can create a debt pay off plan that shows you all the progress you’ve made while helping you to onboard your monthly payments on your budget.

Luckily, I have one for you. Click here to download a Free debt pay-off planner and be on your way to debt freedom!


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  1. Njuguna Ndung'u

    …”And, never running out of house supplies is a sure way to always feel rich.”

    How did I miss this when it’s first published? Felt like we were from a recess; and the stock market opened without my knowledge.

    Clearly I’ll have myself to blame if I don’t attain financial freedom.

    Kazi kwangu!

    • Agatha

      Njuguna, at this rate I’ll be DM-ing you as soon as I hit publish!


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