Getting rid of debt can sometimes feel like fighting an uphill battle. Freeing yourself from student loans, consumer debt and lingering medical bills may be the hardest thing you do in your lifetime. But declaring war on your debt is only half the battle, and we're here to help out with the other half! Because let's be honest, a bit of extra cash goes a long way toward reaching that future payoff date even faster.
It might not be easy at first. But if you put your nose to the grindstone, roll up those sleeves, and get down to business, you will start to “find” money in places you never thought possible.
We discovered loads of creative ideas for you to make some extra cash from people working hard to pay off their debts. Get inspired by reading about how some of these folks are well on the road to becoming debt-free.
Here are seven ideas to get you started . . .
1. Start Your Debt Snowball
If you’re unfamiliar with the debt snowball method, no, it doesn’t involve a white Christmas or a snowman with a carrot for a nose. It’s best summarized in these four simple steps:
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Step 1: List your debts from smallest to largest regardless of interest rate.
Step 2: Make minimum payments on all your debts except the smallest.
Step 3: Pay as much as possible on your smallest debt.
Step 4: Repeat until each debt is paid in full.
Just like a snowball rolling down a mountainside starts at the top as a mere snowflake, your debt snowball will take some time to pick up speed. But, once it does, that financial peace will feel closer than ever.
Putting any extra money, you earn or anticipate into your debt snowball is always a good idea. We’re talking about yearly bonuses, unexpected gifts, awards, etc.
Brittany C. received a $250 gift card from her energy company and—instead of treating herself to a free night out—she used it to pay off the first debt on her list. Heather W. did the same with a gas station gift card. Money might not present itself in the form of a gift card, but any time you fall into a bit of extra cash, use it like a shot of adrenaline to get your debt snowball going.
2. Make Sacrifices
Nobody gets out of debt without giving up some small pleasures and conveniences here or there. But keeping your eyes on the prize is maybe the most important part of making it through any period of self-sacrifice. It doesn't always have to mean getting a third part-time job or surviving on rice and beans for a whole year (though you certainly can). Sometimes sacrifice comes in the form of an opportunity.
Emily W. and her husband Brandon W. had their central AC go out . . . in July . . . in South Texas. But instead of reaching for a credit card to replace their unit right away, they sweated it out, beat the heat, and saved enough cash to pay for a brand-new unit out of pocket—without touching their emergency fund.
But that's not even the best part! Since the AC company offered a 5% discount for paying upfront, they were able to save $147 on their purchase, which they put straight toward their debt. Talk about a cool reward.
Take note that with sacrifice comes an even greater payoff, which will help you reach your ultimate goal of becoming debt-free!
3. Pick Up an Extra Job
The most surefire way to earn some extra income is to pick up a side hustle. This could be a part-time service industry job, for example, working a handful of hours here and there. Thanks to the rise of smartphones in our digital age, delivery apps are a dime a dozen—in 2018 the online food delivery market was worth billions.1 Consider Uber Eats, DoorDash, Instacart and Bite Squad if you have time in your schedule.
Katie B., a longtime stay-at-home mom, made $150 with her first direct deposit from Instacart and used it to pay that last credit card off. And Codie F., who made $45 in just an hour and a half, recommends trying a delivery app to find hotspots during the lunch rush to maximize your time and returns.
If delivering ain't your bag (pun intended), consider doing something from home, like dog watching. Companies like Rover pay up to $1,000 a month for dog boarding. After being fed up with traffic and surging gas prices, Andy S. from Southern California used Rover to make some extra cash. If you love animals and frequently stay home on the weekends, this is a great way to earn some bucks, while also making some new furry friends.
4. Play to Your Strengths
Jobs can feel a bit easier to do if they happen to align with one or more of your passions. Think hard about what your strengths and talents are. Is there any way that you can monetize them in creative ways?
Austin P. builds custom sliding interior barn doors for his customers. Chloe R. opened an Etsy store to generate a bit of passive income. And Caroline B. teaches online in the early mornings and evenings in the summer.
Maybe for you, it's giving piano lessons on the weekends or refurbishing those free items you found on Craigslist to resell. Not only will you be actively pursuing your passions (win), but you'll also be working toward that debt-free lifestyle (win-win)! If that's not the definition of a winning combination, then what is?
5. Sell Your Stuff
No, we're not going to suggest you take those family heirlooms and collection of priceless jewelry down to the pawnshop and turn them into petty cash. But you should take a closer look at all your possessions and decide what you no longer need.
Maybe it's as small as an end table you found at a flea market seven years ago. Maybe it's as big as a second car you own outright. Whatever it is, consider posting it on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace or eBay to see if there's an interested buyer who will pay you for it.
Take Christie M., who had been holding onto a spare twin bed frame. Instead of letting it continue to sit around collecting dust, Christie put it up for sale and, within five hours, she had tons of interested people reaching out. Now Christie has an extra $50 to put toward her credit card debt snowball. We bet she's sleeping better at night.
6. Buy Things Secondhand
That nice, new, shiny car might look enticing sitting there on the corner dealership lot you drive by every day on your commute. And it sure would be great to treat yourself to that brand-new set of golf clubs or camping gear or dining room set or . . .
But buying things in new condition is the quickest way to burn a hole in your pocket. As long as you don't tell yourself you need that thing now, good things can happen when you wait and look for a better deal from a private seller.
Sarah J. wanted to get a new elliptical machine when hers broke but, instead of rushing out to buy one first thing in the morning, she waited, and her husband found a replacement late one night on Facebook Marketplace for just $75. It was an older model, but it worked just fine.
Now she has what she wants AND has some money she would have otherwise spent to throw at that snowball.
7. Meal Prep and Shop Smartly
Eating out has become the norm in our society. From 2015 to 2016—for the first time in history—Americans spent more money at bars and restaurants than at grocery stores.2 But just because everyone else is doing it doesn't mean you should, too. In fact, eating at home and meal prepping for the week ahead are some of the easiest things you can do to free up some funds to put toward your debt snowball.
Meal prep, in particular, is key to curbing those mid-week temptations to order Chinese takeout. Jeanie S. uses Mashup Mom, which features a weekly meal plan made up of ingredients you can grab at Aldi for just $60.3 The recipes make six complete dinners for a family of four (you could easily spend that much on an average dinner for two at any neighborhood restaurant). Savings like that should leave you hungry to pay off that debt even quicker!
It's Time to Get Serious
Craving even more? Join forces with the Ramsey Baby Steps Community and hear more inspiring stories about how people are getting serious about paying down their debts. And if you're ready to kick debt to the curb forever and start living your best life, check out The Total Money Makeover, Dave's all-time bestselling book that has helped millions of people take control of their finances for good.