Consumer Comeback Blog

8 Effective But Unpopular Ways to Pay Off Debt

Written by Jeffrey Trull

save-pay-off-debtHow badly do you want it? That’s what you need to ask when you’re working to escape debt. The more aggressively you attack debt, the faster you’ll be debt-free. If you hate being in debt and you’re desperate to get out, don’t rule out any potential solutions.

Here’s a list of money earners and savers that will surely help you in your anti-debt crusade but will definitely involve some difficult and unpopular decisions.

Give up pets

Owning a pet provides companionship and fun, but the fact remains that they’re often expensive to care for.

According to the ASPCA, dogs, cats, and even rabbits typically cost most than $1,000 in their first year of ownership when factoring medical costs as well as leashes, cages, and more. In subsequent years, you’re still not out of the woods, with care for these animals ranging from $580 to $875 per year on average.

While these costs might not be hard for you to justify, it’s hard to ignore this significant expense compared to a mountain of debt.

Get married

Getting married opens up the doors to tax benefits that you’re otherwise not eligible for. According to 1996 Congressional Budget Office analysis, 51% of married couples paid less tax jointly than if they had not been married, saving them an average of $1,300 per year. Couples stand to benefit the most when there’s a large gap between their incomes.

Of course, you’ll have to skip the fancy ceremony for this to work. According to, average wedding costs stand around $28,000, so you won’t be doing your debt any favors with high costs like these.

Delay children

Before you make the decision to have children, you should be financially ready or the expenses of raising a child may add on to your debt problem rather than reduce it.

The expenses of having children are numerous. Hospital birth costs and related care come in around $8,800.

The expenses don’t stop after birth, either. According to the USDA, it costs about $227,000 to raise a child to age 18, and that’s not even including college education. With staggering costs like these, you’re doing your family a disservice by jumping in too soon.

Trade in your car

Americans love their cars, but the fact remains that they’re a huge drain on your budget. Cars not only cost money up-front, but the ongoing expenses of insurnace, repairs, and gas make them even more expensive. Even the 5-year cost-to-own on the cheapest cars will start around $26,000 and go way up from there.

If you have some flexibility with your work, perhaps it makes sense to either move closer to your job or find a new position closer to where you live so you can walk, bike, or take a train to work.

For those with long commutes to their workplace, giving up cars completely might not be a choice. But if your household has two cars, consider downgrading to just one.

Live with roommates

Along with cars, housing takes up a big chunk of your budget. One way to cut down on that: find a roommate.

If you live alone, chances are you’re paying more each month than you would be in a comparable apartment shared with roommates. If you’re a renter, consider taking on a roommate or moving into a new place with others to lower your monthly expenses.

For home and condo owners, maybe a spare bedroom or basement space could be generating some extra cash instead of just gathering dust.

Cheapen your diet

Vegetarian diets often cost less than ones that are heavy in meat. A typical vegan diet could save $3.50 per day compared to the with-meat option, adding up to a savings of about $1,300 per year. If you don’t want to give up meat altogether, cutting back a few days a week can still bring some of these savings.

Other than meat, look to other diet changes for savings. Alcohol is a splurge rather than a necessity with costs that can add up.

If you work the 9-5, eating out for lunch is surely a drain on your wallet. Depending on what you usually spend on take out, calculated savings on brown-bagging your lunch can be huge.

Work around the clock

Giving up your nights and weekends to earn more money may be hard to swallow, but the relief once your debt is gone will hopefully be worth the sacrifice.

Nowadays, there are many options for moonlighting your full-time job. Many options offer flexible scheduling to make it easier to work around a job.

One possible job is participating in focus groups. Manufacturers are very interested in testing out products with consumers before products launch, and they may be willing to pay you to do it.

Another possibility is being a mock juror and get paid about $250 a day while attorneys test out their cases on you.

During the holidays, retailers and other busy businesses hire a whole bunch of seasonal help. There are literally hundreds of thousands of these jobs available during the holidays, which can provide a nice boost to your income during this potentially expensive time of the year.

Cancel vacations

Everyone looks forward to taking time off from work, but the reality is that vacations can end up being expensive and move your debt tally in the wrong direction.

While you’re paying off your debt, consider putting big travel plans on hold while you work down those balances. As a compromise, consider taking trips that are shorter and closer-by to cut down on the cost. To go ultra-cheap, try being a tourist in your hometown and explore nearby adventures you’ve never had the chance to before.