Want to Get Out of Debt Fast? Avoid These Classic Mistakes

By Jackie Beck   Updated 10/05/2021 at 7:55 am

Who wouldn’t want to get out of debt fast?

Debt can be an enormous burden, one that weighs on you and holds you back from many opportunities. So of course, the quicker you can change that, the better.

The only problem with that is, when your main goal is to get out of debt fast, sometimes you can lose objectivity or be tempted into things that aren’t such great ideas.

That means that often what seems like the slowest way is actually the fastest, and vice versa.

Classic mistake #1: Debt consolidation

A classic mistake is to try to borrow your way out of debt — often by turning to a debt consolidation loan. It sounds like a quick and easy solution, but it rarely turns out that way.

For one thing, you still owe the money. For another, it doesn’t cause you to change your habits, so you often end up going right back out and borrowing again. The same way you did before, except that this time you end up owing even more money.

And in the few instances where it does work, it’s often MUCH slower than the other methods of getting out of debt. So if you want to get out of debt fast (and do so for good) I’d avoid using debt consolidation. (Unless maybe you’re trying to get out of the payday loan trap.)

Classic mistake #2: Trying to make it all just go away

Another common mistake is believing that there are folks out there who can somehow just make your debts go away for you.

Debt settlement companies (also known as debt relief companies) typically claim that they can reduce your debt so you’ll only have to pay part of what you owe. They advertise heavily too, because it’s profitable. (You may even be seeing ads for companies like that on this page; because of interest-based advertising.)

Sometimes it’s actually true that you could pay only part of what you owe, but in those instances chances are that’s something you could do yourself as well. (Especially if you have medical debt.) For FREE, instead of paying a company to do it and potentially losing money and/or getting scammed.

I do not recommend debt settlement/debt relief companies, but definitely read this post from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau if you’re considering using one anyway. The post is FULL of warnings you should absolutely pay attention to to reduce the chances of being scammed.

So what IS the fastest way to get out of debt, other than waking up one day to find that you won the lottery?

Here’s the truth about how to get out of debt:

It’s all about changing your mindset and your habits. (More on that in a sec.)

I know that taking time to make changes is probably not what you were hoping to hear.

You just want to be DONE, right? Maybe you’re even thinking of declaring bankruptcy, because you just want to get it over with.

Those feelings are understandable. You want to start fresh. And you can. It just turns out that paying what you owe is usually the best way to get out of debt fast. That can be easier than you might think, and you won’t have to worry about being taken by unscrupulous characters.

Plus, you’ll be a whole lot less likely to go back into debt again. And isn’t that what you really want? To be debt free FOR GOOD? To never have to worry about owing money again?

It sure is what I wanted, and we managed to pay off over $147,000 in debt. (That was years ago, and we’re still completely debt free today.)

What starting fresh really means

The fastest way to get out of debt doesn’t require a clean slate. Which is a good thing, because it’s impossible to truly have a clean slate. We’re all a product of our past, and that’s actually a good thing. It’s how we grow and improve.

Even if someone were to wipe out all of your debt right now, if you don’t change your behavior, you’ll be right back where you started from in just a few years.

That’s super important, so let me say it again. If you don’t change your behavior, you’ll be right back where you started from in just a few years.

Because when you keep doing what you have been doing, you keep getting what you have been getting.

Changing your money habits makes all the difference

Starting fresh really means changing your habits: the way you choose to handle money. And you can change your money habits and money mindset for the better starting right now. (Although it will require persistence and effort to make that change permanent.)

Changing the way you handle money is actually going to do a whole lot more for you than even winning the lottery would. That’s because making those new, improved habits will change the rest of your life for the better — not just today.

How to get control of your money — it could be easier than you think

The first step, of course, is to get control of your money. That means knowing where your money is going now, and figuring out where you actually want it to go.

Make your money behave. It may feel like it’s got a mind of it’s own, but it’s really just doing what you tell it to do.

If you tell it to fly out the window on outrageous interest payments every month, forever, it’ll do that. If you tell it to pile up until you’re ready to pull the trigger on some new furniture, it’ll do that too.

But you’ve got to tell it.

Making a plan for your money

That means making a plan for your money and then sticking to it. (See how to make a zero-based budget for details.) That may be a technical-sounding word, but the concept is actually simple:

You decide what’s most important for you to spend your money on. Then you spend it on that.

It’s true that making a budget means saying no to things you can’t afford. But it also means saying YES! to things that you can afford. And there’ll be more and more of those things you can afford as you get your debt paid off.

If you really want to get out of debt fast…

If you REALLY want to get out of debt quickly, it means putting a plan of attack into action. It also means being patient, which can be hard. But it is so worth it, and you’ll get inspired as you begin making progress.

Using the debt snowball method as your plan of attack can work wonders. The method keeps you motivated and you usually see progress quickly. It’s also very simple to use, and anyone can do it so long as you at least have enough money (in theory) to make minimum payments on all your bills.

That’s why I highly recommend the debt snowball method. (You can go here to find out exactly how a debt snowball works.)

You can set it up for free with just a piece of paper or a spreadsheet. If you want to obsess about it and really stay focused on your progress, I’ve got a debt app to help you with that.

You need a debt-prevention fund

There’s one more thing you need, and that’s a debt-prevention fund. Maybe you haven’t heard that term before, but I bet you HAVE heard it called an emergency fund.

An emergency fund will help keep you from going back into debt the first time something goes wrong. And things will go wrong. That’s how life is, for everyone. But an emergency fund can be there to cushion the blow, and it makes such a difference. When you use money you already have to pay for things, it costs you less too. (Because you’re not paying interest.)

So make begin building up a small emergency fund your #1 priority in the process. (After making minimum payments to all debts.) Read this post to find out how to build a $1000 emergency fund fast.

Then follow the steps to do so.

Go get control of your money today. And remember, it all starts with a mindset change.

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Who wouldn't want to get out of debt fast? Avoid these classic mistakes and make it happen!

6 thoughts on “Want to Get Out of Debt Fast? Avoid These Classic Mistakes

  1. I agree with you, it’s all about changing your habits. I like to call them lifestyle changes. It can be a long haul to pay off your debt and it needs to become part of the normal routine. It’s boring but it gets the job done.

  2. For a year and a half after college I rented a room in a five bedroom house. I paid $310 per month to live on a sun porch in an amazing part of D.C. I was only 21 but many of my housemates were in their early 30s and saved a ridiculous amount of money living this way. We had so many people in the house that the breakers would often trip and I’d be left out in the cold. Waking up to freezing cold temperatures and banging on the door to our downstairs neighbors to get the electricity turned back on. I wouldn’t want to live that way now, but that cheap rent allowed me to pay off my car in a matter of months and with the money I saved for the down payment on a house of my own. It’s definitely easier to do this when you are young and/or without kids and some single folks I know prefer it to living alone. I think living in a duplex is a great idea. I definitely would have been interested in this option when I started out after college.

    1. You can definitely save a TON of money by minimizing housing expenses as much as possible. (I’d have been worried about safety in that situation though!)

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