“How to pay off debt when you are broke and have no money?”
Ever encountered this problem?
Whether it’s credit card debt, mortgage, car loan or student loans, most of us find ourselves in debt at some point in our lives.
The Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances found that depending on age, people in the United States had owed between $34,500 and $134,600 in debt!
Here’s how it breaks down by age group:
- Under 35: $67,400
- 35 to 44: $133,100
- 45 to 54: $134,600
- 55 to 64: $108,300
- 65 to 74: $66,000
- 75+: $34,500
Paying it off is tough for everyone, but on a low income, it can seem even more difficult.
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If you’re already living paycheck to paycheck, or find that after your bills and expenses are paid you have little money left, if any, in your bank account, then the idea of paying off your debt can seem like an impossible feat.
Thankfully, this isn’t the case.
Even on a low income, there are ways that you can pay off your debts quickly.
In this post, we cover exactly how you can become debt free on a low income.
Now, we’re not saying that these tips give you an overnight way to eliminate your debt. What these methods do, however, is put you on the right track and get your debts paid off as quickly as possible.
After sharing our advice and strategies for paying off debts, we’re going to cover stories from people who’ve actually paid off their debts!
What will I learn?
Paying off debts on a low income
Whether it’s your mortgage, student loan, credit card, or any other type of debt, there are basically two things that you want to do to pay debts off fast:
- Decrease your outgoings: We know this isn’t possible for everyone, especially if you’re on a low income. But, if you can, finding ways to minimize your expenses can really help.
- Increase your income: This gives you more money to use for paying off debts. If you can’t really decrease your outgoings much more, then this is what will really help you in your journey to becoming debt free.
Now, below, we’re going to tell you exactly how you can do both of these, and how it’ll help you to use easy and creative ways to payoff your debt.
However, the first step is preparation…
Paying down debts requires planning and preparation. If you go into the process without a plan, then you’re much more likely to fail.
So, before you start decreasing your outgoings or increasing your income, you need to take a few steps to prepare and plan.
Step 1: Get to know your finances
You can’t work towards paying off your debts if you don’t know exactly what comes in and goes out of your account each month.
So take inventory.
- Make note of all of the outgoings each month that you can’t avoid, like your mortgage/rent payments and utility bills.
- Next write down other outgoings that aren’t as fixed, like how much you spend on gas and groceries.
- Write down any recreational spending, like cable bills, and how much you spend on eating out, or trips to the movies.
- Finally, write down your income and get an exact figure for the amount of debt that you owe as well.
You can use a spreadsheet or a Word document to note these things, or an app or pen and paper – it’s really up to you.
Doing this gives you a great overview of your finances.
It’s a surprisingly cathartic activity that’ll help you to get organized with your finances.
Step 2: See how much you can afford to put towards debts
Take a look at the financial document you created, and determine how much you have left over each month to put towards debts.
Doing this helps you to determine how much of your debt you can afford to pay off each month.
You might not have anything left at all – this is common if you’re earning a low income.
And, that’s where increasing your income comes in, but more on that below.
Step 3: Set a goal
You need to set a goal for paying off your debts. Now that you have a clearer picture of your finances, setting up goals is easier.
If you have $10,000 of debt, then this can seem overwhelming.
That’s the problem that many people have with debt – they’re so overwhelmed by these big figures that they don’t know where to start.
This is why breaking down that big number, into smaller goals is so important.
Smaller goals seem more attainable, so they’re not quite so overwhelming; they’re manageable!
If you have $10,000 worth of debt, then rather than having a vague goal of “pay of $10,000 in debt quickly,” break the debt down.
Instead, set a goal like “pay $500 off debts each month for 20 months.”
Think of these small goals as stepping stones toward reaching your main goal of being debt-free.
Step 4: Take actionable steps
It’s one thing to have a goal, but it’s another to actually take actionable steps toward achieving it.
Once you’ve set a goal, you need to determine how you’re going to achieve it.
If you earn pretty much the same amount as you spend each month, then your actionable step needs to be to decrease your spending, and/or increase your income.
In this case, your goal might be, “decrease recreational spending by $100 and increase income by $300 a month”.
If you have a little money left over each month, then it’s likely that your actionable step would focus more on increasing your income, so that you have more to put towards debts.
Let’s say you earn $30,000 a year.
So you bring in $2,500 a month.
Your outgoings are $2,250 a month.
This means that you only have $250 left each month to put towards your debts.
If your goal was to pay $500 a month to your debts, however, then you’re $250 short.
In this case, your goal would be, “make an extra $250 a month.”
Below, we tell you exactly how you can make more money, and spend less money, so you have more to put towards your debts.
Step 5: Be Flexible
The final tip in our preparation/planning phase it to take a flexible approach to the whole process.
Budgeting, and paying off debts sometimes isn’t as black and white as we’d like it to be.
Sometimes, the refrigerator breaks, the car breaks down, or the dog needs to go to the vets – the universe is chaotic and unexpected payments can come up!
You shouldn’t let this derail you.
Just reassess, make the necessary adaptations to your plan, and keep working toward your goals.
A lot of people aren’t flexible enough with their financial goals, but it’s very important.
Going debt free without or with not much money
Now that you’ve prepared and have set goals for paying down your debts, you can put your plan into action.
Below, we cover the two main ways we mentioned for paying off debts:
- decreasing your expenses.
- increasing your income.
Decreasing your expenses
Although it’s not always possible, if you can, try to decrease your outgoings.
Obviously, certain expenses, like your mortgage/rent and utility bills can’t be avoided.
Many expenses, however, can be excluded, like the cable, or at least lowered, like your grocery bill.
It’s important to note that if you cut back your spending too much, you’ll make yourself miserable!
Just like when you go on a diet that’s too stringent, if you try to budget too much, you’ll end up slipping!
Here are a few easy ways to decrease your outgoings, while still enjoying the things you like to do.
1. Cut the cable
- Potential savings: $56.42 a month
Cable is expensive. A basic package can cost you $64.41 a month.
And you could easily do without it. Netflix, which costs just $7.99 a month, by comparison, features hundreds of movies and TV shows that you can stream.
Check out our post on cheap and free cable alternatives and save yourself some cash each month.
2. Sign up for MoviePass
Updated September 14, 2019: MoviePass has cancelled services.
- Potential savings: $26.69 a month
Going to the moves can easily set you back as much as $20, with the average ticket costing $9.16. If you love going to the movies, then consider signing up for MoviePass. You pay just $9.95 a month and can view 30 unique movies each month.
Basically, you pay the cost of one ticket, but get a whole month’s worth of movie watching!
Even if you only watch one movie a week, you’d save $26.69!
Read my MoviePass review for full details (and a few hacks to saver you even more).
3. Change your phone plan
- Potential savings: $148 a month
This is an area where a lot of people could easily save cash.
Phone plans from the big four carriers are expensive. In fact, the average Verizon Wireless customer pays $148 a month.
You could end up paying anywhere from $120 to $148 each month with the big four carriers.
If you’re currently paying a lot for your cell phone plan, then consider switching to another provider or plan.
With one carrier, called FreedomPop, you can actually get a free cell phone plan.
Also, check out our post on the best low cost and free phone plans for more carriers that offer low-cost options.
4. Become a couponer
- Potential savings: $200+ a month
If you’re not already using coupons, then you definitely should be. They can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars each year.
According to statistics from NCH Marketing Services, consumers saved $3.1 billion in 2017 using coupons.
Statistics from Valassis show that by using coupons, 42% of people surveyed saved $30 plus a week, and 30% of people save more than $50 a week.
5. Use Trim to cancel subscriptions you’ve forgotten about
- Potential savings: $120 a year
Trim is a really handy tool for anyone who’s looking to save money. It’s a tool that analyzes your accounts to find recurring subscriptions that can be cancelled.
We’ve all signed up for subscriptions to services and found that we no longer use them – but we forget to cancel those regular payments.
That’s why Trim is so handy; it finds those forgotten subscriptions and, with your permission, will cancel them for you. You could potentially save $120 or more a year.
To learn more about Trim, read our review of it here.
6. Eat out less often
- Potential savings: It varies
Eating out is something that we all enjoy, but it’s so expensive!
You’d be surprised by how much you can save just by cooking at home instead. The price gap between eating at home and dining out is getting bigger. According to federal data, the average price of foods eaten at home in January fell 0.5% year over year.
However, restaurant prices actually raised by an average of 2.7%, which is significantly higher than the overall inflation rate of 1.4%, during the same time span.
So eating out will cost you more money. We’re not saying that you should never dine out; you have to enjoy yourself.
Like we said earlier, if your budget is too strict, then you’ll likely slip up.
You really need to be eating more at home though, if you want to save money and get out of debt.
Stop eating out at lunchtime, and pack a lunch before.
If you dine out a few times a week, cut it down to just once a week.
Cooking and eating at home can save you so much money and it tends to be healthier too.
7. Cancel your gym membership
- Potential savings: $54 a month
Exercising is something that all of us should be doing. It’s great for your health.
However, you don’t need a gym membership to do it.
The average gym membership, according to data from Bloomberg, costs $54 a month.
In the course of a year, you’re spending $648 on the gym!
According to Bloomberg, by spending $54 a month on a gym membership, Americans who earn the average median household income are spending more than 1% of their yearly income at the gym.
If you earn a low income, then this percentage is even greater.
The average price of a gym membership has risen by 17%, on average, in the past couple of years alone.
We’d highly suggest giving up the gym membership and investing in some low-cost exercise equipment at home.
8. Get cashback
- Potential savings: Reduce spending by up to 40%
While you shouldn’t be spending too much if you’re trying to get out of debt, when you do shop, you want to save as much as possible.
That’s why we’d recommend shopping through cashback websites, when you do come to buy something. Websites, like Ebates, TopCashBack and Mr. Rebates, can save you up to 40% on everything you buy.
They feature tons of stores, from grocery stores, like Walmart to online retailers, like Amazon, as well as big brands, like Nike and Apple.
9. Use GasBuddy (And keep your tires properly inflated)
- Potential savings: $340+ a year
One recurring expense that most of us have is the cost of gas.
Who hasn’t gotten gas at one place, only to see it at a much cheaper price at another nearby gas station?
To make sure that you always get the best price for fuel, you should definitely use Gasbuddy.
With this app, you can find gas stations near you that provide the lowest price for gas.
You can also get price hike alerts, which allow you to fill up the tank before the price increases.
There’s also a daily draw that gives you the chance to win $100 in free gas
According to GasBuddy, you can save $340 a year by using the app.
Now, once you do get gas at a low price, you want to make sure that you get the most out of it.
That’s why it’s so important to keep your tires properly inflated.
When your car’s tires aren’t properly inflated, it causes a number of problems, such as increased wear on the tires and even a damaged wheel.
However, one of the biggest issues is lower fuel efficiency.
According to The U.S. Department of Energy, “under-inflated tires can lower gas mileage by about by about 0.2% for every 1 psi drop in the average pressure of all tires.”
Just by keeping your tires properly inflated, the department says that you can improve gas mileage by 0.6% on average, and up to 3% in some cases.
Basically, you’ll get more from the gas you buy just by keeping your tires inflated.
There are plenty of places and ways to get free tire air. To learn more, check out our post on how to get free tire air near you.
10. Use price comparison apps
- Potential savings: It varies
We mentioned using Gasbuddy to find the best prices for gas in your area.
Gas, however, is not the only thing you should compare prices for.
One of the easiest ways to decrease your monthly spending is to compare prices for groceries and anything else that you buy.
When you compare the cost of groceries across multiple stores, you can save yourself hundreds each year!
There are a few apps that you should check out:
With this app, you can compare the prices from weekly ads from a variety of local stores.
You get prices for popular stores, like Walmart, Target, Albertson’s, Walgreens and CVS.
With the app, you can also redeem coupons and create and organize shopping lists.
With QuickScan, you can scan items to compare their price across multiple stores.
You can compare products across more than 1,000 stores, including online stores and local and offline retailers. You can also search for prices and product details from a range of retailers, such as Amazon, Walmart, and Best Buy.
Using the app, you can scan barcodes and QR codes. Also, the app features coupons and deals, from stores, like Sephora, Macy’s and Nordstrom and reviews too.
This is another app that allows you to compare prices on a huge range of items.
With the app, you can scan the barcode, QR Code or Microsoft Tag for a product, and then compare prices for a huge range of stores, like Best Buy, Amazon, and Walmart.
ShopSavvy allows you to compare prices by scanning barcodes. You can use the app to find the best prices for items online and at local stores.
There are exclusive deals available too.
- Download ShopSavvy for iOS devices here.
- Download ShopSavvy for Android devices here.
- Download ShopSavvy for Windows devices here.
Other ways to save money
Here are a few other things you can do to decrease your spending:
- Only buy stuff that you really need.
- Visit the library for free books and magazines.
- Carpool to work.
- Buy generic brand products, over items from big name brands.
- If you can’t afford to buy an item right now, rather than using a credit card to purchase it, save for it and then buy it when you have the money.
- Switch to energy efficient lightbulbs.
- Bundle your phone and internet.
- Shop around for better insurance.
- Check out free local events, like concerts, rather than paying for them.
- Join rewards programs and get cashback, coupons and other great money-saving deals at the stores you shop at. Check out our list of the best rewards/loyalty programs here.
Increasing your income
In this section, we’re going to cover ways that you can bring in more money into your bank account each month.
This really is one of the most effective ways for paying off debt faster, since the more money you have in your bank, the more you can put towards debt, and the faster you’ll become debt free.
We’re going to start with things that can earn you $100s or even $1000s each month.
1. Pick up some data entry work online
- Earning potential: $220 – $440+ a month
Online, you can find work as a data entry clerk. You can do this job from home, from the comfort of your bed if you want to!
Here a few places where you can find data entry work:
As a data entry clerk, you’ll be responsible for entering data into documents, spreadsheets, databases or other data management systems.
What’s interesting about data entry work is that for many positions, you don’t need to have any qualifications or experience.
How much can you make?
Data entry clerks earn an average of $31,153 a year, according to figures from Glassdoor, and people report earning anywhere from $11 to more than $18 an hour.
Let’s say you got paid $11 an hour, and worked 5 hours per week, you’d earn an extra $55 a week and around $220 a month.
And, if you worked 10 hours a week, then you’d earn $440 a month!
You can put all of that money towards your debts
2. Write a book and publish it on Kindle
- Earning potential: $10,000 – $100,000+ a year
Do you enjoy writing?
Do you have a passion for a particular topic? Or perhaps you love telling stories?
If so, you could become an author on Kindle and earn hundreds per month.
You can write a non-fiction book if you want to, which could be about anything from dieting to sewing!
Or, you could write a fiction novel, like a horror novel, crime novel, or thriller novel for example.
Amazon pays you 75% of the royalties – a very generous split in the world of book publishing.
How much can you make?
Being a kindle author can be incredibly profitable, especially if you’re in a good niche, or have a book that becomes a best-seller.
And, figures show that earnings for Kindle authors are increasing.
An income study from AuthorEarnings.com on Kindle authors, showed that 9,900 authors are earning at least $10,000 a year from their Amazon US sales alone.
Almost half of those 9,900 authors also earn $25,000 or more each year.
The stats for new indie authors on Amazon are also great. More than 1,080 indie authors, many of whom debuted in the last five years, currently earn $50,000 or more a year.
Some authors have reported earning more than $100,000 a year!
Author Mark Edwards for example, now makes a six-figure income from his books, after decades of rejections from traditional publishing houses.
Mark said: “I had a mortgage, two children and one more on the way and had maxed out my credit card and overdraft limit. We really were one unexpected bill from disaster.”
Mark decided that he’d put up a book that he’d began a decade ago, but hadn’t finished, called The Magpies. The book climbed to number one and became a best seller. He now makes more than £100,000 ($131,629) a year, has bought a bigger house and has started to save into a pension plan for the first time.
3. Drive for Amazon Flex
- Earning potential: $800 or more a month
You can get paid to deliver packages for Amazon. You can pick up work when you want to, and take on as many or as few deliveries as you want to.
Check out this post to learn more about being an Amazon Flex driver, and how much you can earn.
How much can you earn?
You can make between $18 and $25 an hour, so if you work 8 hours a week, then you’d earn up to $800 a month.
4. Display ads on your car
- Earning potential: $400 to $600 a month
A company called Wrapify will put ads on your car for free and then pay you just for displaying them!
You get to decide how much you want the car wrapped, whether you just want the doors, or the entire car wrapped.
How much can you earn?
If you don’t mind displaying ads on your car, then you could make between $400 and $600 a month.
Read our post on Wrapify here to learn more about getting paid to advertise on your car.
5. Pick up and deliver groceries
- Earning potential: $800 a month
Shipt pays you to pick up and deliver groceries. It’s a pretty easy way to make a side income. You can take on as little or as much work as you want to.
Read our review of Shipt to learn more about working with the company.
How much can you earn?
Pay is $25 an hour, so if you pick up 8 hours of work each week, then you could earn $800 a month.
6. Contribute to blogs
- Earning potential: $500+ a month
There are tons of blogs that pay you to write posts for them.
If you’re a parent, you could write for a parenting blog for example, and if you’re a running enthusiast, then you could write for a fitness blog for example.
Here are a few examples of blogs that accept submissions and how much they pay:
- ListVerse – Get paid $100 to write a list article.
- Cracked – Pitch an article idea to Cracked and you’ll earn $50 to $200 per post. The site accepts a range of articles, with a focus on humorous pieces.
- Transitions Abroad – Pay is $150 per post. Articles are all related to travel.
- A Fine Parent – This site, which is focused on parenting, pays $75 per post.
Check out this post for more blogs and other places that pay you for submissions.
How much can you earn?
How much you’ll earn depends on how much you get paid per post, and how many posts you do each month.
Let’s say you earn $100 per post, and you write 5 a month – you’d earn an extra $500 to pay off your debts with!
7. Tutor people online
- Earning potential: $440 – $840+ a month
Help people to learn and get paid in the process as an online tutor. You can tutor students from the comfort of your own home, in subjects ranging from math to science.
For most tutoring positions, you will need to have a degree and sometimes teaching experience as well. Just check out the requirements for the job before you apply.
What’s great about tutoring online is that it allows you to set your own hours. You can work as little or as much as you want to.
Here are a few places to find online tutoring jobs:
- Chegg Tutors
- Aim-for-A Tutoring
- Homework Tutoring
- Manhattan Prep
How much can you earn?
People on Glassdoor report earning anywhere from $11 to $21 an hour as an online tutor.
Let’s say you earn $16 an hour, and you tutor for 10 hours a week. You’d make $160 a week, and $640 a month.
If you earned $21 an hour and worked 10 hours a week, you’d make $840 a month!
8. Drive for Lyft or Uber
- Earning potential: $600 to $1120+ a month
If you have a car and don’t mind giving people lifts, then consider driving for a transportation company, like Uber or Lyft.
You don’t need any special qualifications and can pick up work when you want to.
We have a review of working for Lyft, which you can read here.
If you want to drive for Uber, then read our Uber review here.
How much can you earn?
As a Lyft driver you can earn from $20 to $28 an hour, depending on where you live. There’s a handy calculator on the company’s website that allows you to estimate your weekly earnings, based on where you live and how many hours you work each week.
Uber’s pay isn’t as straightforward and hourly pay can vary a lot. According to figures from Glassdoor, however, the average Uber driver makes $15 an hour.
Let’s say you drive 10 hours a week with Lyft and you earn $28 an hour, then you’d make $280 a week, and around $1,120 a month.
If you drove for Uber for 10 hours a week, then you’d make $150 a week and $600 a month.
9. Rent out your car
- Earning potential: $500 – $800 a month
If you’d prefer to make money from your car, without driving or display ads, then rent it out instead.
This is an easy way to make a pretty substantial amount of money each week. If your car is just sitting in the driveway, then why not make some money from it?
How much can you earn?
The amount of money you’ll earn depends on factors, such as the value of your car, and how often you rent it out.
Here are a few places where you can rent out your car and how much each one pays:
- Getaround: This website claims that the average car owner earns $6,000 a year.
- Turo: According to the website, for a car with a $20,000 market value that’s rented out for 15 days of the month, you’d earn $6,501 a year.
- Hyre Car: You can earn $35 a day, $230 a week, and $800 a month by listing your car for rent on Hyre Car.
Let’s say you earn $6,000 a year renting out your car – that’s $500 a month to put towards paying off your debt!
10. Become a transcriptionist
- Earning potential: $280 to $1,000+ a month
If you’re a quick and accurate typist, consider taking on some transcription work. You can do it from the comfort of your own home.
All you need to do is listen to some audio, type what you hear, and deliver the transcript and you’ll get paid.
Often, you don’t need to have experience or any special qualifications to be eligible for transcriptionist jobs. However, you do need to meet a minimum typing speed.
Here are a few examples of places where you can find transcription work:
- Verbal Ink
- AccuTran Global
- 3Play Media
Also, you can check job boards, like UpWork and FlexJobs for at home transcription work.
How much can you earn?
Earn $7 to $25 an hour as a transcriptionist, according to figures reported on PayScale.com.
If you worked 10 hours a week and earned $15 an hour, then you’d make $150 a week, and $600 a month. But, there’s the potential to earn $25 or more an hour, making your income, based on 10 hours of work per week, $250 a week, and $1,000 a month.
Pay does vary from place to place. For example, at Scribe, you’ll earn $5 to $20 per audio hour, whereas at 1-888-TYPE-IT-UP, you’ll earn $36 to $180 per audio hour.
11. Teach English online
- Earning potential: $494 to $1,570+ a month
You can make money to put towards your debts by teaching people English online. You’ll teach students of all ages, from a wide range of countries.
For many jobs, you’ll need to have a language teaching certification, like a TEFL certificate, for example. Also, for some positions, you may need a degree. So be sure to check all of the requirements before you apply for a position.
Here are a few places where you can find work teaching English online:
- Say ABC
- EF English Live
- Open English
Also, aside from the above companies, another good place to find work teaching English is on ESL job boards.
Many companies regularly post listings for English teachers on these boards. Some of these jobs are location-based, but there are plenty of at-home positions available as well.
Here are a few ESL job boards to check out:
- Dave’s ESL Café
- ESL Jobs
- ESL Jobs World
- TESOL International Association
- ESL Employment
There are also general job boards and websites where you can find jobs teaching English:
How much can you earn?
According to figures from PayScale.com, English as a second language (ESL) teachers earn from $12.35 to $39.26 an hour, and the average hourly rate is $20.26.
People on Glassdoor give similar figures, with people reporting that they earn $13 to $20 an hour.
Let’s say you work 10 hours a week, and you make $20 an hour. You’d have an extra $200 for paying off your debts per week, and an extra $800 a month!
12. Pick up translation work
- Earning potential: up to $50/hr
If you can speak more than one language, then consider picking up some translation work.
There are online translation jobs out there that you can do from the comfort of your own home. You’ll earn money for translating a wide range of media, from blog posts to support tickets, to apps.
Here are a few places where you can find work as a translator:
How much can you earn?
Revision and editing rates are, on average, from 3 to 7 cents a word.
Hourly, the average rate is from $30 to $50 an hour.
Let’s say that you earn $30 an hour, and work 10 hours a week – that’s an extra $300 a week!
Per month, you’d earn $1,200 to put towards your debts!
13. Take on virtual assistant work
- Earning potential: $640 – $1,160 a month
Another way to make some extra money is by taking on some virtual assistant work.
As a virtual assistant, you’re responsible for tasks, like:
- Writing emails
- Arranging meetings
- Scheduling appointments
- Making phone calls
- General admin tasks
Here are a few places where you can find work as a virtual assistant:
- Remote OK
- Virtual Office Temps
- Virtual Vocations
- Virtual Assistant Needed
Many positions don’t require any qualifications or experience, but some do, so make sure that you check the requirements for the job, before you apply.
How much can you earn?
According to figures from PayScale.com, virtual assistants earn, on average, $15.61 per hour. They can earn anywhere from $10 to $29 an hour.
If you earned $16 an hour and worked 10 hours a week, then you’d make an extra $640 a month!
14. Become a freelance writer
- Earning potential: $1,000 plus a month
Many companies and individuals are looking to hire people to write content for them. This could be product descriptions for a store’s website, articles for a websites, or instruction manuals.
If you’re good with grammar and can structure a piece of content well, then you could earn money writing.
You can start out writing for content websites, such as:
You can also work with private clients – this tends to pay more.
Here are a few places to find clients looking for freelance writing work:
How much can you earn?
Much of the time, writers are paid per word, but some are paid per hour.
Average hourly pay is $24.70 an hour, but can range anywhere from $10 an hour to $55 an hour, according to figures from PayScale.
How much you’ll earn per word varies. For example, some content sites and clients may pay as low as $0.01 per word, and others with pay $0.06 per word or more. So it really varies.
Let’s say you get paid hourly, and make $25 an hour, work just ten hours per week, and you’ll earn $250 a week, or $1,000 a month.
15. Become a freelance editor
- Earning potential: $1,000+ a month
If writing isn’t really your thing, then why not give editing a go instead?
You’ll need to be able to catch typos and spelling and grammar errors and have the ability to improve the structure and organization of the piece that you’re editing.
For many editing jobs, you’ll need a degree or experience in the editing field, but not always. Just check the requirements before you apply for a position.
Here are a few job boards and websites, where you can find freelance editing work:
Here are a few companies that sometimes hire freelance editors:
How much can you earn?
The average hourly pay, according to figures from PayScale, is $24.83 for freelance editors. However, pay can range anywhere from $9 to $63 an hour.
Let’s say you work 10 hours a week, and make $25 an hour. In a week, you’d earn $250 and in a month, you’d make around $1000!
16. Pick up test scoring work
- Earning potential: $560 a month
As a test scorer, it’s your job to score people’s tests. You’ll generally need to have qualifications and experience to be a test scorer. So, make sure that you check the requirements for each place before you apply.
Here are a few places where you can find test scoring work:
How much can you earn?
How much you’ll earn varies from place to place. According to figures reported on Glassdoor, most companies pay between $10 and $18 an hour.
Let’s say you make $14 an hour – and you work 10 hours a week. You’d make $140 in a week and $560 in a month.
Other ways to increase your income
In this section, we’re going to cover other ways that you can make some extra money.
These aren’t like the opportunities above where you can make a part-time job from them.
But they’re good for bringing in a small amount of money consistently that can add up towards paying off your debt.
What’s great about the opportunities below is that they’re so easy, and can be done in your downtime.
17. Take surveys
- Earning potential: $50 to $300 a month
You can get paid for giving your opinion with survey websites. This is a pretty easy way to make money, and since there are so many survey websites out there, this is a good way to get a constant trickle of cash coming in.
One site to check out is MySurvey. It offers surveys that are quick and easy to complete. Plus PayPal is available as a withdrawal option.
For many survey sites, you can only redeem your points for gift cards, and there are no cash options. So MySurvey is a good choice.
Read this post for more survey companies that pay.
How much can you earn?
How much you’ll earn depends on the site you use and how many surveys you take. It is possible though to earn $100 plus a month if you join multiple survey websites.
18. Join a rewards website
- Earning potential: $30 to $50+ a month
Rewards websites, which are also called get paid to websites, give you cash for completing easy tasks, like:
- Completing offers – most offers are things like signing up for a free trial of a product or service.
- Playing games – like app games, or desktop games.
- Browsing the internet.
- Watching videos.
- Taking surveys.
Swagbucks is definitely one of the more popular and best rewards websites out there, since it provides you with so many different ways to earn.
How much can you earn?
With Swagbucks, you earn points, called Swag Bucks (SB). How much you earn depends on the tasks that you do. People on Reddit report earning around $30 to $50 a month on Swagbucks.
Join multiple rewards websites, and you can earn $100 or more each month.
Check out our list of the best rewards websites.
19. Register for websites
- Earning potential: One off $50
Register for the following websites, and you’ll earn $50:
- InboxDollars – $5 bonus.
- Ebates – $10 bonus.
- Swagbucks – $3 bonus.
- FusionCash – $5 bonus.
- Cash4Offers – $5 bonus.
- PointClub – $5 bonus.
- Univox Community – $5 bonus.
- CashCrate – $1 bonus.
- TreasureTrooper – $1 bonus.
- BeFrugal – $10 bonus
This is $50 that you get just for registering with websites, which is totally free to do!
Also, read our post on sites that pay you to sign up for more bonuses!
20. Use data collection apps
- Earning potential: $108 to $180 a year
If you install these apps on your phone, then you could make between $108 and $180 a year:
- Shoptracker: This app pays you $108 a year. Just submit your Amazon shopping data, and you’ll receive $3 each month. This works out at $36 a year, and you can sync up to three accounts, meaning you can make up to $108 a year.
- SavvyConnect: This pays $180 a year.
And the best part is that you don’t have to do anything – just allow the apps to collect your data, and you’ll get paid.
21. Sell your unwanted stuff
- Earning potential: Varies
This is something that I’ve had success with myself.
When I was redecorating my bedroom, I cleared out a huge built-in closet. It contained DVDs, books and Xbox games – basically the stuff that we all collect over time that we find ourselves not using anymore.
I was throwing some stuff out, and I thought, why not see if I can get some cash for this stuff?
I knew I wouldn’t get a ton of money, because games, DVDs and books depreciate in value quite quickly. So I was quite aware that I would get much less back for these items than I initially paid.
Anyway, I went online, entered a few barcodes, shipped the items for free, and made $85.
Sure, $85 isn’t much cash. However, I was literally going to throw this stuff out.
It just proves that we all have stuff sitting in our homes that we can make money from, even if we think it’s trash!
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure as they say.
So, consider selling your used stuff that are just taking space in your home.
If you have bigger items, like furniture or appliances, then you can make $100s doing this.
Clear out your closet, and make some cash with these apps and websites:
- Desktop version: https://poshmark.com/
- Download Poshmark for iOS devices here.
- Download Poshmark for Android devices here.
- Desktop version: https://www.thredup.com/
- Download thredUP for iOS devices here.
- Download thredUP for Android devices here.
- Desktop version: https://www.tradesy.com/
- Get the Tradesy app here.
- Desktop version: https://www.vinted.com
- Download Vinted for iOS devices here.
- Download Vinted for Android devices here.
Books are something that most of us have cluttering up our homes. Sell them with these apps and websites:
- Desktop version: www.cash4books.net
- Download Cash4Books for iOS devices here.
- Download Cash4Books for Android devices here.
- Check out the website here.
If you have old college textbooks, you can sell those too. Just check out our list of the 25 Best Places to Sell College Textbooks.
Sell Everything Else
Above, we’ve mentioned places where you can sell clothing and books, but that’s not all that you can sell.
Whether it’s a coffee table you no longer need or an old tablet, there are plenty of other items you can sell to people nearby.
Here are a few places where you can sell a huge variety of items locally:
Also, if you want to sell used appliances, then check out this post.
A quick example of how you can decrease your expenses and increase your income
Let’s say that you currently earn $20,000 a year, and you have $40,000 in debt.
You do the following:
- Cut out cable, for Netflix.
- Use coupons
- Get a free cell phone plan.
- Instead of paying to go to the movies each time, you sign up for MoviePass.
- Cut out your gym membership and start exercising at home and outdoors.
- Use trim to cancel unwanted subscriptions.
- Use GasBuddy to find the best prices for gas in your area.
This saves you around $500 a month.
Next, you start driving for Lyft 10 hours a week, which earns you $1,120 a month
You also start contributing to around 4 blogs each month, each paying you $50, making you an additional $200, which only takes up a couple of hours a week.
Then, you use Swagbucks to earn an additional $30 a month in your spare time – you watch TV, take quizzes and play games in your downtime.
Finally, you install Shoptracker and Savvyconnect, and earn $24 a month for doing literally nothing!
Now, you have an extra $1,874 a month to put towards your debts!
And, this is with side gigs, the writing and driving for Lyft, which only take up around 12 hours a week.
The other money-making ventures can be done in your spare time.
As you can see, it doesn’t take massive changes to earn more money to put towards your debts each month.
You don’t need to leave the house either to make money from a side hustle.
You could work as a virtual assistant for 10 hours a week and make $1,160 a month. Even, if you just worked 5 hours a week as a virtual assistant, you’d still have an additional $580 a month to put towards your debts.
And, you could put up a book on Amazon and earn money residually from that.
So, while you’re doing your work as a virtual assistant, you’re making money from books too.
Crucial tips for paying off your debts faster
If you have lots of different credit cards and loans, then it can be hard to know where to actually start with paying down your debts. Getting into the habit of tackling debts is also tricky.
In this section, we’re going to go over tips and methods for actually paying off your debts, which will make the whole process easier, and less stressful.
1. Pay more than the minimum
When you pay just the minimum on your credit card, paying off your balance will take a whole lot longer.
When you only make the minimum payment, you’ll barely wipe out the interest from last month. You’ll just keep paying each month, without paying off your full balance.
That’s why it’s important to start increasing payments as much as you can. Take that extra money that you’re making from your side income and the money you’re saving by making changes, like cutting out the cable and use it to make larger payments each month.
Let’s say that your minimum payment for the month is $50.
If you paid $100 monthly instead, then you’d pay off your debts in half the time.
When you pay more than the minimum, you’ll start each following month with less debt.
2. Pay off the debt with the smallest balance first: Snowball method
Okay, so there are a few methods for paying down debts.
There are tons of arguments online debating which method is better – the Snowball method or the Avalanche method.
One isn’t necessarily better than the other – the best method is the method that works for you.
We’re going to start with the Snowball method. This method is good for keeping up motivation.
With this method, you basically write down your debts in order of balance ascending – so the smallest one first.
Let’s say you have $7,000 in credit card debt, spread across four cards.
Here’s what your debt list would look like with the Snowball method:
- Credit Card One: $250
- Credit Card Two: $800
- Credit Card Three: $1,500
- Credit Card Four: $4,450
After writing down your debts, you need to focus on paying off the one with the smallest balance first.
So, going back to the credit card debt example above, you’d need to first pay off the $250 credit card.
It’s important to note that while you are focused on paying down just one debt, you need to continue to make the minimum monthly payments on all of your debts – but more on that below.
Okay, so once you’ve paid off that first debt, you move onto the next one.
What makes this method interesting is that you use the money that you would spend paying off the first debt and add it on top of the minimum payment for the second debt.
This creates a snowball effect, hence the name of the method.
Once you’ve paid off the second one, you move onto the third one and so on.
As you pay off your debts, it creates more confidence and makes you feel as though you’re actually making progress towards becoming debt free.
Using the example of the credit card debt above, here’s what your payment process might look like:
- Let’s say you started one of the side hustles above, and you now have $300 extra a month to put towards your debts.
- After subtracting the minimum payments for the other three cards, which let’s say are $35 each, you now have $210 a month to put towards paying the smallest debt.
- For credit card one, the monthly minimum payment is $20. Now, you add that $210 and have the card paid off in no time.
- Then, you move onto Credit Card two and add that $230 to your payments for that debt.
- So, let’s say that your minimum payment for Credit Card two is $30 a month. You add the $230 you were paying on credit card one and pay $260 a month on card two until you pay off the debt. You continue to do this on each card until all of your credit card debt is paid off.
Since it’s so much quicker and easier to pay off a $250 credit card balance than it is a $4,450 credit card balance, paying off debts seems much more achievable.
Once you’ve got a balance down to zero for one debt, then you can move your money to focus on paying off larger balances.
3. Tackle the highest interest debts first: Avalanche method
Another method that some people find useful is the Avalanche method. With this method, you pay the debts with the highest interest first.
The Snowball method is based more on quick wins, which make you feel like you’re consistently making progress.
The Avalanche method, on the other hand, takes a little longer.
What’s good about this method though is that you save yourself a lot of money on interest payments.
When you’re in debt, cutting your spending on interest can be really useful.
With this method, you take the debt with the highest annual percentage rate (APR) and you focus on paying that one off first.
While you’ll list your debts in ascending order of their balance with the Snowball method, with the Avalanche method, you list each debt’s APR in order from highest to lowest, and then work through your debts that way.
You take the amount you’ve assigned to put towards debts each month (after subtracting the cost of the minimum payments for the other cards), let’s say it’s $210 a month, as with the example we used earlier, and use it to pay the debt with the highest APR first.
Then, like with the Snowball method, once the first debt is paid off you add the money from paying off the first debt to the payment for the next debt and so on.
The Avalanche method will save you more money in the long-run than the Snowball method will.
4. Make minimum payments on time for all of your debts
Don’t focus all of your energy on one particular debt. Whichever method you choose, make sure that you continue making minimum payments toward all of your debts.
If you don’t, it will hurt your credit score, and you’ll likely incur late fees. You don’t want to put yourself in a position where you owe even more money on your debts.
So, if you’re using the Avalanche method and you’re focusing on paying off a $5,000 credit card debt that has the highest interest rate, then don’t forget to make the minimum payments on all of your other debts.
Avoiding late fees isn’t the only reason to keep up with minimum payments.
Here are a couple more reasons:
- Your credit score could drop: Missing minimum payments can negatively affect your credit score, which affects your ability to obtain new credit in the future.
- Your interest rate may increase: When a late payment becomes 60 days past due, many creditors will increase your interest rate to the penalty rate, which is the highest interest rate on your credit card. Once you’ve made six months’ worth of on-time payments, you should get your pre-penalty rate back.
So, don’t miss the minimum payments on any of your debts.
5. Consolidate your debts
If you’re not a fan of the Snowball or the Avalanche method, then you might want to consider a simple strategy:
Consolidate your debts to a single card or loan.
By doing this, you’ll only need to make a single payment each month, rather than three or four, for example.
This can make paying off debts easier since you don’t have to keep up with minimum payments across multiple debts while tackling one particular debt.
You can just take this one debt, and then put all of the money you have to pay your debts towards it.
Let’s say you have $200 a month to pay off your loans.
But, you have three cards that you have to make a minimum payment for, each one costing $20.
That’s $60 of that $200 tied up in minimum payments.
When you consolidate your debts, you won’t have those additional minimum payments to make each month, meaning you can focus all of that money on paying down a single debt.
6. Transfer your balance – but only if you can afford to pay it off in time
Many cards will offer a zero-interest balance transfer. You can avoid paying interest during a certain time period, once you transfer the balance.
This means that you’re not adding more interest charges on top of what you already owe.
So if you have a high-interest card, then consider moving the debt to a card that offers a zero-interest balance transfer.
Be careful though – only transfer your balance if you know that you can pay off the debt before the balance transfer period expires. This is because you’re often charged a higher interest rate once the balance transfer ends.
However, if you pay it off in time, you can save yourself $100s in interest charges.
7. Use tools to make paying off debts easier
There are so many great tools and apps out there that make managing your money and paying off debts a whole lot easier.
One tool that many people have success with is called Mint. With it, you can manage your money, organize your finances, create a budget and check your credit score. Also, you can get alerts about upcoming bills and schedule payments.
Basically, it’s just a great tool for keeping on top of your finances.
If you have student loan debt, then you might want to check out Upromise.
It’s a loyalty program that’s designed for college students, graduates, or parents who want help saving for their child’s education.
With Upromise, you get cashback on groceries, dining out and travel, from the brands, retailers and companies that are partnered with the program.
What makes Upromise different from other loyalty programs, however, is the fact that it allows you to use those cashback rewards to pay down your student loans.
Also, you can start a college savings plan with it and get the cashback via check if you want to.
Essentially, Upromise makes it easier to get extra cash to pay your student loans.
We have a full review of Upromise, so make sure that you check that out here.
Also, read our Apps that Save you Money post here. With these apps, you can save money more easily, and have more money to put towards your debts.
We are visual creatures. Nothing drives the point home for us like seeing the actual numbers. Which is why I think playing around with debt calculators is a great way for people in debt to see how small changes can have a major impact on their overall debt and paying it off.
Here are a few awesome free debt calculators:
- Debt Snowball Calculator: Financial Mentor
- Debt Avalanche Calculator: NerdWallet
- Simple Daily Interest Calculator: Treasury Department’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service
- Debt Payoff Calculator: Bankrate
Plug in your numbers to these calculators and play around with the numbers to see how you can speed up the process of becoming debt free by making small changes like paying $10 extra dollars a month on a credit card debt.
Success Stories: Creative ways people became debt free quickly
Paying off debt on a low income really is possible.
Using our tips, you can pay down your debts, even when you don’t earn much.
There are plenty of people who’ve done it too.
We’ve gathered stories and spoken to people who’ve paid of their debts.
And, they’ve used many of the methods we mentioned above to do so.
$87k paid off in 40 months
Steve from Washington told us, “I paid off $87k of consumer and family debt in 40 months on a low income.”
He also said how he made cutbacks, decreasing his outgoings, and worked a lot too.
Steve says, “I worked a lot and had no car payments because I drove beaters. I brown bagged my lunch and brewed my own coffee. I didn’t see the inside of a restaurant unless it was my 3rd job.
I avoided malls, clubs, convenience stores and the latest phones, clothes and movies. I didn’t do salons. I didn’t overdraft my account or get a payday loan. I also didn’t buy lottery tickets.”
As we suggested above, Steve also forwent cable, saying, “I had a TV antenna only and borrowed movies and TV shows from the library. Same with audio books.”
Using the snowball method, which we mentioned above, was also instrumental in Steve’s success. “I listed my debts smallest to largest and hit them in that order. Snowball method. Paid one off, then added that payment to the next one. The wins along the way kept me going!” he said.
Steve also adds something important; that just because you’re making some cutbacks, it doesn’t mean that you can’t live an enjoyable life. He says, “My life was still full and meaningful. None of the stuff I ‘sacrificed’ was even missed, especially now that I’ve been debt-free since 2015.”
“It can be done!” he ends our chat with.
Other success stories…
Steve’s not the only one either. There are so many people who’ve had success paying off their debts.
$10K paid off in a year
One Reddit user, called ShouldntButAm from California paid off $10,000 in debt in one year, on an income of $55,000 a year, which is far below the median family income of $77,359 a year in California.
Like we mentioned above, this person made cutbacks to decrease their outgoings.
They switched their phone plan, saying, “Switching from my old plan that was around 7 years old, I went from $105 a month to $54 a month.”
Like many others who’re in debt, they also cut out the cable;
“I dropped my DirecTV bill ($150+ a month) at the end of 2014. With the internet a practical necessity, and Netflix/Amazon/Hulu, I substituted $150 in cable for what is relatively $18, since I consider the free Prime shipping to far outweigh what we pay (as a household) for the service. I also found an antenna on sale for about $40 purely so I could watch some sports.”
Also, this person says they made a budget, and set goals for paying off their debts, as we mentioned you should do above.
They also used the avalanche method to tackle their debts, “I needed to decide how I was going to tackle this debt first. I determined that the course of action would be to tackle the highest APR first.”
On a low income, this person paid off their debts in around 12 months, “By November I made my last payment. My last. Payment. $10,000 in UNDER a year. I spent some money, I had some fun, I enjoyed myself and my friends, and I paid off the entirety of my credit debt. Un. Believable.”
$16K in credit card debt paid off in a couple of years
One user, called StillEnjoyLegos, on Reddit praises the snowball method for their success in getting out of credit card debt, saying, “Don’t underestimate the Snowball method – I paid off 16k of balances between 9 cards because of it.”
While the avalanche method will cost you much less in the long run, since you’re avoiding interest charges, many people struggle to stay motivated with it. This is why the snowball method works so well for those who need help to stay motivated.
This person echoes this sentiment, saying, “I wanted to point out how important for me the ‘feeling’ of success was during this >2 year process. It absolutely was due to the snowball method, and with every balance payoff I got a ‘high’ driving me to keep going as I took that extra money to tackle the next balance.”
$47K paid off in Five Years
A user in this Reddit thread, says, “After graduating I accumulated a tonne of debt, largely from living beyond my means at the expense of my credit cards.”
They continued, “This debt accumulated to the point where I was unable to keep any money from pay check to pay check as it was all going on interest, repayments on a car and all that stuff.”
While this person only earned $30,000 a year, they still managed to pay down their debts, by developing a plan and making changes.
We discussed the importance of eating at home more above, and that was a key of this person’s plan.
“I stopped eating out and pre-cooked all my meals. Meals were planned out a week before-hand and my shopping list only included the meals I planned on making.”
Also, they forwent the gym. “I cut out my gym membership and started going on runs instead.”
They also used the snowball method to tackle their debts, and sold their vehicle:
“I sold my car. People are always buying the latest cars they can’t afford, me included. I sold my BMW and the surplus to wipe any recurring payments. I replaced it with a cheap Prius.”
Aside from that, they credit having the discipline for their financial security, saying, “I feel so much more free now. Financial stability is so important and I wish I had some self control from a young age. All it really takes to be financially secure is having some discipline to live within your means.”
$16K in credit card debts paid off in a few years
In this Reddit thread, one user, a 51 year old called gchamblee, tells a story of how he went through a divorce that put a financial strain on him, and then experienced health problems.
Since he did not have insurance, he ended up owing $20,000 in medical bills.
He couldn’t pay the bills, but assumed that he’d be able to take care of them when he got into a better financial situation. This wasn’t the case though.
“I had my wakeup call when the local sheriff department served me a summons to go to court. I was being sued for unpaid medical bills. I called them to try to work something out and make a payment, but they told me I should have done that before legal action was taken. I had to put the full amount on my credit card for that bill,” he says.
“So I learned my lesson there. I contacted all of the other collection agencies about my outstanding medical bills and worked out settlement offers. Instead of making payments, I asked how much they would reduce it by if I paid the entire amount. I was surprised that a lot of them were willing to take 40 to 50 cents on the dollar. That was a huge discount, so I put them all on credit cards. Now I was safe from being sued, but I had 16K in credit card debt. This is where I got serious about getting out of debt,” he continued.
Consolidating debts, which we discussed above, was one of the keys to tackling his debt. He says, “I consolidated my credit card debt to 2 or 3 cards so that I would have as few monthly payments to manage as possible.”
Using the snowball method was also instrumental in paying off his debts, “I made the minimum payment on all of them except 1. I chose the one with the smallest balance and added 15.00 to the minimum payment. That was my monthly payment every month. I did not reduce it when the monthly minimum went down, I just paid the same amount every month. I didn’t notice much difference at first, however after about 6 to 8 months the balance started dropping faster and faster on that card. I had to be disciplined for about 8 months, that was all it took. The momentum got crazy as the balance went down in bigger chunks every month. When the card got down to 0 balance I marked it off my list.”
He continued, “I now chose my new card to focus on and took the fixed amount from the previous card and added it to the monthly payment of this new card I was focusing on.”
He says that these changes made a huge impact on his finances overall; not just on his debts.
“When I was done, I had 20k in available credit on my credit cards and no credit card debt. My credit score improved dramatically and I didn’t even care about that at the time. With this new found excitement and momentum I decided hey, what if I took all this money I was paying on my credit cards and started paying it extra on my car payment every month? Bam, car paid off 18 months early.”
His story just proves that by making a goal to work through your debts, you can be debt-free, even if you are in a bad financial situation right now.
“Here I was with disposable income after being in nearly ruins just a few years earlier. I didn’t get a better job or a pay increase. My bills did not go down, I just had to suffer spending all of my extra money on getting out of debt for a few years.”
As for the time it took to get out of debt, a few years for him, he astutely notes
“If that sounds like a long time, consider this. Those few years are going to pass whether you work on your debt or not. The only thing you can control is what your debt situation will be once they have passed.”
As you can see, so many people have paid off their debts, using the tips that we’ve mentioned above.
Closing thoughts and Key Takeaways
Above, we covered a lot of information about paying off your debts.
So, let’s do a quick recap.
Here are the key takeaways:
- Step 1: Get to know your finances
- Step 2: See how much you can afford to put towards debts
- Step 3: Set a goal
- Step 4: Take actionable steps
- Step 5: Be Flexible
How to pay off debts fast on a low income…
Here’s what’s key:
1. Decrease your outgoings
If you can, make sure that you cut down on what you spend each month. Even if that’s small changes, like taking a packed lunch to work or switching to generic brand products.
Also, really reconsider your bills and the services you use – do you really need the cable or the gym membership? Or would Netflix and a few free-weights be just as good? We discussed plenty of things you can do to spend less each month, so comb through your finances and see where you can make changes.
2. Increase your income
If you’re earning $2,000 a month, and are spending the same amount, and really aren’t able to cut back any more, then you’re going to need to increase the amount of money you bring in each month.
Whether it’s driving for Uber, taking on some freelance work, like writing, editing or transcribing, or displaying ads on your car, you need to pick up a side hustle.
Doing this gives you extra cash to put towards your debts each month, which makes a huge difference.
There are also small things you can do too to make more money, such as taking surveys, completing tasks on rewards websites, and selling your stuff.
Methods and Tips to Pay off your Debts Fast
Follow these tips and use these strategies to tackle your debts:
- Pay more than the minimum.
- Pay off the debts with the smallest balance first: Snowball method.
- Tackle the highest interest debts first: Avalanche method.
- Make minimum payments on time for all of your debts.
- Consolidate your debts.
- Transfer your balance – but only if you can afford to pay it off in time.
- Use tools to make paying off debts easier.
Finally, use the success stories for inspiration
We covered people who had between $10,000 and $87,000 in debts, and all managed to pay them off, even when earning a low income.
So it can be done.
When you need motivation, keep these stories in mind.
Paying off debt can be done, even if you earn a low income.
If you’re wondering how to pay off debt fast with a low income, just follow the steps in our guide, and you’ll start making progress towards being debt free.
Superb post!!! thank you for sharing in this article