This 21-Day Challenge is Perfect For People With $5K or More in Credit Card Debt

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If you have credit card debt, you know. The high interest rates, the constant anxiety, the feeling you’ll never escape… 

But today’s the day that’s all going to change. It’s time to finally pay off your credit card debt and live your life with a little less money stress by committing to this 21-day debt payoff challenge.

You ready? Follow these steps to finally conquer your credit card debt:

Day 1: Freeze Your Credit Cards

No, we’re serious. Literally freeze your credit cards.

If you want to get serious about paying off your credit card debt, you’ll want to stop using your cards — at least until you can pay down your balance and temper your spending.

So grab a container from your cupboard, fill it with water, drop your credit cards in, and pop it in the freezer. No more spending temptations. Now you’re ready to get serious.

Day 2: Know What You Owe and Prioritize Your Debt

One of the toughest parts about paying down your debt is simply knowing where to begin. Which of your credit cards has a balance? Carries the highest interest rate? Has the highest minimum monthly payment?

That’s where a free website like Credit Sesame can help. It takes two minutes to sign up and access your free credit score. From there, Credit Sesame will outline your debt — exactly what you owe and to whom — and offer personalized recommendations. It’ll even break down the interest rates and minimum monthly payments.

Armed with this intel, you’ll be able to more easily devise your payoff plan. Do you want to use the debt avalanche method, where you’ll pay off the cards with the highest interest rates first? Or maybe you prefer the debt snowball method, where you start with the smallest balances first.

You can continue to use Credit Sesame to keep track of your progress and hold yourself accountable throughout this challenge. And, hey, it’ll be kind of fun watching your credit score react to all your hard work!

It takes two minutes to get started with Credit Sesame.

Day 3: Ask This Website to Pay Your Credit Card Bills This Month

The truth is, your credit card companies are probably ripping you off with high interest rates. This is likely what’s held you back from making any real payoff progress in the past.

But today things are about to change, because a website called AmOne wants to help.

If you owe your credit card companies $50,000 or less, AmOne will match you with a low-interest loan you can use to pay off every single one of your balances.

The benefit? You’ll be left with one bill to pay each month (much more manageable). And because personal loans have lower interest rates (AmOne rates start at 3.99% APR), you’ll get out of debt that much faster.

Plus: No credit card payment this month.

AmOne won’t make you stand in line or call your bank, either. And if you’re worried you won’t qualify, it’s free to check online. It takes just two minutes, and it could help you pay off your debt years faster.

Days 4-5: Build a Sustainable Budget

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Now it’s time to build yourself a budget. We’re giving you two days for this because we get it: This can be overwhelming.

Oh, yes, we hear your groaning from here, but budgeting is an integral part to paying off your credit card debt, and it’ll help you accomplish your financial goals. Plus, it doesn’t have to be that difficult.

We suggest using the 50/20/30 budgeting method. It’s easy and offers a lot of flexibility. Here’s what it looks like:

  • 50% of your monthly income goes toward living expenses. These include rent, mortgage, utilities, groceries, car payments, gas and loan payments.
  • 20% of your monthly income goes toward money goals, which can include investments, savings and debt-reduction payments above the minimum amount.
  • 30% of your monthly income goes toward personal spending. That’s everything else.

Because you want to pay off your credit card debt, you’ll want to focus on building your minimum payments into that 50% category. Then any additional efforts will get wrapped into the money goals category.

If you’re struggling to make your expenses fit perfectly into each category, feel free to adjust the proportions. Like we said, this is super flexible, so use it to suit your needs and hit your goals.

Day 6: Reward Yourself With a $5 Amazon Gift Card For Playing Games like Words With Friends and Rise of Kingdoms

Whew, you’re making good progress so far! We know this isn’t always the easiest, so give yourself a little break today. You deserve it, and the last thing you want to do is burn yourself out.

While you’re posted up on the couch and watching the latest Netflix comedy special, go ahead and claim a free $5 Amazon gift card. Yup — a treat yo‘self gesture and a way to add a little more room to your budget next week.

A free Android app called Mistplay actually pays you for playing popular games like Words With Friends 2, Rise of Kingdoms, Yahtzee, Clash Royale, Star Wars and more. 

As you play, Mistplay rewards you in points, which you can exchange for gift cards for brands like Visa, Amazon and more. 

You’ll even get bonus points when you sign up and enter the code penny50.

The more you play, the more you’ll earn. Plus, Mistplay offers some bigger in-game rewards — up to $20.  

It takes just a few minutes to sign up and start getting paid to play games.

Day 7: Stop Wasting Money on Your Monthly Bills

With a budget in place, you’ll be able to take a good look at your recurring monthly bills. Where can you save money? To get started, take a look at what’s probably one of your most expensive ones: your cell phone bill.

We found a discount wireless company called Tello that offers plans starting at just $5 a month. How much are you paying now? Exactly. Imagine cutting that to just $5. 

Tello operates on Sprint’s nationwide network, offering 4G LTE data everywhere Sprint does. It lets you choose a wireless plan based on how many minutes and how much data you want, and you can even use Tello’s coverage tool to see how strong its network is where you live.

You can bring your own phone (Tello works with any Sprint-compatible phone), or buy a new one through them. Even better — there are no early termination or activation fees, no contracts or phone-exclusive plans, no tricks of any kind. 

If you decide you don’t like it, you can always just change your mind. See how much you could save here.

Day 8: Swap Your Grocery Receipts For Free Gift Cards

Paying off your debt doesn’t always require grand gestures. Every little bit counts.

A free app called Fetch Rewards will actually turn your grocery receipts into gift cards. It partners with tons of brands to give you points for every grocery receipt you share. Then you can exchange them for gift cards.

All you have to do is send Fetch a photo of your receipt (from any grocery store), and it does everything for you. No scanning barcodes or searching for offers.

When you download the app, use the code PENNY to automatically earn 2,000 points when you scan your first receipt. Then start snapping photos of your recent receipts to see how many points you can earn without a single trip to the store.

Not so bad for a useless receipt, right? These gift cards can help offset some of your other spending so you can focus on paying off your debt.

Days 9-16: Commit to a “No Spend” Challenge

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You’re making good progress so far! Now it’s time to really pour fuel on this fire by committing to a week of no spending.

That means you won’t spend any money on nonessentials this next week. Definitely still pay rent, your utilities — all those responsible grown-up bills — but don’t spend anything on entertainment, clothes or dining out.

Yes, this will be difficult, and you will face temptations. But this is a great way to reset your spending habits and save up some extra money to put toward your debt.

If you’re feeling really ambitious, you can go for a full month, like personal finance writer Jamie Cattanach. She committed to a No Spend November, to help tame some of her holiday spending. When Cattanach finished her challenge, she saved more than $600. Not bad, right?

Day 17: Implement This Trick Into Your Routine to Get Checks in The Mail

Chances are you do at least some of your shopping online. And, chances are, you’re leaving money on the table — money you could be putting toward your debt.

Whether you’re ordering pet food from Amazon, stocking up on toilet paper from Walmart or even booking a flight for the holidays, you can earn a check back through a free website called Rakuten.

Rakuten has the hookup with just about every online store you shop, which means it can give you a kickback every time you buy. In fact, since Colleen Rice started using Rakuten, it’s sent her checks in the mail totaling $526.44.

It takes less than 60 seconds to create a Rakuten account. All you need is an email address, then you can immediately start shopping your go-to stores through the site.

Plus, if you use Rakuten to earn money back within the first 90 days of signing up, it’ll give you an extra $10 on the first check it sends you. This is an easy way to boost your income without putting a whole lot of work into it.

Days 18-20: Make an Extra $15/Hour to Pick up Milk For Your Neighbors

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Sometimes when you’re trying to pay off a large sum of debt, the most impactful thing you can do is boost your income. But who has time for a second or third job? We’re all tired, but that’s where getting a flexible side gig can help.

Take a couple days to explore your options, but here’s one option we like: Deliver groceries through Postmates.

With the Postmates app, you can get paid to grocery shop. You choose when and how much you work. And if you’re in a pinch for money? You can cash out instantly after each delivery.

Holly Gaston, of San Francisco, California, has tried plenty of side gigs. With Postmates, she makes an average of $15 an hour. Plus, she says it’s been much more enjoyable than any of her previous side gigs.

And because Postmates is so flexible, this isn’t something you have to do forever. Plan on trying it out for a month and see how much money you can make. Even that could help get you on track.

What do you have to lose? Signing up shouldn’t take more than about three minutes.

Day 21: Move Your Money to a Bank Account that Gives You Chances to Win Cash

Whew! You’ve almost completed the challenge. How are you feeling? You should be proud of yourself for committing to pay off your debt.

Now that you’re done, the key is to keep it going and start building in other financial goals to your plan. Think: Establishing a savings.

This doesn’t have to be another boring chore, though. What if there were a game that added money to your bank account when you played it? 

It sounds like something out of a movie, but Long Game is real.

Here’s how it works: Do everything you would normally do in your banking app, like spend and save, and you get to play games of chance where you can win cash. You can win anything from a penny up to $1 million. 

You’ll begin the game by setting up your account. Then, every time you use your debit card or save money, you’ll be able to play games. You can set personalized savings goals, and you’ll earn chances to play while you save and spend. 

Here’s the best part: You can’t lose — you can only earn more money. 

It only takes a minute to get started and see how much you can win.

Carson Kohler ([email protected]) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s rooting for you!