9 Things You Didn’t Realize You Could Do to Pay off Debt

James Cooper sitting in a classroom desk.
Matt Odom for The Penny Hoarder
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When the phrase “It’s fun to” comes up in conversation, it’s probably not followed by “pay off credit card debt.”

Paying off debt is associated with living under a rock, eating ramen noodles and cutting the bottom off your toothpaste tube to get the last bit — none of which are very “fun.”

But here’s the thing: Paying off debt doesn’t have to be boring. It doesn’t even mean reverting to listening to concerts from outside the venue and eating your friend’s leftovers from your favorite restaurant.

Here’s How to Pay off Credit Card Debt and Still Have a Life

Achieving freedom from debt just means getting creative with the resources available to you. And we love getting creative. Here are some clever ways to pay off your credit card debt without giving up fun.

1. Search for Unclaimed Money

A crisp dollar bill being held out over a pair of blurred out sneakers.
Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

State treasuries throughout the U.S. have more than $43 billion in unclaimed funds, according to The New York Times. Just sitting around! Waiting for you to come play lost and found.

In 2017, one South Carolina man hit the jackpot. He got a phone call from his state treasurer letting him know he was entitled to $763,000 in unclaimed money. That’s, like, 63 years of rent.

We advise you to be careful of calls like this; they could be scams. But you can take matters into your own hands and see if you have any unclaimed money floating around.

Check with the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators. Click your state on the map, and it’ll redirect you to your state’s appropriate search site. (Beware: There are several look-a-like sites out there. Be sure you’re searching legitimate ones.)

Penny Hoarder reader Kelli Howell heeded our advice, performed a quick search, and found unclaimed money in her husband’s name.

“As I was scrolling through, I saw his name and his middle initial,” she says. She asked him to confirm his old Florida address; he grew up in Tampa. Sure enough, Mark Howell was entitled to $56 from a “matured insurance policy.”

Kelli immediately searched her other family members’ names. Her husband was the only who had any money to claim. And, sure, it’s $56, but that’s not bad for an unexpected check, right? We’ll take it!

2. Make a Dent in Your Credit Card Debt

A woman lays on the grass with credit cards surrounding her.
Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Homeowners: Did you know your home, even if it’s not paid off yet, could help you escape credit card debt?

You might consider tapping into your home’s equity — that’s the money you’ve paid toward your mortgage — through a lender like Figure. The idea is to borrow money from your home’s equity to pay your credit bard balance in full.

This might feel like you’re simply transferring your debt, but you’ll wipe out those high interest rates (the average these days is 17.14%, according to the Federal Reserve), which will get you on a faster track to that debt-free life.

First, decide if a home-equity line of credit is right for you. You’ll be using your home as collateral, but your new interest rate will be much lower than that of your credit card.

Then, get a free quote from Figure. You can borrow up to $150,000, with rates starting at 4.99%.

And, unlike some other lenders, Figure doesn’t slap you with sneaky fees. You’ll pay an origination fee (typical), but you won’t be charged application fees or even early repayment fees.

It takes five minutes to check your rate. If you like what you see and your application is approved, Figure will fund you within five days.

Terms and conditions apply. Visit figure.com for further information.

3. Use This $720 to Put Towards Your Credit Card Debt

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You’re probably overpaying for car insurance. And how would you know, really?

Gabi says it finds an average savings of $720 per year for its customers. Before you spend it all in one place, how about using it to reduce some credit card debt?

Gabi is free to use and you don’t even have to fill out any forms. Simply link your insurance account and provide your driver’s license number, and Gabi will go to work.

Once you link your insurance account to Gabi, it will:

  • Scan your existing insurance plan.
  • Analyze what coverage you have.
  • Compare the major insurers’ rates for that same coverage.
  • Help you switch on the spot if it finds you a better rate.

It is a true apples-to-apples comparison at the same coverage levels and deductibles you currently have. Once you sign up, you never have to shop again. Gabi’s software has your policy on file and keeps on monitoring for savings as your life changes.

4. Let This Company Help Create a Payoff Plan

When’s the last time you looked at all your debts and their interest rates to devise a payoff plan?

A really easy way to do this is to get a “credit report card” from Credit Sesame.

Credit Sesame is like your favorite teacher from high school — without the pop quizzes.

It gives you a free credit score, plus lays out your credit history so you can see exactly how much money you owe and to whom. It even tells you your monthly payments and interest rate, as well as which debts (if any) are in collections.

And you don’t have to stay home to do it. The Credit Sesame app lets you keep track of your credit score and ways to improve it — on the go!

James Cooper, a motivational speaker, raised his credit score 277 points using Credit Sesame. Now he talks to high school students about the importance of having good credit and uses what he’s learned through Credit Sesame as a blueprint for his lessons.

Like Cooper, 60% of Credit Sesame members see an increase in their credit score; 50% see at least a 10-point increase, and 20% see at least a 50-point increase after 180 days.*

5. Withdraw Cash From the ATM on Monday

A woman talks on the phone while pulling money out of an ATM
Carmen Mandato/ The Penny Hoarder

There are always those weeks — the ones where you promise you’ll pack a lunch for work then end up eating out each day.

Now, we’re not saying only eat soggy leftovers all week. But if you have trouble staying on track — whether it’s coffee, lunch, dinner or all the snacks — set yourself a spending limit and take exactly that amount from the ATM on Monday. Then, only spend that throughout the week. Once the cash is gone, it’s back to leftovers.

6. Keep Your Spending Top of Mind to Avoid Racking up More Debt 

Out of sight, out of mind, right?

It’s easy to let a sandwich here and a song download there go unnoticed. If seeing your checking account statement each month is a horror story of forgotten debit card charges, we found the app that refuses to let you neglect your finances.

Chime is an online-only bank account that offers some unique features other banks haven’t caught on to yet. Its banking app sends you instant transaction alerts that tell you how much you just spent and your new balance.

No need to log in just to see where your account stands. App notifications let you know with every swipe of the card or automatic withdrawal.

Plus, Chime doesn’t charge overdraft fees, monthly maintenance fees, foreign transaction fees or minimum balance fees. Its mobile app boasts more than 2,000 five-star reviews, making managing money super accessible via iPhone or Android.

Opening an account is free and only takes about five minutes.

7. Lower the Interest Rate On Your Student Loans

For some, a lower interest rate could be one of the best steps to paying off student loans.

Try getting a lower interest rate on your federal and private loans by refinancing with a company like Credible. Other companies offer similar services, but we like that the average Credible user saves about two interest points on their current federal loans.

Refinancing will generally mean replacing your laundry list of loans with one (or a few) loans that bring all of your student debt under one umbrella.

This could simplify your life with one monthly payment, instead of several. It may also lower your monthly payment, improve your interest rate and/or give you more time to pay.

It might seem like a small difference, but a lower interest rate can mean a lot of savings over time. It’s helping grad Ashley Williams save more than $18,000 in interest over the life of her loan.

8. Try Starving and Stacking

Money from tips and clients is handled by Cat Keenam in Tampa, Fla
Carmen Mandato/The Penny Hoarder

Don’t worry. You can still eat. The starve and stack budgeting method is geared toward couples, especially newlyweds. Couples combine their finances and live exclusively off one income for 18 to 24 months.

Use the additional income to invest, establish a rainy day fund and pay off debt. That’s what Penny Hoarder Jen Smith did. She and her husband practiced the starve and stack method for two years and were able to pay off $78,000 in debt.

9. Pay Off Your Credit Cards by Delivering Groceries

Need a reliable side gig? Try delivering groceries, takeout and even retail purchases with  Postmates.

The amount you can earn varies, but the median earnings per hour during peak times is $19*, CEO Bastian Lehmann said at a 2015 TechCrunch event.

Unlike other apps, you’ll take home 100% of your earnings when you make a delivery — no service fees, booking fees or transaction fees.

You can deliver through Postmates by car, bicycle or foot. Just create an account, then you’ll receive a welcome kit in the mail within a week (a free delivery bag and a prepaid card to make your purchases). Link the card to the Postmates Fleet app, and you’re off to earning extra money.

*Credit Sesame does not guarantee any of these results, and some may even see a decrease in their credit score. Any score improvement is the result of many factors, including paying bills on time, keeping credit balances low, avoiding unnecessary inquiries, appropriate financial planning and developing better credit habits.