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
Some of the links in this post are from our sponsors. We provide you with accurate, reliable information. Learn more about how we make money and select our advertising partners.

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. Figure out Exactly What You Owe

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!

Pro Tip

Did you know your score is affected by how much you use your credit card, even if you always pay it off? Your utilization should stay below 30% of your available credit — but the lower the better!

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.

“We want to touch the Z Generation,” Cooper says “We’re not in the business of fixing credit. We want to get to you before you have to fix your credit.”

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.*

2. Earn an Extra $225/Month in Income

Most of you already know about InboxDollars, but did you know that it will pay you to watch movie previews, celebrity videos, the latest news and dozens of other videos? Plus, you’ll get a bonus $5 just for signing up.

You need to watch all of the shows in a specific playlist to earn your bucks, so be prepared. InboxDollars lets you know how long the playlist runs before you start watching, and playlists range from a few minutes to about a half hour.

The availability is subject to change, but it’s possible to earn up to $225 a month watching these videos which you can put right towards your credit card debt!

3. Lower Your Interest Rates

man using phone and checking credit card
Plamen Resseleshki/Getty Images

Once you fall behind, you may find yourself getting crushed by credit card interest rates north of 20%. You’ll never catch up that way. You’re spending so much on interest, you’ll never pay off your balances.

If you’re financially treading water like this, it might be worth consolidating and refinancing your debt.

A good resource is Fiona, a search engine for financial services, which can help match you with the right personal loan to meet your needs.

Fiona searches the top online lenders to match you with a personalized loan offer in less than 60 seconds. If your credit score is at least 620, its platform can help you borrow up to $100,000 (no collateral needed) with fixed rates starting at 3.84% and terms from 24 to 84 months.

4. Find out If You’re Paying Too Much for Car Insurance

valentinrussanov/Getty Images

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

Have you shopped around lately? Have you compared rates from the 20 largest auto insurers that do business in your area? That sounds kind of difficult and time-consuming, doesn’t it?

Fortunately, a service called Gabi will do it for you, 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.

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?

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. 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.

8. 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.

9. 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!

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.