Nine simple debt solutions for every type of money problem

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Trying to pay off debt when you're on a shoestring budget can feel like an impossible goal. Aside from the basics like rent, groceries, and gas, there are always unexpected expenses (think medical bills or car repair costs) threatening to set you further back. For those struggling with debt, below are nine simple debt solutions, no matter the money issue:

  • Problem: figuring out how you got into debt in the first place
  • Problem: Defeatist attitude toward debt
  • Problem: How to handle calls from collection agencies
  • Problem: No debt payoff strategy
  • Problem: Unsure of which debt to pay first
  • Problem: Overspending/ Bad at living on a budget
  • Problem: Getting out of debt with a low income
  • Problem: Paying off debt and balancing savings goals
  • Problem: Staying debt free

Let's get started!

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Struggling with debt? Here at 10 simple debt solutions to the most common problems

Problem #1 – “I don't know how I got here.”

Trust me, I know how scary it is to confront your bad financial behavior. You wouldn't want to confront any activity in which you did something wrong. Fortunately, debt can be repaid. Unfortunately, debt can only be repaid once you've gotten clear on your numbers, created a plan of attack for repayment, and studied how you'll avoid getting into debt in the future. It sucks. Truly. But taking a look at the damage is both the first step and the hardest one when it comes to figuring out how to solve your debt problems.

It gets a lot easier from here. I promise.

Simple debt solution #1 – Track your spending to see where your money goes

The very, very, very first place to start is by assessing how you got into this situation. This begins with understanding where your money is actually going every month. It's not something you should try to estimate in your head. As an added bonus, by identifying expenses you don't need, you'll be able to quickly find ways to save money each month, too.

Put on your detective hat and strap in. In order to find out how you got into debt, you'll need to dig through a few months of spending.

  • Take a look back at your last three months of spending. You may be surprised at what you find. Perhaps you spent $150 on clothes or close to $200 eating out at restaurants. It can be surprising to see how quickly little purchases add up.
  • Considering signing up to use budgeting software like Rocket Money to help you understand your spending habits and create goals for the future.
  • Consider a cash-only lifestyle for a month to hold yourself accountable.

Here's my guide on how to create a budget and my guide on how to trim expenses.

Problem #2 – “Getting out of debt is hard and I won't be able to do it.” (the defeatist attitude)

Are you depressed about your debt or has it gotten to the point where your debt is really starting to stress you out?  Depending on how bad the situation is, this is only normal. While it might not seem like an obvious solution (or one that will move the needle), you’ve got to change your attitude first. Nothing monumental gets accomplished with a bad attitude, pinky promise on that.  But I know that changing your attitude about something is far easier said than done. Below are some examples of things to try to change your attitude around your debt. 

Simple debt solution #2 – Start with a “quick win”

Paying off debt is a marathon, not a sprint. A great way to stay motivated and kick off the journey is to knock out a “quick win” and sell something you don't use anymore for some fast cash (See: my guide on how to make money decluttering and how to make the most money when you sell clothes.) I like to sell items like electronics and home decor on eBay and my clothing items via thredUp Poshmark. You can also consign any designer items of significant value with TheRealReal. 

Here are a few other ways to stay motivated when you're trying to figure out how to manage debt problems:

Problem #3 – “I'm starting to receive calls from collection agencies.”

Meanwhile, if you are behind on your debt repayment, collection agencies could be calling you day and night. These people receive training to use words that manipulate them. According to the Federal Trade Commission, collection agencies must abide by these laws. Collection callers may not:

  • Call before 8:00 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
  • Call your place of employment once asked to stop (Send a certified letter.)
  • Harass you or lie to collect the debt

Solution #3: Take the calls

  • Don't avoid creditors – this only makes things worse and compounds your anxiety.
  • When learning how to manage debt problems, ask creditors to mail a “validation notice” with all the information about what you owe.  
  • Once you have that information, take control of the situation and create a debt master plan that details how you'll pay off the debt, how much you'll pay each month, and when you plan to finish paying it off. 

Problem #4 – “I don't know how to manage my debt problems on my own” 

The easiest place to start when trying to wrap your brain around your debt is to start small: begin by making a list of all your debts including credit cards and loans along with the current balance and interest rate for each account. I have a free SIMPLE debt tracker printable in my freebie vault that allows you to do this with zero thinking. Click here to subscribe and get the free download.

Easy, right? (A little bit of wine makes this a much easier process, I promise.)

Step #2 is to look at your budget, and make a plan stating what you can pay and how often.   (You can use my $8,000 in 90 Day debt payoff plan as a template!)

Here are a few other things to keep in mind.

  • If you're dealing with collection agencies, call them and share your plan with them.
  • Get the company to agree to your terms and put it into writing.  
  • You may need to negotiate, but never agree to send more than you can afford.  
  • Ask for a copy of the agreement. Without that agreement in place, companies can still sue you.  (Yes, even if you are sending regular payments.)  So do your best to negotiate with them.
  • If this makes you nervous, you can work with a debt management company to negotiate with creditors on your behalf.

Tallying up all the debt you owe may seem overwhelming.  But it’s important to know what you’re up against.

Problem #5 – “I'm too hung up on which debt to pay off first! I can't decide!”

Once you have your list of debts, choose one to focus on first.

  • Some say to start with the smallest debt for a quick win.
  •  Others say to knock out the one with the highest interest rate.

But I suggest choosing the one with the biggest motivating factor for you.  If you owe money to family and wish you could enjoy Thanksgiving pie in peace again, start there.  If one credit card is such a nuisance that you’ve nicknamed it “the Soul Sucking Scumbag”, you’ll want to put that first.

Solution #5 – Personally, I'd pay off the smallest balance first

There's a reason many personal finance experts recommend paying the smallest credit card balance first, (vs. the one that you hate the most or the one that charges the most interest, it's because it just feels good to take these out one by one.) There's the psychology behind this — psychologically, you're much more likely to stick with something you feel successful at than when you feel like you're failing.

Also, it's important to focus on one debt while you tread water with the others. Your brain is more likely to accept this new habit and then you can slowly increase your payoff progress over time.

KEY TAKEAWAY: Download my printable debt tracker. Click here to subscribe (it’s free!) and start taking control of your debt situation but putting it all on paper in one easy-to-access place.

Problem #6 – “I hate living on a budget.”

Uhm, yeah…me too. It sucks. So, if you're not great with small changes (it's okay, I'm really not either.) You'll have to make big swings in order to make debt progress (it's why I paid off $8,000 in 90 days because I just couldn't handle paying my debt off slowly over multiple years.)

Simple debt solution: Try a more aggressive debt payoff track. After all, if you want a big result, you’ve got to make a big change.  

Solution #6 – Lower your fixed costs

To learn how to get out of debt, you'll need to cut back on “fun stuff” (Postmates, shopping, Starbucks) AND your fixed living expenses (rent, bills, gas, groceries etc.) It's way more fun to negotiate bills you have to pay anyway than cutting out lattes.

  • While it's easy to complain about a tight budget, the truth is most of us have something we could cut which is why I always recommend a bill audit.
  • Start by canceling any services you don't need, such as a music subscription service or online storage platform (think Dropbox).
  • Next, review your fixed expenses. (Here's our tutorial on how to do this.)

If you're able to reduce your monthly expenses even a little, make sure to use the extra money to pay off debt. Set up an automatic transfer to your credit card or loan account to avoid the temptation to spend extra cash.

Problem #7 – “How do I pay off debt on a low income?”

You can't, really. You can consolidate your balances with a partner like Upstart, which can lower your interest rates and your monthly payment, but you'll still have to pay the debts each month to remain in good standing. Yes, that takes real money. This is why I emphasize earning extra cash via side hustles so much. It's the key to any successful debt payoff strategy.

Simple debt solution #7 – Earn more

If you've reviewed your budget in-depth and find you aren’t able to lower your monthly spending enough to make debt progress, consider increasing your income. They’re many different ways to earn extra money outside of your 9 to 5 job. (See our Pinterest board or Side Hustle category for more ideas on how to do this!)

Below are also 41 ways to make extra money I literally just listed off the top of my head. Money is a renewable resource, you can make more of it…you just might have to get creative and sacrifice some free time.

Problem #8 – “I can barely save money, let alone get out of debt”

What is the recommended amount to save each month? About 20% of your take-home pay, if you're using the 50-30-20 budgeting method. More if you can, but 20% is a nice “minimum” amount that flexes with house much you earn.

For example, if you make 2200.00 per month after taxes, that's (ideally)440.00 you could put away toward debt repayment AND savings. You should adjust this if you live at home to probably around 40 or 50% of monthly income saved, since you have no living or “fixed” expenses.

My favorite money saving app is Qapital. While it does cost a monthly subscription (I pay $3/mo), it helps me save extra for travel and special occasions by rounding up when I use my card. I love it so much and it is the only money saving app I use, year after year. Click here to try and get $25.

Solution #9 – Automatic savings apps

Here's how Qapital (and other apps that are similar) work. You connect the app with your primary checking account (the one you do all of your saving out of.) Then technology analyzes your spending to determine small amounts it can save for you (automatically) so that you don't feel it. We're talking anywhere from .53 cents to 3.00 each time. (Or more, it depends on if you make a lot of large expenses!)

You can also set it up to divide your paycheck, move a certain amount each week or month, and apply all sorts of savings rules to maximize your savings. Month over month, all those small bits can add up to something really great.

Honestly, I never really liked saving or saw the magic in how “every little bit helps” until I got acquainted with the technology. For those who have trouble, let the apps do the heavy lifting for you and see how much you can save.

Problem #9 – “I don't know how to stay out of debt in the future.”

Once you’ve got a handle on your current debt, you need to commit to not taking on new debt in order to break the cycle. This is definitely easier said than done. But a nice way to start is removing your credit cards from your wallet so they aren’t accessible. Another tip: Promise yourself in the future you'll wait 24 hours before buying anything online or anything that is outside of your budget. Honestly, half of the battle of staying out of debt is limiting impulse purchases.

More tips on staying out of debt are in my post on how I overcame a shopping addiction.

Our final simple debt solution – Open a separate, high-yield savings account

The single most important element of staying out of debt in the future is breaking the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle.

This is ONLY done by having two types of savings account.

  • The rainy day fund – a small cash cushion of $500 to $1,000 to cover emergencies.
  • Long-term savings – This is a separate high-yield savings account (HYSA) for your emergency fund and long-term savings.

By having both you'll be able to plan for both financial goals and the unexpected. Preparing for each not only keeps you out of debt but helps to build real, lasting wealth.


Becoming debt-free isn’t easy, and it’s even harder to stay that way. The truth is that with a little determination and creativity, you can become debt-free and a step closer to living your financial best life. While it won't fix everything, I believe having a money abundant mentality can impact your circumstances. And here's how to manifest more money in your own life.

Want to take your money management to the next level in 2024? Learn more about The Financial Best Life Blueprint, our digital product that comes with e-books, excel spreadsheets and more to help you take control of your finances, eliminate the overwhelm that comes with managing money, and achieve your money goals faster. FBL readers can get the Blueprint for just $5, by using code BESTLIFE. Click here to explore.