One of the best things my wife and I did in 2018 was becoming debt-free. Knowing that the first $1500 of our monthly income went directly to the loan companies didn't give us a lot of wiggle room living on a tight income. We didn't want to be in this same cycle for the next decade if we could help. In short, we were looking for a fast way to pay off debt.
We sat down and took these four actions to make our “paying off debt gameplan:”
- Listed our average monthly expenses and income
- Reduce spending on non-essential items
- Look for ways to make more money by selling unused items or starting a side hustle
- Make extra loan payments with our new money
From start to finish, this process took three years to find our sweet spots for spending and earning money. In that process, I also sold my $20,000 car and drove a $4,000 car instead to make a large lump-sum payment. And I also changed careers and had two children.
During this time, one thing we quickly realized is extra monthly payments are great. But there's a good way and a great way to make extra monthly payments.
If you want to get serious about paying off debt, and need to make a game plan, I recommend using these apps for help paying off debt faster.
Pay Off Debt App
Make a Plan to Pay Off Debt Early
For us, the hardest step of paying off debt faster than you do now is making that first extra payment. You could also invest it, put it in a savings account, or spend it. Let's face it, extra loan payments are boring.
If you have several loan payments (i.e. student loans, a car loan, and a home loan) you must decide if you want to divide your extra cash between each loan or give it all to one lender.
To make creating your extra loan payment plan less stressful, I recommend the Pay Off Debt App. This app costs $4.99 and shows you how to get the most impact from each monthly payment using one of these debt payment strategies:
- Debt Snowball: Pay off the smallest loan with the highest interest rate first
- Debt Avalanche: Pay off the highest interest rate first regardless of the balance amount
Roundup Your Purchases to Make Extra Debt Payments
Micro-spending apps are all the rave as of late, most of them put cash back into your pocket or roundup your purchase amount to the next dollar and invest the difference.
Qoins takes a slightly different approach. They make extra loan payments with your spending roundups. You can link your credit and debit cards to Qoins. In $5+ increments each month, Qoins sends the payment to the lender.
This app costs $1.99 but can help you save thousands of dollars (according to Qoins) because you can pay your loan off between two and seven years early. Most Qoins users contribute $60 a month for an extra $720 a year in extra payments. That can be the equivalent of making one (or maybe two) monthly payment each year.
Tip: Use an extra payment calculator to see how much you can save by sending a little extra your lender's way each month.
Should You Pay Off Debt or Invest?
When you do any amount of research about paying off debt online, you're going to see a variety of opinions about what to do with your extra income.
Invest Your Extra Money Instead of Paying Off Debt
In my opinion, the loudest voice tells you to pay off your high-interest debt first. These are loans and credit card balances that have an interest rate of at least 10%. You might even drop that number down to 7% if you're a more cautious person. In this case, you make extra payments on interest rates that are higher than the historical stock market return (7% for the S&P 500).
For any interest rate less than 7%, you make the minimum payment and invest what would be your extra payment.
Pay Off Your Debt First and Invest More Later
If you want immediate peace of mind, you will use your extra cash to get out of debt early. This is the option I took to prepare for the next recession because we earn a variable income. Some months we had to dip into the savings to pay our monthly bills.
Yes, you tradeoff potentially long-term investment compound net worth. So you will have to contribute more “catch up contributions” to make up the difference, but you won't be in debt as long. This can be a better option when:
- You earn a small income or variable income
- Tired of living paycheck to paycheck
- No longer believe being in debt is morally right
When you pursue this option, this doesn't mean you shouldn't invest at all. I recommend at least getting your employer 401k match or investing at least 10% of your income.
Investing a little now means the less you need to invest once you're debt-free to meet your retirement goals. Because let's face it, once you get out of debt, you still don't want to invest all your newfound free cash. You're going to want to spend some on those purchases you've delayed in order to get out of debt or save for large purchases.
The Pay Off Debt App and Qoins app can both be the spark that gives you the motivation to get out of debt ASAP. I'm writing this after sending our last loan payment in April 2018. The short-term sacrifice is worth the rewards.
Which app sounds better to you? Leave a comment below to let us know.
Besides these apps, read great money books to improve your financial situation.
Josh founded Money Buffalo in 2015 to help people get out of debt and make smart financial decisions. He is currently a full-time personal finance writer with work featured in Forbes Advisor, Fox Business, and Credible.