We’ve written before about the basics of paying down virtually any kind of debt. We’ve even offered step-by-step instructions on how to pay off debt permanently. But there are also some simple, everyday tips that can help you save significant amounts of money so that you can pay off your debts even faster.
You’ll hardly notice these things, but they’ll help you save at least $25 or more each week, which means you can apply that extra cash to things like your credit card payments, your auto loan or even your mortgage.
Here are five practically painless ways to save money and pay down your debt fast.
1. Pack Your Lunch
Depending on where you live and your eating habits, this can be a huge savings. If you’re spending $15 on lunch every day, this simple step can save you a ton, even if you’re buying a $5 frozen meal instead. Instantly, you go from spending $300 a month to $125. You can save even more if you make your own food or take leftovers.
Give yourself a challenge: See just how little you can spend on your lunch each day for the next month, and put the difference in a jar. You may be amazed. Even an extra $25 a month goes a long way, especially if you’re using it to pay more toward your credit card debt each month (you can also consider paying off your credit card debt using a balance transfer credit card).
2. Ride Your Bike or Walk
This isn’t an option for everyone, obviously, but if you live close enough to work or wherever it is you need to go, grab your bike helmet and give it a go. Strap on your rollerblades. Grab your skateboard. Or just put on your walking shoes. If you drive just five miles to and from work each day, you could save yourself hundreds of dollars a year by making this change.
If you live too far from work for this to be an option, try carpooling with a neighbor or taking public transportation. You’ll still see some savings.
3. Cut Back on Smoking & Drinking
Not only is this good for your wallet, it’s also good for your health. A person smoking a pack of cigarettes a day spends about $40 a week based on an average price of around $5.50. That amounts to nearly $2,000 a year. It’s literally money up in smoke.
Cutting back on booze is also a quick way to save money. If you drink two glasses of wine per day at home, it’s probably costing you around $7. That’s nearly $50 a week.
4. Consider a Gym Alternative
If you’re like most people with a gym membership, you’re probably not going frequently enough to get your money’s worth. No, we’re not telling you to stop working out. Being healthy is important (and can also save you money in the long run). Instead of spending the $20 or $30 bucks each month, though, try working out at home using free exercise apps or online videos. Or go for a run or walk. Staying in shape doesn’t have to cost you money.
5. Stop Eating Out So Much
It’s so easy to just go grab some food at a restaurant instead of cooking, especially when you’re tired from a long day of work. But eating at home can save you a ton of money. According to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American household spent more than $3,000 on eating out in 2015 and just $4,015 on groceries. By cutting restaurant meals by just half, the average family could save more than $100 a month based on these figures.
Whatever ways you choose to save money in order to pay down your debt, it’s important to have a plan for how you’re going to do it. That starts with a monthly budget and then sticking to it. And while it may not sound like fun, it’s an important step toward reaching your financial goals. Your future self will thank you for it.
[Editorial Disclosure: PayDownMyDebt.com is a service that provides people with tools to pay down their debts through automatic payments. The purpose of this article, however, is not to encourage users to purchase that service. This article is educational and journalistic in nature and aims to help people learn how to pay down their debt, whether they use our site, another, or go it alone.]