Getting Out of Debt with No Money Saved

By Janet Siroto · December 19, 2023 · 5 minute read

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Getting Out of Debt with No Money Saved

It’s no secret that many Americans are carrying high-interest debt. Cumulative credit card debt passed the $1 trillion mark in the second quarter of 2023, a new record, and the average person is toting around almost $8,000 in debt.

These are daunting figures, to be sure, and for those who are living paycheck to paycheck, without money in the bank, getting debt-free can feel like an impossible dream.

But it doesn’t have to be. There are ways to wrangle what you owe into submission, such as budgeting well and snagging lower interest rates. Read on to learn some effective tactics for paying down and then paying off your debt.

Begin by Creating a Budget

Note that this is suggestion #1. A budget is key to paying off debt when you don’t have a lot of money, because it gives you a bird’s-eye view of how much income you are bringing in and how much you are spending (and where).

Living day to day and not knowing where your money is unlikely to be a good debt payoff path. When you see your spending habits on a monthly spreadsheet, it can be a powerful revelation. You’ll probably realize things about your finances that you never knew before.

There are many different budget methods. One of the most popular is the 50/30/20 budget rule, which helps you allocate 50% of your take-home pay to needs, 30% to wants, and 20% to savings and additional debt payments. That last category can really help you bring down your debt.

💡 Quick Tip: A low-interest personal loan from SoFi can help you consolidate your debts, lower your monthly payments, and get you out of debt sooner.

Defining “Broke”

Being broke means having absolutely no money. More than likely, you do have money; you’re just overspending what you earn or maybe spending what you don’t have (on credit cards).

It can be easy to free up some money if you’re already earning it. Rethink money-draining activities like eating out too often, buying a coffee when you can make it at home, and perhaps spa or gym memberships when you can work out in cheaper ways (walking, running, workout videos on YouTube). Maybe you can save on streaming services by dropping a platform or two.

Increase Your Income

If you are carrying debt and don’t have money in the bank, perhaps it’s time to think about how you could bring in more cash. You might look for a new job, train up for one that pays more. You might sell your stuff that you no longer use or need. You could find a part-time job or side hustle; perhaps driving an Uber or Lyft. If you have a hobby (making jewelry, gardening, or fixing cars), you may be able to turn that into a money-making side business.

Change Your Spending Habits

Yep, it’s easier said than done, but keep your eyes on the prize: being debt-free. You might identify your spending triggers, such as shopping when you’re bored, and find free or cheap ways to keep yourself occupied. Or recognize that lifestyle creep can prevent you from paying down debt: That happens when you get a raise or earn extra money and spend it instead of saving it. Also be on the lookout for FOMO spending: When you overspend because you have “fear of missing out” on what friends, coworkers, or social media influencers are doing.

Say No to Temptation

Yep, it’s easier said than done, but keep your eyes on the prize: being debt free. That means saying no to expensive vacations, a new car, eating out, buying expensive gifts, going regularly to the nail salon, buying fancy new clothes, living in a higher-rent apartment, and wasting electricity. There are plenty more suggestions, but you get the idea.

Automate Your Savings

Take advantage of technology, and set up recurring transfers from your checking account into savings just after you’re paid. By automating your savings this way, you can build up some money in the bank and get past the “I’m broke feeling.” Even $20 or so will accumulate and make a difference. Simply set it and forget it.

Establish an Emergency Fund

That automatic-deduction savings account can double as your small emergency fund. Use it only when needed. Train yourself not to dip into it otherwise. If an emergency does arise, you might possibly be able to cover it with the money you’ve saved from this fund, and you wouldn’t have to use your credit card yet again.

Apply for a Lower Interest Rate

High-interest rates can make it very hard to get out of debt. Most of your minimum monthly payment goes to those interest charges, not your principal debt. Ask your credit card issuer if they can lower your rate to keep your business.

If it’s a no-go with your credit card company, you may want to look into a balance transfer credit card, which can give you zero-percent interest for a promotional period (usually 18 months or so), helping you pay off debt.

Consider a Personal Loan

Consolidating your credit cards into one low-interest personal loan could be your first step in the journey away from being broke.

With a (hopefully) lower interest rate and a fixed monthly payment, you can always know what you’re paying. That’s good for your budget. It can help make it easier to pay off your high-interest credit cards and loans and greatly simplify your life.

You can figure out ahead of time how much money you could save in interest payments by using a personal loan calculator.

The Takeaway

As you work towards paying off debt, even when you have no money in the bank, stay motivated. Pat yourself on the back for making small bits of progress. It may take time and a variety of tactics, such as budgeting wisely and bringing in some extra cash, to get to your goal.

The option of using a lower-interest personal loan to pay off credit cards is another tactic that can help you crush your debt.

Think twice before turning to high-interest credit cards. Consider a SoFi personal loan instead. SoFi offers competitive fixed rates and same-day funding. Checking your rate takes just a minute.

SoFi’s Personal Loan was named NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Personal Loan overall.

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Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.


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