Pay it Down: How to Pay Off Debt When You’re Broke

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Last week, I told you about the ways I was focusing on physical fitness for free. Part of the reason I’m not investing anything in gym memberships or fitness programs is because I’m trying to pay off debt. I don’t currently have some great income. I am, after all, self-employed. So I had to figure out ways to pay off debt when I was, for all intents and purposes, broke. While I was able to make enough to pay my monthly bills, I wasn’t able to make any headway on actually paying off anything. At this rate, I knew I would continue to pay the minimum and spend years under the weight of the debt.

It was then I learned to get creative with how I would pay it off. I would look for ways to make over and above my current income and put that amount towards my debt. My hope was that I would pay off debt quicker and have more financial freedom moving forward. So here are a couple of ways you can pay down your debts when you’re broke.

1. Sell Your Stuff

There are a few ways I go about selling my stuff to ensure I get the most money. We’ll likely always have things we don’t need, so why not turn that stuff into cash? Last year I successfully made $1000 in 3 months just selling unused stuff. Here’s how I’ve done it.

Clothes

From time to time I go through my closet and purge things I don’t need anymore. I then start by taking these things to our local consignment shop Uptown Cheapskate. It’s such a cute shop. They are pretty choosy about what they buy and when, but it’s always my first stop for quick cash. They give you back anything they don’t want to buy.

Anything that Uptown Cheapskate doesn’t want to buy, I box up and send to my favorite online consignment shop, ThredUp. You can ship your stuff to them and they’ll pay you for the things they want. You will have to pay them if you want them to send back things they don’t want. But, I never do this. If I’m getting rid of it, I’m getting rid of it without any conditions. The only issue is their processing times take quite a while. It takes them about 3 weeks to process the stuff and then another couple of weeks to cash it in.

Household Items & Electronics

My go-to place to sell other things from around the house is Facebook Sale groups and Marketplace. You can typically find them for your community by doing a search in Facebook. You basically post in the group something you’re wanting to sell and then meet buyers in a public location. I highly recommend doing meets with a friend and do so in very public areas. I’ve been doing this for quite a while now and haven’t had any scary issues. From time to time you may run into people lacking proper etiquette, but it’s fast cash.

If you don’t have luck there, you can always try Ebay.  They are specifically great for electronics and collectibles. My last line of defense is a garage sale. They are a lot of work, but will make you a good deal of cash in one or two days.

2. User Testing

This past year, I recently started doing User Testing. A few different sites offer this service, but I particularly like UserTesting.com. You basically go through a review of different websites and give your thoughts about the look and functionality of the site. Companies use the information you provide to improve their websites. The great thing is, UserTesting pays $10 per test (sometimes more in special instances) and the tests usually last between 10-20 minutes. You can’t make a full time income off of this, but I’ve made about $150 in a month doing them. I typically keep the dashboard open throughout the day and try to grab a test or two as they become available.

3. Sell Your Craft

Most people know that I have an Etsy shop. My success on it seems pretty seasonal, but during those high seasons I can make an extra couple hundred a month! A couple years ago, I was even contracted to make my coffee sleeves for a popular coffee creamer company.

One of my cute coffee sleeves!

Maybe crafting isn’t your thing, but you can string some words together. Maybe you can consider writing a small ebook and selling it! Kindle Publishing Direct allows you to do just that and sell it on Amazon.

Whatever your talent is, you can look for ways to sell it. Busk on the street corner. Babysit for a family. Clean houses on the side. Take whatever you’re good at and put it to use to earn some extra cash.

4. Sell Your Plasma

Now, for purposes of full disclosure, I’ve never done this. I hate needles. I do, however, have friends and family who have done this with some success. Every dollar adds up. So, if needles don’t make you queasy, put your veins to good use for some extra cash!

5. Cut your Bills

Sometimes extra money is as simple as decreasing your monthly bills. For me, I got rid of cable and started using streaming services for our entertainment. We swapped all our regular light bulbs out for LEDs ($1 a piece at the Dollar Tree) to save money on our light bill. I reached out to our internet and cell phone providers to see if there were any ways of decreasing our current monthly bill. Take a look at your expenditures every month and see where you can cut. We started spending less on groceries and we definitely do not eat out at all (unless we have gift cards).

I’m hoping with these tricks (with the exception of the plasma one), I’ll be able to eradicate my debt this year. The most exciting thing is I should be able to have my car paid off in the next couple of months using these ideas! Once I do, I’ll take that monthly amount and put it towards another bill (thanks, Dave Ramsey, for your snowballing ideas).

What are ways you make some extra money? Have you ever paid off major debts? How’d you feel? How is life different for you?

30 Comments

  • I hope you reach your goal! Paying down debt is quite the uphill battle.
    You’ve got some really good strategies! I’ve had success with Ebay actually! I’ve done particularly well with selling movies and books. Clothes do pretty good too if they are well liked brands!
    Thanks for the heads up on user testing! I think I will look into that!

    • Thanks! User Testing really is my favorite out of all of those. Mostly because there’s not as much time investment. I had success with eBay at one point and I had one dishonest buyer that ruined it for me. People are brutal sometimes.

  • These are some great tips to start paying off your debt. I have found some decent success in selling things in Facebook groups locally. Usually only takes a day or so until someone is interested. It is a great way to stir up some money when you need it. Thank you for the reminder.

    • Oh yes! When we were in Tennessee, our groups there were much more active. Here in Missouri it takes a little longer, but still worth it!

  • All great tips! I’ve experience with using User Testing as well as selling my artwork, and it’s a great way to pay down debt. Selling stuff can actually be easy using Facebook yard sale groups in your area. That’s how we sold off a lot of stuff left over after our wedding!

    • Yes, I love the yard sale groups! I wish they would’ve existed several years ago when I went through a big move. I ended up giving a lot of stuff away!

  • these are awesome tips, thank you for sharing! when i need the extra cash, i like to sell clothes and belongings that i don’t use or need anymore on ebay, poshmark, mercari! it’s a great way to clear the clutter too hahaha

    • I haven’t tried poshmark yet, but I know a lot of people who have had success with it! May need to try it out!

  • Yard sale groups are THE best! It’s so surprising the things people are willing to buy off of them. Every thing has value to someone out there. Also, I have never opened an Etsy shop, but it’s something I have definitely considered. How do you like it?

  • Great tips! And most require not so much energy (important when you have a chronic illness). I’m going to try out that thing with reviewing websites…

  • I donated plasma through BioLife plasma as a source of extra income while I was in school. This company was great, located in the town I lived in, didn’t have long waits and I could study while donating. I usually took home a couple hundred dollars a month by going twice a week. However, I have not lived near a Biolife center since. There are other companies, but so far none of them have been nearly as worth my time from a money or amount of wait time, so I haven’t done it since school. However, if I ever moved to a town with BioLife again, I would definitely go back to donating.

  • My husband and I buy gift cards for restaurants at Costco (usually $80 for $100 worth kind of deal) and then we save them for when money is tight, and we can still go out. We’ve also been selling stuff we don’t need, which is kind of fun. I like getting rid of stuff and downsizing.

  • Debt is hard to shift when you don’t have much income, but these are all really good ideas for earning a bit extra to put towards it. I remember getting off the bus a stop early to save the $1 from a zone change, and walking the last half mile or so. Saved $60 a month and got fitter!

  • Hmm. Never heard of User Testing before. Sounds interesting! Great tips. It’s so hard to get out of debt when you don’t even have money to pay for necessities.

  • Great ideas! I found that when I see my lesser used clothing items to a consignment shop, it leads me to be more selective when I do my next shopping trip. I find I now invest more in fewer items than have a whole closet full. Another great idea, do a clothing swap with friends. It keeps your closet fresh without going shopping. Thanks!

    • Love that! I’m really trying to move to more of a capsule wardrobe. A few quality items I love as opposed to a bunch of cheaply made items that I wear because there’s nothing else to wear.

  • Great tips I was thinking about opening up an Etsy store to sell crafts! The only thing that I wouldn’t do is sell my plasma, I’m a universal platelet and plasma donor and I just donate to the Red Cross for free (aside from the occasional $5 or so Dunkin’ gift card they send us as a token of their gratitude), I just can’t accept money to help in that way, but I definitely see where that can be an option as well if you’re really strapped for cash.

    • I really like Etsy. The platform is pretty saturated, but I’ve made enough sales on there to keep me satisfied. I get that about not wanting to take money for plasma. That’s pretty cool that you have that motivation to help people!

  • I’m checking out user testing right now! And I’ve always wanted to open an etsy shop to sell cricut-y things, but with a baby, I just haven’t found the time. I like all the ideas, though!

  • Thanks for such beautiful ideas! I never knew that one can actually sell plasma. I think all these great source of information depending on one’s comfort level. Great post!

  • After losing my job at the end of November- I couldn’t believe the things I wanted to do. Sell my stuff did it, my plasma ( not sure where in dallas) but I searched. Tried to cultivate my craft. I’m trying everyday but eventually something will work. Great post.

  • These are great ideas. I have had a lot of success with selling my DIY crafts on Facebook. I even have returning customers which I found there. What began as a side hustle is growing into a potential full time business. And this is helping me reach the goal sooner then I anticipated I would.

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