4 creative ways to pay off debt (and actually enjoy it)
Improving your financial health doesn’t have to be unenjoyable. You can always find new, creative ways to pay off debt and have fun at the same time.
Sarah Li Cain
Contributing Writer at Tally
June 10, 2019
Paying off debt isn’t exactly a fun activity. In fact, “fun” might be last word that comes to mind when you think about debt.
Most of us would rather do something else, like take a vacation, spend time with friends or binge-watch a new series on Netflix. Even with the best of intentions, paying off debt can seem like a slog.
But it doesn’t have to be that way! If you look for creative ways to pay off debt, you can have fun AND improve your financial health.
1. Move overseas
Moving overseas — even if it’s temporary — can give you a better quality of life and help you set aside money to pay off debt.
It’s not running away because you’re still responsible for paying off the debt. But if your lifestyle allows you to travel, relocation can provide some short-term relief.
Abby Hosetter, a high school English teacher, decided to move to Kuwait, then China, so she could use most of her salary to pay off debt. Starting with more than $32,000 in credit card and personal loans, she’s been able to bring it down to $18,000 within a year.
By taking advantage of a country that provides a lower cost of living and an attractive working contract for teachers, while also living cheaply.
Living in another country can allow you live out your fantasy of international travel. Only, you get to do it on your employer’s dime.
“I moved to China because I wanted a lower cost of living, so that I could devote 80% to 90% of my income to paying off debt,” Hosetter says. “While major cities [in China] like Beijing and Shanghai can be quite pricey, it’s still possible to live frugally.”
Hosetter capitalizes on the fact that her school provides free breakfast and lunch. She also receives a housing stipend, transportation to and from work and a flight allowance each year to return to the United States. She even received a $500 shipping allowance and a $140 “settling-in” allowance.
And if that's not enough, living in another country can also allow you live out your fantasy of international travel. Only, this way, you get to do it on your employer’s dime.
You’ll still need to save up money before — you never know what you’ll want or need abroad — and moving overseas still has other downsides, like being homesick and experiencing culture shock.
“If you want a high number of ‘creature comforts,’ as well as everyone around you to speak English all the time, then it may not be for you,” Hosetter says. “But if you are flexible and make paying off debt your No. 1 priority, plus also have an interest in other cultures, it can be an incredible tool.”
If you’re not a teacher, but you're still looking for creative ways to pay off debt, there are other ways to live overseas. Some companies have offices all over the world and allow transfers. Other international companies are in constant need of people with specialized skills who are willing to relocate.
Find a way to put your particular set of skills to good use — and have fun, too.
2. Search for lost money
Did you know that state treasurers and even the IRS have unclaimed funds? As in, money they're supposed to give to the rightful owner but can’t.
You could be one of them, and that money could help you pay off your existing debt.
It’s easy to find out if you have any lost money. Visit the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators website and click on the state you live in. It’ll redirect you the appropriate website.
Important: Make sure you’re on the right website!
There are a handful of websites that aren’t legitimate, but they sure look like it. And if you get an unsolicited email or phone call about unclaimed money that belongs to you, be careful and skeptical until you know it’s real.
3. Find a fun app
Who says technology has to be boring?
There are a lot of apps out there that help you pay off debt with little-to-no effort your part. Some of them are free; others have paid plans. But the price of admission could be worth it, especially if the app makes paying off your debt fun.
There are apps that will round up your purchase to the nearest dollar. So, if you spend $4.75, they round up to $5 and set aside the remaining 25 cents aside for your debt.
There are even apps that will automate your savings, so you don’t have to do a thing. Just pick the amount you want to save, and the app saves if for you — like a rainy day fund.
What makes these apps fun is that saving money stops being work. There’s no extra effort on your part, and the enjoyment comes when you open the app after a few weeks and find a nice chunk of change waiting for you … just remember that it’s for debt!
4. Throw a party
When you're in the process of paying off debt, it's easy to focus too much on things like deprivation, crunching numbers repeatedly and stressful conversations about cutting back on expenses.
So what if you did the opposite?
Andy Hill, host of the Marriage, Kids and Money podcast, has his own creative ways to pay off debt: throwing budget parties.
He and his wife like to talk about their dreams and how they plan to put their money toward the things they really want.
“When we started the debt-payoff process, my wife would become disengaged and uninterested when I only talked about the numbers,” Hill says. “When I started talking about being debt-free, so that she could stay at home with our newborn, it was much easier.”
If you look for creative ways to pay off debt, you can have fun while you improve your financial health!
The couple makes an event out of it. They go out for pizza. They take their children to an indoor playground. Sometimes, they just hang out at a coffee shop. Each time, they talk about their progress and celebrate the fact that they’re closer to their dreams.
Unorthodox as it may be, Hill says this mindset shift gave them the motivation to plan for things like debt payoff and future vacations. And as they kept paying off their debt, they celebrate by spending more in fun categories with whatever money was left over that month.
“When we were out of debt-crushing mode, we started seeing if we had come under budget in any categories,” he says. “If yes, we’d celebrate by purchasing something off our wants list, like dinners our or shopping for new clothes. It was a fun way to end our party.”