Being in debt is one of the scariest and most overwhelming things because it’s so hard to know where you should start. A massive amount of debt can be soul-crushing so I’m here to try and help you figure out where to start.

There’s a million blog posts out there talking about ways to pay off debt and what to do when you’re in the trenches of debt payoff, but what should you do to prepare for the long process?

Here are 10 very serious things you should attempt to do BEFORE you ever pay off a penny of your debt. If you want to save this for later, be sure to save it to Pinterest and share with your friends! 

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10 Things You Should Do BEFORE Paying Off Debt

1. Add Up Your Totals

This is one of the scariest parts of of paying off debt. I know it’s a lot easier to just ignore the total number and pay off some individual ones before knowing how deep in poop you are, but it’s a necessary step.

You need to have that shock and awe moment where you feel like throwing up from the total number.

This is going to be an insane initial motivation tool because you’ll just be scared any time you think about it and it’ll push you so far in the right direction. 

I also always suggest that you write this number down on a piece of paper and leave it somewhere that you can always see it. This will remind you every single day how much work you have to do and keep you on the right track. 

2. Decide How You’re Going To Do It

There are so many different ways you can pay off debt, and not all of them are going to work for you. You may have a friend that paid off their debt using one method, but there’s a high probability that their method isn’t going to be perfect for your situation. 

Paying off debt is an extremely personal thing and goes differently depending on the person. 

Personally, my favourite method has always been the debt snowball. It does a really awesome thing where it starts off with your smallest debt and it gives you all sorts of momentum to keep working hard towards the debt.

*You can check out our awesome debt snowball + budgeting binder that is available for purchase! 

If you’re more of a numbers minded person you can use some of the ideas behind the debt snowball but then change it up for whatever works for you!

3. Create a Budget

Budgeting is the most important thing for you to do when you decide to pay off debt. It is possible to get it done without a budget, but it’s going to take years longer and be much less organized.

When you first decide to pay off debt, it’s important to understand your person Bare Bones Budget. This is essentially a budget that will get you through the month but you won’t have any fluff, or fun. 

Once you’ve done this, you can move onto a regular budgeting method. Our two favourites are the Zero Based Budget and the 50/30/20 Budget. I highly suggest you use a Zero-Based Budget because it gives every single penny a job and doesn’t allow for wiggle room and mistakes that can happen with the 50/30/20 budget. 

If you don’t create a budget before you start paying off debt you’re much more likely to throw money around at things you don’t need to throw money at and spend in places that are unnecessary! 

4. Eliminate Unnecessary Expenses 

Do you ever go into a store to buy one thing and end up coming home with 15 things that weren’t on the list? #ThanksTarget I can tell you right now, I do this all the time and it’s something I’m always working on eliminating. 

There are a ton of items that you don’t need to be buying that you can easily cut from your monthly budget and really not notice that much of a difference in your day-to-day life. 

Let’s say for example, you switch from using strictly paper towels to dish towels, all you’ll notice is a bit more laundry, but you won’t be actively throwing money in the garbage every week. And bonus! Dish towels are easy to fold. 

5. Think About Your Why 

No matter what the goal, I’m a huge fan of remembering your why. Knowing why you’re doing something is the most amazing motivator because it helps you to imagine your life once you hit that goal. 

Why are you paying off your debt now? Are you doing it so you can travel? So you can buy a home? Maybe you want to start a family but don’t want the burden of debt over your head while you’re trying to buy diapers. These are all amazing reasons to get out of debt and can all be an amazing motivator to get you going. 

Whenever you’re going through a tough patch in the process, knowing your why will remind you exactly why you’re doing this so you can get back on track and attack those goals. 

6. Stop Using Credit IMMEDIATELY

I’m just going to make an assumption that if you have debt, at least some of it is from credit cards, right? Please, even if you ignore every other tip on this list, stop using credit cards. 

There are some people out there who are amazing at using credit cards. They pay them off, they never carry a balance, and they earn rewards like crazy. These people aren’t in debt and are able to use credit responsibly.

Since you’re already in debt there’s a really high chance that you’re going to fall down that slippery slope and end up with debt AGAIN. Maybe cut up those credit cards and get them out of your wallet until you’re debt free.

 7. Figure Out Your Actual Take Home Income 

When most of us talk about our income, we talk about our yearly income or our income before taxes and other deductions. This is a legitimate reason why so many people live above their means. 

You need to take a couple minutes and calculate the amount of money that you actually bring home each week and start living off LESS than that amount. 

8. Figure Out Your Bare Bones Budget

Now that you understand how much money you actually bring home each month, you need to know how much you HAVE to spend each month to survive. 

This doesn’t include your fun money, this isn’t entertainment, alcohol, or dinners out. This is also known as a bare bones budget

Your bare bones budget will include your mortgage/rent, utilities, and food. Anything above these categories can be cut out without you dying and that money could possibly go straight to paying off your debt. 

Having your bare bones budget figured out will help you realize how much unnecessary money you spend each month and really dial down your spending. 

9. Find a no-fee Bank Account

One of the silliest things a person with a ton of debt can do is to pay bank fees. Isn’t it outrageous that banks make us PAY to use their services while also robbing people with their high credit card interest rates? One of the first things you should do when trying to save money and pay off debt is try and find a no fee bank account wherever you live. 

Personally, I use the Canadian bank Tangerine (where my Canadian friends at?) and it’s the best decision I’ve ever made. Their customer service is next level, and I’ve never been charged a penny to use their bank. If you too are Canadian and are looking for a no-fee bank account, you can use my orange code 50681730S1 and get $50 free when you deposit your first $100! 

10. Create a Side Income 

Trying to pay off all your debt with just your 9-5 income isn’t going to be easy, so if it’s possible in your schedule you should definitely start some kinda of side hustle. Even if it’s just $100-200 a week, that’s still a TON of money that can go straight to paying off debt. 

The key with having a debt payoff side hustle is that you can’t just let that money be used for fun, you have to set the boundaries and make sure this money goes straight to paying off your debt. Just work hard on a side hustle for a few months and you’ll be out of debt and living your best life so soon! 

Some great options for side hustles include: 

Final Thoughts

Paying off debt is hard, but being in debt is harder. Just keep working at it. Don’t give up because there IS a light at the end of the tunnel. If you need someone to talk to because your debt is just overwhelming, please email me at and I’ll do my best to be a friend! xo 

10 Things You Should Do BEFORE Paying Off Debt | Starting to pay off debt can be on of the most stressful times in a person's life, so it's important to get a foundation when first deciding to start a budget and pay off your debt. #loans #studentloans #debt #budget #familyfinance