10 Things You Should Do BEFORE Paying Off Debt


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! 


#1 – Add up your totals 

This is one of the scariest parts of of having 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. Want an additional motivation tool? I have a great FREE debt thermometer you can get that can help you see your debt pay off visually. 


#2 – Decide on a pay off method

There are so many different ways you can pay off debt, and not all of them are going to work for you. 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. 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 your first 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. 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.

The best part about having a budget when you’re paying off debt is you can have a line in your budget called “debt pay off” so you can dedicate a certain amount of money each month directly toward debt! 

#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? I can tell you right now, I do this all the time. It’s something I’m actively working on haha.

There are a ton of items you don’t need to be buying that you can easily cut from your budget and really not notice a difference in your day to day life. Like let’s say you switch from paper towel to dish towels, all you’ll notice is a tiny bit more laundry but you won’t be throwing money in the garbage. 

#5 – Think about why you want to be out of debt 

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 without the debt. Why are you paying off the debt now? Are you doing it so you can travel? Are you doing it to buy a home? Maybe you’re wanting to start a family but you don’t want the burden above your head when you do, that’s an amazing reason.

Whenever you’re having a hard time and having to say to things you want to buy, just remember the why. 

#6 – STOP using credit immediately 

I’m just going to make an assumption that if you have a lot of debt, some of it is probably from credit cards right? Please, even if you ignore every other tip on this list, stop using credit. It doesn’t matter if you’re paying off the balance of a specific card at the end of each month.

There’s a really high chance that you’re going to fall down that slippery slope and end up with debt AGAIN. Cut up your credit cards and get them out of your wallet for good. 

#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. Once you’ve figured out this number, you can move on to #8. 

#8 – Figure out your real monthly expenses 

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, or alcohol, or dinners out. This includes your mortgage/rent, utilities, and food. Anything above this can be cut without you dying and that money can help you pay off your debt! 

#9 – Find a no fee bank account 

One of the silliest thing 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? 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 (where my canadian friends at?) Tangerine because it’s amazing. Their customer service is next level and they’ve never charged me a penny. If you use the orange code 50681730S1  when you sign up you can get $50 for free when you deposit your first $100. 

#10 – Create a side income 

Trying to pay off all of your debt with just your 9-5 income isn’t going to be easy, this is why you should find a way to make a side income. 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 side income is that you don’t let it just go towards fun stuff, it’s just for debt payoff. Just work hard on a side hustle for a few months and you’ll be out of debt and living your best life so darn soon. 


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 taylor@notquiteanadult.com and I’ll do my best to be there for you! 


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



Taylor O'Halloran

Hey! My name is Taylor O'Halloran and I'm a huge fan of saving money any way I can.I'm obsessed with dogs and I love all kinds of cheese even though my stomach hates it.  I'm a recent university graduate who just wanted to do her own thing and see what happens! Follow me on the journey!


  1. Kelsie says:

    Pinning this for later! I need this right now after the wedding!!

    1. Taylor O'Halloran says:

      Haha definitely a good post wedding, debt payoff resource

  2. Love these tips they are great!! Being out of debt is a dream in the making, however I want to hold on to some of my debt. When you get rid of it all your credit score drops significantly, happened to both my parents and my in-laws so I think it is important to also talk about the importance of debt and the entire cycle.

    1. Taylor O'Halloran says:

      It depends on how you do it, if you have a ton of credit card debt, pay it off, and then close the accounts your score will be affected because you won’t have that previous history anymore. But it shouldn’t drop a ton just because you don’t have any debt.

  3. ALL of this is so spot on!

    1. Taylor O'Halloran says:


  4. Taylor, these are great! I’d also like to add that you should have a “come to Jesus” meeting about what got you into debt in the first place. When you start recognizing your behaviors (for us, it was trading multiple cars), you can put a stop to it.

    1. Taylor O'Halloran says:

      That is SO true. It’s really important to self-reflect and really figure out your problems before you try and change things

  5. Great tips! I learned from a very young age to run from debt whenever possible. However, I’ll be going to grad school this year and it seems like I may need to take out a loan to be able to pay for my tuition. I’ll keep these in mind!!

    1. Taylor O'Halloran says:

      There’s no shame in that game! Just try not to let it get overboard. I’ve seen people who end up spending their student loans on cars and clothes and end up in really bad situations!

  6. Thank you for sharing, Taylor! The list of 10 is straightforward and easy to understand. I’m looking forward to seeing/hearing success stories!

    1. Taylor O'Halloran says:

      Thank you so much!!

  7. These are all solid tips. I definitely pay off debt quickly but I also try my best to only spend what I have on hand and not go overboard. It’s so easy to do so when you have a credit card though.

    1. Taylor O'Halloran says:

      Credit cards can really drag you into some nasty habits!

  8. Many of these things we have had to do. We have no credit cards, but we have school loan debt. I had to go back to work after being a stay at home wife for a year. I also have been doing side hustles (like selling on Facebook). We have been making a dent into it. Slowly but surely, it will be all paid off in a few years.

    1. Taylor O'Halloran says:

      Slow and steady wins the race! You’ll get there!

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