37 Crazy and Creative Strategies To Pay Off Debt From Real People

As you know, learning to pay off your debt is one of the best ways to reach financial independence. And, there are some crazy and creative strategies to pay off debt, and I LOVE hearing stories from the people trying them! I published the post 60+ Extreme Things People Have Done To Save Money awhile…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: November 2, 2023

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37 Crazy and Creative Strategies To Pay Off Debt From Real PeopleAs you know, learning to pay off your debt is one of the best ways to reach financial independence. And, there are some crazy and creative strategies to pay off debt, and I LOVE hearing stories from the people trying them!

I published the post 60+ Extreme Things People Have Done To Save Money awhile back, and there were a lot of crazy interesting things mentioned in that article. There was someone shaving their own head to save money, people taping their shoes together, dumpster diving, and more.

Since then, others have shared their own stories, and I’m excited to share all of these new, crazy and creative strategies to pay off debt. I seriously love hearing about them.

Because there are so many strategies to pay off debt, many of us have probably gone to very different lengths to do so.

And, by sharing the things that we do, maybe we can all feel a little less embarrassed about our most crazy and extreme strategies to pay off debt, and we might even learn some new tricks.

By reading other people’s strategies to pay off debt, I believe that you can find motivation to pay off your own debt, learn new ways to become debt free, and realize that paying off your debt is possible.

Learning how to become debt free can lead to many positives, such as:

  • You may finally feel less financial stress.
  • You can stop living paycheck to paycheck.
  • You may be able to use that money towards something more important, like saving for retirement.
  • Reaching debt freedom may allow you to pursue other goals in life, such as traveling more or looking for a better job.

While some of these strategies to pay off debt may seem crazy or impossible to you, remember that everyone has to start somewhere. Even if you can only pay off a fraction of what the people below are able to do or if it takes you twice as long, that’s still better than not trying at all.

Great debt payoff stories you should check out:

37 Strategies to pay off debt:

I moved into a Toyota Prius. “I moved out of my expensive apartment near San Francisco and went ‘intentionally homeless,’ or houseless, to pay off my debt. I moved into a guy’s Toyota Prius who I’d only known for 6 months, and we lived in the car and camped in the woods near San Francisco to pay off debt and save money. I only had $4,000 in debt from high-interest loans and union dues, but couldn’t seem to pay it off due to the crazy cost of living in San Francisco. Living without a home was the only way for me to achieve financial freedom, and my boyfriend saved up enough money to buy a sailboat…and a new Prius….with cash! I’m pretty sure neither of us will ever be in debt again, since both of us now know we get along well in a super small space, and wouldn’t hesitate to do it again.” – Kristin Hanes

I went through my neighbors’ trash for coupons! “When we were paying off our debt, we turned to coupons to save money on our groceries. On recycling day, I would go out early in the morning to grab my neighbors’ newspapers. It’s kind of gross; I don’t recommend it!” – Alaya Linton

We used washable cloths instead of toilet paper. “We paid off $89,000 and then saved $20,000 for a downpayment on a house. The craziest thing we did to save money was use washable cloths instead of toilet paper. We also turned off our heat and burned wood in a fireplace and used fans to move the heat around the house, and supplemented our groceries by foraging for wild edibles. I sewed clothes for the kids instead of buying new and used cast off adult clothes as the fabric and notions, cutting them down to fit.” – Angela Bailey Coffman

We moved in with my parents. “Moving in with my parents. My husband and I were working on paying off $87,000 of student loan debt. After a year of renting an apartment during our first year of marriage, our rent was going up $200! My parents kindly invited us to rent a room from them for some time to pay off our loans. So being newlyweds, we rented a 10X10 sq ft room from my parents for cheap. We lived there for 14 months and were able to pay off our $87,000 of debt in less than 2.5 years total!” – Marissa Lyda

I lived with my husband and his friend for three years. “My husband and I lived with a friend of his for three years, two years in Indianapolis and then we all moved to Denver together. The first two years we lived together, my rent cost $266 a month ($350 cheaper than when I had lived alone). I used that $350 difference to apply to my student loans, which I paid off while we were all living together. It wasn’t just about splitting the rent. We also split utilities, internet and Netflix. A lot of people thought I was weird for living with someone the first year I was married, but it made so much financial sense. It allowed me to pay off $28,000 worth of student loans and save for a $15,000 emergency fund and move to Colorado.” – Zina Kumok

We ignored social norms, such as holidays. “Paid off $280,000 mortgage in 6 years. My wife tried cutting my hair once, but she ended up botching the job horribly. She laughed a lot while she was cutting it, and I had to go to a ’real stylist’ to get it fixed. What has worked is totally ignoring social norms when it comes to birthdays, Christmas, Valentines, anniversary, weddings, and social obligations that would have us buy things or spend money. We don’t buy each other anything ever (except for investment real estate), and we rarely participate in anything socially that would ‘obligate’ us to buy something or spend money.” – Richard Carey

We moved to the “hood.” “We moved to the ‘hood,’ had bullet holes in the back door—but the home was free. It helped us dump over $120k in debt by 2013. We still live there today–no regrets and I love our community and actively serve and raise my kids there.” – Aja McClanahan

I made my own food, with my own ingredients, while at a restaurant with friends. “I graduated college with over $35,000 of student loan debt, some loans at 6% and others at 8%. This is not a huge number compared to some, but it was still a big scary number for 20-year-old me with the economy what it was in 2009. I rapidly ate away at this debt by working as much overtime as I could, sharing a room with 3 other guys and only paying $275/month for rent, and not eating out for 2 years until I could refinance at a lower rate. I remember one time my new roommates were grabbing pho and really wanted me to join. Not wanting to appear anti-social, but also wanting to stick to my financial plan, I brought some raw brisket from home to the pho restaurant, asked for hot water, and boiled my meat right there in the restaurant, topping it off with the ubiquitous bean sprouts and basil! I cringe at this now and feel bad for being so cheap toward a small family restaurant, but at the same time, I’m proud that I stuck to my guns and did whatever it took to chip away at that debt. At the end of those 2 years, I had paid off $20,000 of student loan debt, bringing my balance from $35,000 to $15,000, at which point I refinanced my loans to a fixed rate in the 2%’s.” – Logan Allec

We flipped houses. “When I met my (now) husband, he convinced me to break my lease and move out of my amazing condo and back in with my parents, so I could pocket $1,000 a month. When we married, our house was only in his name, and he convinced me to buy a $60,000 house in my name. We flipped it in less than a year, the house was on the market for four days and sold for $80,000. I’m a teacher, and he’s a professional estimator for flood damage, I never thought we could make money on the side like that! Thank goodness for my husband’s ideas because we had two babies back to back and were able to pay for me being out of work and medical bills.” – Dana Williams Craven

We didn’t go out to eat for almost 2 years. “My husband and I avoided a lot of debt by cash flowing both our 4 year degrees. We also managed to build up our retirement accounts to over $100k in 5 years. The secret to our success was living super frugal and budgeting. We didn’t go out to eat for almost 2 years. If we wanted to buy something, we would only buy it if we had cash to pay for it. We even started a small woodworking side hustle to make a little extra cash using our skills.” – Cassie Pipp

I took a gutsy move that is a major no-no. “I graduated with $125,000 in student loan debt. After years of making payments and barely seeing my balance drop, I decided to take out a 401k loan. This was a gutsy move because taking out loans from retirement accounts is considered a major no-no among most financial advisors and gurus. But I crunched the numbers and for my specific situation, it made sense. This decision kick-started my intense debt-free journey and I am happy to say that I am now debt-free (the student loans and the 401k loan). Best financial decision I ever made, despite seeming ‘crazy’ and ‘stupid.’ Quick note: Taking out 401k loans is NOT the solution for everyone. Make sure to do your homework before making a major decision like this.” – Liv Cloud

We went dumpster diving for metal. “My husband and I paid off $25,000 of (mostly medical) debt in 12 months, a handful of those months he was unemployed while switching careers. We budgeted, negotiated down bills, sold any extra possessions from around the house, reduced to one car, and….. went dumpster diving for metal.” – Rebecca Moxon

I took a 4 hour daily commute to avoid having a car. “When I first moved to the States, I had racked up over $5000 in lawyer and immigration fees. In order to pay it off, I decided to forgo a car in Los Angeles, a city where the car is king. My daily commute took 2 hours each way and involved 3 trains, a bus and a 20 minute walk. I travelled through areas of the city that many avoid even driving through. This allowed me to pay off my debt within a year while working a minimum wage job. The best part, however, was that I was exposed to a side of the City of Angels that many never know. My commute allowed me to meet some wonderful people and learn about different cultures in a way that I would never have encountered if I were stuck in my car on a freeway.” Gemma

We bought a car for a dollar. “As of February 15, 2018 we are completely debt-free!!! We have paid off around $50,000 in debt! It’s like a huge weight has been lifted off of our shoulders. We even paid off this debt while having a baby and going on one income so I could stay at home. To do this we budgeted hardcore (cash envelopes and all), did some side hustles like flipping stuff on Facebook Marketplace and penny-pinched. Okay, so we did do some crazy things like putting way too much water in the spaghetti sauce to make it last longer (it was not good) and buying a car for a dollar (yes, we did!). My husband also sat down with his CEO and point-blank asked him for a $20,000 raise. He got it. We made getting out of debt a top priority and now we have zero monthly payments! Zero!” – Alice Bolte

I lived without a credit card. “Having come to the UK to live and work as a teacher, I knew that a certain lifestyle was expected but I decided to live the frugal lifestyle and clear off all debt by buying all second-hand furniture, second (or third hand) cars, never bought lunch at work, avoiding the hairdresser (my sister and I do each other’s hair) and also live without using a credit card. All of this has cleared a debt of almost £30,000. I still do have an affordable mortgage but apart from that, I owe no debt and am able to give up teaching to work from home.” – Joleisa Creed

I rode my bike for three years. “When I graduated from college, I left with $23,000 worth of student loans. I tried to keep my loans down while in school by only taking out the minimum, working full-time, and living very frugally – like riding my bike for three years. I refinanced my loans for a lower interest rate right away and started using all of my extra money to pay down the loan. I tutored after school (I was a teacher) and put chunks of my tax return toward my debt. All the while, I was paying cash for a master’s degree and continued my frugal ways by carpooling, coloring my hair myself, meal planning, paying cash, and living below my means. I finally paid off my undergrad student loan debt and treated myself with a new iPhone! Hey, you have to splurge every once in a while, and I paid cash, so why not? Getting rid of that debt was such a relief!” – Sarah Poeppe

I slept on my parent’s twin bed to save money. “After living above my means for a few years after I graduated from college, I had to face the music and move back into my parent’s house. I used a debt consolidator and took on a part-time weekend job in addition to my full-time job to pay it all off. It took me 18 months to pay off $24,000. It was worth every rough night of sleep on my parent’s twin bed in their guest room! After that I was FREE :)” – Kristiina Craven

I worked 60 hour weeks while pregnant. “My husband and I paid off $100,000 in student loan debt in 26 months. During that time I was pregnant with our 3rd child and was working 60 hour weeks as a hospital physical therapist lifting weak and sick people people out of bed and getting them to exercise (no easy task!). I had horrible morning sickness – I would puke on the way to work, in the car, and would have to leave patient’s rooms (because of the smell) and go vomit in the bathroom before I could return to work with them! It was crazy town! But, I wanted that debt gone, so I kept working! I don’t regret a thing!” – Nicole Chammas Rule

We started a cakery, and more! “My wife and I both used our existing skills to make extra money to pay down our debt. She created a cake bakery (cakery?) business out of our house, and I performed remote cyber security consulting after my normal job and on the weekend. If that wasn’t enough work already, we also started selling our own product on Amazon. It took a lot of research, trust, and patience but it grossed over 100K last year. We are gluttons for punishment so we also started a blog and YouTube channel for additional diversification of revenue and fun! All this hard work has led to us being able to pay off over 40K in debt over 2 years. We have a remaining $10K that will be paid off before June.” –Jason Miller

We cut up our credit cards. “We were 17K in credit card debt when we decided enough is enough. First thing we did is attend a ‘manage your money class.’ Then we consolidated our credit card debts in one card, cut up all others, created a spreadsheet from the amount we started, then updated it monthly. It was motivating to see the graph going down as we are paying down out debt. Hubby got a second job, and I got odd jobs here and there (including blogging) in addition to my full-time job. Paid off that debt in 2 years.” – Liza Pierce

I managed other peoples’ garage sales. “When I accrued about $6,200 in debt from going back to school to pursue a new career, I was filled with guilt for adding that debt to my family. I decided to do anything and everything to pay it off. I started offering various services in Fiverr and Upwork. Some of the creative services I offered were setting up and managing other people’s garage sales and consignment sale tagging services. Managing others peoples garage sales for a fee is a win-win. Not only did I get paid my fee but I often was gifted leftover items that I could turn around and sell online or at consignment sales. Nobody wants to bring those garage sale items back in the house! In just over a year and a half, I paid off that school debt.” – Stef Vassilis Mosesman

I deployed with the Navy.  “I paid off my debt by deploying for a year with the Navy full-time, no travel, rent or expenses to pay for! I graduated with over £30,000 in student loans, credit cards and tuition fees. I was gradually paying this off bit by bit but what really helped was when I took time off work to deploy with the Navy full-time (I’m a reservist). Not only did they match my civilian salary, but I also saved on living expenses, rent and travel in London for a whole year. Those cold and often very rough days at sea were definitely worth when it came to finally getting rid of my debt!” – Andy Ly

I took on two side hustles. “When I was paying off $6,000 in credit card debt in addition to working full-time, I had two different side hustles. One working at Gillette Stadium during Patriots games and one writing legal briefs for the firm my friend was working at, they were overloaded with work and she suggested me. I also saved money by taking advantage of having to travel for work. When I had to travel for work, I would bring home the leftovers from eating out (paid for by work) to help avoid grocery shopping and spending money on food.” – Liz Stapleton

We went dumpster diving for children’s items. “My wife and I paid off a $400,000 mortgage in 7.5 years. Before we got married, I lived with three other roommates to help pay down my mortgage. Once we got married, my wife was not interested in living with roommates so we got rid of them. From there we became frugal in every way possible. We went dumpster diving and found ‘treasures’ like double strollers and toys for our sons, shopped Craigslist and Thrift Stores for baby clothes. We went to the cheapest grocery store in town (Aldi) and bought things in bulk. Over the course of those 7.5 years we were able to crush our debt and pay it off!!!” – Rob Andersen

I’m always on the hunt to flip something for a profit. “This topic is near and dear to my heart because I’m very influenced by my extremely wealthy eccentric uncle who’s honestly the biggest cheapskate I’ve ever met in my life. From wearing used clothes because he can’t stand new clothing prices, to refusing to buy coffee when he’s out running errands because his bank gives it out for free, and driving a 30-year-old Suburban because it’s still kickin. He even went to his local market every day for 7 days straight because whole chickens were half price, so he HAD to keep going back to pick up the max limit each day. Honestly though, why in the world would anyone need 14 whole chickens in their freezer for only 2 people?? While my money-saving habits aren’t as extreme, I also grew up poor and appreciate every dollar. When the kids were younger, it was important for my husband and me to live on one meager income and have me be a stay-at-home mom, yet we still had lofty goals of paying for our kids’ college, retiring very early to travel and paying for my husband’s business endeavor. Because we kept ourselves on a very tight budget and gave up many things yet didn’t change our lifestyle habits as my husband’s business grew, within the past 10 years we’ve been able to pay off over $600,000 in debt! The most extreme thing I’ve done to save money and pay-off debt is honestly just always being on the hunt to flip something for a profit. I was an eBay PowerSeller for many years, and although, I took my business in a different direction, I still can’t get out of my head that I should stop at every garage sale sign I pass, try to resale something from Costco at a higher price online, or buying up antique books in the hope to turn $1 into $400. One of my favorite resales was when I was doing my weekly shopping at the local deep discount store. When I mean deep discount store, I’m not meaning stores like Wal-Mart, K-mart or Target. I’m meaning the store THOSE stores send items to when they have too much stock of something, only a couple of items left and they need the shelf space for more profitable items, dented cans, food near expiration (which is a great way to also find organic boxed items for cheap), or toys that are perfectly fine but have a slightly damaged box. Do you honestly think kids care about the condition of the box? Heck no! If it’s really damaged, toss the box and make your own DIY gift tag from the box label. I’m sure you’ve heard of American Girl Dolls….my daughter really wanted one for her 8th Christmas, and we of course couldn’t afford it. But what we COULD afford were the American Girl doll look-a-likes from the deep discount store that looked IDENTICAL to the originals because it was made by the SAME manufacturer and sold under a different label. And again, because I’m always on the hunt for a quick flip, YES, I bought them ALL and resold them on eBay for $50-$60 each when I bought them at the discount store for $17.99 each–and YES, I fully disclosed on eBay these weren’t originals)!” – Jen Koellmann

I became debt free at 23. “When I graduated college, I had $28,000 of student loans and $10,000 in car loans. I was only making $12/hour at my day job, so I kept a $15/hour weekend job babysitting, but I kept looking for ways to earn more. The kids I was babysitting needed swim lessons and I was a lifeguard and swim teacher. I offered to teach them private swimming lessons while I was babysitting for an extra $50 per lesson. I made an extra $1,000 or more that summer doing a side hustle within a side hustle. I ended up paying off my loans in 18 months, just before my 24th birthday so that I was ‘Debt Free at 23.’ All of that side hustling helped me pay off debt faster!” – Lauren Daly

We started flipping guitars. “My wife and I looked at our guitar collection a couple of years back and decided to start selling some off. Then we came across the realization that a lot of guitars on eBay are insanely underpriced for what they are actually worth. So after we sold the majority of the collection, we started buying more off of eBay and flipping them for profit. We double our money, or more, on almost every guitar we flip. It has helped us pay off a number of debts including my student loans. I only have a couple of months left until everything is fully paid off! Now we still continue our guitar flipping side hustle along with my blog I started last year all about creative ways to make extra money, save extra money to help pay off debt, and strive towards a future of financial freedom!” – Daniella Flores

I stayed home to pay off MY parents debt. “I went the other way around – I didn’t move out for college like I could have so that I could spend all my 3 jobs plus overtime money on just one household, instead of two households, and to pay down that first $100K of Mom & Dad’s debt. I stayed there until my late 20s, eliminated all of their debt, paid all the bills, THEN moved out.” – Revanche

We lived like college students. “My wife and I worked together to pay off her $80,000+ of student loan debt in less than three years. Rather than living it up on our new salaries, we decided to continue living like college students while we paid off the debt. Most of our furniture was hand me downs, and we barely decorated our home and instead used all of that money to pay off the debt. I also started a blog, Money Manifesto, which earned us some extra money to put toward the debt. Now it’s my full-time gig!” – Lance Cothern

I walked dogs 4-5 days a week, while pregnant. “We paid off just over $55,000 of debt in 2 years while growing our family of 5. I worked a side hustle of walking dogs 4 or 5 days a week in all kinds of weather (snow, ice, 100+ degree weather, rain, etc.) and while hugely pregnant chasing one or more toddlers along with the dogs. (Side story, one was an Australian Sheep Dog and she would literally ‘herd’ my boys away from the street. It was hilarious and a little scary at the same time. 😂) All the money that I earned from picking up dog poop went into paying off our debt. We completely stopped buying bread, laundry detergent, and lotion and instead we made our own at home. It was a crazy time but so, so worth it!” – Jessi Fearon

Related: How To Get Paid To Sell Your Poop

I delivered pizzas to pay off debt. “I paid off £23,000 in debt. But it was when I started to tackle my student loan that things started to get more interesting. I was working through the last and by far largest debt in my debt snowball and when I did the maths and worked out what I needed to live on, it would have taken me 12 months to clear the outstanding amount of £18,000 by paying off £1,500 per month. This was not good enough for me, I wanted to pay my student loan off quicker because I could not stand being in debt much longer. I was MAD with my debt and angry that I had got myself in this situation and wanted to get out as soon as possible. I then took on the part-time job of delivering pizzas! I did this to supplement my income and this allowed me to clear my £18,000 student loan debt in 9 months. I wrote a blog about this particular part-time job and how people can make extra money.” – Leon Mclean

I tutored students on a specific subject. “My father bought me a car with the expectation that he would make the payments. However, an emergency came up, and I was unexpectedly stuck with a $5,000 car loan in my name. Unfortunately, I was in a postgraduate fellowship program at the time, and wasn’t making a large salary. I was able to afford my monthly payments and then some by becoming a tutor with Varsity Tutors. I specifically tutored non-American students who wanted to pass the American pharmacy school entrance exam (PCAT).” – Megan Nichole

I destroyed my credit cards. “I love to cook and eat, and it wasn’t unusual for me to spend hundreds of dollars on a meal. Not just at fancy restaurants, but for high end ingredients for a meal I was preparing at home for friends. Credit cards made this possible, but I got tired of that feeling I got every time I opened my statement. I made the decision to destroy the cards and put myself on a payment plan. The hardest part was still wanting to create through food. The answer came when I was asked to volunteer teach a cooking class to Veterans in a transitional home. These gentlemen were recently homeless and are now trying to get their lives back on track. I teach them how to prepare simple, healthy meals on a budget!” – Tahane Mikhail

I used my employee discount to my advantage. “I paid off my $2400 student loan debt by swapping my Dad an expensive computer he wanted (that I bought at a huge employee discount from the company I worked for) for his paying off the debt. This immediately wiped out half the debt with the employee discount and the remaining debt was painlessly paid off over time with interest free paycheck deductions until it was all gone.” – Todd R. Tresidder

I extreme couponed and more! “When my husband was diagnosed with cancer a few years back, I knew that life had to change, and I really took at look at our finances. I had over $125k in debt from various sources…credit cards, classes I took, medical bills, bits and pieces of everyday life while he recovered, etc. I didn’t want to carry that anymore and looked for ways to pay it off. Some of the things that I did to pay off $75k off that (that’s where I am now…YAHOO!) was extreme couponing, Swagbucks, Inbox Dollars, took on work as a Virtual Assistant, completed surveys and participated in focus groups, did some mystery shopping and also worked as a server for a friend who caters dinners for funerals.” – Laura Kelly-Pifer

Michelle’s tip: Take as many online surveys as you can. There are several online survey companies that you can sign up for and learn how to make money with. If you sign up for all of them, you may be able to earn anywhere from $25-$100+ a month by taking online surveys. Survey companies I recommend signing up for include Swagbucks, Pinecone Research, Survey Junkie, and Harris Poll Online. They’re free to join and free to use! You get paid to answer surveys and to test products. It’s best to sign up for as many as you can as that way you can receive the most surveys and make the most money.

Extreme Things People Have Done To Save and Make Money

Looking for more ideas? I just wanted to quickly list out some of my favorite strategies to save and make money from two past blog posts of mine – 43 Extreme Things People Have Done To Make Money and 60+ Extreme Things People Have Done To Save Money.

Sell your smelly shoes to strangers online. “I’ve sold my smelly shoes on eBay to men who enjoy that sort of thing. They actually turned out to be the nicest customers ever, and it was easy to ‘upgrade’ their sales to include photos of my feet I’ve made over £2,000 to date, around $2,500. Just from selling my old trashed shoes on eBay.” – Emma Drew

Live in super cheap living conditions. “I lived with a couple and another guy in a cramped house. I shortly learned that they were extremely frugal themselves and didn’t use their AC or heat. Chicago winters are brutal and heat is NECESSARY. I had so many terrible nights of sleep and worst of all, I felt like I was being taken advantage of. I was paying to live in a house that I was totally miserable in, and they never thought to tell me that they don’t use heat or AC. OH, they also had a newborn baby a month or 2 later after I moved in, which was absolutely terrible. But, being in college, I did what I had to do to save money. Rent was really cheap.” –Alexis Schroeder

How to make money by becoming a sugarbaby. “I signed up for a sugar daddy website (SeekingArrangement) as I was so desperate for money at one stage to pay for university. If you don’t know what it is, it’s basically where you meet up with rich businessmen and they take you to fancy places and pay you, etc. I had some very weird requests, for example someone had a fetish for massaging people’s feet and was prepared to pay US$500 for a meet up! And many guys asked me to travel round the world with them whilst paying me around USD$5000 to just come! I am so embarrassed that I even decided to sign up, wasn’t the best decision I have made!” – Emma Lomas

Pose nude for a drawing class. “Well … my first job was detasseling corn. In college I posed nude for a drawing class. And then there is writing for a living, which is pretty ridiculous …” – Emma Johnson

Rent out your home and sleep on people’s couches instead. “When times were tight, as they often were, I afforded my NYC rent by airbnb-ing or subletting my apartment and crashing with friends instead.” –Stefanie O’Connell

Sell used bras. “I sold used bras on eBay for a year and make about $10k from bras alone. I found a place where I could buy nice but used bras for a quarter each and turned around and sold them for twenty or more bucks each. That’s what got me started with my eBay side hustle.” – Elizabeth Crazy Busy Happy Life

Shave your head. “I’ve gone without hair to save money. I shaved my hair as a way to save time AND money when I was a single mom. 17 years later and I still shave it – mostly because I’m used to it and not so much for the money. But every time I think about growing it out, I do think about the money I’ll have to start spending.” –Alaya Linton

Cut your own hair. “When I was on a tight budget during University, I stopped getting my hair cut professionally. Instead, I purchased a quality pair of hairdressing scissors from Sally’s Beauty Supply, watched tutorials on YouTube, and taught myself how to cut my own hair at home. The embarrassing part is that I continued to cut my own hair at home after I graduated from University to save money. I went almost 7 years without a professional haircut! (And no, I don’t recommend this to anyone haha)” – Eden Ashley

Keep your shoes together with Scotch tape. “I broke one of my sandals, and it was the only pair I had. I didn’t want to buy another pair so I taped it back together with Scotch tape. It lasted for another month or so.” – Adrienne Luedeking

Wash your clothes in a bucket. “When I was a college student in Paris, I was on a super tight budget and was constantly trying to think of ways to save money. Some of the slightly cringe-worthy things I did include: wrapping the free bread that restaurants provide in a napkin and taking it home to have for breakfast the next morning, washing my clothes in a bucket of water and detergent to avoid paying the laundromat fee and buying cheeseburgers from McDonalds and eating the bun for breakfast, then crumbling the burger patty over rice for lunch – delicious.” –Ashli from The Million Dollar Mama

Sleep on an air mattress. “Slept on an air mattress for my first several months living in Nashville! Eventually a roommate felt bad and gifted me her bed once she bought a new one 😂 I kept that bed (and a free desk) until I turned 25.” – Kate Dore

What have you done to pay off debt? How much debt do you have?


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Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. Wow! Some of these are crazy and some make me want to re-think the way I live my life (in a good way!) LOL Thanks for sharing

  2. Meg

    We live without AC during our hot and humid summers! (I recently wrote a post about how we do it). I definitely couldn’t live without heat though. Especially if I lived in Chicago like Alexis did!

  3. Bhavini @Smart Money Manners

    Holy moly I thought I was frugal but these folks give me a run for the money (no pun intended!). I’ve done a ton of things like living without AC (but it’s not bad in NYC), living in the ‘hood’, and with roommates to save money. Now ,it’s just a habit and I just think twice before I spend hard-earned money on something.

    And completely agree with the statement that it’s better to do something than nothing at all about trying to save or hustle to make more money.

    1. Ha, there’s lots of frugal things mentioned here! 🙂

  4. Some of these are wild lol. I’ve taken on part-time jobs and flipped things online before.

  5. I am working on paying off debt too. These are all very unique ideas for doing that. Interesting too but not exactly practical for everyone. Still there are a couple of things I might try.

  6. Wow, and I thought waiting 4 years to buy a smartphone was a crazy way to pay off debt…these are my kind of people, haha! Great roundup post for creative ways to pay off debt.

    1. I never upgrade my phone haha! I wait until they break.

  7. Wow! Reusable toilet paper lol. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve done a few crazy things to save extra cash and pay off my debt. These people are crazy-awesome!

  8. The Curious Frugal

    At first some of these ideas don’t seem too out there but they get wilder as the post goes on. Lol. I can’t say I’ve ever read before about selling smelly shoes on eBay as a side hustle!

  9. Kris

    Some of these are not out of the norm but the others are really crazy. But hey, whatever makes you save some money. You gotta do what you gotta do!!

  10. Leon @ Make Save Invest Money

    Hi Michelle,

    Thanks for including my story!

  11. Chloe

    This isn’t something to celebrate. I’ve done and continue to do many of these things myself – living in my car, etc. – but in the wealthiest country in the history of the world, NO human being should ever have to live in a car, work 2-3 jobs, dumpster dive, commute 4 hours a day, or give up what should be basic quality-of-life things like a social life. Education should not put anyone in tens of thousands of dollars of debt. EVERYONE should have safe housing and transportation, nutritious food and clean water, quality healthcare, and affordable education (including public university), and the only reason we don’t is that corporations and their lobbyists have bribed and bought our politicians and are controlling the government’s decisions, and those in power who control our economic system are hoarding 99% of the wealth and resources for themselves and forcing us to fight each other for the crumbs and to do ridiculous things for basic survival. #resist

    1. Sherrie Taylor

      That’s all good and fine but you are forgetting the people with health issues and continuing medical bills that will never end. So, yeah, a nice van could work out real well…… Even though I agree with you.

    2. Alia Berry

      That kind of idealism isn’t getting my debt paid.

  12. This is inspiring post, although I don’t think I can do whatever these individuals did to pay off debt, I’m now more motivated to follow my plan or put more efforts into becoming more conscious about my spending. Thank you!

  13. Sherrie Taylor

    I have done a lot of these things too. I have flipped expensive things I found at yard sales for a fee large enough to pay of one more medical bill. Torn dryer sheets in to four pieces. Used less soap. Cut my food portions down so I would have more for my husband who was sick. And learned to cook cheap cheap cheap!! Good thing I like raman and foods based around pasta!! lol… traded a lot with others in the same situation too. Life is better now, but I am studying on finances so I never have to do that again!!!

  14. Jackie Allum

    What a fabulous article! Gives hope to many people. Thanks.

  15. Will absolutely share this with my clients who are age 60+ and trying to pay off the last of their debts before retirement.