7 Things You Don’t Have to Give Up to Pay Down Debt

7 Things You Don’t Have to Give Up to Pay Down Debt

Written by Bryan Daly
Fact-checked by Caitlin Wood
Last Updated January 13, 2018

In this day and age, there is no shortage of things that we spend money on without a second thought. Cell phone bills, credit cards, this account, that account. The list can go on and on, and before you know it, you’re up to your ears in debt. Indeed, one of the best things you can do in this situation is to work towards paying off that debt, as it will only cause more problems for you in the future. When debt is an issue, it can seem like you need to sacrifice everything you enjoy in order to pay it off. Fear not, there are a few general expenses that you can simply modify a bit, rather than cut them out of your budget entirely.

Your Cell Phone

Cell phones are something that pretty much everyone needs. Being that, the latest smartphones come with a lot more entertaining features than just the ability to call and send text messages, it’s all too easy to spend money on something that’s just going to have an upgraded version a few months later. However, just because you’re trying to pay down your debt, doesn’t mean that you have to give up your cell phone entirely.

When you’re negotiating a new contract, the cell phone retailer will most likely want to sell you the latest phone with the top package plan. You might not even read the fine print because you’ll be so excited to get your hands on that gadget you’ve been wanting. Before you sign the contract, think about everything that you’re actually going to using the phone for. If you’re looking to save a bit of money so you can pay off your debt, downgrading to a simpler plan with a more basic phone can help you out.   

Your Favorite Healthy Foods

We’re always encouraging you to save money by making your own meals at home, rather than eating out at restaurants and we stand by this advice. But, we understand that it can seem counterintuitive to spend hundreds of dollars a week on groceries when you’re also trying to pay off debt.

Healthy food (no matter what your definition of healthy is) typically costs more than less healthy alternatives. When it comes to your health, you need to continue to invest in it. By all means, shop around for the best prices and wait for certain items to go on sale, but you don’t need to give up your healthy habits just to pay off your debt.

Your Gym Membership

With summer right around the corner, cancelling your costly gym membership in favor of getting exercise outside is often a good idea. Then again, what happens when it’s raining? Perfect excuse to lounge inside and gain calories rather than burn them. Let’s face it, motivating yourself to workout at home can be the ultimate chore. Like we said before, being in debt should not mean becoming unhealthy. True, most standard gyms will cost over $50 per month unless you’re getting a student or senior rate. This can be a problem, not everyone can afford to spend hundreds of dollars a year on a membership they might not be getting the most out of. Just remember, the reason these places charge that much is because they offer all sorts of facilities, fitness classes and other such commodities.

So, if you’re looking to save money, but stay healthy, look into switching to a low-cost or discount gym. Whatever province you live in, there should be a gym like this somewhere, one that offers basic equipment and facilities for well under $20 a month. If you’re not the type to take advantage of things like classes, pools, and saunas, and you prefer just getting in a quick workout and leaving, one of these gyms might be right for you.

Looking to get fit on a budget? Check out this article.

Vacation Time

When you’re trying to pay off your debt, eliminating your vacation time and stressing yourself out at work might seem like the only option. That trip to the Bahamas will just have to wait until next year, right? After all, it can be extremely expensive to book a vacation to a tropical destination or any other place outside of the country, no matter what time of year you want to go. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t find a way to take a few days off and relax a bit at low cost to your finances. When the summer finally rolls around, why not try camping or renting a cottage on a lake? Get a few friends together, split the cost of the campsite or cabin, and have some much needed R&R. Depending on how many days you’ll be going, and how expensive it is to rent the campsite or cabin, you’ll probably spend a lot less than what you would have paid for the plane ticket alone.

Hanging Out With Friends

Even if you decide to save your vacation until next year, you can at least spend some time with your friends on the weekends and blow off a little steam. When you don’t see your friends often, however, it can be easy to empty your wallet at the bar in one night. To make sure this doesn’t happen, it’s always smart to find cheap or free alternatives to a night on the town. While board games can get a bit boring, especially those never ending rounds of Monopoly, getting a few friends together and playing a variety of games can make for a fun, no-cost evening. No matter what city you live in, there are always cheaper and more entertaining ways to go out and have fun with your friends, if you’re not in the mood to stay in. Just do a bit of research, and you’ll find a bunch of activities that will cost you way less than going to a bar and buying $8 pints. For the money you’ll spend on one beer, you can go see a movie on Cheap Tuesday.

Read this article for fun date ideas in Montreal on a budget (some ideas work for casual hangouts with friends too!)

Your Other Financial Goals

When you’re in debt, it can feel like your life is being taken over. You’ll be working twice as hard and all your money will be spent right away trying to pay it down. Yes, paying off your debts should be a priority, but it doesn’t mean you can’t still look forward to the future you want for yourself. Remember, if you want to afford your dream home one day, you’ll need to start saving early. So, getting a good balance going between paying off your debt and setting money aside for the future, should definitely be a priority for you. If you’ve been finding ways to save money on all the other things listed above, it means you’re on the right track. So, with every paycheck, you earn use the majority of it for your debt, then deposit a small portion into your savings, even $10-20 here and there can help out.

For more information on setting financial goals for yourself, click here

Having Fun and Being Happy

Paying off your debt, whether it’s consumer debt or a large student loan, can be taxing, to say the least. It can take months, even years to pay off, depending on how much you owe, but it will be worth it, in the long run, to get it out of the way as quickly as possible. The most important thing to remember is that if you’ve been taking the proper steps to save money, it means you’ve acknowledged your debt, and are no longer trying to ignore it. When you’re working towards being debt-free, you shouldn’t be sacrificing your happiness at the same time.  

Bryan is a graduate of Dawson College and Concordia University. He has been writing for Loans Canada for five years, covering all things related to personal finance, and aims to pursue the craft of professional writing for many years to come. In his spare time, he maintains a passion for editing, writing screenplays, staying fit, and traveling the world in search of the coolest sights our planet has to offer. Bryan uses the BMO Cash Back Mastercard to earn cash back on everything from boring bill payments to exciting excursions. He is also a strong saver, holding both a TFSA and an RRSP account in order to prepare for his future while taking full advantage of tax benefits.

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