What are your best Debt Hacks?

I’m part of a small non-profit called Debt Hacker, which is campaigning to campaigning to put power in the hands of borrowers and help them fight back against exploitative, high-cost lending.

In the run up to Christmas, we’re running a competition to gather people’s best hacks for getting rid of their debt. We’re calling it “Debt Hacks” (see what we did there?)

We’ve had a few submissions mentioning Monzo already, so thought it would be worth posting this to get more submissions from the Monzo community.

This one is from James:

Monzo bank has saved me a few££ with its option to retry a directdebit on the same day
Gives u time to transfer money around.
Plus it gives you a push notification u the day be fore.
The summary section is really good for forecasting on shopping .

We’ve got £250 of high street vouchers to give away, with £50 each for the best debt hacks we get.

Comment below with your best debt hack for a chance to win!

(Mods: Let me know if this is the right forum thread to be posting to - thanks)


My biggest debt hack has been “Zero Sum” budgeting.

I’d always sucked at budgeting - mainly because I was like “OK I will aim to spend £X every month on Y”.

Wether or not the sum of all the £X was the same as the money I got paid or hand on hand.

And as soon as I failed to meet part of it, I’d just drop it all for a month. Cycle continued.

Thinking in terms of - I have £x today and I need it do do A B C until I get paid again has been life changing.


This thread might be interesting:

And this:

Though there are a lot of new people since then :slight_smile:


Planner tip:
Budget your bills, but then add 5-10%. It’ll be harder in the short term, but you save a few quid each month and any surprises are easier to handle.

Quick tip:
Used the credit card in the last month? Pay in some spare change when you have it, to round the total down and encourage you to not just stick to the monthly repayments.

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Stop spending money you don’t have is a great debt hack. Another one is, if you can’t afford to buy it then don’t but just save up until you can.

It’s how the older generation used to do it and I think we have lost a lot of self control as we are in a now now now society which is a shame.

For those already in debt the same applies, but try to pay off the most expensive debt first, the rest hopefully can be paid off slower or at a reduced rate. (Always get your creditors permission first as most will be pretty understanding.)


Step 1. Admit you are having money problems to yourself. This does not mean you have to tell anyone, but acknowlaging it to yourself is very difficult.

Step 2. Write down everything. Who do you owe money to (both companies and people), regular bills (water, electricity, etc.)

Step 3. Decide what is critical, important, nice to have and other. Be honest with yourself. This is hard because it involves questions like “do you really need to own a car” but also “could I own a cheaper car” (there are better examples)

Step 4. Ask for help. All lenders have a duty to their customers and if you cannot afford to pay a debt then they have teams of people who will help work out a plan. Consolidating loans is not always the answer (it can make things more expensive).

Step 5. Stick to your plan whilst you can, however if things change (circumstances, jobs, etc.) re-assess.

Not so much a process, but I think Step 1 is both the hardest and most important.

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My best hack was to open a Monzo account in all seriousness.

I’ve been in my overdraft for over 10 years due to negligence or lack of expendable income. I have switched to several banks but always taken the overdraft with me, usually to take advantage of an interest free offer on my overdraft.

When I moved to Monzo I didn’t take the overdraft with me. I didn’t do a full switch. I just manually moved everything over.

When I look at my account now and see myself in the plus every month, it makes me feel more in control of my money and happy. So once all my money has been budgeted for over the month, I might see that I have £100 left over as opposed to being at -£230. That simple visual affect has relieved so much debt stress from me.

On top of that, the tools that Monzo offer, such as Pots and budgeting to categories, are a massive help.

I now treat my overdraft like other credit card debts. I pay a little bit off each month and that’s the only time I look at it.

Another debt hack I use is called laddering (I think)

So I’ve got all the credit card debts between myself and my wife, calculated which ones are interest free and which ones are not. Any that are not interest free we have moved onto other credit cards the do provide that deal.

We pay the minimum of all the credit cards but pay a bigger lump amount, say £400, towards the one which has the interest due first. Once that’s paid off we then move that payment to the next credit card that has the interest free ending, so for example another card that we’re paying £25 a month minimum would now be having £425 paid off per month till it’s gone. Then the third which might have £50 as minimum would then have £475 paid off per month…And repeat, constantly adding the minimum payments from the previous credit cards to the payments against new cards until eventually it has all stopped.

It’s a long process, but something that I have been very slow to realise as an adult is that saving any form of money takes time. As @patrice58 said above, we have lost self control, I also think we as a generation have lost patience.


Did you move you salary over to Monzo, out of interest?

Yes I did. I have a joint account with my wife that all our bills come out of so tbh the only thing I moved over was my salary and set up a direct debit to the joint once I’ve been paid.

Cheers for sharing!

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Anytime. I’ve made mistakes and will be open about them and any solutions I may stumble across so to help others. I take ideas from other people so it’s only fair to share. :smiley:

I’m just waiting for Joint Account pots and then think the wife and I will do the same thing! :+1:

Admittedly I wouldn’t use Monzo as a joint (sorry guys)

Me and the wife are with NatWest because the amount of cashback we get from bills that come out of it ranges from £5 to £10 a month.

For that reason alone, and the fact that they are not TSB (who we switched from), I am sticking with Natwest as our joint account.

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I should add a little about my financial story. I have never been good with money however have been lucky enough not to get into difficulty as a result. Mostly this has been due to always being able to find a job, keep a job or get a promotion when I needed to.

I went to university just after grants were abolished, so generated lots of debt just living. I came out from that experience with my “normal” being a current account with a large negative balance, a credit card at or close to it’s limit and no assets worth much.

I started work and setting myself up cost more money. A personal loan materialised to cover house deposits and buying a car. I was building more debt.

Buying a house in 2002 compounded my problems. At that time I was able to bundle all my existing debts into the mortgage as well as paying all the fees, costs and with no deposit. In hindsight this was a crazy idea, and how a 107% mortgage at 5.6% interest was a good idea I still struggle to understand.

In recent years it managed to complete step 1 of my plan, and realised I had a money problem. I always purchased first and then worked out how to pay things off. I always had credit card balances. I was always using my overdraft.

What really made it real for me was being made redundant from a job. I was very lucky. I had been with the company 1 year 10 months when the redundancies were announced. I would have received nothing other than 4 weeks notice. Thankfully the process was really slow and when the redundancy notices finally came through I had worked for the company 2 years and 2 days. I was paid a redundancy payment.

At this point I realised that having all that debt hanging over me was not sustainable, and I could only afford to buy mortgage, utilities and food (let alone anything else) for about 10 weeks. I started seriously looking at what I owed and how I was paying it back. Minimum payments in many cases, and lost of interest.

Once I had worked out all I owed I quickly realised that there were some good options I could use to improve my situation.

  1. 0% interest credit cards. I had managed to maintain a good credit rating so using these to consolidate a higher interest cards/store cards/other debts was very beneficial. I used the MSE to find the best options.
  2. I checked if any debt has early repayment penalties. compared these to the cost of the interest payments. looked for overpayment options to reduce the debt. Chose the most efficient way to clear things off.
  3. Sell or cancel what you don’t need. Gym memberships, clubs, charity donations, subscriptions. I cancelled them all. I have since signed up for some new ones but based on what I need and use. Many were definitely extras.

Unfortunately for me :monzo: has come along after I have managed to clear most of my debt however I can see how much it could have helped me see and maybe recognise the problems I had sooner.

Where am I now? I am nearly #FullMozno. My next salary will be paid into my Monzo account and I am starting to move Direct Debits (one at a time) over. I do not want my existing account closed so cannot use the switching service.


Thanks for sharing, I think a lot of people could relate to your story.

The best “debt hack” is financial education but that comes too late for some.

As much as he’s American and sometimes what he says isn’t applicable to the UK, Dave Ramsey has some sound advice. Paying off your small debts first is a good psychological step to becoming debt free.

Also, always have 3+ months minimum worth of savings to cover any emergencies


Different bank accounts really helped me get out of debt.

I’d have one for bills/credit card payments, one for my salary, and then one for whatever was left over which I was free to spend.

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I used Starling’s “scheduled payments to goals” feature and their overdraft to help me finally get on track to paying off my credit card debt. I set this up before you could schedule pot payments in Monzo.

As a freelancer, my monthly income varies massively. To cope with this, in the past I would use a credit card for most transactions, to avoid my bank balance getting low and things bouncing. But then I wouldn’t pay off the credit card and got into debt. Having a fluctuating income also makes it hard to schedule fixed payments to pay off any debt!

Goals to the rescue. With a decent overdraft (that I could offset with some money in goals that I’d been given for other things) this meant I could stop using my credit cards and start putting all transactions back on my bank account as it gave me much more flexibility with my fluctuating income and so reduced the risk of anything bouncing due to low funds.

This, coupled with the scheduled payments to goals feature, has meant I’m now able to commit to paying off a fixed amount from my debt each month, so much so that I’ve been able to set up these fixed payments as Direct Debits because I no longer have to worry about them bouncing. By scheduling a daily payment into a goal and then paying these direct debits using this goal, means I’ll always have the funds to pay them, and my balance decreases gradually over the month, instead of with big hits for each direct debit.

Several months in and I’ve still not had to use a credit card to pay for anything and all my direct debit payments to the cards have been paid each month without issue so my debt is acutally being reduced for once.

This would be a bit easier to achive with Monzo if they offered a larger overdraft and allowed you to offset it with pot funds, but should still be possible. Saying that, if you don’t have such a fluctuating income you probably don’t need the overdraft.


Great point. Many times the psychology of the problem is as big a part as the financial part of the problem. Feeling like you are able to “win the battle” is useful even if it only makes a small financial difference week by week.

This is a great dream. I now work in a well paid job (higher rate tax payer) and I still do not have that much in savings. In all honesty I am not sure it is realistic for anyone. Maybe this is just my mind wanting to spend any “spare money” which I may manage to accumulate.

This is definitely a good piece of the jigsaw of money management for me. Being able to separate “comitted spend” from other available money to ensure bills always get paid is a great hack. I am a massive advocate for Monzo to create the feature to pay Direct Debits from a pot. This would mean the money set aside to pay bills does not show in the available balance and with good management of income always be paid.

This is probably the hardest thing to deal with. Isolating income to pay for the critical bills as it comes in. Sounds like you did really well using the Starling features.


The best “hack” I have is simplify your finances. Have one account, a modern one like Monzo so it gives you proper spending analytics (and no bullshit fees).

Avoid subscriptions, direct debits, etc. You need to be in control and pay things when you want and can afford to, not when the company wants. If you’re in a bad place and can’t afford to pay all your bills this will also let you control which ones you want to pay (based on how much you need the service, what the non-payment penalties are, etc) instead of them being paid on a first-come-first-served basis until your money runs out and an actually important bill bounces.

If you can’t avoid subscriptions (because it’s the only option) then choose for the yearly payment option; this means you only get a surprise every year instead of every month. If you can’t afford to pay it in one go then maybe rethink if you really need it.

Go over your scheduled payments and see if there’s anything unnecessary. Charities, etc can go. If you’re in debt you definitely shouldn’t be giving away the little money you have for free. Actually, charity direct debits can go in any case, debt or not - make one-off donations instead if you really want to.

Anything that you do need, see if there’s another provider that can either provide you the same service for cheaper, or a better service for the same price (if you can’t pay less then you may as well strive to get more value out of that money). Avoid bundled deals like phone insurance, etc as often you won’t actually need it; and that’s the business model of those “deals”, these “perks” are more about adding an extra bullet point on a list so you think it’s a good deal when actually you don’t need it in the first place.

Oh and another mistake I see a lot of people make is the TV license. You don’t need it. It’s probably the worst deal in existence, paying a fee for the “privilege” of being blasted with ads 24/7 with the occasional bit of filler content. Netflix or similar is much cheaper and provides better value, not to mention the endless free entertainment you get on the Internet. You can also choose to put Netflix on hold if you are in a bad situation, where as a TV license is yearly; so you pay even if you don’t actually want to watch any TV for that particular period.

Don’t fall for the scams like cashback or similar perks from legacy banks; they’re a lie to get you to stay with them and end up getting hit with charges at their earliest convenience (and if you’re in debt you might very well end up with a bounced direct debit, etc). Being in control of your finances is worth way more than 20£/month worth of cashback.

Finally invest in yourself & your career and always strive to earn more money; this will allow you to pay off any debt you have and reduce your reliance on debt in the future.