Getting Out of Debt: Selling Stuff

A quicker way to see long-term results


It was a common practice in the days of pirates.

If you were being chased by a ship that was trying to capture or kill you, you'd dump everything that wasn't vital over the side so you wouldn't be as heavy. A lighter ship goes faster, and your odds of escaping go up.

Around here, we replace the pirate ships with cheetahs, but the urgency to get away is just as intense. If your spending threatens to catch up with you, one of the best things you can do to get out of debt is start selling stuff you owe money on. Not only do you get rid of the debt, but you free up cash for monthly budgeting.

Don't sell the sentimental items and family heirlooms—you can't get those back. However, don't use that as an excuse to avoid selling a toy you like. The prosperity of your family is riding on your willingness to sacrifice "stuff" for a little while so you can become debt-free.

Dave's general rule of thumb is that if you can't be rid of an item's debt (except the house) within 18 to 24 months, sell it. So if you have a car payment that can be paid off within two years, it's fine to keep the car.

But what if you got so gazelle intense that you decided the car or boat just had to go? How much quicker could you be out of debt if you realize that a rental property you owe money on isn't necessary to life on the planet? The jolt of momentum to your debt snowball would be huge.

If you have a $10,000 car note that will take you 20 months to pay off, you might be putting $500 a month on the loan. If the car is worth $7,000, you could sell it, then borrow the $3,000 difference (plus another $1,000 to get yourself a beater car) from a local bank or credit union.

Now your debt would be down to $4,000, which you could pay off in eight months. With that sell—that one fell swoop—you have moved up your debt-free timetable by a year. Wow!

If you are on Baby Step 2, take a serious look at what you can sell. The sooner you are out of debt, the sooner you can stop walking the plank.

Reader Comments (12)

I love this advice, because it lets me keep my car I really like!! Really started in this month once I convined DH to follow the plan & we'll be debt fee come Nov this year!!
Member at 8:07 AM, January 11 2012
My husband just sold his quad. He was bummed about it, but it really is helping us reach our goal so much faster. That payment alone frees up $170/month that can no go towards something else.
Member at 10:35 AM, January 11 2012
We are in the process of selling lots of "little" stuff as we are moving out of state. Craigslist is where we are selling and so far so good. We won't have near as much to move which should also get us a smaller van to rent.
Member at 4:02 PM, January 11 2012
I put my swiss watch up for sale the day I decided I had had enough of this debt ridden life. Just sold it yesterday to add to the Feb 1 extra payment. Have other crap for sale as well, and for the first time, I'm more excited about not having debt than having the stuff.
Member at 1:01 PM, January 30 2015
Mkeimm - did you do ok when you sold lots of little stuff? I am trying to determine what to sell. We are thinking about having a garage sale. We don't have big things to sell. I do have some jewelry I can sell but when I tried to have them appraised to sell, I couldn't get much out of them. I am looking for more suggestions!
Member at 10:33 AM, February 01 2015
Sell it all... little stuff, big stuff, cheap stuff, expensive stuff. I've sold a truck, a boat, a trailer, and 2 quads in the last 9 months. I don't miss any of it. We're on our way to paying off $400k worth of debt (rental & home) within the next 5 years- almost 1/4 of the way there just since I've been following Dave the last 12 months. You can do it! Sell your junk! Don't look back!
Member at 5:42 PM, February 21 2015
I don't mind selling a car we owe money on but what do you do when it's worth less than you owe? It just doesn't seem beneficial to get rid of a car that you will still have to pay on. We don't have big ticket items like boats or 4 wheelers - this is our second car, which we use nearly every day.
Member at 9:48 AM, February 25 2015
I share your concern Jamie, I am probably about $10K "upside down" on my Harley and probably another $8K on my pickup. This is another 18K that it doesn't make much sense to get another loan out for. I guess 18K is better than about 43K I owe on both. If I could get a loan from the bank for about 20K that would finance the negative equity plus leave about 2K for a beater. Would a bank finance that much?
Member at 6:14 PM, February 25 2015
What is the best way to sell stuff? We have a boat and a travel trailer we want to sell, but haven't had luck with Craig's list yet.
Member at 6:34 PM, March 20 2015
I owe 16,000 on a car that is worth about 12,000. Is it really smart to just sell it for the 12,000 and be left with a $4000 debt. I would really like some opinions please. I'm in desperate need to get rid of this car.
Member at 12:47 AM, May 04 2015
I currently has a used chevy truck that I owe about $5500 on and a older volvo with 250k miles that is paid for. I want to sell the volvo and get something a little newer under $7000. Tell me what you think?
Member at 7:40 PM, May 20 2015
I'm upside down on my car too. I owe about 8K +/- on it but it runs good. I think I'm going to stay the course and work towards a snowball plan to pay it off rather than sell it at this point.
Member at 8:19 PM, June 20 2015