Millions of Americans struggle with debt, and racking up $50,000 in credit card debt isn’t unusual. Though common, debt can be a significant source of stress and financial hardship.

The good news is that no debt is permanent. Whether you’re $5k or $50k in debt, it’s possible to construct a debt repayment strategy to dig yourself out.

It may not be easy, though. It takes discipline, sacrifice, and lifestyle changes beyond just skipping that expensive coffee or grocery delivery service to pay off any debt.

But before you get all caught up in personal transformations, here’s your first step…

Step 1: Calculate your monthly debt payments

The first step to paying down debt is to understand what you owe. Knowing where your money goes each month will help you understand your bottom line and the funds necessary to reach your goal.

To calculate your monthly debt payments, add up the minimum payments on all of your monthly debts. This includes credit cards, student loans, car loans, personal loans, and any other type of debt you have.

Also, tally up your non-debt payments like rent, utilities, groceries, and child care. You might find expenses you can scale back on or eliminate to set aside more money for debt repayments.

Step 2: Choose a debt repayment strategy

Once you know how much you need to pay each month, you can choose a debt repayment strategy. There are two main debt repayment strategies: the debt snowball method and the debt avalanche method.

Debt snowball method: Going against traditional financial rules of thumb, the debt snowball method recommends paying off debts from smallest to largest, regardless of interest rate.

This method is designed for those who are struggling to stay motivated because it simply shows quick progress.

Debt avalanche method: The debt avalanche method involves paying off your debts from the highest interest rate to the lowest. This method can be helpful for people who want to save money on interest in the long run.

With both strategies, you’ll also need to pay the minimum due to keep all of your debt accounts in good standing each month.

Which debt repayment strategy is right for you?

The best debt repayment strategy for you depends on your unique circumstances and financial goals. The debt snowball method may be a good option if you struggle to stay motivated. Seeing small gains can provide extra incentive and motivation to keep going with your debt repayment.

If you prefer to take the long view and want to save money on interest over time, concentrate on the debt avalanche method instead.

You could also consider a debt consolidation loan or 0% introductory balance transfer credit card if you need to lower your monthly payments or need to hit the pause button on high interest rates.

Step 3: Create a budget to pay down your $50,000 in debt

Once you have chosen a debt repayment strategy, it’s time to create a budget to help you reach your goal. A budget is a plan for your money that shows how much money you expect to earn and spend each month.

To create a budget, list all of your income sources and expenses for the month. Be sure to include any recurring income, not just your monthly wage from work.

Child support, alimony, side hustle income, everything counts.

Be just as thorough on the expenses side, too. Even if it’s only a coffee a few times a week, it adds up over the course of the month. You might be surprised to see how much you spend on small-ticket items.

The key to budgeting is to tweak your expenses and set limits for yourself so that your outputs are less than your inputs. The goal is to spend less than you make, so make cuts where you can and be creative.

You can commit to eating out less, go through and cancel unused, recurring subscriptions, or shop around for cheaper insurance rates.

Step 4: Find extra money to pay down debt

In addition to cutting back on expenses, you can find extra money to pay down debt by getting a side hustle or selling unwanted belongings.

It seems like everyone has a side hustle these days, and in the gig economy, there is no shortage of options to make a little extra cash on the side.

Driving for a ride-share company, freelancing, or starting a small business can all be lucrative side hustles and might make the difference in meeting your goal and falling short of the mark.

If you have unwanted belongings, you can sell them online or at a garage sale. You can purge your wardrobe, sell off clothes your children have outgrown, or declutter your home and earn extra cash to pay toward your debt.

Step 5: Stay motivated and on track

Paying off debt, especially over $50,000, can be a long and challenging process. And all too often, people give up because they hit a rough patch and lose hope.

How do you stay motivated? Think of it as a marathon, not a sprint, and set realistic goals that don’t overwhelm you right out of the gate.

For example, don't try to pay off all of your debt at once. Start with smaller benchmarks, like paying off one debt at a time or paying down a certain amount of debt every month.

Above all, keep track of how much of your $50,000 debt you pay off each month. It can be motivating to see those balances drop even a little.

And don’t feel guilty about celebrating a little when you hit a milestone. Treating yourself to a night out or small splurge is a great way to keep up the momentum and reward yourself for your hard work.

You can overcome your debt

Owing $50,000 in debt may feel debilitating, but it doesn’t have to hold you back. With hard work and diligence, you can pay off even large debts in a relatively short amount of time.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to family and friends for moral support or talk to a financial advisor for more guided help in your journey to be debt-free.