How to Pay Off Debt Fast: 5 Tips for Physicians


When you first began to imagine your life as a doctor, you probably didn’t see it as a hefty load of bills piled up on your desk. Yet, here you are, juggling student loans and other expenses and trying to figure out how you ended up living paycheck to paycheck after 8+ years of medical school.

The good news is that you’re a smart, determined individual, and you can take some of the drive you learned through med school and apply that to your debt concerns. With a little studying, some financial education, and a plan to move forward using these five debt pay-off tips, you’ll be on the course to economic freedom quickly.

1. Evaluate Your Expenses

The first step is always the most eye-opening: evaluating where your money is going.

You might think you know what your expenses are, but once you sit down with your bank statement and look at what you’re spending each month, you’ll likely see money disappearing that you didn’t even notice.

Print the past three months of your bank statements and go through them one at a time. Use the highlighter method to get real with your spending habits by creating a list of expense categories and coloring them each in a different shade. Here’s an example:

  • Rent/mortgage and home insurance (yellow)
  • Auto loan/insurance/fuel/maintenance (blue)
  • Student loans/credit cards/other interest-bearing debt (pink)
  • Health coverage/medication/supplements (orange)
  • Food/internet/phone/household essentials (purple)
  • Non-essentials such as dining out, monthly streaming subscriptions, etc. (green)

Once every item is highlighted with its specific color, add the total expenses for that category. Then, evaluate where your money is going so that you can make a plan to move forward with your debt payoff.

2. Cut Overhead Expenses

Without completing the first tip, this one can be a challenge. Where can you cut expenses if you don’t know where your money is going?

But with a solid analysis of your spending habits, you might be aware now that your “innocent” habit of stopping at your favorite coffee shop each morning is costing you more than your car payment.

Remember, for nearly (over) a decade, you lived frugally. Yes, you were likely ready to reap the benefits of those years of resident living, but you don’t have to go all in and live beyond your means.

You’ll know your non-essentials best, but for most people, easy ways to cut back include:

  • Shopping around for compatible but cheaper insurance or phone coverage
  • Getting rid of a few subscription streaming services or cable
  • Meal planning to avoid expensive restaurant visits
  • Investing in your favorite coffee bar products at home to save money buying them at the store
  • Trading in a newer car for something reliable with a lower monthly auto and insurance payment

If you can avoid the pit of comparing how you think others think you should live or keeping up with the Joneses, you can cut your debt quickly.

3. Downsize Your Home

Did you get in over your head while shopping for putting a roof over it? Many people, especially first-time homeowners, don’t realize the expenses involved in owning a house.

What sounded like a reasonable monthly mortgage payment likely skyrocketed over the years as interest rates fluctuated, homeowners insurance changed, and other variables kicked in. Now, your house payment could feed a family in a third-world country for a year, and you don’t need that much space.

Maintenance and home repair are another expense on your shoulders as a homeowner. These fixes can get pricey, cutting into savings or preventing you from applying extra to your debt.

Even if you’re renting, you may have “too much house” for your basic needs. If so, consider downsizing and using the extra money to eliminate your debt. You can always buy the house of your dreams later once your other obligations are taken care of.

4. Use a Debt Payoff Strategy

Now that you understand where your money is going and how you can save a buck here and there, it’s time to implement a debt payoff strategy. There are various methods depending on your level of debt and how quickly you want it paid off.

One such method is the Snowball Method, made popular by financial expert Dave Ramsey. Through this strategy, you’ll make a list of the outstanding debts you have, from least to greatest, without concern about monthly payments or interest rates.

When you have this list compiled, you will continue making minimum monthly payments to all your creditors, but any extra funds you have will go towards the lowest debt. As that’s paid, you’ll take that monthly payment and apply it to the next lowest, and so on, in a snowball that eventually eliminates all your debt.

5. Consult With a Financial Planner

The final tip — and the one that will show you you’re moving into financial stability — is to meet with a financial planner. This can be done as early as when you’re budgeting or after you’ve paid off some debt and have a little wiggle room to invest in savings.

Financial planners, as explained in this article by OJM Group, are more than investors. They discuss your economic and retirement goals, explain the details involved that you might not have thought about, and offer suggestions on how to reach your target.

The right financial planning partner will more than pay for itself — it will ensure your money works for you and not the other way around.


Getting out of debt fast is possible, as long as you’re willing to make some changes to your lifestyle. These can be temporary at first, but you may find that you enjoy having the extra money that comes from being a little more frugal through your new journey to economic stability.