When you first start paying down debt, it can feel like you are fighting an uphill battle. This is especially the case for large amounts of debt in which only the interest is being paid rather than the principal. How can you stay motivated when it seems like you are barely making a dent? Not only do you have to make the first step in figuring out your debt-payoff strategy, but then you have to determine how to remain committed to your goal. Staying the course might be difficult at first, but with time, determination, and a few pointers, you will find that paying down debt can be one of the most freeing and motivating experiences of your financial life.
Aim Small, Miss Small
I borrowed this little phrase from The Patriot. Unrelated to finances in origin, this phrase applies to debt-payoff in the sense that if you concentrate on a precise area of your target, you can still hit your overall target even if you miss! Let’s say you have $5,000 worth of credit card debt. Instead of telling yourself that you will pay off all of your credit card debt in two months and possibly feeling overwhelmed, you focus on reducing your spending and applying more money towards your balance in manageable amounts. Whether you add an extra $25 or $250, each additional amount helps to pay down your balance. When you aim small, you are still working towards the larger goal of paying down your debt.
Find Your Support Group
When things get tough, it helps to have someone in your corner. If you are blessed to find yourself with a group of people cheering you on, then you can learn from and lean on each other. While it helps to know a financial advisor or two, the internet and library offer great tools to teach yourself about personal finance. I encourage conversation between friends and families alike when it comes to learning about finance. Furthermore, when you surround yourself with others who are also on a debt-free journey, you tend to feel more excited and empowered about your financial goals. Your support group should challenge you, hold you accountable, motivate you, and celebrate you when the occasion arises.
Listen to Financial Podcasts
Stay informed and continue to learn while on the go. Whether you’re commuting to work or flying the friendly skies, you can keep yourself in tune and motivated with financial podcasts. These podcasts offer a convenient way to keep your financial well-being at the forefront, while also introducing stories of encouragement, useful tools, and different methods in debt-reduction. Check out Dave Ramsey, explore the world of Bigger Pockets, or dive into our personal favorite, Listen Money Matters, for a little financial education!
Journal your post-debt dreams or create a vision board of your life after debt. Seeing your dreams laid out in front of you keeps you focused on the life you want. Create an itinerary for your next big vacation. Get a jump-start on your kid’s college tuition. Purchase that classic car. Plan for an entire year of travel. Upgrade your wardrobe. It might seem silly to write out your craziest dreams or cut and paste pictures to a poster board, but in the end, it will help you visualize your debt-free life!
Celebrate Your Accomplishments
Life can get crazy busy, especially when you’re hyper-focused on increasing income, budgeting, and saving. It is easy to overlook small accomplishments, such as bringing your lunch to work or coming in under your monthly budget. Sometimes, when you overlook the small accomplishments, it can be easy to overlook the big accomplishments, especially if you have a larger goal ahead. Perhaps you have just paid off a $4,000 balance on a credit card. Instead of acknowledging this feat, you immediately turn your attention to paying off your $20,000 student loan. After the student loan, you focus on saving for a down payment for your first home. If you don’t celebrate your paid off credit card, and just move on to the next goal, you might get bogged down and disappointed that you didn’t enjoy yourself and the journey a little more! Treat yourself every once in a while. Whether it’s a dinner celebration, night at the movies, or a homemade cake, you deserve to celebrate yourself. Give yourself a good pat on the back and stay focused on living your freedom!
Start a Side Hustle
There is no harm in creating multiple streams of income. It’s up to you to determine how much work you can handle. Bringing in extra cash offers additional padding to your budget and allows you to pay down debt faster. While it may be exhausting to find the time and energy for another line of work, it is rewarding and motivating to see the extra money go towards your future.
Stop the Comparisons
Do not compare your story to others. As Neil Barringham illustrates, “The grass is greener where you water it.”. Focus on you, where you are, and where you are headed. It’s incredibly helpful and encouraging to have a support group you can learn from. However, you cannot compare your journey to others as the circumstances are never alike. Be curious, do not judge, and be open to learning. Life is trial and error. What may work for you, may not work for others and vice versa. Your story is yours.
Paying down debt is not easy. Creating debt is much easier, but far more detrimental to you and your family. When you owe payments, you rob yourself of the potential to grow and protect your future wealth. A debt-free life allows you to live the life you want.
How do you stay motivated while paying down debt?