I’m not going to lie, this week has been hard. I know.. 10 whole days in, and you’re already losing steam? I get it. Our whole house has been sick, which then required spending money on medicines and supplies for colds. Nothing tragic, just not originally budgeted for. The problem is that I am an “all or nothing” kind of gal. So, to know that we are already having to make tweaks to the original budget is not helping me stay motivated. I think that it’s easy to get fired up about the idea of being debt free. Being able to stay fired up long enough to accomplish it, is a whole other ballgame though.
I’ve spent some time today looking for inspiration and have come up with a list of ways to try stay motivated when you are paying off debt. I should also note, I already paid off one credit card this month! Granted it was a small balance, but hey, it’s something!
- Educate yourself. I signed up for a course from Lauren Greutman last December, called “The Financial renovation”. This was after having finished reading her book “The Recovering Spender”. The book spoke to me on a whole new level. After reading it, I knew that I needed to get a grip on my spending habits. I learned about the course shortly afterwards, and recommend it to anyone looking for a starting point in turning your finances around. This course inspired me to pledge to dump debt this year. There are several other books and sites I would recommend as well, I have included a list at the bottom of this post.
- Practice Patience. This whole process has to be looked at as “baby steps”. If you start to look at the final number you need to pay off, you’re going to get discouraged quickly. It likely took you years to get into this mess. It is going to take time to get out. Being impatient about paying off debt is a good thing on one hand. You may work harder than you knew possible to get out of it if you want it gone now. However, that can also backfire if you let it discourage you. You may decide that it is a task too great, and give up which is what we have done too many times.
- Make a visual goal tracker. Okay, so this may seem silly, but my husband doesn’t typically pay the bills, I do. So while he knows the plan, and what’s going on it is usually easier for him to give in and spend. Afterall, he isn’t the one crunching the numbers. I just made a simple thermometer goal sheet. This has a line on it for each individual account that we want to pay off. As I pay on it, I am filling it in. This is on our refrigerator, along with our financial goals for all of us to see regularly. You can even just write all of your debts on a piece of paper and cross them out as they’re paid off. Anything you can do to be able to, at a glance see how far you have come.
- Set small goals and celebrate them. Set smaller goals and celebrate when you achieve them. Rather than focus on just the end game, break up your debt into smaller chunks. For us, our first goal is to pay off all of our cards with one lender. I was able to negotiate lower interest rates on those cards, but only for 7 months. They are also our smallest balances, so we want to work hard to get rid of these first. Once those are paid off, we are celebrating with a dinner out. Nothing fancy, but it will be the first dinner out all year. Of course we will include that money in our budget for that month! You need to feel like you are making accomplishments along the way if you’re going to stick with it. Figure out what milestones are going to work for you, and focus on those one at a time.
- Follow someone else’s journey to be debt free. One of the ways I stay motivated is to see how far others have come in their own debt free journey. Jessi Fearon from The Budget Mama has paid off $55k in debt on one income! Six Figures Under is another great blog about a family who actually moved into their parent’s basement to lessen expenses and tackle debt at an insane pace. Reading about others that have found a way to eliminate debt is a great way to motivate yourself by seeing that it IS possible.
- Develop new habits. Living debt free is going to mean not doing a lot of the things you used to. Including swiping your credit/debit card for purchased. Learn to use cash. You’ll be surprised how much harder it is to justify some purchases when you have to see the cash leaving your hand versus swiping the card. Make a budget each month. Even if you don’ stick to it 100% in the beginning, keep at it! You will get better at knowing how much you need for each category, and soon it will just be part of your routine.
- Start selling your stuff! We all have too much crap. Period. You would be surprised how many things you can sell just from your own home. eBay, Craig’s List, even Facebook are all great ways to sell the things you don’t need or want. Take all of that extra money and use it to pay off your debt even faster. You can compete with your spouse or even yourself from month to month, to see who can make the most money each month selling things around your home. You also get the added bonus of a less cluttered home! (This one is my personal favorite!)
Resources that I recommend:
Paying off debt is for sure a marathon not a sprint. It is so easy to get discouraged in this process. If you have worked to pay off debt, what things did you do to stay motivated through the process ? How long did it take you, and how much debt were you able to pay off ? I’d love if you’d comment and tell us! We need all the inspiration we can get.