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Most New Year’s resolutions last a month, at best. According to an article from, 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by February. Paying off debt can take months or even years. Tackling debt takes dedication, knowledge, and most of all time. I paid off $72,000 of debt in two and a half years. In my first year of tackling debt, choosing the word intentional, helped me pay off $26,000 of debt. Here’s why you should choose one word to help you pay off debt.

Why Choose One Word to Help You Pay off Debt?

Choosing one word focuses on a skill or an attribute. Resolutions fail when we don’t take the time to pinpoint the reasons why we’re in debt in the first place. Question your relationship with money. What skills or habits do you need to learn to help you pay off debt? Focusing on one word helps you weave it into your life and face what needs to be done.

With any challenging goal, creating new habits and incorporating lifestyle changes are a necessity. Important steps like saving money, living frugally, and creating a monthly zero-based budget are some of the habits that will help you pay off debt.

Choosing one word for the year directs your thoughts, actions, and decisions towards paying off debt. When I chose the word, intentional, my attitude shifted. It changed my relationship with money. Every decision was questioned. Was I being intentional with my money? Am I living my life intentionally so I can eventually be debt-free? Am I intentionally taking the steps that will help me avoid debt?

Steps to Choosing One Word

Take some time to choose your word. Jot down the first words that pop into your head when you think about becoming debt-free. Don’t overthink it. Just write them down.

Here are some questions to ask yourself.

  1. Why do you want to pay off debt?
  2. What is holding you back from paying off debt?
  3. What obstacles do you expect to encounter while paying off debt?
  4. When you’ve achieved a goal in the past, what skills helped you achieve it?

Look over your list of words and the answers to these questions over the next few days. One of the words will stand out more. Choose that word and focus on it for the rest of the year. Keep your list handy. You can refer to it next year when you pick another word.

One Word Pitfalls

Choosing one word can sometimes seem overwhelming. Several words may come to mind when you think about debt. Don’t get distracted. Avoid these pitfalls:

Not picking a word

Don’t get so caught up on finding the perfect word. It’s important to pick one and start incorporating it into your life. Action over perfection is the goal.

Not using your word

Think about your word every day. Make it a point to reflect on how you have incorporated your word at the end of each day. What accomplishments did you achieve? What obstacles did you face? Learning how to incorporate your word takes time, but you need to make it a priority.

Not picking a word that helps you stay focused on paying off debt

Choose a word that will motivate you to get rid of debt. If your word doesn’t have a direct relationship to how you will pay off debt, it won’t help you.

How to Include Your Word into Your Life

Your word will guide your actions and decisions. Incorporating it into your life and keeping it at the forefront of your mind is vital to your success. Here are a few ways to incorporate it into your life.

Use visual reminders

  1. Write your word on two small sticky notes. Stick one note where you’ll see it every day. Stick the other note in your wallet, so you see it every time you open it. When temptation hits, you may think twice when you see your word.
  2. Find or make your own wall art with your word on it. Place it on a wall or on your bedside table where you’ll see it every day.
  3. Write your word on a rock with a permanent marker. Place it on your desk, in your car, or anywhere else that you think may help you.
  4. Put your word on your phone or computer home screen.
  5. Write your word in your monthly planner or organizer. Create a bookmark or page marker with your word on it. You’ll see it every day when you’re planning out your day or checking off your to-do list.

Think about your word daily

  1. Start a Google Word doc, create a list on your phone, or start a journal. Make it a habit to end your day by writing how you incorporated your word that day or what challenges you faced. Document your success, fears, and failures. You’ll celebrate your wins and learn how to release what is holding you back. It’s also a great way of memorializing your journey. When you’re struggling, read through your list. Let it be the motivation to help you stay on track.
  2. Find a certain time during the day when you have time to yourself. Make it a point to think about your word. What has happened during the day when you thought about your word? What do you have planned for the rest of the day? Will I face any obstacles? How can I use my word to overcome them?
  3. What daily habits do you need to incorporate to pay off debt? Find simple ways that you can incorporate them into your life. You may need to stop eating out so much. A simple daily habit might be to pack snacks in your purse if you’re going out. Remind yourself to eat before you run errands. Use your word to remind you to do these things. After a while, these habits will become second nature.

Incorporate your word into your monthly and weekly goals

  1. Create monthly goals centered around your word. My word, intentional, helped me break down how I was going to pay off debt. Thinking about your word only takes you so far. Take specific and measurable actions. Break down your goal into monthly actions of how much I wanted to pay off that month. This lead to other monthly goals like creating a zero-based monthly budget to help me achieve it.
  2. Create weekly goals that center around paying off debt and reaching your monthly goals. To find the money to pay off debt, in the beginning, was difficult for me. I had to learn how to be intentional on what I spent my money on. I learned how to track my spending and use cash envelopes to save money. Some of my weekly goals include meal planning, tracking my budget, and a weekly recap of our finances with my husband.

List of words to help pay off debt

Here is a list of words that may help you on your debt-free journey.


This was the first word that I chose when I started paying off debt. Staying intentional created a mind shift that helped me pay off $26,000 of debt in one year. Intentionality not only helped me pay off debt, but I learned what was important to me and how to pay for it.


This was the word I chose for 2019 when I finally paid off $72,000 of debt. Paying off debt was not easy. After two years of sacrificing and cutting back, I started losing my drive. Using the word “conquer” motivated me to push through the final months when I wanted to give up. Instead of focusing on how tired I was of living so frugally, I became pumped up knowing that I was going to conquer debt later that year.


This is my word for 2020. I am working on funding my three-month emergency fund, saving for my daughter’s wedding in 2021, and saving for my retirement. Learning how to save is one of the reasons how I got out of debt. If you save and stop living paycheck to paycheck, credit cards and loans become a thing of the past. You’ll have the money already saved up when an emergency comes up.


This was the first word I ever chose when I first started picking one word back in 2013. Believing in yourself is difficult if you don’t have the self-confidence and conviction to make it happen. Before I learned about Dave Ramsey and the debt-free community, I believed that I would always have a school loan payment. I didn’t see how I could pay it off faster. Learning to believe in yourself and trusting your instincts sounds easy. You have to find the courage in yourself to know that you can do anything you put your mind to.


It takes pure grit to tackle debt. You may have a large balance and a long road ahead of you. Perseverance may be a word that will help you stay focused when you want to throw in the towel.


Paying off debt takes strength. We want instant gratification. Debt helps us get what we want, when we want it, even when we can’t afford it. Strength will help you ignore these temptations and stick to your journey of paying off debt.


Some people hate the word budget. A budget may bring up negative connotations like restriction and deprivation. You may think it’s too difficult, but a budget is simply a spending plan. You tell your money where to go, instead of wondering where it went. I would not have accomplished my goal of paying off $72,000 of debt without budgeting. Read this post on how to create a zero-based monthly budget.


This was my word of the year in 2015 before I started my debt-free journey. Paying off debt requires focus. You’ll be tempted to stray off the path. Becoming debt-free is not normal in our society. Friends or family will question your new debt-free lifestyle. Stay focused and do not let temptation or distractions stop you from becoming debt-free. You may be your own worse enemy too. Stay focused on why you’re paying off debt in the first place. Don’t let your fears or frustrations stop you from staying on track.

Final Thoughts about Choosing One Word

Focusing on one word will help you battle through your emotions and external temptations. Since 2013, I have chosen one word each year. When I started paying off debt aggressively in December 2016, I realized that my word for 2017 had to help me stay focused on becoming debt-free. Choosing the word intentional spurred me on to pay off $26,000 of debt in that first year. I challenge you to choose a word this year. You’ll be amazed at how your mindset, attitude, and daily habits will change for the better. Happy Choosing!

Please share your word. If you’re struggling with picking a word, share which ones you are thinking about.

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