There are proven methods to stay motivated to pay off debt. Paying down debt sounds simple, but like most things, it’s not as easy as it seems. If you have a large amount of debt, you might be in it for the long haul. It took me over two and a half years to pay off $72,000 of school, credit card, a car loan, and other debt. There were days when I wanted to give up, but I used several of these methods to stick to my plan and I have no regrets. Debt-free living is so worth it. These methods will keep you super pumped to continue paying off your debt.
Remember why you wanted to pay off debt in the first place
- Make a list of all of the reasons why you started paying off debt in the first place. Don’t just think about it. Write it down the old fashioned way with plain old paper and a pen. If you’re like me and you already have a list, ignore it. Take the time to physically write them out again. It will clear your mind of what is holding you back and will help you get refocused.
- Write down your breaking point, or as Dave Ramsey might say, “your sick of being sick and tired” moment. Most likely this moment was uncomfortable, embarrassing, and gut-wrenching enough to force you into action. Draw on those feelings again to rev up your motivation.
- Sit down with your spouse or partner and discuss your reasons. Sometimes you just need a little reminder and encouraging support.
Surround yourself with support from the debt-free community
- Find debt-free individuals that motivate you and follow them on social media.
- Read debt-free blogs like this one! Subscribe to the newsletter at the end of this blog post to stay informed when a new post goes live.
- Watch You-Tube videos and subscribe to blogs. I particularly love Budget Girl. She chronicled her debt-free story from start to finish, and now she’s debt-free and killing it.
- Watch or listen to Debt-Free screams from the Dave Ramsey show. I was obsessed with these. I made it a priority to listen to at least one each day during my hour long-commute to and from work.
Use visual reminders that will keep you motivated to pay off debt
- Track your progress with debt-free charts. Check out debtfreecharts.com. She offers free charts that track your progress. These charts were so motivating for me that I paid for the all-access pass.
- Put sticky notes with motivating quotes everywhere. I placed them in my planner, in my wallet, and on my computer monitor at work.
- Reward yourself with something small for the progress you’ve made so far. It doesn’t matter if you think you haven’t made any significant progress. The mere fact that you have decided to tackle your debt and face it is an accomplishment in itself. Splurge on something small, $20-$50 depending on your budget. It’s better to reward yourself and take a mini-timeout from paying off debt. It’s better to stay in the game, rather than giving up completely.
- Set up a rewards system. I wish I would have done these more frequently. We only celebrated when we paid off our credit card (our 2nd to last debt in our debt snowball) and when we paid off our entire debt balance. I just didn’t see the point of celebrating our wins as frequently, but I regret that now. A year and a half in, I was burned-out, frustrated, and ready to give up. Setting up a simple rewards system would have helped.
- Plan your big reward for paying off all of your debt, and start saving for it. It will give you something to look forward to.
- Find non-monetary rewards that will keep you motivated. Here are some suggestions:
- Schedule a hike at one of your favorite spots when you pay off a certain amount.
- Pick one of your favorite books that you own. Read a chapter every time you pay off a certain amount. It will be fun to see how long it takes you to finish and how much debt you’ve paid off.
- Pick a tv series that you can binge-watch for free online. Pick a certain amount of show episodes that you can watch after you pay off a certain amount of debt.
Get rid of temptations
- Avoid social media if it’s a trigger point for you. While I was paying down debt, I unsubscribed to all of the beauty gurus that I loved. Watching their YouTube videos just made me sad that I couldn’t buy all of the new and exciting products they were trying. Avoiding social media will not last forever. This just might be the time in your life that you need to step away from it. Now, I’m able to watch YouTube videos and not feel tempted to buy everything.
- Figure out what your temptations are. I stopped going to Target and the mall when I was bored. I didn’t even realize that I used shopping as a form of entertainment.
- Avoid media with commercials or ads that easily tempt you. Think back to a time when you found yourself doubting your debt payoff plan. Did it happen after you realized that you couldn’t buy something since you were paying off debt? Retrace your steps. Did a clever commercial or ad sway you? If so, figure out how to avoid it. Here are some of the things that I did:
- Watched Netflix instead of cable to avoid commercials.
- Avoided magazines after I realized how it triggered me. I felt deprived when I couldn’t buy the latest fashion and jewelry trends. I started reading books instead.
Look for non-monetary progress and wins
- Write down daily, weekly, or monthly wins. I remember how excited I was when I realized that I could walk out of Target without buying anything. It wasn’t intentional. They simply didn’t have what I wanted. I walked out without feeling deprived or feeling sorry for myself that I wasn’t able to buy something.
- Don’t get stuck on the numbers. Look for non-monetary progress and wins like:
- Eating out less
- Cooking more at home
- Feeling healthier
- Less financial stress
- Spending more time with family
- Cleaning up and getting more organized
- Learning patience and self-restraint
- Increased self-confidence
- Learning how to live intentionally
Get a quick win
- Sometimes, all you need is a quick win to get your head back into the game. Scour your house. Have a garage sale or sell your items online.
- Look for big-ticket items like extra cars or electronic devices that you’re no longer using.
- Review your monthly bills again. Maybe, you can cut out something that you weren’t willing to do early on. Call your cell phone or cable provider and see if there are ways to lower your bill.
- Try a no-spend weekend challenge. Sometimes, you just need to get a quick win instead of focusing on how much more debt you have left.
Dream about your debt-free life
- Dream about your life debt-free. What does your life look like? Give yourself free rein to dream about how your life will change for the better. Don’t just think about the things you’ll purchase or vacations you’ll go on. Dig deep and dream about how you’ll be less stressed financially with money saved up for emergencies.
Check your budget to see if you’re allocating too much to pay off debt
- I know it may seem odd that checking your budget is listed, but let me explain. You might be creating such a tight budget that the word “budget” has become a hated word in your household. If this is you, ease up and increase your budget items for some fun personal spending. Freeing up some extra personal spending money might help you feel less deprived during your payoff plan. If a plan is too restrictive, you’ll never be able to stay on course.
- My hubby and I decided to allot $50 to each of our personal “fun” spending budget line items for most of our debt pay-off plan. Let me tell you that $50 doesn’t going very far, especially when you want everything in sight like I did! We ended up increasing it towards the end to keep us motivated and on track, and it worked!
Change your scenery
- If you’re sulking right now reading this post, get up. Take a walk, go to the park, or just go somewhere that’s not part of your normal routine. Don’t sulk at home like I did! It just makes things worse.
- Schedule a frugal day trip or take a mini inexpensive weekend getaway if your budget can handle it. You sometimes just need a change of scenery to change your perspective.
Remember that your debt took time to accumulate
- Rome was not built in a day. Chances are your debt took months, years, or even decades to accumulate. It will take time, patience, and diligence to pay it off too. Paying off debt is not easy and it takes time, but it is so worth it in the end.
Stop focusing on how much debt you have left. Focus on positive financial habits.
- It’s easy to get discouraged if you still have a lot of debt left to pay. You might even find yourself ignoring how your life has changed. Here are some positive financial habits that you should focus on:
- You create monthly budgets now, and actually track and stick to them.
- You communicate more with your spouse or partner about your financial goals.
- You’re on the same page financially with your spouse or partner.
- You’ve stopped comparing yourself and keeping up with the “Jones” family.
- You actually have a financial plan now.
- You’re not afraid when your car breaks down since you have an emergency fund to cover it.
- You don’t have to buy the newest gadgets.
- You’ve learned patience and self-control.
Get mad at how much interest you’re paying
- Look at your last credit card or loan statement and see how much of your last month’s payment went to interest. This instantly got me so riled up that it kept me in the game. I didn’t want to keep throwing that money away each month.
- Calculate how much you’re paying daily in interest charges. Here’s a daily periodic rate calculator to help you. When I realized I was wasting $4-$5 per day on credit card interest, I was mad and fired up to pay it off as quickly as possible!
Just gut it out. You don’t have to be 100% pumped up to pay off debt 100% of the time
- I leave you with this strategy since sometimes nothing will work to snap you out of your funk. Don’t give up! This is normal. Lock yourself in your room. Cry it out if you have to. Let the frustrations out. You’ll feel better after.
- Struggles are sometimes the cornerstones to some of our biggest breakthroughs. Just think about this for a second. You probably wouldn’t have stumbled upon this blog post if you weren’t struggling right now. It’s okay if you’re not 100% pumped, 100% of the time. This is all part of the process.
Final Thoughts on Ways to Stay Motivated to Pay Off Debt
Paying off debt can take months or even years to accomplish. It took my family two and a half years to pay off $72,000 of debt which was done all on one income. I would love to say that the whole process was easy and painless, but that would be a lie. These proven methods helped us stay on track and I know it will help you too. Don’t give up! A debt-free life is attainable for everyone if you stick with it. Your future self will thank you for sticking to the plan.
Please share in the comments below if any ‘of these methods has helped you, or share any tips that you might have! I would love to hear what you did to stay on track to pay off debt.