If you’ve ever had some kind of debt, you know staying motivated to pay it off can be incredibly hard. Whether it’s a small balance you wish would just disappear on it’s own, or a huge balance that causes you stress, it can be easier to avoid it than stay upbeat about paying it off.
It can also make you want to just put your head in the sand (which is a mistake). Debt is a downer, but you can stay motivated to pay it off.
I had my student loan debt hanging over my head for the first four years out of college. I was (and still am) a low income earner, and paying off my debt while juggling the finances of adulthood was really difficult at times.
Occasionally, it felt like debt would always be a part of my life. Making minimum payments meant there was very little progress month to month. Earning a small income meant there was rarely extra money for my loans. It felt like a trap, and it was tough to think positively about the situation.
However, I knew I wanted to be debt free more than anything else in my life. As hard as it was sometimes, I knew carrying around my debt would only continue to make things hard in my life.
When I thought about trying to buy a house or spending time traveling extensively with my debt burden, it would make my stomach churn. So I decided to get really motivated and pay it all off as quickly as possible. And I’m debt free today! Here are my tips to help make it happen for you.
1) Share Your Decision With Friends and Family
I was open about my commitment to becoming debt free with my family, friends, roommates, and boyfriend. It was one of the biggest factors to my success. My friends are great people who want to hang out with me. Once I made the decision to save all my pennies and throw them towards debt, those hangouts necessarily changed.
Instead of going for dinner and drinks, we would make dinner at my house. We’d do movie nights in or attend free things around town. I still go to free yoga on Tuesday mornings with a friend of mine!
By sharing what my financial priorities were, my friends didn’t feel offended when I turned them down for an expensive outing. They knew what I wanted and they supported me in it. They also offered encouragement and lots of love for me.
It was great to be able to say “I made a big payment this month!” to a friend and have them celebrate with me. Don’t let your debt be a secret that you’re ashamed of- instead, share it with your circle and let them in on it.
2) Find the Fun In Things
Changing your habits can be really hard. Instead of thinking of debt payoff as a period of depriving yourself, think of it as a time where you’re redefining fun.
If eating out is the biggest area you need to cut back on, make learning how to cook at home fun. Invite friends over to share the workload and the finished meal. Put on some music and pour a glass of wine. Accept there will be mistakes and have fun with it!
Similarly, developing brand new interests can be really fun and a great change of pace. I was never that into yoga, but when I started looking for free exercise options I stumbled across a free weekly class. I decided to take it with a friend of mine and it’s been great!
I really like the work out, the atmosphere of the class, and I like spending time with my friend. It’s opened my world up, for which I am happy and grateful.
3) Plan an Awesome Debt Free Future
I used to day dream about all the things I would do when I was debt free. It totally ran the gamut, too. Everything from world travel to buying name brand peanut butter again. I told myself I was sacrificing in the short-term for a better long-term.
And that’s exactly true! Not only did it help me when I felt frustrated with my debt situation, but now that I’m debt free, I’m getting some of those things! With the weight of debt lifted from my shoulders, I’ve removed the guilt and anxiety of spending on things other than debt. Those dreams I used to have are becoming my reality.
Ask yourself what you want most out of the next few years. Do you want to get married and have your dream wedding? Do you want to travel? Are you trying to buy a home? Find the bigger picture and start working towards that. Every dollar of debt you pay off puts you closer to that dream.
Keep the dream alive and pay off all your debt! Make a vision board or stalk Pinterest. Your dream will become real someday: let that motivate you.
4) Read Success Stories
I was (and am!) very into the personal finance blogosphere. I love to read about people who are or were on their own road to debt freedom. You are not alone out there. There’s a million people in the same position as you and lots of them are sharing their stories on the internet.
As you have highs and lows, so do they. I found it to be a great source of motivation and also support. You also learn valuable tips and tricks from them.
Most importantly, you learn that you’re part of a bigger world. That there are others out there trying to do the same thing as you. That when you make a misstep, you’re not the only one. That when you are successful, you are following in the footsteps of other awesome people.
Don’t give up on yourself. It may take a hot minute to pay off your debt, but you can absolutely do it. Stay motivated and get through it!
How do you stay motivated to pay off your debt? Have you struggled with having your eyes on the prize?