Paying down debt can be a challenging yet rewarding journey to go on. On one hand, you have to change your lifestyle and free up more money to put toward your debt. On the other, the sacrifices you make will help you get closer to obtaining more freedom and control over your money.
With each debt payment you make, you unlock more of your hard-earned money and more choices for your future. However, staying motivated during your debt payoff journey is easier said than done.
There may be times when you’ll have to say no to happy hours after work, family vacations, and possibly even restaurant meals in order to save more money to put toward debt. How can you stay motivated during the whole process and perhaps even enjoy the journey? Here are some tips that can help.
Have a Clear Why
It’s important to figure out why you want to pay down your debt as soon as possible. Get really specific and clear on your why to make sure it’s a reason that really means something to you.
Your why may be so you can start a side business debt-free and spend more time with your family
Or, maybe you want to be able to stay at home with your kids and you can’t do that because of debt.
Perhaps you want to travel more during the year or pick up a costly new hobby.
Whatever your reason why is, use it to motivate you. Your debt is an obstacle that standing between you and your why. Once you get rid of the debt, you’ll have more possibilities and options in your life.
You can also refer back to your why during those days when you aren’t feeling too motivated to stick to your debt payoff plan. Sure, you may have to stay in on a Friday night and do something free at home but just think about how much fun you’ll have when you’re sipping a pina colada on the beach on your next debt-free vacation.
Set a Debt Free Date
This is totally up to you, but you may want to put a date on the calendar for when you expect to become debt free. This gives you something to aim for and serves as a reminder that your sacrifices are only temporary.
You can plan how you will celebrate becoming debt free by your desired date and even start a countdown which will motivate you to stick to your repayment plan.
Understand that your debt free date may change since life is unexpected but knowing that your aiming toward something specific can be very motivating.
Make It Visual and Track Your Progress
Sometimes we set big goals but don’t make any effort to track our progress. This is a big mistake because acknowledging your progress is a great way to stay motivated. Seeing that you’re getting closer to your goal with each payment can give you that extra push to keep going.
Try to make your debt repayment goal visual by doing things like creating a vision board, putting up inspiring pictures around your home or workspace, or even using a debt-free chart. A debt-free chart is a fun and active way to track your progress by shading in a portion of the image each time you make a debt payment.
DebtFreeCharts.com offers free graphics that you can print out to start tracking and visualizing your progress. This is a small action you can take that often provides a big motivation boost.
Set Smaller, Attainable Goals
This is a great trick to keep in mind for any goal that you set. Your brain is not wired to respond well to overwhelm. This is why a big goal like paying off $50,000 of debt may seem super daunting.
You know that paying off the debt is the right thing to do. However, you may not feel super excited about it or motivated to keep going.
Consider breaking the goal down into smaller, more attainable chunks. For example, instead of saying that you want to pay down $50,000 of debt ASAP, start by committing to pay off $5,000 during the first year. That breaks up to only around $417 per month.
You can also commit to putting any extra windfalls, work bonuses, and gift money you receive for the year toward debt. Say that adds up to an additional $2,000 which means you’ll have paid off $7,000 of debt in one year. This puts a sizable dent into your balance and still allows you to enjoy some aspects of your current lifestyle.
Don’t forget to celebrate milestones. Sometimes we do such a good job of pointing out our flaws and mistakes that we forget to acknowledge our wins. Instead of beating yourself up about going over budget at the grocery store, give yourself some grace. Realize that small mess-ups are going to happen and it likely won’t through you completely off track.
Instead, take the time to stop and acknowledge your progress especially when you hit certain milestones. This is why breaking up your debt repayment goal is so important.
If you make an extra payment toward a balance or reach the 25% mark on your debt free chart, celebrate this major win. You don’t have to go overboard and take the family out to eat at a $300 restaurant, but maybe you get yourself an extra trinket that you’d had your eyes on or take an evening off from your side hustle to watch movies and hang out with friends.
Knowing that you can take mini breaks to celebrate during your debt repayment journey will give you something to look forward to.
Embrace the Journey
Finally, we recommend that you embrace the journey. Being in debt doesn't have to be your future, but it is your reality right now. Personal finance is a marathon and not a sprint. This means you'll be in different places of your journey at different times but choosing a perspective of gratitude can change your entire outlook.
Don’t beat yourself up for past money mistakes you made. Instead think about how your debt may have helped you and how this experience will benefit you in the long run.
Create a realistic budget that allows you to make payments toward your debt. Don’t forget to budget for fun and entertainment as well so you’re not completely deprived.
Realize that unexpected expenses and circumstances will pop up along the way. You may fall off track but that’s okay because you can always start again and overcome any setbacks.
Tell family and friends about your debt payoff journey so they can offer support and embrace the process right along with you.