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Are you in the midst of paying off your debt? Even more, are you struggling to stay on course?
It’s so hard to stay patient while paying off debt. It’s uncomfortable, and it feels like it takes FOREVER to get through.
Plus, you think of so many things you want to do that cost money while you’re paying off debt.
So how do you stay patient while paying off debt?
1. Stop the comparison game
It’s dangerous enough to do this in everyday living. But it’s especially dangerous to do this while you’re paying off debt!
The biggest culprit is social media. You open Facebook and see that some of your friends are having a great trip in Japan right now. Everyone is all smiles, showing off their food and fun.
I wish I could do that.
That phrase probably goes through your head several times while scrolling through their pictures.
It’s hard to see that and not feel down about having to go down to bare essentials to pay off your debt.
The comparison game is a dangerous one while you’re trying to make progress on a financial goal. And it could really hurt your progress.
Before you know it, you’re either saying “I deserve to take a trip too!” and pausing your debt-free journey. Or, maybe you like to do retail therapy when you’re down, so you spend hundreds of dollars on things you don’t need.
Something I had to do was limit my time on social media. Because I compared constantly too! And if I did see something that I started to compare my life to, I quickly closed it down.
2. Put up a debt payoff progress chart
This was huge for us!
I’m a visual person, so having something up that I could look at daily to remind myself of our progress helped me a lot. We used a sheet of paper and drew a long rectangle for each debt. Every time we made a payment (even the minimum payment), we colored in a portion of each rectangle. That was up on our fridge so we would see it every day.
And since you can update it every time you get paid, it’s constantly changing. You get to see the needle moving every payday!
Related reading: How to Track Debt Payoff
3. Hang up something to remind you of your “why”
I talked about having your “why” in 8 things you need to know before starting your budget.
It’s your reason for becoming debt-free and working toward financial freedom.
Again, I’m a visual person, so hanging something up that reminded me why I was going through this painful process was helpful. It gave me the little push I needed to keep going.
A couple of big “whys” for us were saving up for our children to go to college without any debt, traveling to wherever we wanted as a family.
It helps to have a few “whys” and perhaps rotate out your visuals.
4. Remember why you started
It goes hand in hand with your “why”, but is slightly different.
Your “why” is what you want your life to look like when you’re financially free.
The reason you started could look a little different.
Maybe you were scared, broke, and living paycheck to paycheck.
Or maybe you saw how much money you were throwing away to compound interest.
Whatever reason actually got you started, don’t forget it. You could even go so far as to journal the things you were feeling before you started your debt-free journey.
Those emotions will give you the fuel you need to build your fire even more!
5. Give yourself milestone treats
These are important!
It can feel monotonous to chug along, day by day, and almost ignore these milestones.
And just creating one big treat for the end of your debt-free journey might not be quite enough motivation to get through the smaller steps.
Sit down and plan out when you’re going to treat yourself along the way.
Will it be when you’ve paid off your first two debts?
Or maybe when you’ve paid off the first $5,000?
Plan out some milestone treats so you have little victories (well, they’re not so little, they’re pretty huge) along the way. They don’t have to be big treats; it could just be going out to a restaurant for the first time in a while. But as long as you are planning something, it should help you with motivation.
6. Find free (or very cheap) things to do for fun
Not everything that’s fun takes a lot of money, or even any money at all.
Find some free things to do in your community that get you out and having fun. Check out your city’s Parks and Recreation department, things going on in your neighborhood, game nights with friends, and other things that don’t cost much.
It’s important to get out of the house and do something fun!
7. Read about others that have paid off their debt, and what their lives look like now
There’s nothing better than a good rags-to-riches story to get your blood pumping.
Find others that have completed what you’re doing now. See what it was like for them, their struggles, their triumphs. And more importantly: what their life looks like now that they’re debt-free.
Your debt-free journey might not look exactly like theirs, but the important part is to see that it can be done. And it can be done by people from all walks of life!
Related reading: 10 Inspirational Debt Payoff Stories to Boost Your Own Motivation
8. Declutter your house and find things to sell
This one is killing two birds with one stone. Take some time to go room by room in your house to find what you don’t want anymore. And what you can sell to help pay off your debt!
Here are a few things you sell:
- old phones, tablets, TVs, computers
- video games
- outdoor equipment (chairs, landscaping materials, even nice stones/rock!)
We did this, and it was a welcomed distraction to declutter our house. Plus, we threw some extra money at our principal. You can’t beat that!
Related reading: 20 Platforms to Get Cash For Your Clothes
9. Keep a budget journal to show the details of how far you’ve come
A budget journal can be super powerful. And it goes along with #4 in this list, since you can write down some emotions along the way to help inspire you.
It’s a great way to track your progress, find things that worked and what didn’t, and to remind you of all you’ve been through to get to where you are.
It doesn’t have to be super fancy (I really like this one), just something that you can tailor to budgeting and financial tracking.
When you’re having moments of doubt and lack of motivation, it will help to look back at how much you’ve paid off, and how little you have left to go to become debt-free!
Related reading: 11 Best Budget Binders You Need to Rock Your Finances in 2021
How can I avoid being discouraged while paying off debt?
Being discouraged is inevitable, unfortunately, when paying off debt.
Even though you’re moving the needle with every payment you make, it’s still easy to get discouraged.
So what can you can?
First off, remember just that: YOU’RE MOVING THE NEEDLE WITH EACH PAYMENT YOU MAKE! It might be a small amount sometimes and bigger amounts other times, but you’re still moving the needle.
My favorite thing to do when paying off debt is to have a debt payoff tracker. We personally had one on our fridge, and every time we made a payment on our debt, we colored in a little piece of the tracker. It’s amazing how that little action gave us hope!
You can use some sort of debt payoff app, a spreadsheet, or just a piece of paper you can color in. But that action of recording your latest debt payment does something pretty powerful in your mind.
Should you save while paying off debt?
That’s such a great question. Because on one hand, you want to pay off your debt as quickly as you can. On the other, you feel like you should at least have something saved up.
When we were paying off our large mound of debt, we felt most comfortable following Dave Ramsey’s principles. So, that meant that we first saved up a modest $1,000 emergency fund before we started paying off debt.
It’s not very much of a cushion, but it’s meant to be that way. The idea is to not get comfortable with a large emergency fund, but to have a smaller fund and pay off debt as quickly as possible so you can build a larger emergency fund!
My recommendation here would be to have a small emergency fund before you start paying off your debt.
And that’s it.
No saving for big purchases, vacations, or large emergency funds. Just save up a small emergency fund and get your debt paid off as quickly as possible!
Related reading: Why Do I Need an Emergency Fund?
That’s how to stay patient while paying off debt!
Do you have any tips to stay motivated while paying off debt? Have you paid off your own debt and struggled with something in particular?
Share with us in the comments!