Anyone who has ever tried to pay off a large amount of debt knows exactly how hard it is to stay motivated. Not only do you have to figure out your initial strategy, but you also have to keep it going when you're in the middle of the process without seeing any real results.
When I was paying off my $40,000 of student loans, I battled with this all the time. My friends were passing me up in almost every way I could imagine. New cars, cool clothes, nice houses – you name it. I was still wearing shoes from college while driving a car with roll-up windows (and not to mention renting a room from my in-laws).
If you're dealing with motivation issues while paying off your debt – you're not alone. I have hundreds of thousands of readers right now that are in the trenches working on their debt too. I recently jumped into the free private M$M Facebook group and asked them to let me know how they handle motivation while they are tackling their debt!
1. Remember where you came from
“I pull out my budget spreadsheet from a few years ago and see how little money I made, and how much debt I used to have. It’s always motivating to me to see how far I’ve come.” – Malori
2. Make something you can visualize your debt payoff with
“A debt thermometer is a simple way to see your progress and reach a bit further. I tracked every payment and calculated the interest I saved with any extra money.” – Kevin
3. Use online debt payoff calculators
“Using online calculators to see how much my debt will actually cost me if I take my time paying it off always lights a fire under me to get it paid off ASAP.” – Benjamin
4. Keep track your net worth in real time
“I keep track of my net worth (with free tools like Personal Capital). It is incredibly motivating for me to see the overall improvement of my financial picture!” – Jon
5. Surround yourself with supportive people and online communities
“Surround yourself with the goal! I subscribed to community pages like M$M and several others so that even when I was mindlessly scrolling through Facebook, being debt free was still being pumped into my brain!” – Brittany
6. Get your peers excited about personal finance
“Lately, going through my debt journey I've been able to get a lot of people at work to join a similar debt journey. It's been exciting to see people bring lunch to work and share their small victories. This has been able to keep many on the same path and we all have stories to tell which is keeping the momentum going. Keeps the excitement daily which is a win for me also.” – Mindy
7. Keep your family updated on your progress
“Telling family and close friends about my debt payoff goals – they’ve held me accountable by checking in on my progress. And – my boyfriend is good about kindly reminding me that I could be putting more
money toward my student loans whenever I talk about buying things that aren’t a true need.” – Dora
8. Treat yourself to small victory celebrations
“We paid off $30k in about 2 years. We treated ourselves once a month to something small and kept a small amount per month for some fun/indulgences. My husband deployed during part of that time so I was motivated to pay off as much as I could and capitalize on the savings on food/gas. Honestly, the biggest motivator was freeing up our monthly income. We just got tired of spending money on debt, and now we can invest instead.” – Rachel
9. Physically write the debt payoff checks
“I don’t do auto-draft for anything. Every time I pay a bill or put money in savings it reminds me to be grateful that I have the money to pay/save and it makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something every two weeks when I get paid. It motivates me like crazy!” – Ashley
10. Take mini-vacations
“I'd go on a weekend mini-vacation or something. Get out of the situation temporarily and recharge. I did that from time to time when I was bummed out about being a grown man renting a room from my in-laws.” – Bobby (aka me, aka M$M)
11. Listen to financial podcasts
“Listen to podcasts. His and Her Money Show is really uplifting and positive. It pushes me along to hear about other people who are making it happen if I'm in a rut.” – Libby
Other great financial podcasts that I recommend to help you pay off debt:
12. Find free activities to do
“Go out of your way to find free or cheap adventurous things to do. My son and I went on a weekend retreat including white water rafting, because I search constantly for cheap things to do and sometimes I find great stuff.” – Tamara
13. Create room in your budget for fun
“We make it a point to budget fun things for us to do in order to keep our sanity and stay on track with our financial goals. A decently priced concert, date night or even an inexpensive trip to get away works well.” – Jeannie
14. Cry it out!
“A little ugly cry and scream is sometimes helpful for me.” – Laura
15. Take it day by day and realize that debt payoff isn't easy
“The best we can do is take it day by day. I gave myself a spa day at home yesterday for less than $20. I try to focus on the empowerment of paying off debt and early retirement. Another thing is just accepting how you're feeling. Some days AREN'T easy, and we can't beat ourselves up for that. You're not doing anything wrong by feeling discouraged once in awhile, that's part of the ebb and flow.” – Cara
Above all – you can't compare your situation to everyone else's
From the thousands of readers I've talked to over the past few years that are dealing with student loans, credit cards, or their mortgage – everyone has a different situation and starting point in life.
Some people will pay their debt off long before you even get close to finishing yours. Some will finish decades after you. That's OK!
What's important is that you start the process as soon as possible, and keep yourself sane until you're done.