If you've got a lot of debt to pay, it can be really hard to stick with it for the long term. Most people that "have debt to pay off" aren't just talking about one, single credit card with a $500 balance. Most of the time, it's thousands of dollars. Credit cards, car loans, student debt, mortgages. Big time balances.
So when your debt runs in the multiple thousands, how do you stay motivated when it's going to take time and effort to pay it all off? How do you keep yourself from giving up on your financial goals? Read on for some suggestions on how you can stay motivated when paying off debt.
Make your progress visual.
You know those giant fill-in thermometers when charities are doing fundraisers? Make one that shows how far you've come. It doesn't have to be big, though I know some people that put them on the side of the refrigerator. It can be in your journal or planner, or even something you stick on your bathroom mirror.
Add the debts up, and make that your goal, or the top of the thermometer. Then mark off some goals. Once you see some progress being made, it's visual proof that you're moving in the right direction and you're accomplishing something!
Figure out some small rewards.
Set some small goals, and when you hit them, give yourself a little reward. It's a small but meaningful celebration of what you can do when you put your mind on something. Maybe it's going a month without any purchases that weren't budgeted for. That's an achievement! Treat yourself to a trip to the fancy coffee shop or an ice cream, or maybe a new book or your favorite magazine.
It really doesn't have to be big. Just celebrate the win! Small rewards for progress are key in keeping you going. This isn't about depriving yourself, it's about the bigger picture - and you're allowed to feel good along the way.
Dream a little. Write it down.
What would you do if you didn't have your credit card debt? What would you do if you had NO debt? Would you be able to fund your kids' education? Would you take a trip, or upgrade your car? Would you move? What would that freedom feel like, and look like?
Now write it down. This could look like a simple list you post somewhere that you look often. It could also be visual. Cut out or print pictures of what this would look like. If it's a beach house or a Hawaiian vacation, clip some pictures and put them into a vision board. Make a Pinterest board that represents your remodeled home, or whatever it is you'd love to have. Having a visual of where you want to go gives you an end goal to strive for.
Be your own cheerleader.
Have you ever seen a really great quote, one that just inspired you? Find one and use it as a daily affirmation. Put it on a sticky note and put it on your steering wheel, in your wallet on your debit card, in your planner, on your mirror, etc. Heck, find a few. Give yourself some encouragement!
I'll start you off. Years ago, a woman shared this one with me, and I honestly have never been able to track down its author: "Don't give up what you want most for what you want in the moment." For years, it was on a sticky on the corner of my computer monitor. Just a little reminder... did I really need that afternoon stop for a latte, or could I make a cup of tea that wouldn't cost me $4? Whether it makes you stop to think about a choice before you make it, or it really revitalizes you to keep going, find something that will resonate with you and help keep you motivated!
Reward yourself for each debt paid.
I know we've already talked about little rewards. But those are for baby steps, for the habits and smaller goals. For each of your listed debts that you completely pay off, set a reward. This one will be more than that book or fancy coffee. As a part of you paying off a credit card or one of the cars, why not get a sitter and go out to a fancy dinner with your spouse? Get the steak, and drink the wine. You are working hard, and you deserve to celebrate that win. Just make sure you budget for the reward and it doesn't go on credit!
Don't compare your "messy middle" to someone else's end.
Your journey is not identical to anyone else's journey. So don't compare them. Stop looking at the brand new car your friends bought, or the giant house. Remember, you may only be seeing their "Instagram picture," and not what goes into that purchase behind the scenes. Your circumstances are different, and that's o.k.
Once you get through your messy middle, you'll come out on the other side. There is light at the end of that tunnel! Just don't be frustrated and lose momentum by focusing on what someone else is doing.
Focus on your own goals, and put one foot in front of another. You'll get there. Really, you will. Once you're past the messy, your "end" might look a lot different from theirs, anyway. So keep going. You'll get there, I promise.