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When you decide you’re really committed to changing your finances and paying off debt, it’s easy to become distracted, overwhelmed and simply lose interest. Paying off debt isn’t a quick fix, it isn’t something that happens overnight and it takes commitment every day to move towards your financial goal. Which means you have to say motivated when you’re paying off debt, which isn’t always easy to do.
My husband and I paid off over $120k of debt in less than 3 years. Did I stay motivated the whole time? Not at all! I distinctly remember a number of big spending spree’s that were part ‘I’m so over this’ and part ‘we deserve it’. And while they felt good at the time, all they really did was make me feel guilty that we had deviated from our goal.
Making a commitment to paying off your debt is a big mindset shift. It takes a lot of mental energy, but the feeling you have when it’s all gone is incredible. So many people discount the importance of mindset and finances but it is such an important factor.
Here’s how we managed to stay motivated when we paid off our debt (most of the time) and you can too.
1 – Get Clear On Your Goal And Write It Everywhere
Did you know that people who write down their goals are 40% more likely to achieve them than those who don’t? Amazing. Something so simple and so easy to do quickly puts you in a much better standing to achieve your goals.
You need to get super clear on your financial goals. Saying ‘I want to be debt free’ isn’t enough. You need to know exactly how much money you need to pay off your debt, how you’re going to get it and by when.
You might not know absolutely how it’s going to happen, but being clear on your goal and seeing it every day will mean you’re more open and receptive to ideas when they come.
I write my financial goals down everywhere. They are the screensaver on my phone, the password to my computer, I write them on the top of every page in my notebook and diary, I write it on my to do list and have even found myself drawing it on the margins of the newspaper as I was reading it at work!
Get clear on your goals and write it everywhere!
2 – Make Sure You’re Giving Yourself Enough ‘You’ Money
One of the biggest mistakes people make when committing to paying off their debts is believing that they can cut their budget right back to the bare necessities in order to pay the maximum amount off their debt. While this is great in theory, it’s often not sustainable and people become disillusioned with budgeting, saying they can never stick to a budget and then just give up on the idea of paying off their debt.
Sounds disheartening right?
It can all be mitigated by making sure you’re giving yourself enough ‘you’ money.
Now, I can’t tell you exactly how much ‘you’ money you need to stay motivated. For some it might be a smaller amount, for others, it might be a bit higher. There’s no right or wrong amount. It’s whatever works for you.
This is the money you will use to buy yourself any items you want that aren’t necessities (and despite what you may convince yourself, that pair of boots on sale isn’t exactly a necessity). This can also be the money you use to go out to dinner with friends, catch up at cafe’s or get yourself a massage.
3 – Reward Yourself
Paying off debt is a big goal. An amazing goal, but a very big goal. And when you’re chipping away at something so big it can be difficult to see just how far you’ve come.
In order to stay motivated, break your big financial goal into smaller goals and reward yourself when you achieve them.
For example, you may have a few smaller debts you want to get out of the way first, so work towards one at a time and treat yourself when you pay it off.
Keep in mind, treating yourself isn’t meant to put yourself back into more debt. My general rule for a ‘reward’ was that it would cost as much as I had been paying towards that debt for the pay period.
For example, if I was paying $200 a pay towards my credit card debt, then the pay period after I had paid the debt off would budget that $200 towards a reward (and after that, the money would be rolled into paying off the next debt).
This also meant that as we went along and paid off bigger debts and were paying more towards them, our rewards were bigger. Winning.
4 – Talk About Your Life Once Your Debt Is Paid Off
We spent many, many hours talking about what our life was going to look like after our debt was paid off. But it wasn’t a simple ‘oh that would be great’. We would get right into how it would feel coming home from work knowing that the money we had earned that day was ours to do with what we wanted and not pay towards debt, we talked about the places we would go, how it would feel to go to the butcher and buy the expensive cuts of meat instead of the cheaper ones…
One of the things I wanted to do was take my parents and my brothers out to lunch or dinner and then just sneak off and pay for everyone’s meal without them knowing. And guess what? That’s exactly what I did! And it felt so good.
Knowing what is waiting for you when your debt is gone is such a great motivator. Talk about it often.
5 – Surround Yourself With Like Minded People
Have you ever heard the saying that you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with? It’s pretty powerful. The people around us influence us in ways we don’t even realise.
Have a think about the people who are around you. Do they complain about being in debt? Do they try to keep up with the Joneses? Do they make you feel like you need to go out to fancy dinners or buy the latest items? Do they have a negative money mindset saying ‘I will never be out of debt’ or ‘I don’t earn enough money’ or the classic ‘I’m so broke’?
The people you spend time with will affect your motivation and your approach to paying off your own debt. This doesn’t mean you have to ditch your friends, it just means you need to seek out people who are on the same page as you so you can be motivated and encouraged by them.
The online community is great for this, there are so many forums and Facebook groups filled with people who are all working towards paying off their debts and becoming financially independent. You just have to find one that fits your needs and that you like and start spending some time there.
Staying motivated when you’re paying off debt doesn’t have to be a mammoth task. Being a little mindful and aware of the things that influence you, and how you can work your way around them, can mean that you (mostly) stay on track.
And if you do have a slip up or two (or a few more like I did), that’s okay. You’re human. It’s not the end of the world. Reevaluate your situation, work out how it happened, and keep on going. You’ve got this.