How to Stay Motivated to Pay Down Debt
It can be easy to get derailed on a debt-reduction journey. Check out these tips for staying motivated to pay down your debt.
Maybe you recently lost your job or had an emergency pop up. Or you were busy trying to keep up with the Joneses and, before you knew it, you’d accumulated significant debt. No matter what may have led to the current state of your finances, know that it is possible to reduce your debt and get them back on track.
If you're ready to tackle debt that has piled up, here are a few tips to help you stay motivated to stick with your repayment plan for the long haul.
Get an Accountability Partner
According to research conducted by the Association of Talent Development, making a conscious choice to do something gives you only a 25% chance of success. Telling someone else you're going to do it increases your odds of succeeding to 65%. But when you have regular check-ins with an accountability partner, the likelihood that you'll achieve your goal skyrockets up to 95%!
So, why does working with an accountability partner work? The theory is that, if you have to report your progress to someone else, you're more likely to think twice about making decisions that could set you back. So, for example, if you spend less than you budgeted for groceries, knowing that you’ll be reporting your actions to your accountability partner, you should be more likely to use the money you saved to repay your debt rather than, say, buy a new pair of shoes you don’t need.
Track Your Progress
If you've accumulated a significant amount of debt, paying it off will probably be more like a marathon than a sprint. The reality is that it could take years until you reach your goal of being debt-free, which could be a bit disheartening if you let it. After the initial momentum of chipping away at your debt wears off, it can be easy to focus on how much further you have to go—and how overwhelming it seems.
Instead of looking ahead at how much you still need to pay off and getting discouraged, instead focus on where you started so you can see how much you've actually accomplished. And don't forget to celebrate small wins along the way.
Remind Yourself Why You’re Paying Down Your Debt
Do you want to give your kids a better future, retire while you're young enough to enjoy it, or stop lying awake at night worrying about money? No matter what your reason for reducing your debt, it's important to remind yourself why you're choosing to tackle it now and to embrace the sacrifices you’re making for a better future. Focusing on your reasons can help motivate you to keep going even through periods when you start to doubt yourself.
Automate Your Finances
There are several good reasons to automate your finances, including the fact that it can help ensure your bills are consistently paid on time, which can help improve your credit. It can also save you time each month because you don't have to write checks, schedule payments, or transfer money between accounts.
But, if you're serious about paying down debt, perhaps the biggest benefit of putting your finances on autopilot is that it contributes toward keeping your repayment plan on track. When you automate your monthly payments, there's less temptation to use the money for something else because your payments are scheduled and your funds are committed.
Splurge a Little Every Now and Then
Sticking to a strict budget with no wiggle room for the things you love can quickly become a drag. And, if you’re always sacrificing and feeling the pinch, it can be more difficult to stick to your budget and repayment plan in order to achieve your goals.
So, when you create your repayment plan, build in little splurges intermittently. You'll probably want to keep your splurges small so you don't derail your efforts and add more debt. But planned splurges give you something to look forward to now and then, and they can help you avoid blowing your budget because you’re feeling deprived. So, if you’ve been diligently sticking to your repayment plan and chipping away at your debt, go ahead and reward yourself with a small purchase that brings you some joy. Just make sure it won’t derail you from your plan and prevent you from achieving next month’s debt-reduction goals.
Seek Inspiration From Others
When you're watching most every cent you spend while the people around you are going on vacation, buying new cars, or eating out all the time, it can feel like you're alone in your quest to eliminate debt. Rest assured that you are not. There are lots of people just like you who are either working to become debt free or who have been where you are now and succeeded in paying off their debt.
Consider reading books, checking out websites or listening to podcasts about personal finance. These resources often give detailed accounts of the steps others took to dig themselves out of debt, which could help inspire you or offer tips you might be able to use on your debt-repayment journey.
If you have debt, unless you win, earn, or inherit a large amount of money in a short amount of time, there’s usually no quick fix for becoming debt free. It takes time, effort, dedication, and persistence. Knowing that it’s ultimately worth it to eliminate your debut—or at least make it more manageable—can serve as inspiration to stay on your journey. Tackling your debt could help improve your financial health as well as your mental and physical health by reducing stress created by being in debt.