I came back from a financial blogging conference this September where I rubbed shoulders with some of the biggest names in personal finance blogging. Some of them make enough money in a single month that they could completely wipe out all of my debt in one fell swoop!
I also got my very first payment from this blog last month—$2.45, and that was after 11 months of blogging.
At that rate, I’ll have completely paid off my debt using my own blog income in another 30,919 years.
Sometimes I wonder, what’s the f#$%#ing point? After all, I could honestly not pay my debt and still survive. I wouldn’t die. This isn’t the first time I’ve felt like this, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.
I’ve been able to pull myself back up from my bootstraps each time I lose motivation to pay off debt, thankfully. But it’s a problem that a lot of people face, and some people really do give up hope and resign themselves to a life of debt.
It doesn’t have to be that way, though. Here are some of the tips and tricks I’ve used over the past year that have really helped me when I’m feeling low:
Break Your Debt Down Into Manageable Chunks
It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you look at how much debt you’re in—trust me, I know! We’re in $82,741.90 worth of debt (cue panic attack)!
But here’s a trick: don’t look at the big number all at once.
Break it down into chunks—whatever seems reasonable to you: $1,000, $500, $50.
Focus on paying down just one chunk at a time. Don’t worry about coming up with a check for $82,741.90; worry about coming up with a check for $25 or whatever you can manage.
Related post: Big Financial Goals Too Much? Try Chunking Your Money!
Fight your battles one at a time to win the war.
Switch To The Debt Snowball Method To Get Some Quick Wins
There are two widely-used methods to pay off your debt: the debt snowball and the debt avalanche methods.
The debt avalanche method works best in the realm of logic and facts; the debt snowball method works best in the realm of emotion and human fallibility.
Related: Zero Down Your Debt: Reclaim Your Income And Build A Life You Love by Holly Porter Johnson and Greg Johnson
As a scientist, I like to pride myself on logic and facts over waffling human emotion, and so I’ve planned to pay off my debt according to the debt avalanche method.
Still, when I’m feeling down about how my progress is going, I often consider switching to the debt snowball method just because I know it’ll make me feel better.
If you’re feeling down and want some quick wins, go for the debt snowball method! It’s not like it’s going to hurt you—you’re not taking on more debt, for Pete’s sake!
Read Stories About People Who Have Paid Off Debt
It seems easy to write off people who’ve paid off their debt because they’re not going through the exact same struggles as you.
I often see stories from people and think, “Yeah, but they make way more money than I do.” Or, a parent might think about me, “Yeah, but you were able to do all kinds of side hustles to pay off debt because you didn’t have four kids to take care of…”
There will always be excuses you can give yourself about why they could do it, but you can’t.
So, here are some stories from people across a range of scenarios that have paid off debt. If they can do it, you can too—you just might have to get creative!
The Pizel family paid off $109,000 of credit card debt.
Joe Mihalic graduated with $101,000 worth of student loan debt from Harvard and paid it all off!
Eric and Erika paid off $45,000 of debt within four years of getting married.
Melanie paid off $81,000 of student loan debt, while unemployed and on food stamps at times.
Stephanie’s family paid off $144,000 of debt in a little over 4 years.
Email Someone Who’s Gotten Out Of Debt
Reading stories from people who have gotten out of debt can be inspirational, but it can also be easy to write these off in the same way you write off stories of marathon runners and BASE jumpers.
Those people exist, but I don’t know any of them (hint: you probably do, but no one talks about their money situations!).
So, get to know people who have paid off debt! Find someone online that resonates with you and email them. Ask them what they did when they lost motivation. Ask them for any tips or tricks.
Pick their brains about what resources they use, what blogs they recommend, what their favorite color is. It doesn’t matter so much; just reaching out and receiving a personal response from another human being who knows what you’re going through can make a world of difference.
Join A Support Network
You’re not the only person going through this, even though it might seem like it. So, reach out for support!
There are a ton of places where you can find others dealing with the same problems:
- Facebook groups
- Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University
- Debtor’s Anonymous
Write down something like “I will get out of debt” on a piece of paper. Every day, repeat it to yourself. This isn’t some fairy hocus-pocus; if getting out of debt is what you really want to do, reaffirming that trains your brain to focus on doing it. That neural circuitry will help carry you through the tough times when it seems hopeless.
Do this when there’s some quiet time with no one else around. I say that because if I started talking to myself all the time (“I will be an adult today and not laugh at fart jokes”), then Zach might start looking at me as if I had grown an extra arm.
Do it when you can take yourself seriously and you’re not worried about how others will perceive you. It’s weird, but it works.
Record Your Progress
Sometimes it helps to look at how far you’ve come, even if it’s just a little ways. I keep track of my debt in a spreadsheet and every time I make a payment, I enter in the new principal balance and it spits out “% Paid Off.” I actually get excited to make loan payments now (even if I’m just paying the minimum), because I get to see the “% Paid Off” column tick ever upward.
For even more nerdy debt-payoff fun, check out the free Undebt.it program that’ll calculate all sorts of fun stats like your debt-free date, how much you’ll pay in interest, and how much you’ll save by paying it off early.
If spreadsheets aren’t your thing, try keeping track on a piece of paper. Make a series of boxes representing $100 (or $1,000, or $50, etc..) chunks up to the amount of debt you have, and fill a box in each time you’ve paid off that amount.
Make an old-school thermometer like we did back in elementary school to track fundraisers. Put together a chain of construction paper links and pull one off each time you pay off a chunk of debt.
Any way you slice it, keeping track of where you are and how far you’ve come in your debt payment journey can help.
Give Debt The Middle Finger
When you’re tired of being sad, it’s time to get mad. Debt is holding you back from the things you want to do. That’s not cool.
It’s OK to get mad at your debt, as long as you channel all of that rage and fire into something you can act on.
So, I give you permission: get mad. Get angry. Get fired up. Write a breaking up letter with your debt. Burn your monthly debt statements (after you make sensible photocopies for recordkeeping, of course). Hold an Office Space-esque debt-crushing party.
When you make a commitment to pay off your debt, you’re in it for the long haul. It’s normal to feel like giving up at times. But push through it—someday you will be debt-free. I promise.
What do you do when you lose motivation to pay off debt? Leave a comment below!