It can be really easy to feel defeated when working through a monstrous pile of debt. I can remember sitting down with our finances one day and realizing it was going to take us years to pay off the debt we owed – and that didn’t include our house. It was discouraging to say the least, but once we made a plan and started working it, the goal seemed nearer than it first appeared and now we are ending our debt journey (except the house).
So how can you find the will to keep going when you get discouraged by your debt? Here are a few things to keep in mind and a few things that can help to motivate you.
1. The Sacrifices Are Totally Worth It
It’s hard to give up things you love like going out to eat or to the movies. But when you are focused on seriously getting out of debt you forgo those things, unless they are in your budget. I know sometimes we get to the end of the money in our envelopes and it feels like we never have any money. And we don’t have much that isn’t going to debt. So we try to find free or cheap things we can do with our kids that are still fun. For instance, the Nashville Symphony had a free day of music and we went downtown and took advantage of that. Our oldest son is musically gifted and plays the violin amazingly well at 6 years old. The kids really loved it and they even had an Instrument Petting Zoo where they could try out all the instruments! Only cost to us was gas to get there.
You have to want it really badly to keep going when it gets tough. Remember Dave Ramsey’s saying “If you will live like no one else, later you can live like no one else.” Make the sacrifices now and you won’t have to make them later in life.
2. It Will Take Time
You didn’t get into this debt situation overnight (well, at least most of us didn’t), so you can’t expect to get out of it overnight, either. Sure, there are ways to help speed the process along, but usually there is not a quick fix. Remind yourself that it just takes time.
If you find yourself unmotivated by long-term debt goals, try breaking them down into smaller goals. That way you will feel small “wins” instead of waiting for the big payoff. For instance, if you owe a very large credit card sum, break it up into smaller chunks and celebrate when you reach each new goal.
3. You’re Already Doing Better Than Most People
Most people are in debt up to their eyeballs and aren’t working a plan to pay off their debt. They are getting deeper in debt while you are climbing out! Don’t be fooled by appearances. Just because someone looks well-off doesn’t mean that they are. They could be borrowing from one card to pay another all while wearing expensive clothes, driving expensive cars, and living in a fancy house.
According to the book The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J. Stanley, people who have money often live in middle class neighborhoods, drive used cars, wear simple watches, and buy ready-made clothing. Most people who look wealthy actually aren’t.
4. You Are Learning Lessons You Can Pass On To Your Kids
Think of all the things having debt has taught you. No, they definitely haven’t been fun, but they have helped make you who you are. It is important that we teach our kids how to handle money so they don’t make the same mistakes we have. Hopefully you now have a plan in place to help dig out of debt and are learning how to make your money work for you.
It’s so easy to fall back into old habits. You have to constantly apply your life lessons to stay out of debt. I know several people who have filed bankruptcy and then went on to get credit cards again as soon as they could and went right back to being in credit card debt. Don’t do it! Don’t be those people! We are guilty of paying off a few thousand dollars in credit card debt and then finding ourselves back at the same place soon. It’s so easy to get into debt, but much harder to get out. Be careful!
5. You Will Get There
When you get discouraged, remind yourself what you are working for. There is nothing like the feeling of being debt-free. We are still working on our debt, but since we are so close we are really seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and being debt-free is right within our grasp. Even that feeling is amazing!
It’s hard when you aren’t seeing progress, but just break it down into those smaller goals and keep getting excited when you reach them. It can really help to make your goals visual, either with a poster of how much you are paying off, or a picture that motivates you. There’s a reason places raising money use big posters where they color in how much money they’ve brought in – it motivates people! Use the same principle to motivate yourself to get out of debt. Remember: It’s not forever. You will get there. Just keep working your plan.
Another thing that can help keep you on track is to keep reading and learning about finance. Sure, it sounds boring, but it’s actually not. I love to reread my favorite financial books and they really motivate me. My two favorites (although totally different perspectives on building wealth) are Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover and David Bach’s The Automatic Millionaire. They both make great reads. Read other financial blogs, listen to podcasts, watch financial videos – anything that keeps you on track and motivated.
Above all, don’t give up! Have any questions or ideas for when debt gets hard? Leave a comment below!