If you are in a debt slump, check out these 19 ways to stay motivated and start crushing your debt today!
Paying off debt can be a long and hard process. For some, it could take years to become debt free (it took me 7+ years to pay off my six figure student loan debt).
While on your journey to debt freedom, it’s only natural to have highs and lows.
The highs are great because your motivated and excited, and it seems like the debt just melts off.
But the lows are another story. Sometimes it seems like that balance isn’t getting smaller. The first few years after graduating college, I had $1200/month payments and only a few hundred dollars were going to the principal – it was so discouraging!
You feel like you are sacrificing so much, and aren’t seeing any results.
But these slumps are normal. It happens to everyone, especially those with lots of debt or low income. It takes a long time to get out of debt, but it’s so worth it! You just need to find ways to motivate yourself when you are going through a rough patch.
Here is a list of all the things that I did to motivate myself at certain points during my debt payoff journey.
1. Treat yourself
Everybody has to do it. We are trained to work for rewards from a very early age. The trick is to not treat yourself all the time…
There are many different ways to treat yourself, and you just have to find one (or a few) that work for you. Some suggestions:
- Every $1,000 of debt paid, you go on a celebratory date
- Each month that you stick to your budget, you indudge with a fro-yo
- Every debt that is fully paid, you can spend $100 at the mall
- Every 10 lunches that you bring to work, you can go out to eat once
2. Create a debt free sign and hang it on your fridge
There’s nothing more motivating than seeing your progress every day. Check out my free Debt Snowball Tracker (it’s one of the three worksheets you get if you sign up below). Grab your favorite markers. Hang it on your fridge so every day you are reminded of how much you’ve accomplished!
3. Start reading money blogs
This was my DAILY motivation throughout my entire debt free journey. I honestly don’t think I could have gotten out of debt without reading personal finance blogs. I especially love the blogs that act as diaries for people getting out of debt – I could relate to those bloggers. Nothing is more motivating than reading about someone making huge sacrifices, struggling just like you are, and then becoming debt free. Check out my favorite finance blogs here.
4. Make a life change that will cause you to suffer a little
If you put yourself in an uncomfortable situation, you’ll be motivated to find a way, any way, out! Some examples:
- Move in with the parents. Nothing would motivate me to pay off debt ASAP than moving into my parent’s basement. This one is a little drastic…
- Eliminate a favorite budget category until you are out of debt (entertainment, restaurants, vacation)
5. Write down all your reasons for getting out of debt
When you remind yourself why you are getting out of debt, you’ll be motivated to reach the finish line sooner. Write down these reasons, and refer to them whenever you are feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or deflated. These reasons that you’ve written down will remind you that hard time is only temporary; there is an end state that will make all the sacrifices worth it.
6. Pick a debt-free date and mark it on your calendar
Determine a feasible debt-free date, but make it a little bit of a challenge to achieve. Mark it on your calendar and hang it up for a visual reminder of your goal.
7. Make an excel spreadsheet of your debt payoff plan
Whenever I was in a debt payoff slump, and felt like my current path and process wasn’t working, I’d create a new excel spreadsheet to track my progress, my bills, and my spending! I love making spreadsheets, so this task was enjoyable but it was also motivational. I’d love creating new graphs to see my progress, and also create new trendlines to see when I could be debt free. This might be a little dorky, but it always seemed to work for me (at least for a few months).
8. Start a spending log/journal
Sometimes your spending can get out of control. That’s not good because that means less money is going towards paying off debt.
I always found it helpful to write down every single thing I purchased in a journal. It would make me think twice about buying something if I knew I had to then write it down in my journal. Writing down your expenses definetly discourages me from spending, thus motivating me to pay off more debt!
9. Sell something and make an extra principal payment
Nothing feels better than making extra payments that go directly to your principal balance (ah, I love when 0% of my payment goes to interest). Sell something you already own (extra furniture, exercise equipment, hobby supplies, etc), and put that money directly towards your debt. When you get the ball rolling, it’s hard to stop!
10. Get an accountability buddy
Find a friend, spouse, parent, sibling, or co-worker that will support you through your journey. An accountability buddy is someone who you can share your successes, failures, struggles, fears, excitement, confusion, and questions with. If possible, schedule monthly meetings with them. If your buddy is encouraging, you’ll always leave that meeting feeling better and more motivated than before.
11. Start a finance/budget binder
Getting your finances organized can be just what you need to snap yourself back to reality and remotivate yourself to pay off that debt.
12. Focus on your smallest debt
Progress is a big motivator. Nothing says progress more than having one of your debts disappear from your life forever. One of the reasons the Debt Snowball Method (where you prioritize your debts from lowest balance to highest balance) is so successful is because you feel a sense of accomplishment when you pay off your first small debt. These early wins make all the difference.
13. Make a vision board
Create a vision board with your post-debt dreams. It could be a Caribbean vacation, a charity you want to donate to, new wardrobe, house, wedding, baby, anything goes! You might feel silly cutting pictures out of a magazine, but looking at your vision board every day will remind you of why you are working so hard to pay off your debt.
If you just can’t handle the arts & crafts, make a digital vision board on Pinterest!
14. Change your desktop/phone background
When I paid off my first debt, I scanned the “Congratulations, you paid off your debt” letter and made it my desktop background. I would see that letter every day. It would make me proud of what I had already accomplished, and excited to receive my next letter.
You can also put a motivational quote as your desktop or phone background.
15. Plan a dream vacation (to go on when you’re debt free)
The faster you pay off your debt, the faster you can go on your dream vacation! Wouldn’t you be motivated to pay off debt if you knew the reward is an African safari, an Alaskan cruise, a road trip across the US?
16. Listen to podcasts
I listened to personal finance podcasts almost every day while paying off debt. My favorite podcast was The Dave Ramsey Show. On each episode, a family who has become debt free shares their story with all the listeners. Hearing those stories was so motivational; there were families in far worse situations than I was and they were able to pay off their debt faster than me. Talk about inspirational! Check out my favorite money podcasts here!
17. Daydream about debt freedom
Give yourself permission to day dream about what it would be like with no loans, monthly bills, insane amounts of interest. What would it be like to have access to your entire paycheck. I’m a daydreamer, but when I snap back to reality I feel motivated to make my dreams happen!
18. Start side-hustling and chipping away at your debt
Keeping busy and being proactive always pumps me up. Any money you get from your side hustles can go straight to your principal balance…and seeing that go down is also pretty motivating!
19. Make like-minded friends and hang out with them
It’s a little depressing when your friends go out for happy hour every week, go on nice vacations, and always seem to be wearing the nicest clothes.
If you are able to find like-minded friends (those on a budget and careful with their finances), they will end up being a motivating source in your life.
Have you tried any of these motivational tactics when in a debt payoff slump? Do you have any suggestions on what could be added to the list?