So, this whole debt payoff thing… it’s super hard.
I know, I know… if it was easy everyone would do it.
But after listening to hundreds of debt free stories (and screams), when you’re getting ready to dive into your debt free journey, you just feel PUMPED. At least we did.
And we still do.
It’s super exciting to take a big chunk of money and throw it at your debt to know that you will NEVER have to have that money hanging over your head ever again. It’s like paying for your peace. And we’re glad to do it.
But what we didn’t hear a lot of people talk about before we started was the 29 other days you are not making that big payment.
When you feel like you’re throwing your money down the drain.
When everyone else gets to go out to dinner but you.
When you can’t afford to hang out with your friends.
When you’re embarrassed or feel ashamed because you can’t buy your loved ones gifts you’d like to for special occasions.
When you feel burnt out and can’t afford a vacation, but don’t know how you’re going to make it without one.
Those feelings are REAL and they’re enough to make you want to quit.
I don’t say that to discourage anyone from starting their debt free journey, but to reassure you that those feelings are 110% normal and they’re going to happen. It doesn’t mean you can’t crush your debt. It just means you’ve got to get hyper-FOCUSED.
I felt like a lazy complainer for feeling like paying off debt was SO difficult. I mean, really, there were days I just wanted to stop and live paycheck to paycheck like everyone else.
But I knew I wanted us to change our story and family tree more.
I knew I couldn’t keep thinking about how hard this was and would continue to be.
So, I came up with a few rules we live by that have gotten me through this season a little bit easier. Paying off debt is still no joke, but feels way more do-able this way. Here are our rules.
1. Know your WHY
Why do you want to get out of debt?
I do because I’m tired of living paycheck to paycheck. I’m tired of my finances limiting me from visit dear friends and family I haven’t seen in ages, from being more generous, from getting the healthcare I need for my chronic illness, and from enjoying FUN!
When I think about what I want my story to look like, it’s filled with:
- Doctor visits + being able to afford the testing and supplements I need for my chronic illness
- Security and stability
- The ability to give generously
- More travel! I’ve hardly been out of the country + my husband and I want us to see the world together
- Spoiling our dog ☺️
Focusing on our future and what we want it to look like is probably the most effective thing we’ve done to make sure we don’t quit when things get hard. What’s your why?
2. Create a vision board
I’ve never been big into vision boards, but this has been a GAME CHANGER for us!
Chris Hogan, one of the Ramsey personalities, talks a lot about us being visual creatures. There’s a HUGE difference between just thinking we want to be debt free so we can travel vs. picturing yourself on a beach in Maui.
When you can visualize your goals and write them down (or add a picture of them somewhere), you’re 64% more likely to achieve them!
You’re 76% more likely to achieve them when you share them and give updates to an accountability partner – which is a huge reason I’m sharing all of this with you, friends!
A vision board doesn’t have to be weird and “woo-wooey”. I’m not particularly into manifestation or law of attraction. I think it comes down more to having the ability to visualize your life after debt.
You can create a physical vision board to hang in your room or a digital one if you want to save some cash.
It’s full of things like pictures of concerts (I really miss going to concerts), places I’d like to travel to, houses, having more dogs, and even pictures of families.
It’s a mix of things that are silly and serious, but it’s what I want my life to look like!
Fun, silly, and secure.
3. Put dates on your goals
Three months into our debt free journey, we’ve paid off $5,177.77 of $85,000.
If I think about the total number, I will want to give up immediately. It’s TOO big.
I have to break up the total debt into chunks to feel like I’m making progress. Each payoff itself is exciting (like paying off a credit card), but we lumped our debt into 4 categories.
Our first goal is to pay off ALL 3 of our credit cards, then our phones/car, next we’re tackling Sam’s student loans, and lastly mine.
Splitting these up helps us to JUST focus on our credit card payments right now. Our goal is to pay off all of our credit cards by May of 2020. That feels way more motivating than thinking about it taking 3-4 years to pay off the total debt. Focusing on the next goal and having a date on it makes it feel way more achievable and like there is an end date in sight.
4. Chart your progress
If you’re just making debt payments online and calling it a day, you are doing it wrong, friend!
I don’t often tell other people what they’re doing wrong because I think everyone is different and they know what works best for them, but I don’t really care who you are… you’re going to feel like you’re throwing your money away if you’re not charting your progress.
Having some sort of physical chart (or using the new Baby Step app) is a great way to stay excited and remember why you’re not putting that money in your savings or towards a new vacation.
I LOVE coloring in our debt free charts – I have so many, haha!
Here’s where I got my physical copies. They’re free printables and I have them for our credit cards, car loan, student loans, and total debt!
There is something very mentally satisfying for my goal-oriented brain when I get to color in another square. I promise it’ll change your life. Hang it in your bedroom, your fridge, or wherever you’re going to see it everyday. You got this!
5. Live a little
This will be an unpopular opinion with my die hard Dave Ramsey readers… but what keeps us going is living a little.
I equate this journey a lot to a diet. There are typically two types of people that follow a diet:
- Abstainers. Your die-hards who stick strictly to the diet, never wavering.
- Moderators. Those who stick mostly to a diet, but practice a healthy dosage of moderation.
There is nothing wrong with either, but my husband and I definitely identify as moderators. While we stick strictly to our budget, we also set aside a very small eating out/date night budget each month to keep our marriage alive as well as our own mental sanity.
We’re not promised tomorrow, so we don’t want to be so strict about our finances that we miss out on those once-in-a-lifetime memories with our friends/family or run ourselves into the ground (especially with that being the reason I got sick in the first place).
We’ve also allotted a reward for each of the four MAJOR debt milestones we pay off and that’s honestly a huge thing that motivates us forward to pay off each debt.
We know we probably won’t be going on any fun, week-long vacations anytime soon, so for us… seeing the inside of a restaurant, going to a movie theatre, or playing a little mini-golf keeps us sane. We’re okay not being gazelle intense as long as we’re being intentional.
And paying off $5K in 3 months… I’d say that’s pretty intense!
What about you? What has kept you motivated throughout your debt free journey? I would love to hear your tips in the comments below!