When being debt-free seems so far away and even out of reach, staying motivated to pay down debt can be tough. But looking forward to the end is an important part of paying off debt quickly, and there’s more you can do than simply daydreaming of the future.
If you’re stumped for how to find motivation for getting out of debt, here are ideas to get you going.
1. Get quick wins
A great way to move forward with your debt-free goals is to prove to yourself that you can be successful.
Having a huge pile of debt is intimidating and may seem insurmountable. But you shouldn’t look at your debt as one big problem. Instead, break the process down and envision debt as a bunch of little problems you need to figure out and begin to conquer right away.
For example, experts recommend and a study has even shown that using the debt snowball approach is effective for this very reason. By paying off your smallest debt account first while just paying the minimum on the rest of your balances, you’ll build confidence and feel like you’re making progress more quickly than other approaches.
2. Dream for the future
If you’re in debt, you might long for the day when you don’t have to spend so much time worrying and stressing about paying bills. If that’s your hope for the future, use that as motivation to pay off debt.
Imagine how life will be different once your debt-free goals are realized. Will you have more time to do other things? Will more money be freed up to pay for other goals of yours?
Dream it all up and write it all down to keep yourself moving towards being debt-free.
3. Track progress
If you’re working to pay down debt, you’ll want to track your progress throughout. Seeing that you’re getting closer as well as all the hard work you’ve put in along the way can help you keep your head up even when times get tough.
Find some way to track your progress, whether it’s tracking balances in a notebook, typing them a spreadsheet, or even creating a giant poster on the wall to remind you of your progress whenever you walk by.
4. Make it into a game
With sites like ReadyForZero, you can combine many of the tactics listed here as well as make paying down debt more fun and easy. You’ll get notifications and virtual awards when you pay off accounts and can even share your progress with others.
With ReadyForZero, you’ll easily be able to see how each payment effects the amount of interest you’ll pay as well as when you’ll be done paying debt entirely.
5. Reward yourself
If you’re devoting a lot of time and resources to paying off debt, there may be little extra to spend on things that make you feel good. But celebrations are an important part of the process.
Find ways to reward yourself for staying on target in the debt payoff process. These rewards don’t have to be expensive, but they can still be meaningful, like a trip to your favorite restaurant.
Of course, be sure to save the biggest reward of all once your debt is paid off entirely.
6. Calculate dates to debt-free
Debt can seem endless, and you might feel like you’ll never see the day when you’re debt-free. But if your balances are getting lower and lower, the end will come eventually.
Motivate yourself even more by calculating how long it’ll be until your debt is gone. Either do the math by looking at your monthly payment schedule, or use handy debt calculators to determine when the end will come.
Better yet, you can play around with different payment amounts to see how adding a little to each payment can dramatically reduce the amount of time until you’re debt-free.
7. Find support
Many people in debt feel alone and don’t realize that others are dealing with many of the same issues. While money is a sensitive subject, some environments work great for finding camaraderie amongst others that are dealing with the same problems.
One example: Financial Peace University. Participants not only attend classes to learn how to manage money but interact with classmates, too. Feeling a bond with others over common struggles can go a long way to helping you feel more motivated to tackle your own problems.
8. Set goals
Trying to conquer debt without any goals for when or how to get there is like trying to navigate through the open ocean without any sort of guide. For paying debt, you’ll need to know where you’re headed in order to get there quickly or even at all.
Completed goals are always more motivating than failing to hit the mark. Set S.M.A.R.T goals for your progress for getting out of debt. Here’s an example of how you can do that:
- Specific - How much debt will you pay off this week/month/year? Set a real amount so you’ll know if you make it.
- Measurable – Don’t say your goal is to “pay off debt.” Say how much and when it will happen.
- Attainable - Make sure that your goals aren’t impossible to complete with your income and other expenses.
- Realistic - Don’t expect to pay off $10,000 worth of debt in one month. That’s not possible for most people, and not a decent goal either. Make sure you can hit the amount in the time specified.
- Timely – What date are you shooting to be debt-free? Don’t just wait for it to happen; make it so on a certain day.
By using the S.M.A.R.T. criteria, you’ll be able to much more easily evaluate how well you’ve accomplished your goals and continue planning for the future, too.