One of the toughest parts of paying down debt is sticking with it. After awhile, it can seem overwhelming to continue to make sacrifices so that you can pay down your debt.
“I’ve seen people set unrealistic, aggressive goals, thinking they could pay off debt quickly,” says Taylor Schulte, CFP®, CEO of Define Financial. “They soon realize the goals are too great, which discourages them from the process.”
Schulte also points out that some consumers don’t tackle debt effectively because they are unsure how to approach different types of debt, such as trying to decide how to tackle credit card debt versus a car loan or a home loan.
One of the greatest hindrances to staying motivated while paying down debt occurs when your life partner doesn’t approach debt the same way. “Spouses often disagree about which debt to pay down first, or how much to attribute to each loan,” Schulte says.
No matter the reason behind your motivation challenges, though, the consequences can be disastrous for your finances. “If you aren’t seeing any progress, it can be difficult to stay on track,” Schulte points out. At that point, you might experience failure with your debt repayment plan.
In order to succeed, try these 3 simple strategies for staying motivated:
1. Create Small Goals for Frequent Wins
“I recommend creating small, measurable goals that can generate wins along the way,” says Schulte. “Although they may appear minor, these small wins can make you feel good and keep you motivated to continue the plan.”
One of the reasons that the debt snowball method of repayment is so popular because it focuses on the quick win. Even though you are likely pay off your loans faster and save money when you start with the loan with the highest interest rate, you’ll actually feel better — and keep on with your plan — if you can get a fast taste of victory by paying off the smallest loan first.
As you continue to hit milestones, you’ll stay motivated to reach for the next, because you know it’s attainable.
2. Get Technology Involved
Schulte also recommends using technology to help your efforts. He likes goal setting apps and websites that can send you reminders and help you visualize your progress. “Not only does this help you keep track of your goals and progress, but it can actually enhance the process, making it more enjoyable.”
Along with goal setting apps, it’s also possible to sign up for challenge websites. These are websites that require you to pay some sort of forfeit when you don’t stay on track. You choose an accountability partner who collects if you don’t meet your goal. You might have to take the partner out to dinner or donate money to a cause you dislike. This type of motivation can help keep you going, since you know there’s a consequence as well as a reward.
3. Visualize Your Debt-Free Life
Finally, make it a point to visualize your debt-free life. Sometimes we get stuck in the present, frustrated with the way things are now. Looking ahead to your future without debt can help get you through the tough times. You can stick pictures in a prominent place to help you better visualize your debt-free life, or just regularly revisit your reasons for dumping your debt. From reminding yourself that you will have more money for things that matter the most to you, to recognizing that you can invest instead of pay interest to others, visualization can be a great way to overcome your present lack of motivation.
Don’t give up on paying off your debt. With a little work and positive thinking, you can power through the disappointments and succeed in the end.