12 Ways to Stay Motivated to Pay Off Debt

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So you’re on the path to becoming debt free? – that’s AWESOME!! What’s not awesome is that you’re starting to drag butt on your goals… Your friends have abandoned you, your family makes fun of you, and the excitement of getting out of debt wore off after Day 3…. You’re still committed, but how in the world can you stay motivated to pay off debt?

12 Ways to Stay Motivated to Pay Off Debt

It’s not easy, but it IS possible. Check out the suggestions below and keep punching your debt in the face (or jugular, or abdomen…or groin…whatever is the most effective)!

Map It Out

Just like in boxing (to continue with my punching analogy), it’s hard to hit something if you can’t see where it is. The same is true with debt. If you don’t know the size of your debts, the number of your debts, or when you’ll likely pay them off, you’re just punching at thin air and you’ll be completely ineffective.

Check out my Debt Snowball post and download the free tool to gain an understanding of where all your debts are and when you could pay them off. For most, they learn that they could pay off all their debts much sooner than they ever thought possible!

Set Your Big Why

Without a true reason to get out of debt, you’ll never do it. As Dave Ramsey always likes to say, “You can wander into debt, but you can’t wander out.”

Want to stay motivated to pay off debt? You need to make sure you have a big hairy reason why. Something like:

  • Quitting your job and staying at home with the children
  • Starting your own business
  • Helping your broke parents eat and live with dignity
  • Sending your kids to college
  • Donating thousands of dollars to that charity you love

Having a ‘why’ like these will sure keep you motivated, don’t you think?? What’s your reason why?

Related: The Power of Why

stay motivated to pay off debt

Set a Target Goal

The other thing that will keep your legs moving on your debt payoff is a target goal. If you simply say, “I’m going to pay off my debt of $35,000”, I bet you wouldn’t do it.

Why?

Because you didn’t set an end date! When are you going to start working on that debt? Tomorrow? Next week? Next year? Based on your proclamation, it really doesn’t matter…as long as you take care of your debts before you die. So….maybe you’ll be debt free when you’re 85…

Instead of giving yourself an easy out, if you really want to stay motivated to pay off debt, you should set a target goal – which includes the amount you want to pay off AND a date.

If you plugged in all your debts into the debt snowball calculator, you should easily be able to come up with that end-date target. Set it, and you’ll be much more likely to slay all that debt!!

Tell People About Your Goal

This can be scary, but if you’re really serious about getting out of debt, you’ll tell a few people that can hold you accountable. Once you speak those words, you’ll officially be on the hook. You won’t want to go back on your word and you’ll think about your goals every time you see those people….even if they never bring it up.

Set Up Mini-Goals Along the Way

It might take you 2-3 years to get rid of your debt, which would make it extremely easy to lose focus and motivation. If you have $100,000 to pay off, don’t solely reward yourself once you’re done. Set up some mini-celebrations along the way.

Perhaps some celebrations like:

  • Get your debt down to $80,000: Go out to that restaurant you’ve been dying to try
  • $60,000: Buy that fitted baseball hat that you’ve been wanting for a while
  • $40,000: Get some tickets to the big game
  • $20,000: Buy some new hiking gear and go on a weekend trip
  • $0: I don’t know, take a trip around the world??!!

Write Your Goals Down and Post Them Somewhere You’ll See Them

We’re incredibly visual creatures. My wife can tell me something 10 times (recently it’s been, “Be sure to brush Addi’s teeth before you put her to bed.”) and I’ll completely forget about it 5 seconds later. But, if we put up a visual for ourselves (like for me – putting up a picture of rotting kids teeth on the fridge), we’re much more likely to remember.

Want to stay motivated to pay off debt? Write down those goals and put them where you’ll see it every. single. day.

Related: The Power of Writing Down Your Goals and Dreams

Make a Tracker to Stay on Target

Want to pay off $30,000 in 10 months? Well that means that you should be targeting a debt reduction of $3,000 a month. Put it on a tracker!

  • This month you owe $30,000.
  • Next month you’ll only owe $27,000.
  • The month after that, $24,000.

It’ll keep your excitement up when you hit your targets. And if you miss them, it’ll give you a good chance to quickly get back on track!

Make It A Game

Just because you’re changing your lifestyle a bit to get out of debt, it doesn’t mean that you need to be miserable!

Instead, have some fun with your new ambitions!

  • Challenge your family to reduce your electric bill with each passing month
  • See who can create the best meals for the cheapest overall price
  • Challenge yourself to go a couple weeks without getting groceries. Getting creative with the food in the pantry can get pretty interesting!
  • Start making a list of all the fun things you could do for free.
  • Your car breaks down and the shop quotes you $600 to fix it? Try to find another way and track how much money you save on these repairs.

Deprive Yourself of Something

We already talked about positive motivation with mini-goal rewards, but you can also stay motivated to pay off debt with negative motivation. In other words, you can force yourself not to have something until you hit your goal.

When I was digging myself out of debt a few years ago, I was ticked off that I wasn’t making more progress. So, in June (when the temperature started getting nice-ish), I decided that I wasn’t going to buy gas for my car. If I wanted to get somewhere, I’d ride my bike.

It worked.

I paid off way more debt that month and I learned a ton about myself and really, about life. We don’t need to get philosophical here, but you know what? Life’s not all about stuff, and that month without my car was absolutely fantastic.

Want to pay off a crap-ton of debt? Deprive yourself of something to better hit your targets.

Imagine/Visualize Your Debt Free Self

Did you know that if you just visualize yourself lifting weights, it does almost as much for your body as actually lifting the weight? It’s an insane notion, but it’s true.

If you want to be debt free, then take some time each day to picture yourself as a debt free man or woman.

  • What will you do?
  • What will it feel like?
  • Where will you often go?
  • Will you smile more?
  • Feel that weight lifted off your shoulders!

If you picture yourself as debt free, you’ll want nothing more than to be just that – debt free. THIS will keep you motivated. And you know what? Visualize it enough and believe it enough, you’ll soon be debt free, let me assure you.

Related: The Power of Visualization in Manifesting Your Success

Ask Yourself, “How can I?”

The broke people that always seem to be in debt and in some sort of financial trouble typically…

  1. justify their dumb purchases, and
  2. constantly make excuses for the situation they’re in.

Instead of thinking up ways to get out of their situations, they simply explain their way into them.

If you want to stay motivated to pay off debt, you’re going to have to change your self talk. Stop telling yourself that it’s okay to spend money and stay in debt a little longer. If you get into a tough situation (ie. your car breaks down), start asking yourself the question, “How can I?”

  • How can I get this done for cheaper?
  • How can I make up for this expense by earning more money?
  • and, how can I get past this situation, but still win with money in the end?!

You get the idea. Ask yourself negative questions and you’ll get negative answers. Flip the questions to the positive, and you’ll not only get positive results, you’ll speed up the debt payoff process!!

Which leads me to the last point…

Speed Up the Process

Want to stay motivated to pay off debt? Do it as fast as you possibly can. When you start chunking $2,000, $3,000, or $4,000 toward your debt every month, you’ll just get more excited and want to do more. Before you know it, your debt is gone and you’re on your way to extreme wealth.

So how do you speed up the process?

  • Make as much money as you can
  • Cut your costs down to nothing

Here are some articles that will help you get started:

What Are You Waiting For?

Getting out of debt isn’t easy, but man is it worth it!!

I ditched my debt completely in December of 2014 when I made my last house payment. The feeling is difficult to describe and I can never do it justice. On the day of that last payment, something flipped inside of me – actually, many things flipped inside of me:

  • I finally felt at peace – I could breathe easy again
  • Empowerment ensued me – I could now do anything
  • Satisfaction was suddenly my constant companion.

It didn’t matter what life threw at me next, because in my struggle to ditch my debt I discovered that stuff doesn’t equate to happiness. In fact, happiness has nothing to do with stuff, and it has everything to do with me and my thoughts of myself.

If you want to feel lighter, breathe deeper, and smile more than you ever have before, keep at it! Pay off that debt! No matter who you are or what you’re driving toward, I assure you that you’ll never regret it!

Will you stay motivated to pay off debt? Which tactic above works best for you?

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6 comments to 12 Ways to Stay Motivated to Pay Off Debt

  • Nicole

    Such a great article Derek. I can’t wait to read it again and again. So many great tips for me to stay motivated.
    Paying for funeral costs hit me in the pocket and at the same time made me wish I was further along in paying down the debt on my home. I will get back on that horse and continue on. Thanks.

    • I put a ton of effort into it, that’s for sure! Hopefully it helps you and a TON of other people down the road. Thanks for the great comment! Keep me posted on the house payoff! 🙂

  • What a great post! We’re currently paying off $70,000 in debt and it can be a struggle to stay motivated. I love the idea of rewarding yourself for reaching milestones, and that’s something we do. We love to travel, so we’re planning small trips throughout the journey and our dream vacation when we’re finally debt free.

    Ultimately, the desire to be financially independent is my “why.” I want to live on my own terms, and that’s just not possible when you’re a slave to your debt.

    I think many people don’t realize how deeply in debt they are. For a long time, we refused to face our situation and it kept getting worse. The first step is to take a hard look at your finances and see where you’re at. Only then you can start to dig your way out. Using a debt snowball calculator is really motivating, because you can see the end. It just takes time and motivation to get there.

  • Jolene

    My husband and I are beginning our journey to pay off $138,000.00 in debt (OMG, I know)in 55 months and your spreadsheet made me see it’s possible – since it gave me the payoff month. I’m a planner type of gal and your spreadsheet allowed be to put a time frame on our payoff goal that I can incorporate into my planner. April 2018 will be our first stepping stone so I put a goal marker every month to make sure we’re on track. I’ve also printed your article and added it to my planner as a monthly reminder that staying focused and on track are the only ways we’re going to meet our goal. Thank you so much for taking the time to write it and having a passion for helping others!

    Our reason for wanting to be debt free is to live life how we want. To have our level monthly income but always feel like we’re broke (because we are!) wears on you. Our 20s were filled with bad decisions and now in our early 30s we’re on a hard path to straighten our financial life out.

    • Wow! I’m honored. It’s not every day that someone prints out an article I wrote!! 🙂

      Congrats to you and your husband for tackling your debt now. Stick it out and get it done. You won’t regret it. Liz and I honestly can’t believe how good it is on the other side. Money piles up without us really realizing it, so then we just invest most of it. Then it piles up even faster, so we invest it again. It’s crazy! We can give more, live more, and still have a fantastic future ahead of us.

      Best of luck to you on your journey, Jolene! Keep me posted on how you’re doing. I love to hear success stories!!

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