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One reader asked how to not get discouraged when paying off debt. I can definitely relate to this as I experienced discouragement during the 33 months of paying off our house. It doesn’t seem long in the scheme of things, but during the process, I often felt like we would never do it. There were certain things that really helped me do it though and the freedom and flexibility we have now is so worth it.
I wanted to share 5 things that helped me stay encouraged through the journey of paying off debt. Everyone’s debt will be different, but these apply to all kinds.
#1 – Make a goal and know why you’re paying off debt
Paying off debt has to start with a goal. After you’ve analyzed your situation, figure out a reasonable, but aggressive, plan to pay off your debt. When Ryan bought our house (8 months before we actually married and I moved in), he made a goal to pay the house off in 7-8 years with a 15 year mortgage. Therefore, he set it up to be able to afford at least 2 mortgage payments a month. Once we were married and I got a job (a year after he bought the house), we changed our goal and decided to be even more aggressive since we now had a second income.
There are so many bad things about debt that I don’t have time to share, and those are many of the reasons people decide to get out of debt, but it’s helpful if you have a “why.” Why do you want to get out of debt? Are you just sick and tired of “being slave to the lender?” Is it preventing you from pursuing other dreams? It is preventing you from putting money into retirement or college?
Ryan and I had different why’s, but both agreed on each others. Ryan cannot stand paying extra for something he has purchased. The thought of paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in interest alone made him sick. I know it’s considered normal in today’s culture, but we both just cannot understand why someone would pay $700,000+ for a $300,000 house. Therefore, he wanted to keep the total interest paid very low. My why was to be able to stay home and raise my kiddos. I had dreamed of this since I was younger and having a mortgage on one teacher’s salary would have been extremely difficult, if even possible. Therefore, the possibility of staying home when we had kids kept me motivated.
#2 – Do the math
I touched on this above, but doing the math of all the money we would have wasted (and saved) kept us extremely encouraged. Ryan would calculate different scenarios of how fast we could pay our debt off quite often. He was doing this almost monthly the closer we were getting. When you see the actual numbers of money waster on interest, it’s quite alarming. And if you do the math on how much money you will miss out on if you would’ve invested that into a retirement fund or college or life insurance or any other investment, that will really make you want to get rid of debt. It’s often the difference between working till you die and becoming a millionaire.
Numbers don’t lie and they’re very motivating. Do the math on how much you’ll save, but also do the math on how fast you can pay it off.
#3 – Evaluate your progress
Paying off debt can seem daunting, but take a look at your progress often and be proud of what you’ve done. If you’ve ever started a weight loss journey, you know that seeing the progress really keeps you motivated. Sometimes you don’t even see how far you’ve come until you look at a before and during/after picture and it is encouraging. So take a look at your progress every now and then…especially if you feel discouraged and overwhelmed.
#4 – Read books on paying off debt or smart personal finance
This is by far my favorite one and the one that worked best for me. I would often get discouraged from seeing others spend so freely while we were budgeting for everything we did. Hands down the best 2 books I read (and still read) are by Dave Ramsey. I read The Total Money Makeover book first and then I read Financial Peace. Ryan had already read these and encouraged me to read them. I cannot explain to you how helpful this was. It explained everything Ryan had been trying to tell me. It’s good to hear it from a third party mouth sometimes Dave Ramsey’s podcasts are also pretty interesting and motivating to hear, especially since you hear real life problems and successes.
#5 – Find accountability
This will probably be the most beneficial when keeping you motivated. For me personally (since I was the more reluctant one), Ryan was great accountability. We had budget meetings even. I cried every now and then out of frustration and he always talked me off the ledge. I remember one time he even said, “okay, we don’t have to put these extra payments towards the house, but this is what it will mean financially.” He showed me the numbers and even worse, the inability to afford to stay home and I was all back on board.
Whether you’re single or married, find someone you trust and look up to financially, explain what you’re doing and let them encourage you during times of despair. Join anyone also paying off debt and keep each other accountable. Letting someone know what you’re doing will give you an extra boost and keep you accountable.
I want to leave you with my favorite quotes by Dave Ramsey. Love them all…
“Act your wage.”
“A budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.”
“You must gain control of your money or it will forever control you.”
“Live like no one else, so that later you can live like no one else.”
“Stupid is not illegal.”
“We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t really like.”
“You must walk to the beat of a different drummer. The same beat that the wealthy hear. If the beat sounds normal, evacuate the dance floor immediately. The goal is to not be normal, because as my radio listeners know, normal is broke!”
“Pray like it all depends on God, but work like it all depends on you.”
“You wanna blow money? Put it in a “blow” category in your budget. But at least admit it on paper.”
“Broke people giving financial advice is like a shop teacher with missing fingers.”
“This is not a game. Debt has become a part of who we are. It’s become that spoiled child in the grocery store with their lip stuck out: ‘I want it. I want it. I deserve it because I breathe air.’ And, well that’s an uphill climb in our culture right now, to go against that and say, ‘Hey, let’s be grown-ups here. Let’s be mature, learn to delay pleasure, save up, and pay for things.’”
“I’m not against people having new cars. I’m against them having you.”
“Please don’t be under the illusion that this government, one that is so inept and dim-witted with money, is going to take great care of you in your golden years. That is your job!”
I hope you found these tips helpful.