There is some urban legend that if you do something for 30 days (or 60 or 90) it becomes a habit. If that was true, I would still be running in the morning, planning family meals a week in advance or wearing that Tommy jeans sweatshirt from middle school.
In the real world, it is hard to make an automatic habit. (Do YOU floss twice a day?… Me either) What we need is motivation. Motivation to start and motivation to keep going even when it’s no longer new and exciting.
People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily. –Zig Ziglar
Here are five ways to stay motivated when paying off debt. Even on one income or so deep in debt that you want to cry.
5. Celebrate every payment over the minimum.Even $1
Every dollar is a victory. Treat it as such.
Do you think you can only pay the minimum payment? I bet you could do the payment plus $1. Now you can tell yourself “I’m making more than the minimum payment”.
Next month make it $5… the one after $10 or $11. Paying off debt is hard, but pat yourself on the back for every bit over the minimum.
Over time every $1 more you add to the payment will snowball. Each month the debt will go down more and more. Talk about motivating!
4. Mark up the calendar.
Is the payment on your wall calendar? Put it there…. Like an appointment. While you’re at it fill in the payments for the rest of the year.
Now, what about your other paycheck? The one your payment doesn’t normally come out of. Make an appointment for $1,$15,$50.
Use markers, make it bright. This is a party appointment, you are celebrating the death of debt.
3. Make a tracker (or download the free one below)
I’ll be honest, I HATE adult coloring books. They are said to help you relax but I just get frustrated coloring in all the little billions of itty bitty areas.
Give me a Disney princess coloring book with big open areas and I’m in heaven.
A tracker is like that… you get to color in a box or line every time you hit a mark! 10% paid off or $20… they can be set up however you want.
Now each payment (twice a month or more) you can mark the celebration with coloring!
2. Make it automatic.
While the other tips are all about keeping the debt payoff in the front of your mind, this one is the opposite.
If you can, make the extra payments automatic. By making a normal payment out of one paycheck and a second payment out of your next paycheck automatically, there is no second guessing. It’s coming out ready or not. You are going to HAVE to budget around it.
Or if you set the automatic payment for a set amount, as your payment goes down the extra now goes to the principle.
My student loan minimum payment used to be $503 a month. After making many large payments from tax refunds and sometimes even my full paycheck, the minimum is now $255. But $503 still is automatically paid each month. This is now $250 more I’m paying each month; it just feels the same as ever.
Check with your lender about how these overages will be applied to your account, as each has different rules.
1. Put it front and center
Do you know exactly how much you owe? Do you know the exact payoff date if you only pay minimums? What about the payoff date if you pay as much as you can?
Use this printout below and post it on your refrigerator so you can see it each day, several times a day. If you have a lot of people come over and don’t want to share your debt, what about your bathroom mirror? Or the back of your bedroom door? Above the washer or dryer?
It is so motivating to see how far you have come. The extra $10 and $20 add up over time, remind yourself of that whenever you can.
You can do it!
You can use all these strategies at once, or one at a time. Each one is a little way for you to keep the “I can”, “you’ve got this” feeling to paying off debt for the months or years it will take. That is what it takes, the small renewals of motivation.
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