11 Best Ways To Stay Motivated When Paying Off Debt


stay motivated when paying off debtYou’ve decided to finally pay off your debt and have been doing a great job so far.

But here you are, a few months in and you have this weird feeling.

At first you ignored it. But now it is too big to ignore.

You aren’t that interested in getting out of debt any longer. You would rather do other things with your time and money.

Don’t feel like you are alone because you are not.

Many people struggle with staying motivated when getting out of debt.

It is perfectly normal and I am here to help.

There is no worse feeling than being in debt, trust me I know.

There was a time in my life when I had more credit card debt than my annual salary.

It’s definitely not a fun place to be.

When I began to pay off my debt, I was all in.

I set up a debt snowball plan and knocked out a handful of small debts in a few months.

But then I hit the big ones.

The debts where it felt like I was making payments forever.

I started to lose motivation while tackling my debt.

I was about to give up when I had a conversion with a friend going through the same struggle as me.

The conversation opened my eyes to the struggle of staying motivated while paying off debt.

And this is the part you never hear anyone talk about.

You hear the great success stories of people paying off mountains of debt, but you never hear about their struggles along the way.

The tough decisions they had to make. The loss of motivation. The urge to quit. The struggle to keep going.

The key to paying off your debt is to stay motivated.

By finding ways to keep you motivated throughout your debt payoff journey, you will experience success and get to live a life of being debt free.

Today I am going to show you how you can stay motivated when paying off debt. There are 11 tips here and I am certain many will work for you.

All that you have to do is find which ones excite you and use them to keep you motivated when getting out of debt.

11 Ways To Stay Motivated When Paying Off Debt

#1. Set Up A Debt Thermometer

Debt snowball fatigue is real. If you have been paying off debt for a while, you know what I am talking about.

You start out excited, following your debt snowball plan. But then you hit the big loans and your excitement fades.

Don’t let debt snowball fatigue derail you at living a debt free life.

The best trick I have found is to use a debt thermometer. This is a visual aid that helps you to stay motivated.

As you pay off your debt, the fluid in the thermometer rises. Once full, you are debt free!

You can create your own debt thermometer in excel or you could draw one and print it out to fill in manually.

To save you time, I’ve included one in my debt snowball calculator.

Just click here to get access to my free debt snowball spreadsheet and debt thermometer.

#2. Track Your Net Worth

grow net worth

You might be wondering how calculating your net worth helps you to stay motivated to pay off your debt.

It works by showing you the progress you are making in terms of your overall financial health.

When you calculate your net worth, not only do you list out your debts, but you also see your overall debt balance, asset balance and net worth.

As you pay down debt, you will see your debt balance drop and you will see your net worth rise.

For me, this was one of the tricks that worked like magic.

I calculated my net worth monthly and was excited to see my financial worth rise every month.

To get started with your net worth, you have 2 options.

  1. Create a spreadsheet
  2. Use a free app

If you want to use a spreadsheet, here is the link to one I created for you.

If you want to use an app, sign up for Personal Capital.

Signing up is 100% free and the benefit is your net worth is always up to date.

This means that instead of manually calculating your net worth, you just log into your account and it is updated for you in real time.

There are many other benefits Personal Capital offers too. Here is a list that highlights them.

  • Net worth tracker
  • Budget
  • Portfolio analysis
  • Investment checkup
  • Investment fee analysis
  • Retirement planner

You can click here to get started with Personal Capital.

#3. Find A Partner

Having an accountability partner is another great tip to staying motivated when paying off debt.

This too is a trick I used to help me.

Just find a trusted friend and talk to them about your debt and the struggle you are facing with staying motivated to pay it off.

They don’t need to be in debt themselves. They are there to be someone to talk to, rant about your debt, and give you kind words to push you through the struggle.

My friend was great at being my accountability partner.

He would randomly check in with me on my progress and I would text him when I made a large payment or paid off one of my debts.

But I think the best part was when he would ask me to envision my life when I would be free from debt.

Talking about life in that sense really inspired me to stay on track paying off my debt.

#4. Think Of Anything Else Other Than Money

When you’re in debt it can consume you.

It’s the first thing you think of when you wake up.

It’s the thing you think about every time you spend money during the day and the last thing that you think about at night.

In some cases, it even keeps you awake at night.

So my advice is to ignore it.

Take time from each day to not think about or worry about money.

Get lost in a book or movie.

Lose track of time by spending time with friends or family. While having money and being debt free are important, living life is even more important.

I try to remind myself that at the end of the day, I only get one shot at life. I don’t want money to be my concern all the time.

#5. Pay A Little Bit More Each Month

spare change

Every single dime you put towards paying off your debt is money saved in interest charges.

Here is another way to think about this.

When you pay down your debt, you are getting that guaranteed return on your money.

For example, if your credit card has an 18% interest rate, every extra dollar you can throw at it means you are saving 18% of your money by having to pay less interest.

Can you think of better motivation to becoming debt free than saving money?

As soon as I saw my debt in this light, it was easy to start putting more money towards it each month.

And I found clever ways to do this.

Not only was I saving money on interest, but I was also paying my debt down faster, allowing me to become debt free sooner.

#6. Make Other Plans For The Money

I touched upon this idea above with my accountability partner.

One thing I did that helped me stay motivated to get out of debt was to picture my future life.

I took a weekend to think about what my life would look like after my debt was gone.

What was I doing with the extra money? How was life without the stress and headaches from debt?

After I had my answers, I wrote them down. Then I made a copy of them in my phone so I could read them no matter where I was.

I even sent an email to my future self.

Take some time to think about the vacation you want to take, the new outfit you want to buy, the bigger apartment you’ll be able to afford, or the business you want to start.

Don’t let these goals and dreams die because you are in debt. Use them to help motivate you to become debt free.

Then you can start to work on making these dreams a reality.

#7. Review Your Goals

I touched upon this idea above with my accountability partner. Make sure you are reviewing your debt payoff goals from time to time.

By staying on top of where you stand and the progress you are making, it will help to keep you motivated.

In some cases, you might even want to look at how far you’ve come and not how much farther you have to go.

I know this trick helped me more than once.

I was discouraged that I still owed thousands on my debt. But then I did the quick math to see that in a few short months, I paid off close to a thousand dollars of debt.

This helped to keep the firing burning and pushed me to stick with it.

#8. Be Patient

The final tip to staying motivated when getting out of debt is to be patient.

When I first decided I was going to get out of debt, I jumped in head first.

I created a budget so strict, there was nothing left for me to enjoy life.

After all my other bills were paid, I put everything else towards my debt.

This meant no eating out, no going out with my friends. Nothing. Unless it was free.

I did this because I wanted to be debt free yesterday.

And it worked great.

For two months.

Then I started to get mad that I couldn’t do anything or enjoy the things I was used to enjoying.

So I rebelled and ditched the plan completely.

Luckily I had my accountability partner there to talk me off the cliff.

I ended up creating a new budget that put as much money as possible towards my debt, but still allowed me to enjoy life.

The point I am making is I know you want to be debt free tomorrow.

But this isn’t realistic.

You didn’t get into debt overnight and you aren’t getting out overnight either.

Be patient but be intentional with your money.

Create a budget and put as much money as you can towards your debt but still enjoy life.

When you can balance out enjoying life today and getting out of debt, you will be happier and more likely to see your goal through to the end.

#9. Use Others Success As Motivation

success as motivation

Another great way to stay motivating during the journey to becoming debt free is to use others success.

You can do this a variety of ways. A simple one is to listen to the Dave Ramsey show. There you will hear everyday people on the same path as you paying off debt.

You will even hear success stories from people who followed through and achieved a debt free life.

By using others as motivation, it can help you push through the tough times on your journey to becoming debt free.

#10. Stop Comparing Yourself To Others

As great as it is to use other people’s success to fuel your journey, you don’t want to fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others.

What I mean here is not looking at people who had more debt than you and paid it off faster.

Everyone has a different circumstances in life, so each person’s journey to debt freedom is different.

The bottom line is to use other’s success as motivation, but don’t start comparing yourself to them because you will certainly get discouraged and lose motivation to pay off your debt.

#11. Reward Yourself

reward yourself presents

A great trick to staying motivated while paying off debt is to reward yourself.

I used this trick a lot and it really helped.

Here is how I used it.

I broke my debts into smaller, more manageable chunks.

When I paid off a chunk, I celebrated by ordering a pizza and renting a couple movies.

Or I would spend $10 on scratch off lottery tickets.

The goal in this case wasn’t to win a million dollars, I just enjoy scratch off lottery tickets and spend a few dollars on them for fun.

For example, one of my debts was $5,000. I broke this down into 5 chunks of $1,000 each. When I paid off $1,000 I celebrated.

You can break your debt into bite size pieces too. You could make yours $500 each, $1,000 each, or any other amount.

By experiencing smaller wins, you help to keep your motivation high throughout the process.

Final Thoughts

There are 11 ways to stay motivated while paying off your debt.

Pick and choose the ones that make the most sense for you and start to use them.

By adding them into your debt payoff journey, you will keep your motivation high and greatly reduce the chances of debt payoff fatigue or burn out.

The end result will be you achieving your goal of living a debt free life.

12 thoughts on “11 Best Ways To Stay Motivated When Paying Off Debt”

  1. We can’t wait to get our student loan debt gone! Right now we are on track to have it gone by mid 2016. Every month I throw as much money as we can possibly manage at it, and it feels awesome to see the balance dropping rapidly. Great post!

  2. I just set up all of my debt to be paid automatically this month and the stress almost melted away as soon as I did it. It is so amazing that all I have to focus on is maintaining the amount of income and the debt will be done long before everyone else says possible.

  3. While I was paying down my student loans, I used tools to help me visualize the balances going down. You can use something like Ready for Zero, or even a simple Excel spreadsheet to make a graph. There is something very motivating about seeing a graph showing a decreasing loan balance that helps keep you going!

    1. Ditto.

      When I was deeply in debt, I couldn’t afford a computer at home, so I charted my progress by hand every month.

      Watching my saving increase and debt drop every month was a huge inspiration to keep going. And to pay it down even faster.

  4. Depending on how big the debt is and how long it is going to take you, I would create milestone goals along the way that will let you celebrate achievements and recognize the progress you’re making. If you have a $10,000 debt, set your first goal at $1,000 then the second one at $1,500 more, and so on. Reaching these mini-goals often renews your energy, which can wane along the way.

  5. Great post!! When we had debt a few years ago (credit cards, car loan, student loan) we focused super hard and hustled as best as we could to pay it off. We managed to pay it off within about two years and then bought an SUV, haha. However, we can easily afford the monthly payment and pay extra toward it each month. Debt makes us motivated 🙂 (A reasonable amount, that is.)

    1. Congrats Sarah, that’s amazing. I love how you made the decision to buy a car you could afford, instead of getting back into uncontrollable debt. Smart move.

  6. Paying off debt usually means you’re restricting your spending to some degree, so treating yourself a little from time to time can go a long way towards keeping that motivation level high!

    1. That is so true Brock. I always say that the more we restrict ourselves the less likely we are to stick to it.

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