Paying off debt is a mental game. It’s daunting, regardless if you owe $5,000 in credit card debt or $50,000 in student loans. Your money mindset is just as crucial as making regular payments. You’re more likely to achieve your goal if you make a plan to keep yourself motivated throughout the process. If not, then it’s easy to get discouraged – and that’s a major reason why people have a difficult time paying off debt.
There’s no shame in getting into debt. The U.S. consumer debt balance grew $800 billion during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Experian. Student loan debt grew by twelve percent, mortgage debt grew by seven percent, and personal loan debt grew by six percent. The pandemic affected a ton of aspects of life – including our financial lives.
Eliminating debt is a common goal in the Her First $100K community. I even have a Debt Defeater course completely dedicated to it. Since it’s often a long process, I also recommend ways to hold yourself accountable, reward yourself, and stay positive.
Create a Tracker
Crossing tasks off lists releases dopamine in the brain. Have you ever written something on your to-do list just to cross it off? Yeah, same. It feels great to accomplish tasks and will sustain your motivation to keep paying off debt.
Try creating a visual tracker of how much money you have paid off. You can make your own or purchase a downloadable image.
Tip: Create a plan for debt paydown with Personal Capital’s free financial dashboard. In addition to planning for a debt-free life, you can use the tools to get a complete overview of your net worth, cash flow, investment allocation, and more. You can also plan for long-term goals like funding a child’s education or retiring.
Make an Accountability Buddy
Accountability is key when it comes to paying off debt. It’s easy to make a plan to do something, but more difficult to follow through with your initial plan. Lean on your support system. Tell a trusted friend, family member, or even coworker about your goal to pay off a certain debt. You might even find yourself in a situation where they also have a debt to pay off, so you can help each other.
Instead of focusing on the entire balance of your debt, break it down into smaller numbers. If you owe $20,000, create incremental milestones every $5,000. It won’t feel as overwhelming when you’re focusing on a smaller number instead of a larger one. When you hit a milestone, treat yourself in a way that doesn’t require spending a lot of money. You can create a time to explore a park with your partner, host a game night with friends, or take time to visit a family member you don’t regularly see.
Hang Visual Reminders
I’m all about visual reminders. I write myself little notes to encourage myself when I see them throughout the day. It might sound cheesy, but a quick note that reads, “I will tackle my debt” or “Money comes to me freely” will gradually change your mindset over time. Don’t underestimate the power of words.
Remember Your Why
Why do you want to pay off debt? How do you want to feel once you’re debt-free? Focus on the feeling you want to achieve. When you are getting discouraged, remind yourself how good it will feel once you’ve achieved your goal.
Paying off debt isn’t easy, but it’s 100 percent doable with the right tools and mindset. As you pay down your debt, your net worth will increase. In my own life, Personal Capital is the financial tool I check daily for tracking my net worth and my progress towards goals like retirement, debt payoff, and (yes!) saving that first $100k.
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