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Americans are drowning in debt to the tune of $3.9 trillion total consumer debt. In fact, 41.2% of households carry some sort of credit card debt, and the average student loan debt amount in the United States is $32,731.
With all of that, it’s no surprise that many consumers feel overwhelmed by their debt. Indeed, it seems like some type of debt is necessary at some point in life in order to move forward. However, that debt can feel like a weight, bringing you down.
Wanting to achieve debt freedom is natural. However, it can be tough to stay motivated. Sometimes it feels like you’re slogging through an endless morass. The good news, though, is that you can stay on track with a little help from a few strategies.
10 ways to stay motivated in debt repayment
When you’ve put together a plan to pay off debt, you’re full of hope. However, as some of the restrictions you place on yourself continue, it can be tough to stay motivated when moving forward. Here are some great tactics that will help you stay on track as you pay off debt.
1. Start with your smallest debt
A quick win can help you stay motivated throughout the entire debt repayment process. So, it might be a good plan to begin by tackling your smallest debt. Put any extra money you have toward the smallest debt while continuing making other minimum payments. Knocking out that small debt will give you a burst of energy and pride, and help keep you going.
2. Create a vision board
What will your life look like when you’re debt-free? What types of activities will you do? Create a vision board that includes images that you can relate to. It’s a way of visualizing what you hope your life will be like once the debt is paid off. When you’re feeling down, take a look at the board, think about how much you’ll be able to do once the debt is gone.
3. Reward yourself each time another $1,000 is paid off
Each time you reduce your debt by $1,000, celebrate a little. Order takeout. Take the afternoon off work and enjoy some downtime at home. You don’t want to get too extravagant, but you do want to mark the occasion. Spending a little extra money to mark the accomplishment can help you stay motivated and take the edge off some of the budget restrictions in place.
4. Have a small treat once a week
It’s hard to stay motivated in debt repayment when your life is nothing but a series of restrictions. So, go ahead and have a small treat once a week. Maybe you buy a latte or get an ice cream cone. Perhaps you purchase a Kindle book. Whatever it is, make sure it’s small and inexpensive. Even though it won’t be excessive, a weekly treat helps you feel less deprived and gives you something to look forward.
5. Make a goal tracker
Put together a goal tracker and post it in a prominent place. It can look like a chart or a thermometer or anything else that’s effective. Color in the milestones as you make progress. Being able to fill in the goal tracker and physically participate can help you see how far you’ve come and motivate you to keep going.
6. Get an accountability partner
One of the best things you can do is find an accountability partner. Tell them what you want to accomplish, and check in each week. Talk about the things you did to help you pay down your debt, how much debt you’ve paid off, and how much closer you are to your goal.
You can also ask your accountability partner to be “on call” through text. If you feel tempted to go off track, send a quick text to your partner, asking them to give you a bit of encouragement. Just having the support can be a huge help in the long run.
7. Mark off days on a calendar
If you create a debt paydown plan, or if you have a personal loan that you’ve used to consolidate your debt, there’s a good chance you have an idea of when you’ll be debt-free. Mark that date on a calendar, and then cross off each day that you step closer to that date. You’ll feel good each time you cross off a new date, and that can help you stay motivated in debt repayment.
8. Enlist the help of your friends
This goes beyond just having an accountability partner. Let your friends know what you’re trying to accomplish, and surround yourself with like-minded people. You’ll have supportive friends who can cheer you on. Plus, if you’re working toward similar goals and you have similar values, they can help you avoid temptation. If everyone’s being frugal together, you can plan game nights and potlucks instead of going out and spending a ton of money at the bar.
9. Make a game out of paying more toward debt
You can accelerate your debt repayment if you put more money toward principal. The lower your principal, the less interest you’ll be charged — and the faster you can get rid of your debt.
Make it a game. Can you do some ride-share driving and make extra money to put toward the principal? Maybe you can sell several items, take the proceeds and make an extra principal payment. It can be a fun exercise to see how much extra you can get, and then watch your debt level sink as you tackle the principal. Try to beat your last principal payment with a new creative way of earning money, and you’ll make it even more fun.
10. Stay inspired
Read blogs and listen to podcasts that feature information about personal finance, paying down debt and developing a good money mindset. Access to others’ inspiring stories can help you focus on how it is possible to pay down your debt.
While everyone has unique challenges when trying to repay debt and stay out of debt in the future, it’s possible to learn and draw strength from others’ stories.