Staying Motivated While Paying Off Debt

It’s been almost 6 months since my husband and I read Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover and started paying off our student loan debt with gazelle-like intensity.

It’s been a bumpy climb, but I’m proud of how far we’ve come. We’ve created a budget, cut back on expenses, and found ways to make some extra cash. There were a few things we didn’t account for: extra car maintenance, main grocery store temporarily closing, extra travel, raises. I don’t know how we managed it, but we are currently on track with becoming debt free by March 2020.

We’ve had some big wins and tough struggles. Sometimes I wanted to throw in the towel and say, “So what if it takes us an extra few months, I want to have/buy/do this.” Sometimes it’s hard to stay motivated.

So far, we’ve been doing a good job of staying on track, and I’d like to share what’s been keeping us going.20180115_131803 (1)

1. Allowing some room for entertainment in our budget. We try to find cheap or free things to do such as biking, hiking, reading, watching movies, spending time with family, etc. Some things do cost money, and we make sure to set aside some money each month for these kinds of activities. If we had no “fun money”, we’d probably have given up long ago.

2. Planning what we’re going to do once we pay off our debt. We don’t have specific plans of things we’re looking forward to doing once we are debt-free, but we have some ideas. Some big things we’d like to do include taking a trip and saving up for a house. We look at pictures of our dream house online, and we constantly talk about what kind of vacation we’ll take.
3. Creating a debt thermometer. I drew one of those goal thermometers and labeled it with certain money amounts. We fill in a little more as we make each monthly loan payment. We try to look at this as how far we’ve come instead of how much further we have to go.

4. Setting up mini rewards. In March, I decided to do a 6-month clothes buying fast. The fast will end in September, I will allow myself a shopping trip to get some essentials. I’ll limit how much I spend so I don’t go all-out, but it will definitely be a special day. Rick and I are also planning a small trip once we reach a certain mark on our debt-free goal thermometer. We have a few fairly inexpensive extended weekend trip options in mind.

5. Telling people about what we’re doing and the progress we’re making. We tell close friends, family, and my blogging community about our goals, struggles and dreams. It’s great to have the support and accountability of those who care.

6. Reading financial books/blogs or goal-setting books. Hearing other people’s success stories inspire me to keep at my goals. Here are a few that I found to be helpful:
Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half with America’s Cheapest Family by Steve & Annette Economides. This one helped me find strategies to cut down our monthly grocery bill by about $100.
Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin. I learned a lot about my tendencies and how to better manage not only my spending habits, but also my sleep, exercise and work habits.
-And Then We Saved. Anna did a year-long, intense spending fast. She saved $24,000 in 15 months!

7. Praying. Talking stuff out with God and asking for guidance is always helpful! Not just with the big stuff, but with the little day-to-day decisions. It’s helpful in finding the balance and keeping things in perspective.

What do you do to stay motivated to achieve your financial goals?

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