Updated: May 3, 2017
The constant stress and overwhelming feeling, which debt burdens you with is painful and frustrating. Just having that weight off of your shoulders makes getting rid of debt, worth it.
But there are also a lot of other rewards that come with becoming debt free. The trouble is that many of these rewards don’t appear until after you’ve done all the hard work and come out the other end.
So how do you keep yourself motivated along the way before you get to the good part? Here are 5 tips to keep you going.
#1 Create a budget that works
Don’t pay your debts randomly as they come. And don’t just hope you’ll get a promotion and a salary increase, which could allow you to start paying more than the minimums.
Instead, make a concrete debt payment plan. A plan that will require sacrifices today, to achieve a level of freedom and financial security in the future.
Create a budget, one that will make you live as far below your means as you can. Ideally, your lifestyle should not allow you to spend more than what you’re earning.
#2 Do your research
This is part preparation, part psychology. Knowing that your strategy for getting out of debt is one backed by experts is not only smart, it’s empowering.
In those moments when you are really struggling to stick to your plan, you might start trying to convince yourself that your plan was unrealistic anyway.
But if you know that your debt payment strategy was created only after extensive research and reading the advice of proven financial experts, it’s going to be hard to use that excuse.
Your plan is realistic. It is doable. You just have to get through this tough moment and stick with it.
#3 Make a game out of it
Without short term rewards, the task of slogging through debt can get to be too much. It’s easy to lose motivation when the task just feels like a thankless chore every step of the way.
And sometimes the long term reward feels too far away to really mean anything. In those times, you can kind of trick yourself by creating a game out of your budget.
Basically, you break your plan into daily habits and steps and assign points to each one. Those points go toward rewards that you actually like.
For example, after a week of sticking within your food budget, you can reward yourself by splurging on a treat that you’ve had to give up throughout the week.
Read this detailed article on gamification to give you some ideas of how you can apply the system to your own life and goals.
#4 Use an app to help you
If doing the game mentioned above isn’t appealing to you, then there are also apps that have created a game out of paying debts.
You can just input your budget goals and then the app helps you track your progress and gives you points along the way as you achieve certain things.
Many of them take it a little further and give you missions or challenges related to your goal that motivate you to keep working toward your debt free future.
These not only help to make getting out of debt more rewarding, they can also help you figure out how to break down such a large goal into smaller steps.
And, even more impressive, they can help you work on exactly the bad habits and problem areas that are most damaging to your plans.
There are a lot of different apps out there that do this. You can find a list of some of the better ones here. On the bottom of that list, you’ll find one that is specifically for financial goals. It’s called SaveUp.
You can use it to motivate you to stick to your get out of debt plan. What’s even cooler about that app is that it includes real rewards.
#5 Visualize your goal
Whenever you are feeling that urge to spend when you should be putting that money toward your debt, it can be hard to stick to your goal. Close your eyes. Take a deep breath. And visualize that moment when you are finally debt free.
A lot of us can become really absorbed in the present. And a lot of the reasons we don’t have the spare cash flow to pay off our debts is because we are spending that money on having what we want right now.
But if you focus on getting what you want in the future instead of right now, you’ll actually be able to do those things.
Maybe you have a job that you dislike but it pays the bills. Instead of rewarding yourself for suffering through another day by buying yourself material things, what if you put that money toward getting out of debt and saving toward having the life you want in the future?
What if, through smart budgeting you could retire from that job at 40 and then spend the rest of your life focusing on the things that really matter to you and really make you happy?
Visualize how much more satisfaction you would get out of the things you buy, knowing that you aren’t going into debt to buy them. Save up for that expensive car you want and buy it with cash instead of taking on yet another loan.
Visualize that freedom. Visualize that peace and sense of confidence.
Make a habit of doing this every night before bed so that the visualization becomes more vivid. Use that time to really imagine all the ways you’ll enjoy your freedom. And how you’ll use all the money that you’ll have in your budget once it’s not going toward debt anymore.
When you’re faced with a moment of temptation, go back into this visualization and let the moment pass.
The truth is… getting out of debt is going to take will power. But the good news is that there are ways to jumpstart that will power.
You need to find the things that truly motivate you. And, most importantly, you need to spend time really dreaming about your life without debt.
Don’t let it just stay an abstract goal. Have detailed ideas about exactly what it means for you to be debt free. Then, make a concrete budget that will get you there.
And in between those two things, use tricks like gamification, apps, and other helpful tools to help you stay on track.