I get questions from readers all the time about all kinds of financial situations they need help dealing with. They run the gamut from simple questions about budgeting to very detailed problems dealing with losing a business, financial infidelity, career problems, and more.
Today I thought I would take the time to answer a reader question from “Annie” that I’m asked on a frequent basis.
Her question is short and simple:
“I’ve tried more than once to get out of debt and it never seems to work. How do I develop the discipline and stay motivated to get out of debt?”
In the post below I’ll tell you about what I’ve experienced, and I’ll show you 7 tips for staying motivated to get out of debt.
I’ve also included a list of resources at the end to help keep you motivated.
What I’ve Seen
Over the years I’ve seen a lot people get excited about becoming debt free, but they never follow through with the process. Most of them are pretty fired up about getting out of debt and start with the best of intentions. Then they take one or two small steps, and lose their motivation not long after they get started.
I’ve seen plenty of others make significant progress in paying down debt, but for whatever reason, about midway through the process they lose their motivation and gravitate back to their old habits, never finishing their get out of debt journey.
How to Get on the Right Track and Stay There
When you’re trying to get out of debt, it’s easy to get excited about the idea of becoming debt free. But actually getting the job done is much harder.
You have to get past the potential you see for yourself and let reality smack you in the face. You gotta realize that getting out of debt is going to take some work, and it’s up to you to stay motivated to get the job done.
Once you decide you’re willing to do the work involved, the next thing you have to realize is that it’s going to take some time. I think most people eventually lose sight of their goal of becoming debt free because of the time factor. It’s very easy for your initial excitement to wear off and let the passage of time demotivate you into going back to old habits. It’s just hard to continually keep the ultimate goal in mind.
With that said, here are my top 7 ways to stay motivated to get out of debt.
1. Get Mad at Your Debt
Getting out of debt is one situation where getting emotional can be a good thing. You gotta get so mad at your debt that you have a take no prisoners attitude. You have to decide that you’ll do anything it takes to get the job done, even when the going gets tough.
Maybe you could imagine yourself as a member of Seal Team 6, taking out your debt targets one at a time with precision until the threat is eliminated and you achieve your objective; whatever you need to visualize to keep you motivated.
2. Get Naked
I’ve discovered that a lot of people still use a credit card while they are getting out of debt. Most keep one “just in case” they need it for an emergency.
But here’s the deal. If you have credit available, you’re going to use it.
I tell my followers you gotta get naked.
What I mean is that you should get rid of all the credit cards and go naked with credit. It’s a concept that’s kind of scary. I remember how I felt when Angie and I got rid of our credit cards for good.
It was very weird.
In fact, I think the naked analogy is a good one, because you feel exposed and vulnerable. But if you follow the right steps, you find that you’re actually less vulnerable when you go naked with credit.
3. Get An Accountability Partner
Many times during your journey out of debt, it can feel like a lonely ride. Getting out of debt can take a while, so if you have someone who can give you moral support throughout your journey, it can be a great help. Share your goal of getting out of debt with a friend or a mentor who’s willing to encourage you.
Preferably you’ll want to find someone who is already out of debt, and understands what it takes to get there. An accountability partner can help you continue to see the light at the end of the tunnel. They can assist you when you get stuck and feel like things are going nowhere. A good accountability partner will always keep you moving down the right path.
4. Keep a Journal or a Blog on Your Progress
Writing things down is a good exercise to help you stay focused. When you write about your feelings, struggles, victories, or whatever else you’re experiencing in your debt payoff journey, you’ll discover that it forces you to think about what’s going on. It helps to keep you engaged in the process and moving forward toward each small goal. Writing about your journey is also great because you can look back at your first entries and see how far you’ve come, which helps motivate you to continue.
Besides, some of the best personal finance blogs around were started by people detailing their journey out of debt, so you might be able to inspire others and maybe even make a little money while you’re at it!
5. Continually Educate Yourself
One of the best things you can do is to constantly educate yourself about money and getting out of debt. Read books, listen to podcasts, watch videos, and read blogs about the subject.
The more you know about what you’re trying to do, the more you understand it. The more you understand it, the more motivated you’ll be to stick with it and see your journey through to the end. The more you learn about how to use your money wisely, the greater control you have over your situation.
I’ve included a list of great resources at the end of the post to get you started.
6. Work On Developing New Habits
Obviously, you can’t get out of debt by doing the same things that got you into debt in the first place. Work on developing new habits such as using cash only (remember going naked?), learning to do a written budget every month, eating out less, taking lunch to work, shopping only when you need something, etc.
Changing your habits actually changes the way your brain works, and can lead to lasting results!
7. Focus On Getting Out Of Debt a Little Bit Every Day
Removing a mountain of debt happens one shovel at a time. Find a way to focus on your get out of debt process every day. Read an article, have a thought for the day, say a prayer, find something new to save money on, or listen to a podcast.
A small effort every day helps you stay engaged in the process and helps to keep up your motivation to continue the journey.
Getting Out of Debt Is Worth It!
Developing discipline and sticking with a get out of debt plan to the end can be more difficult for some people than for others. But when you’re relentless about overcoming the obstacles during the journey, it makes getting out of debt much easier in the long run.
Getting out of debt isn’t always easy, but it’s always worth the journey!
Below you’ll find some great resources I recommend to help you stay motivated and educated when it comes to getting out of debt.
Question: Have you ever become discouraged while trying to pay off debt? Share your thoughts and leave a comment.
Resources I Recommend
Financial Peace– Dave Ramsey
The Total Money Makeover– Dave Ramsey
Rich Dad, Poor Dad- Robert Kiyosaki
The Cashflow Quadrant– Robert Kiyosaki
Spirit Driven Success– Dani Johnson
Balance: The Quick and Easy Guide to Financial Stability Using a Budget- Jason Cabler
You can find more titles at the CFF Bookstore
Article originally published on Celebrating Financial Freedom. Used with permission.
Dr. Jason Cabler is a Christian personal finance blogger, author, and speaker. He teaches how to get out of debt and live a debt free lifestyle through his Celebrating Financial Freedom blog and self study course. His book How to Budget: The Quick and Easy Guide to Making a Budget That Works is now available (more info here). He can be reached for interviews or speaking engagements by email, and can be found on Twitter, Facebook, and Google +.