Over the past year, I’ve gone through periods of great motivation and extremely low motivation. I’ve wanted to give up and go shoe shopping, but even when I seriously considered throwing in the towel, something kept me going. Sometimes it was an internal drive that this is the right decision and a worthy goal, but sometimes I had to go searching for that motivation.
Knowing that some of my readers might be just starting out or searching for their own motivation, I wanted to compile a list of things that actually motivated me at various points:
Make an After-Debt Wish List. Mine included an updated wardrobe clothing, horseback riding lessons, adding to my Roth IRA, and gifts and charity for others. Everything was detailed: “new flats” instead of “new clothes.” I also have a list of charities I’d like to donate to as I can.
Make an After-Debt Budget. Assuming you’re making the same amount you are now, mock up a realistic budget of what life will look like when you’re debt free. When I did this, it was great to see how much I will contribute to retirement (15% is a lot!) and still have money to pursue other goals like saving for a new(er) car, travel and horseback riding. Although this budget probably won’t be the same by the time you’re done paying off your debt, it shows a very different picture of your life.
Find Like-Minded People. I had many conversations with family members and friends who were supportive of my goals or pursuing similar goals. These often rejuvenated my resolve and let me know that people were rooting for me.
Talk to Non-Like-Minded People. As motivating as it is to talk to people similar to me, I find it just as motivating to talk to people making different decisions. Make a conscious effort to empathize with their situation, but recognize the reasons why you are going down your path instead of theirs. There’s a lot of reasons why you’re paying off debt, and some people will disagree with you. Embrace it. Know you’re doing what’s right for you, and they’re doing what’s right for them. Be thankful you are $X less in debt that you were at this time last month.
Find Blogs, Podcasts and/or Books. There are so many free resources available via the Internet and public library to educate yourself about different theories and methods, not to mention personal memoirs, tips and tricks to save money, sell your stuff, live frugally. My favorites over the past year have included No More Harvard Debt, the Dave Ramsey Show, Living Well, Spending Less, And Then We Saved… and, honestly, so many, many more that it’s impossible to list them all. Start looking and bookmark your favorites. Go to the library and just pick up a bunch of books. Read the ones you identify with and return the ones you don’t.
Make a Debt Countdown. I did this a couple different times in different formats including a bar graph that I colored in, a list of debts I crossed off as I paid them off, and a $100-increment list that I highlighted when I got my balance to that amount (see the picture above). I’ve also taken screenshots of my loan balances so I can flip back through and see how far I’ve come.
Keep a Record of your Journey. Keeping this blog up has been a motivator in itself. Each month, I want to be able to show progress, and it’s so much fun now to go back and read where I was a year ago. Wow. So much has changed between then and now. Even if you don’t want to keep a blog, write in a journal or even just take snapshots of your accounts so you can see where you started.