Pay the debt? 3 tips to overcome discouragement

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When you are paying a debt, the enemy is discouragement.

Key points

  • If you’re paying off debt, you can expect some debt fatigue.
  • Don’t forget to build fun in your life.
  • Make a plan to pay off your debt at the same time you make a plan to live your best life.

Paying off debt is like trying to adopt better eating or exercise habits. We are enthusiastic at first, but discouragement soon sets in. Nothing happens as fast as we want, and we feel like we’re spinning our wheels. If you find yourself in that position, there is a good reason for it. There are also things you can do to feel better.

debt fatigue

Experts refer to what you may be going through as “debt fatigue.” It’s that exhaustion you feel when you’re working to pay off a debt. You may feel exhausted and resentful. You may even feel sad or listless.

Here’s the thing though: To achieve your goal of getting out of debt, you have to keep going. The trick is knowing how to do it.

1. Create fun

As someone who has paid off more than $100,000 in debt, I bring this up first because I think it may be what got me through. Many years ago, I sat down to add up everything my husband and I owed. I think I put it off for a long time for two reasons.

  1. We always had enough money in the bank to make the minimum payments.
  2. I really didn’t want to know where we were standing.

Although we could make payments every month, it bothered me that we were paying compound interest instead of earning it with investments. I knew we could do better, but we were afraid to face the reality of our situation.

I can remember precisely where I was sitting as I listed each debt, the interest rate, and how much we spent each month. It was a jarring experience. He also lit a fire to change things, even if it took him years to do it.

Almost 20 years have passed, but the experience has stayed with me. There are several amazing ways to reduce debt. we chose the snowball method. We focused on paying more for a debt each month until that debt was paid off. We then move the amount we paid on that debt to the next debt on our list. Once it’s paid off, we transfer it to the next debt, and so on.

Do you know what I remember from that time? All the fun we had. We made a point to invite friends over for mystery parties. We took short day trips that cost little but made great memories. We budget enough money each month to meet friends for dinner a couple of times, and generally find other ways to entertain ourselves without breaking the bank.

Intellectually, I know I really wanted to get out of that debt, but my memories of that time are sweet because we made sure to focus on living in the moment and finding fun where we could.

I’m not telling you it will be easy, but I encourage you to make fun a priority. You don’t have to stop living just because you’re paying off a debt. You may need to get creative and find inexpensive ways to have fun, but it’s vital that you continue to enjoy your life.

2. Imagine the future

I am a terrible flyer. According to my mom, I’ve been terrible on airplanes since I was a little kid. After years of looking for ways to calm down on flights, I discovered something that helps.

From the moment I start planning a trip throughout the entire flight, I envision walking through our destination airport, picking up a rental car, and discovering a new city. Every time I’m tempted to think about the turbulence or the chatty guy in the seat behind me, I turn my attention back to the amazing experience we’re about to have.

It works the same way when debt fatigue hits. He turns his thoughts back to what the future will look like once the final debt is paid in full. What are you going to do with the extra funds? Will you save for a special vacation, invest more, donate to charities do you care, or a combination of all three?

Maybe the future you envision is totally different, and that’s okay. The point is to focus on what life will be like after the debt is gone. As long as you stick with your payment plan, you’ll get there. In the meantime, you have time to decide how you want to spend the money when high-interest debt is no longer a problem.

3. Distract yourself

Let’s say your payment plan is scheduled to last 36 months or 48 months. While you know you’ll spend that time getting out of debt, consider what else you want to do during those months. Learn a new language, take up some woodworking, buy used cross-country ski gear, and hit the open trails. Do something that enriches your life.

In other words, accomplish two things at once. Once a payment plan is set up, put it on autopilot by setting up automatic payment. In the meantime, distract yourself by focusing on other goals.

Even if you follow these suggestions, there are times when you can get discouraged. Acknowledge what you’re feeling and use it as the extra motivation you need to make debt a thing of the past.

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