Debt is the worst. Debt will steal your money, your joy, and happily hang around sucking the life out of you for as long as you will allow it.
If you are in debt, I implore you to pay it off as soon as possible, if you’re not sure where to start, try one of these three methods. If you’ve already begun paying off debt and digging yourself out of the giant hole it has put you in, I congratulate you!
My husband and I have done the same…in fact, that is exactly how this blog came to be! And because I have been on this same journey as you are right now I know how incredibly difficult it can be. I know how easy it is to feel like you’re running out of steam and I want to offer you some encouragement to keep you moving full steam ahead on your debt-free journey, which is why I have asked some personal finance blogger friends of mine to share their very best tips for staying motivated while paying off debt.
Many of these people have been on a very similar journey and have put in their own time struggling to stay focused on the goal of becoming debt-free.
Expert Tips for Staying Motivated While Paying Off Debt
You’ll find a wealth of priceless advice for remaining focused and motivated while paying off debt when you read through these tips – and be sure to save this post to Pinterest so you can refer back to it any time you find your commitment wavering!
Track your Debt Payoff Progress Along the Way
Chhavi, Mrs. Daaku Studio
Keep your eyes on the prize. Every quarter, spend some time calculating how much you have paid off and how much more you are able to save.
When I was in the process of paying off my credit card debt, I told myself I will have nothing to pay after this, and I can do more of the things I like to do. It kept me going!
Remain Focused on Your End Goal
Kristin, The Wayward Home
I live in the most expensive housing market in the United States – San Francisco. I knew I’d have to do something drastic to pay off my debt, so I decided to live in a Prius and camp in a tent with my boyfriend.
In just a few months, I was debt-free for the first time in my adult life and even saved up a nest egg! Staying motivated while paying off debt can be tough, but remembering the end game is what saved me from going crazy.
Being debt-free means more freedom to do what you want with your life. Just remind yourself that any sacrifices you’re making now aren’t forever and that one day you’ll thank yourself many times over for sticking with your debt payment plan. I’m 100% debt-free now and work for myself, with plans to sail around the world on my sailboat. It was definitely worth the few months of struggle to achieve my dreams.
Noah, Busy Living Better
My best tip for staying motivated when paying off debt is to “keep the end in mind.” I like to make a list of things that I will be able to do once that debt is paid off.
For example, if you pay off your student loans, you can instead take that monthly payment and put it towards saving for a vacation, a new car, or anything you might want.
Having a clear vision of what it is you’ll be able to do once ridding yourself of debt allows you to define your “why” and envision what the end result will look like for your life.
Bill, Common Cents Hub
From my experience, there are a lot of things that’ll help you to pay off debt, like adjusting your lifestyle, and starting an emergency fund, but for me, one thing helped more than anything else.
That was to have a goal in mind. So many of us go through life working and paying bills, but there should be something else – something personal to work towards.
Maybe it’s getting your financial house in order to start a family or transition to a new career, move to a new area, or maybe travel.
Whether you’re alone, or with a partner, having that one goal in mind makes everyday sacrifices easier, in my opinion. It also makes it easier to agree with your partner on spending decisions.
Hari, Parhelia Finance
My best tip for staying motivated while paying off debt would be to stay consistent. Seeing your debt decrease month after month is always encouraging. Consistency definitely helps to stay motivated because you can see that progress.
I would also recommend keeping the long-term goal, of being completely debt-free, in mind at all times because it’s sometimes easy to forget.
Jill, Five Senses of Living
One of my favorite tips for staying motivated while paying off debt is to become laser-focused on exactly what it’ll take to pay off debt. I like to envision what my life will look like when all of my debt is paid off.
Perhaps I can begin contributing more to my retirement to ensure I am able to retire at my desired age. Or I can begin paying more to my mortgage payment to be mortgage-free at a young age. Or perhaps I can travel the world freely without having to stress about money and finances.
Celebrate Along Your Debt-Free Journey
Drew, Drew DuBoff
I’ve got a lot of debt to pay off. Easily over $100k of student loans. It’s SO challenging to continue to find the motivation to pay off the debt. Something that has worked for me thus far is incentivizing myself.
So, every time I make a payment on my loans, I’ll treat myself to something inexpensive, but it’s a way to thank and reward myself. If you choose a good reward, then you will always be motivated to pay off the debt.
Lauren, Casa Mochi
Five years ago my husband and I paid off $266,000 of debt, and I have a few ideas of what we did to stay motivated:
Set up lots of small milestones along the way, and acknowledge and celebrate them! We set up several milestones:
*Every time we saved x amount in interest
*Every time we turned a page in our home mortgage amortization schedule
*Every time we paid off x amount of dollars
It felt like we were always celebrating something. By celebrating, I mean toasting with some apple cider or champagne.
Kelly, Montana Happy
I stay motivated while paying off debt by rewarding myself with tiny treats. For instance, I gave up lattes for tea. Now I planted a tea garden, so I don’t have to spend any more money on tea. I bought all the herbs and flowers I like in my tea – to beautify my backyard and have ingredients for making my tea.
Another example of this is buying dog food. If I can get my dog’s food on sale, I’m allowed to get a treat while I’m out running errands.
Monica, Lucky Mojito
One of the ways my husband and I stayed motivated while paying off our credit card debt was by celebrating our wins. To save money in the beginning, we stopped eating out and instead spent more time cooking at home and brown-bagging it.
When we reached our first payoff goal, we celebrated by going out to dinner at our favorite restaurant (nothing too expensive). When we finally paid off all our credit card debt, we celebrated by going to a Broadway show.
Our next financial goal is to pay off our mortgage. Because it’s a longer-term goal, we stay motivated by going on vacations, mainly cruises and road trips, because they are more affordable for our family of four. Create an incentive that will make you want to fight your own debt off fiercely!
Jessi, Jessi Fearon
When we were deep in the “pay-off-all-the-debt” season, what kept us motivated was tiny celebrations. We didn’t do anything super crazy or expensive, but those little celebrations were super helpful in keeping us motivated!
We only did these celebrations after we fully paid off a debt and had the extra room in our budget to celebrate. We would order a pizza or maybe rent a movie and have a family movie night. And sometimes, it was just a fun activity that we all wanted to do but was usually out of the budget.
So, if you can, allow yourself to have small celebrations to celebrate those wins because every time you kill off a debt, it’s something worth celebrating!
Use Visual Aids
Logan, Money Done Right
I graduated college with over $35,000 in student loan debt and on top of that took out an auto loan of almost $20,000 shortly thereafter. So I essentially started my adult life with over $50,000 in debt. This isn’t exactly the fast path to financial freedom!
Being a very visually-oriented person by nature, I signed up for software that would link to my student debt and auto loan accounts and show me a graph of my debt amounts in real-time. Seeing my debt balance go down every month really encouraged me to not only stay on top of my debt but also put every penny I could toward paying it off.
So if there are any visual folks out there, I would highly recommend somehow visualizing your debt payoff to encourage you to keep going. I opted to use online software, but I know that the security aspect of linking one’s personal accounts to a third-party app may spook some people out.
If you aren’t too keen on this idea, perhaps you could make your own “debt graph” at home using paper and maybe colored pencils (a different color for each debt you have).
I really found that being able to see my debt go down with each payment was incredibly motivating, and I hope it will be for you too.
Saranya, One Fine Wallet
We use our phones more often than we need – whether it’s to check out social media, reply to messages, or make phone calls. That’s not all, it also keeps us busy when we have a few minutes to spare at the doctor’s office or during our lunch breaks! So why not use our phone’s wallpaper to be a constant reminder of how far we’ve come in paying off our debt?
Motivational quotes are perfect to give us that extra boost we need to perform better. My best tip is to pick a favorite quote that’s relevant to you and have this on our phone as an inspiration.
Ashley, Budgets Made Easy
My number one tip for staying motivated while paying off debt is to make visuals of your progress. Studies have shown that visually seeing your progress makes you more likely to keep going and actually finish.
Janet, A Couple of Stelly’s
The best way I stay motivated when paying off debt is to have a visual where I can track to see my progress. This is especially motivating when I have a loan where I can see I have xx amount of months left.
When I pay extra money towards the principal as I can, I’m able to determine via a loan amortization schedule how many months I was able to reduce it by. I’m able to cross those extra months off my visual.
It’s so rewarding! It’s amazing how much an extra $100 or so can make a difference!
Tana, Debt Free Forties
I’m a very visual person with apparently bad short-term memory. If it’s not in front of my face daily, it tends to easily and quickly fall off my radar. I’ve learned that the best way to stay motivated with debt payoff is to have visual reminders.
For me, that’s debt payoff graphs that I can hang on the wall in the kitchen and color in. As well as joining debt payoff Facebook groups and the #debtfreecommunity on Instagram, so I’m surrounded by like-minded people (on social media, anyway). I also like reading financial books because they can be a great motivator to keep you interested and focused on your goals.
Having those visual reminders really helps to keep your focus and stay on point! Figure out which of them work for you and incorporate them into your daily routine.
Break Down Your Debt-Free Goals
Jon, Money Smart Guide
I was in debt over $10K, and the best tip I have to share is to create mini-milestone goals.
When I looked at my total debt and how I was paying a couple of hundred dollars a month, it gets depressing real fast.
Instead of looking at my total debt number, I made goals to pay off $2,500. When I hit that goal, I treated myself to a pizza from my favorite pizza place and rented a movie.
Then I did the same thing all over again. By breaking down my debt into smaller amounts, my monthly payments looked like they were having a bigger impact since my goal was much smaller.
Remember Your “Why”
Kelan, The Savvy Couple
Last June, we decided that we were going to do a full-blown attack on our remaining $25,000 of student loans. We set a goal to pay them off within a year, and we were able to do it in under five months.
For us, getting started was the hardest part. They were a relatively low-interest rate at 4.5%, but the stress of having that monthly payment overhead was enough to motivate us to destroy them.
The best piece of advice I can give to stay motivated when paying off debt is understanding your “why” before you even start. Once you have a good understanding of why you want to become debt-free, staying motivated during your attack becomes so much easier.
You are obviously going to have to make sacrifices when paying off debt, but that does not mean you can’t reward yourself after making a large payment. Even going out for a small ice cream treat is sometimes just enough of a reward to keep going.
Don’t try to take the emotions out of personal finance. It’s called “personal” for a reason. We were never really fans of Dave Ramsey until we started attacking debt. By using his snowball method you can see progress quickly, and watching those numbers dwindle down to nothing was extremely motivating.
McKinzie, Moms Make Cents
When we have worked to pay off debt one thing that really helped me stay focused was by narrowing down my “why.” Your “why” is your purpose – what is fueling you to pay off the debt. Maybe it is your children, maybe it is so you can buy your dream house, maybe it is so you can go on that vacation you’ve been pining for.
Once you have your “why” find a picture that symbolizes it and put that picture everywhere. Put one on your fridge, change the lock screen of your phone, you can even put one if your wallet so when you go to pay for something you have to really consider if you need it.
Having this constant reminder will help you stay on track to meet your goal and motivate you to keep going!
What Are You Missing While Paying Off Debt?
Merilee, Easy Budget
Calculating how much interest I pay every month and thinking about what I would rather buy with that.
Seriously this is my #1.
Example: Beginning of our journey we were in $71,000 of debt, mostly student loans. Our average interest rate was 5%. That’s $3,550 in interest every year. That’s $295 per month in interest.
Then I would think to myself, with $295 I could have gotten hair extensions this month. With $295 I could have stayed at a 5-star hotel for a night. I could have gone on a shopping spree at Gap. I could have bought a new Apple Watch. And so on and so forth.
Very motivating. Highly recommend.
Sami, A Sunny Side Up Life
Realize that time will pass one way or another.
When you finally realize that you can’t stop time your whole mindset will change.
For example, in 3 years you could be free, or you could still be right where you are now…it’s totally up to you! Time doesn’t care what you do, it’s going to pass one way or the other, so you might as well do something productive with that time.
I hope you found value in these tips and comfort in knowing that you are not alone on this journey to paying off debt…please feel free to add your own tips in the comments below. If you need help tracking your debt, check out my brand new Budget Better Spreadsheet Bundle.
Kristin Stones is the owner of Cents + Purpose, an online community dedicated to sharing practical personal finance content. Her mission is to equip women with the necessary tools and knowledge to take back control of their money and live a more purposeful life. She creates actionable content to help her audience achieve financial wellness using her simple approach to managing money - all learned through her personal experience of paying off almost $55,000 of debt in under two years.