When you decide to take your debt journey seriously, you might feel a burst of energy and motivation. You’re ready to slay your debt. Unfortunately, that motivation doesn’t last long. I know, because I paid off debt for many years. Over the course of nine years, I paid off $81,000 in student loans. I only got serious about it after graduating from New York University, when I still had $68,000 — which I paid off in 4.5 years. In order to do that, I had to make four-figure payments for years. When you can’t pay off debt quickly because your balance is so large, debt fatigue can creep in. Here are five motivational hacks to help you pay off debt.
1. Write your debt number on a post-it
Paying off debt requires you to shift your behavior as well as your mindset. In order to do that, you need to keep your debt top of mind. You can’t just rely on willpower or motivation. You need to rely on discipline as well as gentle reminders.
One hack that worked for me was to put my debt balance on a post-it. I took that post-it and put it on my credit card. So every time I wanted to spend money, I’d see the balance looking back at me. At that moment, I had to ask myself if the purchase was really worth it. This hack kept me from making mindless purchases and kept me going because I was so determined to see that number go down!
2. Make a debt-free dream list
Debt fatigue is difficult to deal with because you’re so overpaying off debt. One thing that kept me going when I wanted to give up was creating a “debt-free dream list”. On that list, I wrote down all of my dreams and the things I wanted in my debt-free life.
I wrote down that I wanted to be self-employed, move back to LA, get cats, and take my mom to Italy. At the time, I was living in Portland, Oregon and the weather didn’t agree with me but I knew I needed to stay to take advantage of the low cost of living.
I was also desperate for my own cats and to have more adventures. But I went back to being disciplined and knew that a little bit of hard work now would mean an easier life later when I was older.
Do you want to be a younger person in debt or an older person in debt? I think you know the answer. So for me, I sacrificed and hustled for years and kept in mind all of the things I would have and pursue once I was debt-free and had a positive net worth.
You can create your own debt-free dream list by thinking about all the things you will do or items you will buy once your debt is completely gone.
3. Use Pinterest/Instagram to motivate you
Writing down your debt-free dream list is one way to state what you want. But to take it to the next level, you can use Pinterest to motivate you. Create a board that showcases images and articles that keep you going.
You can also use Instagram to motivate you too. Only follow accounts related to your dream. Use the ‘save post’ function to create a gallery of images that support your debt-free dream list. Instead of using social media to be tempted by ads or getting FOMO, you can curate your own feed to help you reach your debt-free dream list and keep going when times are hard and motivation is lacking.
4. Make yourself accountable
I started my blog DearDebt.com to write about my journey of paying off debt. Every month, I’d write a recap on the side hustles I did as well as how much I paid off in debt that month. The blog was a wonderful accountability tool that helped me pay off debt.
You can make yourself accountable by starting a blog. Think that’s too much? Create a microblog on Instagram and search #debtfreecommunity. You can also find a friend you can connect with who also wants to pay off debt and set up regular intervals to check-in.
Having external accountability can help you maintain progress. You want to show up, not disappoint the other person, and cheer each other on. Find what works for you while striving to be consistent.
5. Try these different methods to pay off debt
If you research ways to pay off debt, it’s likely you’ve come across two common ways to pay off debt.
- Debt avalanche
- Debt snowball
Both require you to pay the minimum on all of your loans but states you should put your extra money toward the highest interest rate (avalanche) or the lowest balance (snowball). The snowball method is very popular and can be a good option as it boosts motivation as you pay down small balances. The avalanche method can save you money on interest, which could mean paying off debt even faster.
You can use this FREE tool from Undebt.it. They provide a mobile-friendly snowball/avalanche calculator app to help you live debt-free. The payment is easy to follow so you can finally eliminate your debt!
Two other options that I shared in my book Dear Debt, are about engaging your emotions to help you pay off debt. One option is to pay off the debt that makes you angry. Maybe you have debt from a divorce or getting scammed by a friend and it makes you mad. Anger is typically not a great emotion and doesn’t help move you forward. But if you channel that into debt repayment, it could fuel your journey.
The other option is to pay off the debt that will offer the most peace of mind. If you have a loan from a family member that is causing tension or a credit card bill that keeps you up at night, preventing you from having good sleep, pay that off first.
Paying off debt is an emotional process and these are two ways to hack your emotions in your favor rather than fall in despair.
Pay off debt now
Paying off debt is never easy. It takes a toll on your emotional and financial life and maybe even your relationships, too. That’s why it’s important to do whatever you can to get out of debt ASAP and hack your motivation so you can keep going.
Writer. Event planner. Speaker. Author of Dear Debt: A Story About Breaking Up With Debt. Lover of good food, strong coffee & music with a beat. Her work has appeared in Allure, Business Insider, Huffington Post, and more.