Paying off a large amount of debt can take one or more years for some of us. It’s easy to be gung-ho and make large sacrifices for a short period of time. But how does one stay motivated as those months turn into years?
When I realized it would take over two years to pay off of our non-mortgage debt, it became imperative to keep on track. I came up with a plan of three steps.
I set a deadline for paying off each individual debt. Each time one was met early or on time, that success kept me ready to keep moving forward to the next goal.
If you have only one debt, then divide it into measurable, smaller chunks so it doesn’t seem overwhelming. For me, the student loan is the big debt but breaking it into $5,000 segments has helped attack it.
Track Progress of Your Debt Reduction Plan
I keep track of the monthly balances of each debt. Being able to visualize each one’s road to a zero balance as well as overall progress is motivating. There are debt snowball forms and even a smart phone app to help.
Some people document the progress more tangibly with charts or even paper chains where each loop represents X number of dollars. .Many personal finance blogs are started by the owner as a way to keep focused on becoming debt free.
Our budget has been trimmed to make more money available for debt repayment. But this doesn’t mean we don’t spend money on vacations, entertainment or even regular lattes.
The difference is that no additional debt is incurred on vacations and they are less lavish. Entertainment dollars are stretched by half price tickets and free events. Instead of a daily latte on the way to the office, it’s weekly using a membership reward card.
Because these expenditures are only reduced, not eliminated, the tighter budget is something we can live with long term.
If you’re one of those people that can set a goal and find it easy to sacrifice until it’s met, you probably don’t need these steps. For the rest of us they’ll keep us determined until the debt-free day arrives.
Photo Credit: aarmono
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