How to Stay Focused with Paying Off Debt

Today is a good day. As I went to check our accounts and schedule some payments, I noticed that our federal and state tax refunds finally came in.

Like I mentioned Monday, we sat down and chatted about what we wanted to do with the money. It didn’t take too long as we were both on the same page.

We’re using most of the money to pay down the student loan and we’re using the rest to buy an entertainment center.

Go Away Debt


Getting rid of the student loan is one of our major goals for the year. Looking at the numbers, these tax refunds give a nice boost to our debt elimination plan.

Between the cash we used from the car sale and the refunds we’re able to knock down the student loans by 18%.

If we keep to our planned payments (the scheduled student loan payments plus our extra $175/month we re-directed from the extra mortgage payments) we’d be able to take about 20% off the student loan.

That means if we simply stay on our current plan we’ll eliminate about 38% of the student loan by December!If you two are struggling to stay focused with paying off debt, here are fours ways to keep you motivated! Get the tools, sites, and resources we used!

That’s without using any extra income we may earn this year – some great progress to be sure.

While I certainly feel good that we are taking down this loan,  I can honestly say that paying down debt is boring.

Staying motivated is vital as we finish up on our last non-mortgage debt.

Staying Motivated

Everyone has their own methods to staying motivated with paying down debt. For me, I have to have support for those times when it just seems so much more fun to use the money in other pursuits, like taking an awesome vacation.

Here are a few things that keeps me on target:

  • Each Other: I’m grateful that my husband and I are working together on getting rid of this student loan. He’s awesome, plain and simple. He has been incredibly supportive on this and he has been wiling to make sacrifices for the family which in turn makes me want to give more.
  • Community: Writing here on Couple Money has been incredibly helpful for me. I get more focused after chatting with you in the comments and getting your stories, your feedback, and also your emails. Staying connected to the community has made paying off debt a lot more fun. You can build your own support group by gathering friends who have the same goals and helping each other stay accountable.
  • Personal Finance Sites/Blogs: Before I started writing about our family’s finances, I was reading and being encouraged by others sharing their financial struggles and victories online. Some have moved offline and some have changed their financial goals as they’ve matured. I’ve found sites like Mr. Money Mustache, The Debt Movement, and Punch Debt in The Face to help me keep focused on the long term goal – being debt free and financially independent.
  • Books: I love to read and some of my financial books have proved useful as I tried to find ways to cut back on needless expenses and stay focused on eliminating debt. Some of my favorites include I Will Teach You To Be Rich, The Total Money Makeover , and Your Money or Your Life. Not only do these books cover the numbers in personal finance, but they tackle the psychology behind the debt. There are stories, tips, and advice on adjusting behaviors to make it easier.

As I write here on couple Money, my hope is that I add a bit of encouragement and practical to getting out of debt as I’ve received from others.

Thoughts on Staying Motivated

I’d love to hear from those who have found ways to keep themselves motivated and are achieving their goals. What has worked for you? How do you two stay on target?

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Meet the Author

Elle Martinez helps families at Couple Money achieve financial freedom by sharing tips for reducing debt, increase income, and building net worth. Learn how to live on one income and have fun with the second..

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  • LivingDebtFreeRocks! Mar 14, 2013, 5:03 pm

    It may be boring but you’re doing great in kicking down debt! During the years I was paying off debt I had a lot of support and like you read other blogs for inspiration and suggestions. I also really, really wanted to be debt free because I had big plans for life and debt was standing squarely in the way of accomplishing them. I just wasn’t having that.

    • Elle Martinez Mar 15, 2013, 4:33 pm

      Thanks for the encouragement! We love the progress we’re making, but I had to be honest with the tough times – staying on target instead of splurging. I appreciate reading other sites to get tips, so I will be stopping by today.

  • Gina Shireman Mar 15, 2013, 9:42 am

    My husband and I are following Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover plan to get on track financially. We have a large visual aide on our fridge that we use for motivation, we also keep a debt chart and each month update our numbers for 2 student loans and our mortgage. I look at both all the time to stay motivated.

    • Elle Martinez Mar 15, 2013, 4:30 pm

      Love the visual graph Gina! Thanks for sharing your tips. Doing a monthly review does help; now I might come up with a chart for the fridge 🙂

  • Jackie Mar 16, 2013, 2:18 pm

    When my husband and I were paying off our house, we stayed motivated by talking about how great it would be once we were done. (What we’d do, what would be different, etc.) Basically, we spent a lot of time daydreaming — kinda like those “what would you do if you won the lottery” conversations people have — except that we knew we really *would* be able to do the stuff once we were done.

    • Elle Martinez Mar 20, 2013, 7:21 am

      LOL, working at getting out of debt is a lot more productive than just hoping for the lotto win. Daydreaming your future without debt sounds like a lot of fun.

  • Laurie @thefrugalfarmer Mar 16, 2013, 5:14 pm

    Great post, and congrats, Elle, on such great success! We too stay motivated by just envisioning our life when we’re done with debt. We also use charts and graphs, and encourage each other about how much money we’re saving when we’re at home, bored of doing nothing. 🙂

    • Elle Martinez Mar 20, 2013, 7:19 am

      It’s great that you two encourage one another. I see a lot of people love having graphs; I may have to hop on that bandwagon 🙂

  • Thomas Lassanske Mar 18, 2013, 12:42 pm

    I was highly motivated by using financial software that graphed my progress over time (not only for debt reduction, but also for net worth increase). I’ve commented before on your net worth updates that you should graph your progress over time for this reason.

    • Elle Martinez Mar 20, 2013, 7:18 am

      Thanks for the suggestion Thomas. I think we may add that graph to our personal spreadsheet. It would be great to see the progress visually.