Would you like to stay motivated for the long haul when paying off debt? All the way until you are debt free?
It’s possible! The key is to recognize, focus on, and celebrate incremental progress along the way.
Literally making your progress visible can help, and I’ve got some tools for you in this article to make it easier to do exactly that.
Where to start
First, a quick note. It’s way too easy to get caught up in feelings like “ugh, I’m never going to get out of debt.” or “I suck.” So…don’t do that. I’m serious here. You deserve better.
If you find yourself thinking or saying automatic negative thoughts like those, literally tell yourself to STOP, and then consciously replace them with the truth instead. (This is a psychological thing that absolutely works.)
Remember, the truth is…
If you’re determined to be debt free and you stick with it, you absolutely CAN get there. Even if you don’t yet know how! When you’re determined, you WILL get there. And you ARE making progress. (Even if you only pick one leaf off a shrub at a time, eventually that shrub will be bare.)
So it starts with your thoughts, feelings, and words. Begin by actively changing the way you think, feel, and talk about things.
Stay focused and make your progress visible with simple methods
Make even incremental progress visible in a way that helps you FEEL the progress in a positive way. That way, you’ll continue to make even more of it. There are lots of ways to make your progress visible and stay focused. In addition to literally talking about it every step of the way or using my Pay Off Debt app, you can use these simple methods:
- Paper chains. Remember making paper chains as a little kid and tearing off one link at a time to count down the days to some big event? (Usually Christmas.) Why not make a paper chain based on your debt reduction plans for the year? For example, if you intend to pay an extra $50 to your mortgage each month, make a chain with 12 links in it, each representing $50. Tear one off every time you make an extra $50 payment and watch the chain grow shorter. That’s progress made visible, and it’ll feel good every time you tear off a link.
- Color your debt away. Color in shapes that represent what you’re paying off (like I did with the floor plan of our house), a debt free chart or debt thermometer, or color the free printable “Debt Free” coloring book page I’ve got for you here. (Just enter your email address in the form below if you’d like a copy. It’s a full-sized version of the image here.) Hang it where you can see it. Then watch it become more beautiful day by day as you color it in and get closer to debt freedom! Once you get it colored in, send me a copy so I can celebrate with you and maybe share it with the world :)
- Make a vision board. You can quickly create a board called “Vision Board” on Pinterest and update it regularly, no glue required. Fill it with pins that represent all the things you’ll be able to do once you’ve living a debt-free life and able to pay for things with cash. Add some motivational quotes too, and images that represent things you want to be telling yourself on a regular basis. Then look at it daily. (Or make a regular vision board out of paper if that’s more your thing.)
- Write out your goals & read them regularly. Stick your debt freedom goals on your fridge or inside the medicine cabinet in your bathroom — someplace where you’ll for sure see it every day. Then read them out loud regularly. Add details of what life will be like, or what your next goal will be once you’ve reached debt freedom too.
Why it works
Your brain believes whatever it consistently sees and hears. This is especially true if you get some emotion into what you’re seeing or hearing. Then your brain works hard to make sure that the reality it perceives is then consistent with those beliefs.
(If you don’t believe me, tell yourself “Wow there are so many red cars out there!” — and then notice how many red cars you see the rest of the day.)
Use those powers for good! Tell yourself the right things, really believe those things, and stay focused on celebrating every step of the way.
How it worked for me
For example, I had a LOT of success by excitedly saying things out loud like, “I sent another $5 to the mortgage today! Woohoo!” — a whole mortgage’s-worth of success, a little bit at a time.
I said things like that to anyone and everyone who would listen, including myself and the dog. My husband and I talked constantly about what we were going to be able to do after we were debt free.
I made vision boards, colored in parts of the floor plan of our house as we “paid off” a particular area, you name it.
We were going to get it done, and we did. (Here’s how we paid off our house and a whole bunch of other debt.)
Literally making our incremental progress visible, tracking our progress with the app, and constantly talking about what our life would be like once we were debt free made all the difference!