Paying Off Debt? 3 Tips to Get Past Discouragement

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  • If you're paying off debt, you can expect a bit of debt fatigue.
  • Don't forget to build fun into your life. 
  • Make a plan to pay off your debt while also making a plan to live your best life.

When you're paying off debt, discouragement is the enemy.

Paying off debt is like trying to adopt better eating or exercise habits. We're enthusiastic at first, but soon, discouragement kicks in. Nothing happens as quickly as we want it to, and we feel like we're spinning our wheels. If you find yourself in that position, there's a good reason for it. There are also things you can do to make yourself feel better.

Debt fatigue 

Experts refer to what you may be going through as "debt fatigue." It's that exhaustion you feel as you work to pay off debt. You may feel burnt out and resentful. You may even feel sad or apathetic. 

Here's the thing, though: To accomplish your goal of getting rid of debt you must push through. The trick is knowing how to do it. 

1. Build in fun

As someone who has paid off more than $100,000 in debt, I mention this first because I think it may be what got me through. Many years ago, I sat down to add up all that my husband and I owed. I think I put it off for a long time for two reasons. 

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  1. We always had enough money in the bank to make the minimum payments. 
  2. I really did not want to know where we stood. 

Although we could make payments each month, it bugged me that we were paying compound interest rather than earning it on investments. I knew we could do better, but dreaded facing the reality of our situation. 

I can remember precisely where I was sitting as I listed each debt, the interest rate, and how much we were spending each month. It was a jarring experience. It also lit a fire to turn things around, even if it took years to do so. 

It's been nearly 20 years, but the experience has stayed with me. There are several amazing ways to chip away at debt. We chose the snowball method. We focused on paying extra toward one debt each month until that debt was paid off. Then we rolled the amount we paid on that debt to the next debt on our list. Once it was paid off, we rolled it over to the next debt, and so on. 

You know what I remember about that time? All the fun we had. We made it a point to have friends over for mystery parties. We took short day trips that cost little but created great memories. We budgeted enough money each month to meet friends for dinner a couple of times and generally found other ways to entertain ourselves without breaking the bank. 

Intellectually, I know that I was itching to get out from under that debt, but my memories of that time are sweet because we made sure to focus on living in the moment and finding fun where we could. 

I'm not telling you it's going to be easy, but I am encouraging you to make fun a priority. You don't have to stop living simply because you're paying off debt. You may have to get creative and come up with low-cost ways to have that fun, but it's vital you continue to enjoy your life.

2. Imagine the future

I'm a terrible flier. According to my mother, I've been just awful in airplanes since I was a young child. After years of looking for ways to calm down on flights, I've discovered something that helps. 

From the time I begin planning for a trip through the entire flight, I imagine walking through our destination airport, picking up a rental car, and discovering a new city. Whenever I'm tempted to think about turbulence or the talkative guy in the seat behind me, I refocus my attention on the amazing experience we're about to have. 

It works the same way when debt fatigue hits. Refocus your thoughts on what the future is going to be like once that final debt is paid in full. What will you do with the extra funds? Will you save for a special vacation, invest more, donate to charities you care about, or a combination of all three? 

Maybe the future you imagine is totally different, and that's okay. The point is to focus on what life will be like after debts are gone. As long as you stick with your pay-off plan, you will get there. In the meantime, you have time to decide how you want to spend money when high-interest debt is no longer an issue. 

3. Distract yourself

Let's say your repayment plan is slated to last 36 months or 48 months. While you know you're going to spend that time getting out of debt, consider what else you want to do during those months. Learn a new language, take up woodworking, buy used cross-country skiing equipment and take to the open trails. Do something that enriches your life. 

In other words, accomplish two things at once. Once a repayment plan is set up, put it on auto pilot by setting up auto pay. In the meantime, distract yourself by focusing on other goals. 

Even if you follow these suggestions, there are times you may be discouraged. Acknowledge what you're feeling and use it as the extra motivation you need to make debt a thing of the past. 

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