8 Minute Read
Let’s get real for a minute: Paying off debt isn’t easy. It’s all fun and games in the beginning. You pay off your smallest debt and roll right into the next one. Before you know it, you’ve cut up your credit cards and checked a bunch of small debts off your debt snowball.
You’re motivated! You’re on fire!
But then you get down to your last few debts, the big whoppers—maybe even the final one. And you start to fizzle out and get frustrated on Baby Step 2. You aren’t seeing those small wins anymore, and you feel like you’re running on fumes and getting no traction. Without a few tricks up your sleeve, you’re in danger of slowing down or even quitting altogether.
We know what it’s like. That’s why we put together this list of eight things you can do to keep yourself on track when the going gets tough. Plus, we've added some comments from our amazing Dave Ramsey Facebook members. They offer tips and tricks to help us stay focused while paying off debt!
1. Create a visual of your money goal.
Because so many people are visual learners, it can help to actually see your money goals. Use this Debt Snowball Tracker and color it in as you make more payments. Or place a sticky note on your bathroom mirror to remind yourself how much debt you have left.
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Rachael M. got really creative. “I made a giant paper chain with our final debt (our mortgage) on it, each link representing $500,” she said. “Every month we got to remove a link and see it shrink!” Having visual reminders will keep your goal on your mind and help you reach it faster.
2. Remember your why.
While a visual of the Debt Snowball Tracker is amazing, you need to keep some other visuals in your mind too—like why the heck you’re on this journey in the first place.
What’s your why? What are the reasons you want to kick debt’s butt for good?
Maybe it’s to build a legacy, to create a home where your sweet newborn girl will never watch her parents struggle to buy groceries and pay the minimum payment on their credit card bill. Or maybe you have your sights set on becoming an everyday millionaire. You want to build wealth, live, and give like no one else . . . but you have to get out of debt first.
Whatever it is, really hone in and keep it at the forefront of your mind by creating a vision board, either on paper or on Pinterest. It’s a great way to see what you envision for your life. Remember, with every sacrifice you’re making now, you’re working toward the kind of future you want to live.
3. Find people to keep you accountable.
Financial Peace University (FPU) is a great way to get some accountability. The community you’ll find as you go through the FPU course will help you stay motivated. And you never know what kind of ongoing connections you’ll build with others who are in the same boat as you. Will and Jenica T. even started a monthly accountability group for FPU alumni called Continuing FPU.
“We meet once per month and welcome all past FPU graduates, no matter where the class was taken,” Will and Jenica said. “Each month is a different topic determined by what our class wants to review. Sometimes we have guest speakers or ELPs. It keeps us all motivated and accountable!”
Want another way to light the fire and stay intensely focused? A lot of people in Baby Step 2 actually become FPU Coordinators. That’s right—you don’t need to be 100% debt-free or some kind of financial guru to lead an FPU class. Dave and crew will handle that for you. And the big bonus here is, week after week you’ll be able to encourage your FPU class just as they are cheering you on too!
4. Quit the comparisons.
Yeah, we’re about to go all Rachel Cruze on you here. Comparison is the thief of joy, so don’t even bother wasting your time (or energy!) on it.
It’s great to get inspired by other people’s stories, but don’t compare your story to theirs. Everyone is on a different journey, and everyone has different tools in their back pocket.
If you’re a one-income family of four making $45,000 a year, your progress is probably going to look a little different than a DINK (dual income, no kids) couple pulling in $120,000 a year. Or let’s say you have $3,000 in credit card debt and that’s it. You’re going to plough through your debt snowball pretty fast compared to someone else staring down the barrel of $90,000 of debt. And that’s all okay!
Bottom line? Don’t even get started playing the comparison game. It’s like Rachel says, “When we start comparing ourselves to other people, we are playing a game we’ll never win.” And speaking of our buddy Rachel, here’s what she has to say about staying motivated while paying off debt:
5. Break your goals up into smaller ones.
Sure, you might have a $20,000 student loan bill sitting there staring you square in the face. We won’t sugarcoat it: That’s a big ole chunk of loan right there. But if you break it up in your mind, you might feel a lot better about it.
Instead of looking at twenty grand and screaming like Kevin McCallister in Home Alone (you know the face), look at it in smaller pieces. First, set a goal to pay off $1,000 of it. If you do that five times, you’ll have just shaved off $5,000 from your total loan! Now the student loan is only $15,000, which is still sizeable but—let’s be honest—it’s way less scary.
6. Set small rewards along the way.
Give yourself small rewards to stay motivated until the last debt is paid in full. You could treat yourself to something as small as a latte from your favorite coffee shop. Or you can pick something a little bigger, like a new pair of shoes or a video game. You choose your rewards. Just make sure they aren’t so extravagant that they slow down your progress.
Ron B. has a great system in place to reward himself with little treats any time he hits a milestone. He summarizes it this way: “Pay off a tire account? Budget a dinner out next month. Pay off a credit card? Budget a day out of the house and have some fun, or add $25 to each other’s pocket money for the month. You’ve gotta have things like that or you’ll resent the journey.”
7. Stay inspired with stories and tips from others!
You’re not alone!
Guess what? You aren’t the only one who gets excited to make another big payment on your debt. Lots of people blog or share on social media about their journeys, and Dave Ramsey regularly features people doing their debt-free screams live on The Dave Ramsey Show. It’s those debt-free screams that inspire people like Suzanne B. to keep going on her own journey.
“It helps me to know the journey others have gone through and that paying off our own debt is possible!” Suzanne said.
Whether you’re looking for kindred spirits or ideas on how to save money on groceries and entertainment, you can find encouraging posts and blogs online or listen to inspiring stories on the radio!
Plus, check out what people are sharing on the Dave Ramsey Facebook page about staying gazelle intense to pay off their debt!
8. Remember how far you’ve come.
When you’re deep in the trenches for a while, it’s easy to feel stuck—like you haven’t made any progress at all. Sure, you might not be at the finish line yet, but you’re still in the game!
Get out your old bank statements, “paid in full” notices, and tax documents from the last few years. Remember how far you’ve come! Remind yourself of the pay increases you’ve had, debts you’ve knocked out, and ways you’ve freed up more cash in your budget. You’ve done a lot of work already, so give yourself a pat on the back for it!
You might want to keep a gratitude journal too. It’s a great way to mark your progress over time and remind yourself of the things you’re thankful for. Thumb through it every now and again when you just feel blah. It’s amazing how reflecting on your progress can shift your perspective!
The pride that came from paying off your smaller debts may have been enough of a reward in the beginning of Baby Step 2—but bigger debts take a little more time. You’re in it for the long haul. But if you stay focused, patient and motivated, you’ll reach your goals before you know it!
Trying to tackle debt on your own can get old really fast. It’s easy to feel like you’re the only one on the journey. But we don’t want you to go it alone! With the Financial Peace University annual membership, we’ll be there to help you stay on track long after the nine-week course is over. It’s the ongoing support you need as you keep pushing through Baby Step 2!