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The Most Frustrating Baby Step (and How to Get Through It)

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Lily graduated from a four-year university with a degree in business—and $35,000 in school loans. She didn’t have any savings, so she used her credit card to pay the deposit on her new apartment. And she swiped it a few more times to buy some nice furniture and appliances. A few months later, she decided it was time to upgrade to a new car, now that she was an adult in "the real world."

But then the bills began rolling in. The grace period on her student loans ended. The 90 days "same as cash" promise from the furniture store came and went. Suddenly, at 23 years old, Lily realized she was more than $60,000 in debt. Something had to change, or else she was going to drown.

It was time to buckle down and dump her debt once and for all.

Maybe you can relate to Lily’s story. Maybe you’re a recent college graduate, a single parent, or quickly approaching retirement. No matter your life stage, paying off your consumer debt puts you knee-deep in the most frustrating of the Baby Steps—Baby Step 2, where you pay off your debt using the debt snowball.

Related: Learn more about Baby Step 2 and the debt snowball here.

But there’s a huge difference between frustration and futility. Baby Step 2 is tough, but it can also be really rewarding. For example, the debt snowball teaches you so much about yourself. You realize you’re more disciplined than you thought, more patient than you could have imagined, and capable of saying no if it means sticking to your goals.

Yes, Baby Step 2 requires some sacrifices—especially if you’re not used to turning down vacations and fancy dinners. You’re working more hours than you thought you could ever handle. You’re eating rice and beans. You haven’t gone to the movies or stepped foot in a restaurant in months.

But you’re gazelle intense, so it’s easy at first. In fact, one of the great things about the debt snowball is that you see progress from the very beginning. You’re paying off the smallest bills and winning left and right. You’re motivated! You’re on fire!

But what happens when the snowball starts to slow—and your motivation slows down with it?

This is the point in Baby Step 2 that is harder than all the sacrifices and extra hours at work. You’ve reached the point in your journey where you have to dig your heels in and say, "I’m in it for the long haul."

You’ve reached the point in your journey where you have to dig your heels in and say, "I’m in it for the long haul."

It’s going to be tough, but look at what all is at stake if you quit now. If you give up, you’re resigning yourself to paying for your past decisions with your future paychecks. You lose out on opportunities to invest and save for your dream retirement. You tell yourself you’re content to be normal—even though normal in America is broke.

When it gets hard, remember this: What you’re doing in Baby Step 2 matters. The decisions you’re making today are completely changing the landscape of your future. You’re rewriting your future—and the future of your children, and their children, too. You’re transforming your family tree. You’re paving the way to leave a legacy.

As Lily got to work paying down her debt, she cut up her credit cards. She sold her new car and bought a reliable, used model. She got a roommate and cut her living expenses in half. She picked up a side job. And when the going got tough, she dug her heels in and refused to settle for normal.

It took just under two years to pay everything off, but when she was completely debt-free, she knew her future was going to look radically different. She felt the relief of getting to actually keep her paychecks. And she was incredibly proud of how far she had come—and what she had to show for all of her hard work.

If she can do it, so can you.

To get started on the Baby Steps, or to stay motivated and focused along the journey, check out Financial Peace University Online. It teaches you how to budget, pay down debt, save for retirement, and more—all on your schedule using your own computer or tablet!


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