When you realise just how bad your debt might be, you can do one of three things: 1. Hang your head low, 2. Try to ignore it and cripple your finances entirely, or 3. Develop the habits to get out of debt and become debt-free!
If you choose to go debt-free, you will likely feel a rush of motivation when you first start your journey. But after a while, you may find your motivation deteriorating. Paying off debt is hard work. Maybe you have even tried paying off this debt before, just to fall right back into the habits that got you in debt in the first place.
Think of it this way, if it took you a while to build-up to the debt, then it is going to take you a long while to pay it back. So, how can you keep that from happening again?
As an example, I had a credit card debt of £3,600 in 2019 as I wanted to go on a lavish holiday in Bali. After realising what a mistake that was, I decided to get serious about kicking it all to the curb and managed to pay it all off within 6 months by writing a budget, sticking to it, and following the below ways to stay motivated!
Top tips to stay motivated when getting rid of debt
1. Think about every purchase
When you want to make a purchase, stop to consider if it is a true need or want. If you cannot think of a cheaper way to do without the item and if it is not an essential purchase, ask yourself: What will I feel when I buy this item? Is it worth staying in debt for? Is it worth getting even further into debt? How long will it take me to pay off? Also ask, would it feel better to buy this item with cash later, when you are debt-free?
Most of the time, the relief of being debt-free beats owning the thing you kind of want.
2. Read a chart or a calculator
Have you ever looked at a repayment schedule? It is a chart that shows you month by month how much money you are paying towards your original purchase, and how much you are paying in interest. They are quite daunting to look at! If you look at one for bills you owe, you’ll probably be amazed at how much interest you wind up paying by the end of your agreement.
Even worse is credit card bills, which do not always have an end date – especially if you’re still using them!
If you prefer to focus on the positive, like me, check out a payback schedule for savings. If you could save or invest the money you usually pay toward debt bills, how much would you have in a year? How about five years?
Try this compound interest calculator to see how powerful your money can be when you put it to work for you. Use those numbers to encourage you to get out of debt quickly so you can make your money work hard for you rather than someone else.
3. Make use of free time
Do you tend to spend money when you are bored, be it on Amazon (like me) or snacks from the local shops? Then stop being bored!
Find a free hobby that will keep you busy enough that you don’t have time to think about wasting money. I enjoy walking our dog to the local park and not only does Ella get to run, but I have also made many new friends. And I burn at least an hour of my day!
If you want to twofold your efforts, get a side job. Not only will you be too busy to spend, but you’ll earn additional money to go straight towards your debt. If you do not have time for a side job, you can at least spend time earning by taking online surveys, such as Prolific. I earn about £60 a month from taking about 40 surveys, each about 5-10 minutes long.
4. Challenge yourself
How long can you last without spending money unnecessarily? Let us say you tend to waste money on eating out for lunch. See how many days you can go without going to McDonald’s or opening JustEat! Challenge yourself to beat your old time.
5. Beat the date
Have you ever used a GPS to calculate the time you will reach your destination? If you are like me, you have to beat the time they give you! Why not use that competitive attitude in a much better way?
If you know all the details for your debt, and you should know all of these details if you are serious about getting rid of it, then you can calculate the date that you’ll be debt-free. Check out this free calculator from the Money Advice Service.
Can you beat the date that the calculator gave you? What can you do to get out of debt before your debt-free date?
6. Accept mistakes
It’s all too easy to say, “Well, I blew it. Now that I wasted money on fast food once, I might as well do it again”. Do not sabotage all the hard work that you have put in. Accept that you broke the challenge, and immediately begin working on a new one. It’s important to understand that it is OK to make mistakes.
7. Read personal finance books
If you enjoy reading (or listening to audiobooks/ podcasts), change your typical genre and pick up a personal finance book. I enjoy reading a variety of them because I always learn something new to try or to apply to my own situation.
8. Learn what your biggest expenditures are and eliminate them
Do you know where your money is leaking? Once you know your leaks, you can take a couple of steps to fix them. Sometimes concentrating on one thing gives you the wake-up call you need. Personally, I tend to focus on the large amounts rather than the small ones, this way it is easier to “skim” from the top.
9. Find a partner
If you can find an accountability partner to check in with regularly, you are more likely to hit your goal. Find a friend, or even a Facebook group of people, with a common goal. There are so many groups that you can just search for them in the Facebook search bar to find those closest to your area.
To make the most of this, consider what your most likely motivation would be. You can try:
- Encouraging one another
- A friendly competition to see who can pay off the most debt
- Sharing helpful tips with each other
- Venting about the struggle: then come up with solutions.
10. Embrace minimalism
Do you ever feel like your objects own you rather than you owning them? Especially if you are still paying for them. If you are overwhelmed by all the stuff you own, do a cleanout. Get rid of anything you do not absolutely need.
I recently cleaned out our shed and sold a lot of old “junk” that I did not need. This included an old gym set that was never used, a couple of bikes, and some random tools that I used once when I moved into my new house. I was able to sell most of the stuff via Facebook and eBay and managed to get £600 for it all.
Plus, once you have worked hard to out clean a room or area, you won’t want to clutter it back up again. The next time you see an amazing deal to buy something at 50% off, you will walk away because you don’t want it taking up valuable space in your home.
11. Get visual
Cut out or draw pictures of the things you want to be able to do once you are debt-free. I had an Excel with a visual list of my bills and when they are due. Every overpayment I made on one, I highlighted in green to make me feel good. I then had a separate Sheet with everything I want to do after, such as redecorating the kitchen and redoing the bathroom to add value to my home. And maybe even pay for another lavish but with my own money!
What are some ways you stay motivated?
James Banerjee is an Account Director who graduated from the University of Kent in 2014. He works in SEO on clients such as HSBC UK and Nestle and he has a keen interest in personal finances and money-saving advice.