I don’t know about you, but for me, paying off debt can feel completely overwhelming. It’s certainly not easy and if you are paying off a six-figure balance (like us) it can take several years. It can be hard to stay positive and keep moving forward when it feels like you’ll never be debt free. Feelings of doubt, negativity, and frustration are totally normal.
That said, having a positive outlook about paying off debt (really on life in general) can help you feel less stressed, manage stress better, increase your life span, lower your chances for developing clinical depression, improve your immune system, and improve your heart’s health. If you aren’t feeling positive about your debt, there are certainly things you can do to improve your outlook. Here’s how to stay positive while paying off debt.
HOW TO STAY POSITIVE WHILE PAYING OFF DEBT
FOCUS ON YOUR WHY.
One thing that will help you stay positive while paying off debt is to go back to the drawing board and rediscover and remember your “why.” Why did you start paying off debt in the first place? Maybe it was a feeling– you wanted that feeling of freedom. Maybe you wanted to free up some cash flow so you could meet another financial goal, such as buying a house or a dream car. What are your dreams and goals? Focusing on those will help you stay positive on your journey.
EASE UP ON YOUR EXTRA PAYMENTS.
Another thing you can do to help you stay positive while paying off debt is to ease off the gas a little bit if you are feeling burned out. Paying off debt aggressively is a lot like going on a very strict diet. When a person goes on a strict diet, they can get burned out easily which causes them to have negative feelings and in some cases, binge and gain any weight back that they lost. Like dieting, if you are too restrictive with your budgeting, you can get burned out paying off debt, and burned out fast. When you are on a debt free journey for the long haul (over one year) you need to find a sustainable way to live. Paying off debt is an important goal to be sure, but not at the cost of your mental health or your long term enjoyment of life. I’m not saying abandon your aggressive debt payments all together, but you may need to reevaluate your budget and pay a little less towards debt.
AVOID COMPARISON TO STAY POSITIVE WHILE PAYING OFF DEBT.
One of the most important things you can do to stay positive on your debt journey is to avoid comparison. Don’t compare yourself to others. Comparison is the thief of joy. It’s obviously easier said than done to not compare yourself to others. But you could start by spending more time with people who have the same goals and vision as you, and less time with people who don’t. You could unfollow or mute people you tend to compare yourself to on social media. But ideally, you would simply train yourself to not compare yourself to others. When you find those comparing thoughts creeping in to your mind, tell yourself you don’t compare yourself to others.
PRACTICE SELF CARE.
It’s really easy to eliminate self care out of your budget when you’re paying off debt but self care is so important when you’re dealing with stress from debt and working hard to pay it off. Self care does not have to be an expensive day at the spa. Rather, it can be quite inexpensive or free! Go for a jog, eat healthy nutritious foods, take a nice hot shower once in while. Get a cheap face mask. Put cucumbers over your eyes and take some deep breaths. Spend time meditating. Take a shower and get dressed every day, even if you’re working from home. These things will help you stay positive while you’re paying off debt.
CONNECT WITH OTHERS.
Connecting with other like minded people is a great way to stay positive while paying off debt and avoiding that debt payoff burn out. These may be friends you had in school who are paying off the same kind of student loans you are, family members, or even new people on the internet! If you need a place to find people to connect with, the Paidback app is a great start (plus it’s free). You’ll be able to connect with other people paying off debt as well as have a nice visual place to track your own journey.
HAVE FUN! (IT’LL HELP YOU STAY POSITIVE WHILE PAYING OFF DEBT.)
In debt free journeys, as in life, we sometimes get a little too serious about things. Don’t forget to have some fun while you’re paying off debt. Set room aside in your budget and plan for having fun each month. Get creative with cheap and free things to do. Have a game night with friends, jump on the trampoline with your kids, go on a bike ride, if you’re married, have a date night here and there– whatever is fun to you, make sure you are including it. After all, paying off debt is important but this is also your life. You only get one, so make it count.
Another way to stay positive while paying off debt is to make sure you are celebrating your debt payoff milestones! This can be intervals such as hitting the half way mark, or when you pay off one debt account, anything that feels like a milestone to you. When you hit these benchmarks, be sure to take a minute to celebrate! Go out for ice cream, high five your spouse, throw confetti, do whatever it is you need to fully celebrate each milestone you hit. You could set up a rewards chart where you earn certain (inexpensive) things when you hit milestones.
FOCUS ON HOW FAR YOU’VE COME, NOT HOW FAR YOU HAVE TO GO.
Being positive is literally all about looking on the bright side of things. That means you should focus on how much debt you’ve already paid off and never focus on how far you have to go. It’s kind of like doing cardio. Say you plan to do 30 minutes of cardio. When you’re 5 minutes in, rather than thinking “Ahhh how do I possibly still have 25 minutes to go??” when you focus on the fact that you’ve already done 5 minutes i.e. almost 20% of the workout, your out look is much brighter and it feels a lot easier.
BREAK UP YOUR DEBT INTO SMALLER DEBT GOALS TO STAY POSITIVE WHILE PAYING OFF DEBT.
Breaking up your debt into smaller debt goals will help give you a big positive mental boost in your debt free journey. For example, say you’re paying off a student loan of $100,000. Set a goal to pay off a certain amount within a certain time frame, like $15,000 per year. The endorphins you’ll get by meeting those smaller goals will help propel you forward.
Debt can feel heavy. It can feel completely overwhelming, not to mention isolating. If you are feeling that way, you certainly aren’t alone. But by doing things such as connecting with other like-minded people, celebrating milestones, and breaking up your debt into smaller debt goals, you’ll be able to tackle that debt and stay positive and feel happier. You can do it!