How to Get (and Stay) Motivated for Long-Term Debt Repayment

A couple gets motivated for long-term debt repayment

Paying off debt is probably one of the hardest financial struggles you’ll ever face. It’s right up there with losing your job and not being able to pay all your bills. Why?

Because getting motivated to pay off debt (and staying out of debt) goes against what’s normal in our society. The normalcy of having debt is enough to keep you in debt for your entire life, and is even encouraged as a way to afford the “American Dream.”

So once you get over the initial decision to repay your debts, and you’ve created a solid game plan, the real work starts when you’re in the midst of putting your plan into action.

As someone who paid off over $14,000 of consumer debt in just over a year, I have firsthand experience with finding ways to stay motivated for long-term debt repayment. Here are a few tips and tricks to help you stay on track for the long haul.

1. Harness the Power of Good Peer Pressure

Even without the support of my friends and family, I was able to stay on track thanks to the support of other like-minded debt slayers.

You might not have the luxury of leaning on your siblings or best friends for help while paying off debt, and in fact they might be your biggest sources of discouragement since they won’t understand why you’re “going against the grain.”

If this is the case, you can be sure there are lots of other places you can find good peer pressure to draw encouragement from. They come in the forms of:

  • Personal Finance Blogs
  • Private Forums
  • Local Meetups
  • Facebook Groups
  • Twitter Chats

Thanks to the internet, there are endless ways to connect with people online who are going through similar situations like you — especially when it comes to long debt repayment.

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2. Reward Yourself When You Reach Milestones

As you know, paying off debt involves a lot of hard work and sacrifice. So of course, it’s a big deal when you hit a financial milestone you’ve been working towards — like sending in a final payment on one of your credit cards.

When this happens, don’t be afraid to celebrate! Give yourself a little extra motivation in the form of a reward when you hit a big or small financial goal. Why not get a little foretaste of things to come when you’re completely out of debt, by going out to see a show or staying in and renting/streaming your favorite movie?

And it’s not just about feeling good in the present, studies have shown that small rewards encourage change in behavior, and that’s the key to staying motivated to reach long term goals.

3. Read Other People’s Debt Stories

Many writers and debt-haters (myself included) document their journey to paying off debt on blogs and other public platforms as a way to keep themselves accountable. It’s another way to harness the power of good peer pressure.

Some of the best communities I’ve come across, that helped keep me motivated while paying off debt, have been from personal blogs.

Some of my favorites are Enemy of Debt (check out Travis’ story), ReadyForZero’s own success profiles and Blonde on a Budget (who is currently mere days away from celebrating complete debt-freedom).

It’s amazing what surrounding yourself with positive stories and personal experiences can do for your motivation — it got me through the lowest point in my debt journey when I almost gave up.

Image credit: subbotina

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  • Cait Flanders

    Thanks for the mention, Carrie! This post outlines exactly why people fall into the debt trap and offers great tips for how to get out of it. I think the most important thing to remember is that there will be good days and there will be bad days. It’s not easy to prioritize debt repayment, especially if it feels like you have to put any part of your life on hold for it. But it’ll be worth it, when it’s gone. :)

    • http://www.twitter.com/bwfeldman Benjamin Feldman

      Very true! “There will be good days and there will be bad days.” Glad you liked the post.