10 Mental Barriers to Paying Off Debt: You Don’t Feel Like You’re Making Progress

rfz_mental_barriersAt the start of The Debt Movement, we introduced the topic of mental barriers that prevent us from paying off debt. Why? Because even the best-laid plans can fail and, when that happens, we’re left to wonder what to do about it. The fact is, good intentions and solid planning are important but they won’t move us forward without self-awareness. So for the rest of The Debt Movement, we’re going to talk about each mental barrier that prevents us from paying off debt so they can be conquered once and for all. Remember, there’s a lot more to securing a solid financial future than simply crunching numbers in an Excel spreadsheet!

Mental Barrier Number Six: You Don’t Feel Like You’re Making Progress

Do you ever pay over your minimum on your debt, then feel discouraged because you don’t see much of a difference in your total balance the next month? If so, then it can be hard to stay motivated to pay extra. This is when you might encounter the mental barrier of feeling like you’re not making progress – a problem nearly all of us suffer from. So let’s talk about what you can do about it!

Track Your Progress

The fact is, you’ll never know what progress you’re making if you don’t track your debt payoff. Why is it so important to track? Because debt payoff doesn’t happen overnight and interest rates make it even harder to see the progress you’re making. Then it’s easy to lose motivation and suddenly you’re back to minimum payments only – which can make it nearly impossible to ever pay the debt off. If you’re not sure this is true, check out a credit card debt calculator to see how long it will take to pay off your debt making only the minimum payments.

We created ReadyForZero for precisely this purpose – to allow you to track your debt payoff progress easily without the pain of maintaining excel spreadsheets. Check out this tool to examine your debt payoff options and move the sliders around to understand the impact any extra amount will make. Once you start tracking your payoff, you might even find that you’re more empowered than ever before! Seeing your results is the easiest way to stay motivated and find success.

Optimize Your Debt Payoff

Once you’ve got a tracking system in place, the next thing you want to do to see more progress is optimize your debt payoff. While paying over the minimum is an important way to get out of debt faster, you’ll do even better if you have a clear focus. Here at ReadyForZero, our philosophy is to focus on the day you’ll be debt-free (rather than just student loan debt-free, credit card debt-free, and so on) and target accounts one at a time. We target the highest interest rate accounts first since those are the ones that grow the fastest. Once you pay off your first target account, you move on to the next highest interest rate account and so on until you’re debt-free.

So how can you stay on track and stay motivated through this process? One way is to automate your payments. Next, find other ways to pay your debt off faster. For example, if you have large debt like student loan debt or a mortgage, you can save thousands of dollars in interest (plus take years off the life of your loan) by making biweekly payments rather than monthly payments. What else can you do? Call your lenders and ask them to lower your interest rates, look into federal programs that may be available to help with your specific debt type, and most importantly, don’t accumulate any new debt. The time it takes to complete these small changes will be well worth it as you see even faster progress than before!

Find an Accountability Buddy

Finally, now that you are tracking your debt and have made sure you’ve done everything to pay it off faster, find an accountability buddy to share your goals with. While it can be incredibly difficult to admit to anyone that you have debt, you may be surprised to find that nearly everyone in your life has a debt story of their own! Once you share your story, you could even end up giving your loved ones the courage to share their story.

What’s so great about having an accountability buddy? It allows you to have someone to share this experience with. While you’re on your debt payoff journey you’ll go through a lot of high and low points – wouldn’t it be great to have someone to share your success with and talk to confidentially when you’re feeling like you just can’t do it anymore? Similarly, helping them through their highs and lows will empower you to realize that you have what it takes to not only pay your debt off, but help others do the same. It’s a win/win situation!

The road to debt payoff is often long and rarely a straight line and staying positive throughout the whole process is not always easy. Use these tips to see the progress you’re making – nothing could be more motivating than seeing results!

Stay tuned next week as we move on to mental barrier number seven. And don’t forget to join The Debt Movement and help us reach the movement’s goal of paying off $10 million of debt in 90 days!

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  • Good one Shannon. This is one of the hardest parts of paying down debt. You have to stay motivated and you want to see progress. I always suggest to create mini goals that you can celebrate. Hitting small goals often is a better way to encourage the continuation of a debt payoff.

    • Shannon_ReadyForZero

      Thanks Grayson :). And I love this idea of celebrating mini goals – it really is a great way to keep yourself going and remembering that every little bit makes a big difference!

  • NeedsHelp!

    Hi! I have 2 credit cards; the higher balance has a moderate interest rate, and the lower balance has zero interest for 12 months. Which account would you all recommend I pay down first? The one with interest, or slash away at the zero interest for 12 months? Would love your thoughts. Thank you!

    • We can’t give you specific financial advice, but in general it is wise to pay off whichever debt has the highest interest first. With cards that have a zero interest (for 12 months) introductory period, usually it’s important to check the fine print disclosing what kind of fees or interest kicks in if you still carry a balance after 12 months. I would recommend evaluating that fine print before making your decision.