A few years ago, a spark of inspiration hit me. I realized that I could be debt free if I worked really hard, made some sacrifices, and focused on paying down debt. At the time, I had over $50,000 in student loan debt and was earning a salary that was much lower in comparison.
But I was committed.
For months, I didn’t go out. I cut my budget to the bone and I prided myself on my “no spend” days. I felt victorious as I saw my balance go down while simultaneously frustrated at how much of my payments were getting eaten up by interest.
But after about six months of intense focus, I hit a plateau. I felt like I was taking two steps forward and one step back with my debt repayment. I started caring a little less about my debt. I felt utterly burnt out and wanted to give up. I was sick and tired of paying off debt.
Does this sound familiar? This phenomenon isn’t uncommon and is often referred to as debt fatigue.
A lot of sacrifices have to be made to pay off debt. In some cases, it may take years to pay off your debt and keeping up morale and motivation is hard to sustain.
I have experienced debt fatigue several times in my debt repayment journey, but luckily I’ve learned how to cope with it and keep going.
If you’re feeling burnt out, here are 3 simple steps to help you overcome debt fatigue and keep paying down debt.
Remember Your “Why”
The first key step to getting over debt fatigue is remembering the “why” — why do you want to get out of debt?
Of course, getting out of debt is something that makes sense financially, but we all have various reasons why we want to be out of debt.
Debt can have a way of putting a damper on our goals, but it’s key to think of your life after debt. Think of the big picture and remember why getting out of debt is important.
Repeat after me: debt is temporary.
Debt is not forever and life will go on after debt. There will be no more interest payments, no more letters from lenders and your money will finally be yours (after taxes, of course, ha!).
Whenever I am in the throes of debt fatigue, I start imagining the freedom I’ll have when I’m debt free. This means more money in the bank, more money to travel, and less guilt when making a purchase.
To help you visualize the process, you can create a Pinterest account with images of your goals for life after debt.
Another option is to print out images and tape them onto your credit card so that you never forget what your goals are.
Paying down debt at a rapid pace is like racing a car — you can go fast until you run out of gas. Sometimes you have to refuel and shift your financial priorities if you feel there is a lack of balance.
If you’re feeling uninspired by debt, continue to make payments but consider shifting priorities momentarily. Instead of focusing 100 percent on debt, find a more balanced approach with debt repayment while focusing on saving and investing.
I try to live by two priorities and apply them to my finances as well:
- Do what inspires you
- Do what makes you sleep well at night
During my phase of debt fatigue, I started to feel uncomfortable with how little money I had saved up in my emergency fund. I started to resent my debt when I looked at my paltry retirement account. So instead of throwing all my extra funds towards debt, I built up my emergency fund and contributed more to my retirement for a few months.
I could sleep better at night and felt inspired by all that I had saved, which in turn inspired me to pay off debt again. Fatigue can hit when there is a lack of balance, so assess your financial priorities.
During your repayment period, you are bound to have spikes and drops in motivation. Sometimes you may be jazzed about paying down debt while other times saving money or investing may give you more of a thrill.
The point is to not give up, but shift your financial priorities to another aspect of your finances, so you can continue to build wealth for your future.
Indulge in Rewards
When you are
screaming “when will this ever end!” absolutely over paying off debt, it’s time to reward yourself a little. Yep, I said it! Treat yo self!
It’s easy to get into a habit of never spending money on ourselves and feeling like we are constricted with our money when paying off debt.
Going without additional luxuries or rewards might work if you can knock out your debt in a few months. But for people like me who have to pay back debt for years, setting up mini-rewards is essential to your success.
It’s too easy to get discouraged otherwise — and just because you are paying off debt, doesn’t mean you aren’t human. You are allowed to enjoy life a little.
I’m not talking about dropping thousands, or even hundreds of dollars. I’m talking about the little things in life that can really make your day.
Set up systems so that you can reward yourself for each big milestone. For example:
- After each $1k paid off, indulge in a fancy dinner
- After $5k paid off, enjoy a massage (pro tip: if you want to save money on massages, go to a local massage school)
- After $10k paid off, go on a day trip and explore somewhere new
Now, these are my ideas of fun, but you can set up a system of rewards that aligns with your values and keeps you inspired to pay off debt.
Of course, you want to save money where you can with your rewards and not just go crazy — but I do believe positive reinforcement can go a long way. You can also boost your mood and indulge in self-care for free with these amazing tips.
Paying off debt sucks and debt fatigue can creep in and put a damper on your repayment. But once you recognize you are experiencing debt fatigue, use these steps to overcome it and rock your debt repayment.
Remember, debt is not forever.
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