In my first post here at Staying Frugal, I talked about losing focus on our debt payoff, and how it happens.
I laid out the three main reasons I feel that people become disenchanted when paying off debt:
- It’s taking too long (for large debts, we can be talking about years),
- Lifestyle creep (making more money and increasing spending accordingly), and
- A lack of success.
Now I want to talk about how to keep this lack of focus from from corrupting our progress.
The two best ways I have found to stay focused are to track your debt just like you track your spending, and to reignite that intensity or anger that pushed you towards debt payoff in the first place.
Track Your Debt
It’s just plain smart to track your debt payoff. This can help you see your small victories and know exactly how much time you are looking at before debt freedom.
Basically it is a sobering way to remind you that this isn’t going to be easy.
I advocate keeping a bills due and debt payoff spreadsheet. You can also use an all-in-one personal finance dashboard like SpringCoin or Mint.
Warning: Tracking your debt can lead to obsession, which is a good thing. Once you are obsessed with debt payoff, you absolutely will not lose focus. That’s the main reason I started writing about personal finance. I needed another outlet after I was done staring at my progress spreadsheet for the third hour of the day.
Tracking your debt also makes your successes more clear. It shows you that you are on track and helps you trust in your own plan.
Get Angry at Your Debt
Without anger and passion for change, you will not be successful in paying off debt.
It’s important here to be angry at your debt and a little angry at yourself. Be careful to direct most of your anger towards the debt, though.
If you blame yourself too much, you will start to feel like you don’t deserve to be debt free, making it too easy to slip back into your old ways.
If you lose the passion for debt freedom and financial independence, that sick feeling of knowing you don’t control your own paycheck, you will fail.
When your friends tell you not to worry because everyone has debt and that’s just the way it’s supposed to be, you will listen if you aren’t angry.
The pain of debt will not outweigh the pain of getting out of debt. Debt will become the “new normal.”
That Sick Feeling is Called Healing
Much like when your body gives you a fever when it’s sick, you may feel more uncomfortable as you heal your debt situation. Take some time to think about why you wanted to pay off your debt in the first place.
By tracking your debt and taking some time to reflect on why you want to be debt free, you can remind yourself that you are making progress, and that this is a war of attrition. It will at times feel like you are trying to drink the ocean through a straw.
My wife and I have been paying down debt off and on for the last 8 years. We have been laser focused the last 3 years, and are 5 months from debt freedom (minus the house). That means no car payment, no student loans and no credit card debt.
We went through the same struggles everyone faces in debt payoff. It’s a tough road, but one worth traveling.
Remember, debt is so powerful that it will take advantage of any weakness you show. By following these tips, you can implement your debt payoff plan, stay on track, and remain focused for success.