You have made the decision to tackle your debt and pay it off. Good for you!
Now come the obstacles you must face, among them the possibility that your motivation might be running low, making it difficult to keep going.
Do not give up hope. I am here to help you stay on target and get you through this.
At times you must treat yourself for having done a good job thus far, other times you need tricks. It is a trial and error type situation, but one that is not beyond accomplishing.
Below I listed 11 tips on how to keep yourself motivated when it really gets tough.
1. Be Accountable
Don’t lay the blame game. Don’t try to find blame with someone else, or with the situation that perhaps put you into debt. Don’t blame yourself and get caught up in self-pity and lack of confidence to get yourself out of debt.
Take responsibility for the situation you are in. Take stock of your debt. Take control of your finances by figuring out where you stand and what needs to be done to get yourself out of it.
And then take action. Learn from your mistake or the situation that brought this debt on and work towards your financial freedom.
One way to motivate yourself to keep paying off that debt is to visualize yourself doing so. Also imagine yourself after you have completed the task and are free of any debt burden.
Doesn’t the thought of it feel good?
Now imagine yourself getting there. Every step of the way. Perhaps it’s a small as reminding yourself not to stop by the coffee shop on the way home from work, but instead imagine yourself having a delicious cup of joe at home while lounging on your comfy couch in your coziest sweatpants.
Doesn’t that look a lot more comfortable than drinking an overpriced coffee out of a paper cup while cramped inside the busy shop or standing like sardines on the subway?
It’s the challenge between instant gratification of a desire and making the best choice in your situation.
3. Focus on Your Dreams and Goals
Keep reminding yourself why you are working so hard to pay down that debt.
Well, yes, the crushing pressure of having to look at a very big red number on your line of credit is one reason, but it can also be the reason why you want to turn away and give into the feeling of being overwhelmed.
Write down your dreams or financial goals in a journal. Maybe you finally want to save for a down payment on a house. Or maybe spend a night or two in one of those glass igloos in Norway, watching the Northern Lights as you slowly fall asleep (that would certainly do it for me as motivation).
Keep track of your progress and remember how far you have come and ask yourself if that third pair of UGG boots are really worth falling behind again.
4. Find Supportive People
I have to warn you, this one might not be as easy as it sounds. You think you know your friends and family, but sometimes certain topics bring out a side in them that is less than supportive.
Surround yourself with the ones that are supportive and positive.
Actually that is true for every aspect of your life. You have no time to waste being around people that are toxic and negative.
Overcoming difficult times or challenges is that much easier when you have people in your life that care about you and give you the support to keep going.
5. Cut Bad Habits
We all have them: bad habits. Some of those bad habits can become mighty expensive and put you in financial difficulties.
If that is the case, you need to stop them. Truth be told, any type of self-destructive bad habits need to stop.
Identify the habit that caused you the financial trouble and work on eliminating it.
This can be an intense step to take, since at the root of the problem might lie issues or experiences that require more than just a supportive network of friends.
There is no shame in asking your family doctor for a referral to seek professional help when dealing with an emotional or psychological matter.
You are taking the first steps to getting better and healing. That is wonderful.
6. Have a Frugal Hobby
Who wants to live a life of work, chores, paying bills and sitting at home twiddling ones’ thumbs? Nobody.
But hobbies can get really expensive. I tried my hands at learning how to make cocktails one summer and the money I spent on it was astronomical.
There are, of course, hobbies out there that won’t cost you the amount of your retirement fund. I have recently written an article titled “51 tips to spend a frugal weekend” some of those tips can certainly be used as regular hobbies, such as reading (I am an advocate of the local library, it is a real treasure), exploring hiking trails around your area, writing, maybe you own an instrument you haven’t picked up in ages, now might be the time to do so again.
7. Attainable Goals
Alright, so you have tried your best, but looking at that huge number you still have to pay off makes your stomach turn and you want to hide underneath your covers.
I get it. It’s jarring. It’s overwhelming. It can be a test of nerves.
How about breaking the big goal of paying off the entire amount into smaller, more achievable goals?
Look at your finances and decide how much you can pay each month. If you diligently pay that amount for 6 months, until Christmas, next summer, whatever your timeline may be, you can work towards that.
Once you have reached that goal, you give yourself a new one. Maybe you decide to pay a little more each month.
8. Don’t Punish Yourself
You are already stressing about the entire situation. You are working really hard to pay off your debt, you don’t need the extra pressure of denying yourself a treat once in a while.
I’m not talking about a trip to Mexico or a whole new wardrobe. Instead, take yourself (or go on a date with your sweetheart) to the movies. Or get yourself a bottle of wine for the long weekend. Something small, but special that helps you keep that motivation going strong.
Also celebrate small victories. You made it through the holiday season without breaking your budget or your bank account. Excellent! Maybe there was that box of truffles you have been eyeing at the Lindt store for the longest time, it might make a good celebratory treat.
9. Get a Reality Check
Some of us might need something a little along the lines of tough love to really get the ball rolling. We know what’s going on, but to get that fire of motivation started, we need to paint the situation as black as possible, conjecturing what our situation may look like, if we keep our heads in the sand.
Some call it the reality check. Others call it the proverbial slap in the face. If it works, it works. Identify your weaknesses and work with your strengths.
10. Focus on Gratitude
It can be a real challenge to be happy with what we have. The society and culture we live in keeps telling us to have more, want more, desire more. Always preaching the mantra “bigger is better”, whatever that certain something may be.
But, is it really? Perhaps that attitude got you to where you are right now. So, maybe not.
It’s time to find the beauty and happiness in the ordinary. Look around you. Look at yourself.
If you still have a roof over your head, food in the fridge, your relative health, a job, friends and family, then all the other stuff is just excessive and clutters up your life.
It makes you lose focus. It’s time to practice gratitude. Be happy with what you have.
11. Go on a Social Media Detox
This goes in line with practicing gratitude, because social media can be an extremely toxic place and distract you from what is really important.
How many posts have you reluctantly liked of some friend posing on a beach, with some novelty drink on hand and the other point at where they are standing?
Great. You would like to sunbathe like a beach goddess or god somewhere south, too. But instead, you are wearing your thickest sweater, ear muffs and are wedged between the subway door and a grim looking man on your way to work.
Or what about that one couple that spends every weekend up north in their million-dollar cottage, raving about the winter wonderland scenery. You, on the other hand, are looking at the gray clouds hanging over your east-end neighbourhood from your shoe-box sized apartment window.
We see one post and think we know the entire story. But we don’t. It might be staged to perfection. The couple may have fought during the entire four-hour drive up to the cottage and the beach photo was taken right before the travellers’ diarrhea kicked in. Who knows?
But what we do know is that comparing yourself to posts on social media can have almost debilitating effects on your self-esteem, self-confidence and motivation.
Unplug for a while. Give yourself a rest from the glitzy, glam fairy tale world of social media and focus on some well-deserved self-care.
Facing a tough situation, taking control of it and seeing it through until the end takes a lot of strength, work and motivation.
It can be extremely difficult to stay positive and motivated when the tough really gets going. But don’t give up. At some point or another we have all been there.
Use the tips I have listed above to help you along the way and you’ll see it’s all manageable one step at a time.
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