When you're paying down debt, it can be easy to lose motivation or fall victim to shame or frustration — especially if you can't remember where your money went in the first place. Motivation works best when you focus on the future, on where you want your hard work to take you. Here are a few ideas to help you stay motivated.
Re-frame your goals
“Get out of debt” is a pretty broad goal to work toward. So instead of one broad overarching goal, think about different ways to look at your debt reduction. Here are a few to consider.
Set mini-goals. One way to stay motivated is to select a very specific debt reduction target, like paying off your highest-rate card or a student loan, and focusing all of your extra dollars on that goal alone. Then, once that mini-goal is accomplished, you can move on to the next one.
Prepare for something specific. Select a very specific purchase that your debt reduction target will make possible. Don’t make this an “optional expense” like a vacation; instead, make it mandatory, like dental work, tires, or a replacement car. This target will be your North Star, a motivator and a guide when your mood is dark. Think deeply about what will happen if you don’t make your savings goal — if you can’t get your dental care or new tires, or if you can’t afford medical care for your loved ones.
Create a personal mission statement
Write down your saving and spending plan and note why it is important to you. Have every family member sign it, then keep copies you can see and read when you feel tempted to overspend.
Make it a game
If you feel yourself getting discouraged or frustrated by your debt reduction efforts, why not try to have some fun with it? Create a savings game for yourself with a reasonable challenge, clear rules, a social interaction element, and immediate feedback. Here's an example to get you started.
Set a weekly goal. Which goal you choose is up to you; for this example, perhaps you could decide on a set figure to pay toward a credit card each week.
Establish clear rules. Maybe establish different rules each week; for example, “This week our payment has to come from new money one of us has earned. Next week it has to come from saved money, and it has to come from our food budget.”
Use cooperation or competition. For example, “This week, we’ll cooperate to jointly achieve our goal. Next week, we’ll compete to see who can reach their part of the goal first.”
Give feedback and fabulous prizes. Make a big chart that shows your progress. Create magnificent, but free, prizes like paper crowns and towel capes for the Sultan of Savings. Celebrate your very real achievements by writing notes to each other and putting them into a scrapbook. It might sound silly, but your hard work deserves to be celebrated!