I recently made my last student loan payment, and let me tell you, it was a great feeling. All told, I was able to pay off $400k in just over three years. While I had the benefit of a high income, it was still a grind. We were essentially living on half of our household income since we were putting my entire paycheck towards the loans. Truth be told, I fell victim to a little bit of debt fatigue along the way. In this post, I’ll talk about what that is. I’ll also share some tips, based on my personal experience, that could help you overcome this common hurdle.
Debt Fatigue – What Is It?
In my opinion, debt fatigue is feeling as if you’ve “hit a wall” with your debt payoff. You feel exhausted from making all of these payments while the balance of your loans doesn’t seem to be getting any smaller. The initial exuberance of paying off your debt is replaced by apathy and lack of motivation.
When it gets bad, debt fatigue can lead you stop making extra payments. At its worst, it can cause you to take on more debt and get into a deeper hole.
I hit a wall while paying off my student loans. Fortunately, I didn’t take on any new debt, but I did feel that I would never be able to pay them off. With that being said, here are some tips to help you get out of your debt-paying funk.
Focus On Your “Why”
When it comes to paying off debt, focusing on your “why” can be a powerful motivating force. Why do you want to pay off your debt? Why do you want to become debt free? Whatever your personal reason is, think about it when you feel like you’re in a rut and in need of a little pick-me-up.
For me, I have been in debt my entire adult life. It started when I signed up for a credit card during my freshman year of college. Since then, I’ve been carrying some type of debt. Whether it was a revolving credit card balance, car loan, or student loans. You name it, I had it. I grew tired of living under such a heavy burden, so I pictured how liberating it would feel to be debt free. I bottled that feeling and thought of it every time I felt like I was in a rut.
Focus on your why.
Commiserate With Others
One thing I learned in residency is that misery loves company. Thirty straight hours in the hospital sucked, but having others there suffering with you made it suck less. We would offer each other encouragement, and sometimes that’s all you would need to make it those last few hours.
In much the same way, paying off a lot of debt is a grind. It can be deflating, so it’s nice to have others around you that are either going through the same thing or have had a similar experience. Thanks to the magic of the internet, you have access to a number of websites and blogs about getting out of debt (including this one). Personally, I have found reading others’ debt payoff stories to be quite motivating and inspirational. Even more so if you find a blog with a story that you can relate to.
Don’t know where to find blogs about debt? Check out this selection from Rockstar Finance.
Track Your Net Worth
This can be a great way to track your progress and stay motivated, especially if you’re saving a bit for retirement while simultaneously paying off your debt. Sometimes you can develop a bit of “tunnel vision” and focus solely on your loan balances. For larger debts, this can make you feel as if you’re not making any significant progress.
Tracking your net worth, on the other hand, can provide you with a slightly different perspective on things. Instead of zoning in on just your liabilities, you get a better sense of your entire financial picture. For instance, the money that you’re setting aside for retirement doesn’t affect your debt, but it does have an impact on your net worth. And sometimes seeing things from a different point of view is enough to give you a second wind.
Sometimes it can be helpful to reward yourself for certain debt payoff milestones. For instance, you can plan for something fun after you’ve paid off specific debts. Or you can schedule rewards at certain time intervals.
Paying off debt can be a reward in and of itself, which is the underlying concept of the Debt Snowball method. By paying off small debts first, you generate “small wins”, which in turn motivates you to keep on going. Sort of like a positive feedback loop.
I didn’t reward myself too much during my quest to pay off my student loans. Seeing the balance get smaller and smaller was enough motivation for me. My wife and I did celebrate, however, when I paid them off in full. We watched a movie and had a nice lunch.
No matter how you choose to reward yourself, remember to budget for it and pay cash. And don’t go too crazy with your celebration. After all, the point is to eliminate debt, not to take on any more.
There Is a Finish Line
And finally, always keep in mind that debt isn’t forever. There is an end. Even if you make minimum payments (which I obviously don’t recommend), you’ll eventually get there. It may not feel like it in the moment, but just remember that with each payment you make, the closer you are getting to the finish line.
Paying off debt isn’t a sprint… it’s a marathon. It’s a grind. If you feel stricken with a little bit of debt fatigue, try to keep some of the above tips in mind. Hopefully they will provide you with enough motivation to push forward and continue your journey to becoming debt free.
Readers, what do you think? Ever been bitten by the debt fatigue bug? Any other tips or tricks you would recommend? Let me know in the comments below!
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