Paying down debt is stressful, I get it. When I was broke, jobless and had $9,000 worth of credit card debt, all I could think about the mess that I was in.
It wasn’t until I got over my feelings buckled down and implemented a plan that things started to get better.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m certainly not saying that you completely ignore your feelings when you’re trying to better your situation. Paying down debt is so much more than just putting money aside. It’s about wrapping your head around a situation, and pushing yourself to achieve a goal. A pretty hard one might I add.
It doesn’t matter how much you need to pay back. Once you lay a good foundation for eliminating your debt, it’ll be much easier (though not easy). How do you lay a good foundation?
By mastering your mindset of course (if you’re a first time visitor, this is what this blog is all about).
I’ve outlined seven crucial mindset shifts you must have when paying down debt.
Forgive the Decision You Made Leading Up to Debt
Listen, stuff happens. You were upset one day and went on a shopping spree.You went to a private university thinking that it’ll give you a leg up on the competition. Months (or years) later you find yourself unhappy and totally regretting the decisions you made.
You know what? Whatever those decisions were, they were things you thought were best for you at the time. That’s it.
I’ll be blunt: there is no point in shaming yourself for past decisions. In fact, there should be no room for it, period.
Believe me I’ve been there. Getting into debt over an ex-boyfriend was probably one of the stupidest things I’ve done in my life. But if I kept harping on it, that’s wasted time I could be thinking about other things, like getting a job.
So start by forgiving yourself for those decisions you’ve made. You’re human. Besides, you’re reading this blog post, so you’re obviously doing something right 😉
Every Little Step Counts When Paying Down Debt
It’s hard to look at the bigger picture when paying down debt and see that you’re actually making progress. I remember paying $15 one month on my credit card statement and getting so upset over it. But guess what, it was progress nonetheless!
To help you over the hurdle, try to see if any little step you make can give you maximum results. For example, paying off your debt bi-monthly instead of once a month can make a really huge impact. In fact, it could shorten the length of your loan and even help you save money on interest.
So don’t ignore anything you do when it comes down to paying off your debt. Start small and keep telling yourself that every step counts.
You Are Not Your Debt
There’s a reason why it’s called being in debt and not being debt. Your debt isn’t reflection of who you are as a person. Again, it was a result of a bunch of decisions you made at the time, that’s all. So many of us carry the stigma of being in debt as well as all this shame as if that’s what defines us.
If you keep thinking this way, you’re going to be so paralyzed and stressed you’re not going to enjoy what you have right now. Paying off your debt shouldn’t encompass your whole life. It’s just part of it.
Whenever you feel the need to berate yourself for the debt, tell yourself that it’s just something you’re doing right now, not your whole identity.
Take Responsibility for Your Debt
Please don’t play victim when it comes to our debt. I understand what it’s like to be angry and try to blame other people. I went on for months being angry at my ex-boyfriend for getting myself into this mess before I had to change my ways.
Once you make the shift into thinking that you’re responsible for the debt, you’ll soon find out it’s quite a freeing feeling. Sounds weird, I know, but if you had total responsibility to do whatever you want, you can finally take the power back into your own hands.
Whenever you start to make plans, you’ll feel much more empowered and motivated to pay it all off.
Express Gratitude For Your Debt
Bear with me for a minute.Yes, debt sucks, but it doesn’t have to! Think about student loans. People take those on because they trust that the money spent on the degree is worth it. So take some time to look through your debt and see something positive about it. Was it medical debt? Were you grateful for the fact that there were good doctors who took care of you?
When I was in credit card debt, I looked at all the purchases I made and it brought me back to the adventures I had in Australia. It brought a smile to my face and I had a much easier time paying down the debt off.
You Are Not Above Anything When Paying Down Debt
There’s a side job that fits with your schedule but it involves scrubbing toilets? Get the job if it means an extra $500 a month for paying down debt. Hate having no social life while working on the weekend? Get over it.
Nobody is above anything, period. If you want something badly, you’ll do whatever it takes to go for it. Heck I had to get over myself when I went to work minimum wage jobs to cover bills and save money after I ended up jobless. I moved to China when I had no desire to be there just to save money.
If you want to be debt-free, you’ll do anything it takes to get there. I’ve known people with PhDs who found jobs off Craigslist to do on the side.
Keep telling yourself that these things are temporary until your debt is done.
Don’t Go It Alone
Millions of people are in debt, so you’re obviously not alone. But so many of us are still ashamed that we’re too afraid to talk to someone about it or even ask for help. Feeling like there’s help when you need it may not help you pay off more of your debt, it’ll at least give you some peace of mind. And when you’re away from that “flight or fight” response, you’ll have a much easier time coming up with solutions to your problems.
Well let me be the one to give you permission to seek help then! There are some great blogs out there (like this one, wink wink) and even support groups that will motivate you every step of the way. Even services like Pay Down My Debt is great as they’re a low cost service that helps to ensure your loan payments are paid back on time. For $9.99, they help you pay off up to three loans my automating your payments and helping you accelerating your loan faster (paying it off bi-weekly instead of monthly).
Even talking out your feelings is helpful. I know that once I finally let some friends know the situation I was in, they were more than willing to let me cry on their shoulders. Once I had a clearer mind, I was able to take advantage of an opportunity to teach in South Korea to help me finally pay off my debt.
When paying down debt, using these mindset shifts is really going to help you make the whole process easier. Hopefully it’ll take you from crying everyday to knowing that you’ll be alright.
Being a badass with your money is as easy as asking yourself what you want.
Download our values-based spending guide and figure out how to revolutionize your financial decisions ASAP.
(psst...we also send you occasional emails on how else to live beyond the dollar. You in?)
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