Paying off credit cards and other debt can help improve your financial situation in major ways. You’ll free up the cash you were sending to your creditors and keep more of your money when you aren’t wasting it on interest.
But while most people know it’s a good idea to be aggressive in paying off debt, the process of becoming debt free can be a long slog. And since it requires sacrifice to send extra money to your creditors instead of spending it on more fun purchases, it can be hard to stay motivated.
The good news is, there are things you can do to remain excited so you can maximize your plans to become debt free ASAP. Here are four techniques to try.
1. Track your payoff progress
Watching your debt balances decline can be really exciting as you see how much of a difference your payments are making. So find a way to actually see the results of your efforts.
You can obviously track this on a computer, but it can be more fun to do it in a tangible form. You could make a little thermometer you color in as you get closer to repaying the full amount due; or a paper chain you remove a link from each time you pay off another $100. Some people have even made towers of legos that they remove one from each time they retire a certain amount of debt.
Having a way to see that you’re making progress can keep you on track when it seems tough to keep sacrificing.
2. Have your end date in sight
You should be able to get a rough idea of how long it’ll take you to hit your debt payoff goals based on your current repayment efforts. Maintain a countdown of how long it will be until you’ve achieved your objective.
When you remind yourself that your sacrifice is only temporary, it’s easier to stick with your plan. Plus, as you get closer and closer to the time you’re debt free, you’ll be more and more motivated to make extra payments. This could even help you accelerate your end date.
3. Focus on why you want to be debt free
For most people, there’s a reason to try to become debt free. You may be motivated by a desire to buy a house, for example, or because you want to retire early by investing more in your 401(k) after your loans have been repaid.
Whatever your goal, remember that you’re sacrificing to achieve it. You can even put a picture in your wallet or on your computer desktop to remind you. If you see your dream home or an old couple lounging at the beach every time you’re tempted to spend, you’ll get a quick reminder of why it pays to devote your extra cash to debt payment instead.
4. Celebrate small wins
One of the most popular approaches to paying off debt is called the debt snowball. It involves paying off your smallest debt first, then moving on to your next smallest balance. Although this could leave you paying more interest, the purpose is so you can score a quick win and stay motivated.
You don’t necessarily have to take this approach, though. Instead, you could celebrate when you hit specific milestones, such as every $1,000 you pay off. You don’t want to spend a lot of money as a reward as this could derail your payoff efforts, but you could plan a small special treat each time you hit a chosen milestone.
Stick with your debt payoff efforts — it will be worth it in the end
Hopefully, these tips will help you to stay excited about your debt payoff plan so you can keep sending extra cash to your creditors and become debt free ASAP. Once you’ve accomplished your goals and you no longer have loans to pay, you’ll be very glad you made the effort.