Dealing With Discouragement: A Debt Discussion

Dealing with debt can be long and overwhelming road.  Most people face discouragement at some point.  Here are some great tips (and more in the comments) for dealing with discouragement.

Dealing with debt is often a long road filled with ups and downs.  Reaching a milestone, sticking to your budget, resisting temptation, or earning some extra income are all reasons to smile and celebrate.  We also all have times when we feel discouraged and wonder if we will ever get out of our current situation.

How you deal with your discouragement will significantly help or hinder your progress.

I probably don’t need to outline the ways that discouragement can hinder your progress, so let’s focus on how we can overcome discouragement in our debt repayment.  Here are a few things that help me.

Talk about it

I am blessed with an awesome marriage.  My husband and I communicate well.   We are always on the same team.   When one of us starts to lose motivation, the other one is encouraging.  Discouragement doesn’t last long in this dynamic.

My heart goes out to those of you who are facing overwhelming debt on your own (or what may feel like “on your own”).  Find a friend who you can talk to.  Having someone who will listen and support you is so therapeutic and healthy.  Since debt is a topic that many people keep to themselves, opening up the conversation by daring to disclose your debt might be a good first step and way to find people who can relate.

Set Small Goals

If looking at your entire debt portfolio is too daunting, try breaking it down into more manageable goals.  You could set a goal of how much your want to put toward your debt each month without focusing on the debt total.  You could decide on changes in your budget that will free up a certain amount of money to put toward debt.

Be sure to celebrate (frugal-style, of course) when you reach each small goal.  Share your successes with someone.

Focus on the Finish

This may sound like the opposite of “set small goals,” but I think they work together.  Don’t focus on how far away the finish line is, but focus on what the finish line will feel like.  I like to imagine what it will be like to have our own place (not that living in my in-laws’ basement with our three kids isn’t great) and how free it will feel not to have the burden of debt.  I remind myself that if I keep on track with the plan that we have set, the finish line will come.  I just need to press on through the challenges and not give up.

Stop Comparing Yourself

I think a lot of discouragement comes when we compare ourselves and our situation to others.  Unless you are comparing the you-of-today with the you-of-years-past, comparing yourself (or your debt, or your talents, or your bank account) with anyone else will most likely just feed the discouragement.  It’s fine to admire someone,  but being jealous will only hinder your progress.  Instead of looking around, focus on how far you have come.

Those are just a few of the ways that I prevent and deal with discouragement.  Everyone is different.  I’m counting on the rest of you to share your ideas to help those who are struggling with discouragement in their journey to be debt-free.

  • How do you avoid becoming discouraged by your debt?
  • What do you do to stay positive and motivated?

Join us every Wednesday for a new Debt Discussion topic.  If you have a topic you would like to submit, you can do so here.

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  1. says

    Stop comparing yourself was something that was really hard to me to do at first. I’d look at peer’s perceived successes and wonder what I didn’t have the same things. Now I know that a lot of those peole were actually going into a lot of debt to buy the things they had.

    • says

      It’s so true! Either we compare ourselves and feel bad about ourselves (even though we only see a glimpse of their real situation) or we compare ourselves and feel prideful. Neither is a good option.

  2. says

    Setting small goals has been so helpful for me! When I decided a “plan of attack” for my loans by paying off the smallest first and then using the debt snowball, it became much easier to focus on “I just want to fully pay off this one loan right now” then “holy crap how can I ever pay off 15 loans completely right now?” I still make the minimum payments on all of the loans, but all extra money goes to my smallest. It’s been so encouraging to start paying off loans one at a time! It gives me the incentive to keep going!

    • says

      That’s got to be tricky to have lots of minimum payments. This is our first year in the real world after law school and our loans are on income-based repayment, so we don’t have any of them due yet. Good for you for having a plan of attack and focusing on your goals!

  3. says

    Something we’ve done along the way as we’ve reached some of our goals is to have a celebration. This doesn’t have to be anything huge, just something that serves as a special marker for the family that the goal has been accomplished. Not only did it reward the family and bring good feelings, it helped get us mentally prepared for the next step up in goals.

  4. Heidi says

    It can be very tempting to compare myself with someone else, especially when they seem to be paying off their debt so quickly by simply eating at home. It seems that we already do almost everything to be frugal but it will still take a lot of time to pay off our home. I encourage myself by thinking that every month I’m always heading towards less debt, even if I can’t put any extra money on the loan.

    Another way to keep me motivated is what I call “getting to the next level”. What I mean by that is setting smaller goals in paying the big huge debt. Since our loan is just one loan we don’t have the satisfaction of paying off a debt and feeling like we’ve accomplished something so what I do is set goals like:

    1) Paying extra to get below the next thousand. It encourages me to see the thousand place value go down another number. This can motivate me to stay within or below my other budgets in order to do this.
    2) You can amortize your loan and see when you’ll pay the next lower interest payment. For example, if you are currently paying $525 a month in interest charges, see how long it will take to get below $500. It may motivate you to find extra cash, birthday money, etc. in order to get there quicker. Sometimes it seems like I could get so much more enjoyment out of spending that $100 birthday money on what I want instead of throwing it into the “huge hole” of debt, but if I have these smaller goals, it doesn’t feel like I’m just throwing it to debt and not really making a difference.

    Thanks for this post! Reading blogs such as this helps motivate me to pay off debt. Thanks!

    • says

      Heidi, I love your idea of “getting to the next level.” I’ve been doing this lately as we are coming up on being less than six figures under. It makes it fun to set challenges like that for yourself. I like your #2 as well! Great job working to pay off your mortgage! Thanks for sharing your great ideas!

  5. Liz S says

    The only consumer debt we have is in the form of car loans. But, on top of that, we have medical school debt repayment (almost 200K left to pay) and our mortgage on our home. Looking at our total debt number is SCARY. 😛 So, in order to stay positive and focus on our progress, I made a “Net Worth” spreadsheet and update this monthly. That way, instead of always looking at a HUGE debt total, I can celebrate the fact that our Net Worth is positive (just barely) and watch that number grow each month. Hope someone else finds this helpful too. I also agree with you on always tithing, and I often will pray and ask God to stretch our money and to help keep us on track. 😛

    • says

      Liz, the net worth spreadsheet is a great idea. That’s pretty awesome that even with that much debt you still have a positive net worth! That’s definitely something to celebrate!

      Turning to God is also a way to help us avoid discouragement and be wise with our money. Thanks for sharing!

    • says

      Grayson, I’m sure that was very hard to open up and share your debt issues with your wife. I’m glad to hear that it made the difference for you! Honesty is so important in relationships. Good for you!

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