I received an email from a reader this week who after 3 months of intense debt payoff is facing some debt fatigue. She and her husband have made great progress and only have about 8 months to go, but are still struggling to stay positive.
Here’s her question:
After your first year when you paid so much on your debt, did you ever feel like you were in a rut or a funk? What do you focus on to get out of it? I’ve been trying to focus on what we’ve accomplished so far and what our goals are, and even telling myself that our situation is lucky but I still just have this negative attitude that I can’t shake. It’s bugging me because I’m normally an optimist and go-getter but the debt-battle blues are really getting me down.
If you haven’t faced the “debt-battle blues” yet, chances are good that you will at some point in your journey. For me, the first step to getting out of a funk is figuring out how you got there in the first place. Some common causes of debt funk are:
- Making too many lifestyle changes at once
- Being tempted by your old lifestyle
- Not making the progress you had hoped
- Not seeing the big picture
- Having a goal that feels too far away
- Be realistic-– I have tried not to compare the $36K that we paid toward debt in 2013, with the total we’ve paid in 2014. See– I’m not even going to add it up right now! We knew that emptying out all of our other savings would make a bigger dent than we would be able to make in subsequent years (until we have some serious increases in income), so we don’t make ourselves sad by comparing.
- Relax your rules a little— Don’t break the budget or get any crazy new habits, but giving yourself a little wiggle room can make a big difference. For example, I told my husband to stop by the store and pick up some bread on the way home from work. We have been baking our own bread since we started our debt payback adventure, but for the past week I have resorted to putting PBJ tortillas in my kids lunches because I have been too exhausted to make bread lately. We have something like $80 left in our food budget for the month that ends in less than a week. My health and sanity right now are worth the price of a few loaves of bread.
- Track your progress— It could be a fancy net worth spreadsheet that helps you track your progress or a giant thermometer on the fridge that you color in red as the principal decreases. Having a visual representation of your progress can help you stay motivated.
- Set smaller goals— You probably already have a debt-free date that you’re working toward, but if you’re fighting big numbers like us, that date may be pretty far away. Setting smaller goals helps you stay focused and gives you chances to feel success more often.
- Find something to celebrate— Celebrating the achievement of smaller goals helps you stay on track by rewarding your progress. Celebrations shouldn’t be expensive or elaborate, but should still motivate and excite you. Celebrating your success is especially important if you find yourself a frequent victim of debt fatigue.
- Get an accountability partner-– If you don’t already have someone to encourage you, think of someone who would make a good accountability partner. This may be your spouse who is facing debt with you. The hope is that when you are in a funk, your spouse (or whoever you choose for your accountability partner) will be able to help you see the light, and vice versa.
How about you?
- What have you found to be the root cause of your debt fatigue?
- What to you to get your motivation back when you’re in a funk?
- What advice would you give specifically to this reader who is facing the “debt-battle blues?”