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How to Stick to Your Debt Payoff Plan And Keep Motivated

When it comes to paying off your debt it can seem practically impossible. In spite of it - there are good ways to force you stock to your debt payoff plan and stay motivated - here's how to make it right.
Author: Baruch Mann (Silvermann)
Baruch Mann (Silvermann)

Writer, Contributor

Experience

Baruch Silvermann is a financial expert, experienced analyst, and founder of The Smart Investor.  Silvermann has contributed to Yahoo Finance and cited as an authoritative source in financial outlets like Forbes, Business Insider, CNBC Select, CNET, Bankrate, Fox Business, The Street, and more.
Interest Rates Last Update: April 15, 2024
The banking product interest rates, including savings, CDs, and money market, are accurate as of this date.
Author: Baruch Mann (Silvermann)
Baruch Mann (Silvermann)

Writer, Contributor

Experience

Baruch Silvermann is a financial expert, experienced analyst, and founder of The Smart Investor.  Silvermann has contributed to Yahoo Finance and cited as an authoritative source in financial outlets like Forbes, Business Insider, CNBC Select, CNET, Bankrate, Fox Business, The Street, and more.
Interest Rates Last Update: April 15, 2024

The banking product interest rates, including savings, CDs, and money market, are accurate as of this date.

You can trust the integrity of our unbiased, independent editorial staff. We may, however, receive compensation from the issuers of some products mentioned in this article. Transparency is a core value for us, see how we make money.

Table Of Content

In this chart using data from Urban Institute, you can see that the age group 43 to 47 carries the highest average credit card debt. This age group has almost double the credit card debt of their under 32 year old counterparts or seniors aged 68+.

 

For those who have a large amount of debt, it can seem like it’s going to be forever before you finally get out of it. And that’s totally normal to feel that way. Even if you have debt for good reasons, being in debt isn't fun—especially if high-interest credit cards are consuming your monthly paycheck.

So, how do you use debt to your advantage without succumbing to it? The key is to be proactive in repaying it. Fortunately, there are a plethora of excellent resources and techniques available to assist you in developing your debt repayment strategy—but only you will know what is best for your specific financial situation.

How to Stay Optimistic When You're in Debt?

When you are in debt, it can be difficult to maintain a positive attitude, which can undermine your motivation to stick to your new financial plans. As a result, it is critical to recognize that getting out of debt is not a quick fix.

As a result, you should consider incorporating some treats into your monthly budget. For example, once a month, treating yourself to a fancy cup of coffee or takeout may be enough to keep you on track and feeling positive.

How Long Will it Take to Pay Off 10,000 in Debt?

This depends on your APR and your interest rate. It also depends on if you are only paying the minimum payment or if you are making higher payments each month to try and pay the debt off quicker.

If you have $10,000 in debt with a 17.5% interest rate and you can allow payment of $359/month, it will take you 35 months (3 years) to pay off your entire debt. However, if you'll be able to pay $914/month, you suppose to pay it off in about a year, with much less interest compared to previous option. 

Lower interest rates don’t take as long to pay off, so always try to get credit cards or loans with the lowest interest rate possible.

While none of this is intended to be financial advice, which should always be sought from a professional, here are a few things to think about:

1. Write Your Plan

Not having a plan is going to make you lose motivation. You don’t really know what you’re doing and you feel like you’re not doing it right. And when the time frame is long it feels even worse.

One thing you can stay in control of is your plan. You can create the plan and you can decide just how you’re going to make it work for you. That’s definitely going to make you feel a whole lot better in the long run.

Now, if you have multiple debts and you’re just going at them blindly then you’re going to spend a whole lot more. You’ll spend more time and you’ll spend more money because you’re paying even more interest.

How To Set Up a Debt Payoff Plan?

You need to first get an overview of all your outstanding debts. This can initially be done by looking at your credit report to see each of your active accounts. Then you need to prioritize which debts you will be looking to pay off totally first, while still making the minimum payments for all of your various forms of debt.

You may be able to find extra money in order to increase the repayments you make or just refocus your efforts on particular forms of debt. Then you can start to eliminate your various forms of debt on a one-by-one basis.

Debt Snowball Vs Debt Avalanche Vs Debt Snowflake

That’s why there are two different methods you can use to pay off that debt. You can use the snowball method or the avalanche method. The first, the snowball method, asks you to look at your debts in order from the lowest balance to the highest. You would then start putting all the extra money you have toward that one debt.

When you manage to pay off the first debt you take that amount of money plus whatever else you have and pay it toward the next lowest and then keep going from there. The big benefit is that you’re going to start paying off debts quickly and you’re going to have more motivation.

The other option is the avalanche method, where you look at interest rates instead of balance. The highest interest rate goes first on the list all the way down to the lowest rate. Then you start by paying as much money as you can to the account with the highest interest and work your way to the lowest in the same way we just talked about.

You can use either one of these methods to help pay off your debts. Just choose the one that works out the best for you and stick to it. Also, you can always combine it with other strategies such as the debt snowflake method.

Even better, make sure you write down what you’re doing and how you’re going to get there. It’s going to make you more committed and it’s going to make it easier for your brain to focus on.

2. Create, Stick and Adjust Your Budget

The first thing is actually making that personal budget and it doesn’t have to be as difficult as you might think. You just need to start by planning out your monthly spending. Pay attention to what you spend on anything from groceries and housing to entertainment and gasoline. You can use your credit cards to help you figure it out.

When you’re working on your budget you should also take a look at expenses that you could be spending less on. These are some of the discretionary aspects that you’re probably not paying attention to. But cutting spending in these areas can help you pay your debt faster. Here are 3 budgeting methods:

  • Plan 50/30/20 – It is not only one of the most popular, but also one of the simplest because the instructions are literally in the name. After paying your bills, you should spend approximately 50% of your income on basic necessities, 30% on “wants” and 20% on savings.
  • Zero Sum Budget – This is a comprehensive strategy. The term “zero-sum” refers to the fact that at the end of the day, the amount of money you earn plus the amount you spend should be balanced and equal to zero. In this scheme, every single dollar serves a purpose.
  • The Envelope Method – Keeping your cash in envelopes allows you to keep track of how much money you have in each budget category for the month. At the end of the month, take a quick look in your envelope to see how much money is left.

Make sure that you stick with your budget even after you pay off your debt as well. You want to be able to stay out of debt and you want to build up an emergency fund so you can still be safe even if something comes up and you find yourself struggling to alter on. Even more, keep looking at the budget every month so you can make changes where you need to.

If you’re always having a problem in the same areas of your budget you may need to take a closer look at your expenses again. See if you’ve underestimated some of your expenses or some things that are important to you. From there, you can make adjustments and keep going.

Don’t Get Too Greedy

It’s really easy to create a budget and say you’re going to do all of these amazing things with your money, but are you actually going to be able to stick to that budget? If the budget you create isn’t realistic then you’re going to discourage yourself and you’re going to feel frustrated. That’s going to make you less inclined to stick to the plan.

Instead, look at your income and expenses and then look at how much money you can realistically put toward paying off your debts. You want to put as much as you possibly can toward those debts, but don’t beat yourself up about getting them paid off more quickly than is actually reasonable.

You can use a debt calculator to help estimate how much time you’re going to need in order to make the payments and get yourself debt-free as well. And the more you pay the faster that time is going to come.

A majority of Americans have a plan to reduce their personal debts within specific timelines, based on a poll conducted by Northwestern Mutual

 

3. Get an Accountability Partner

If you have someone that’s willing to help you out it can actually be a great benefit in keeping you on budget.

Your accountability buddy could be anyone you want. It could be a friend or family member or it could be a community that you create online. You just want to tell them what your goals are and then make sure that they’re going to hold you accountable to following that goal. Here are 3 reasons why it can work:

  • Competition – Nothing beats a healthy dose of competition, especially when it comes to debt! Healthy competition can cause you to second-guess yourself, which is a good thing. Maybe you're driving by your favorite fast food restaurant and instead of stopping, you think to yourself, “Is my competitor wasting money on this?” Maybe not, so you go home and cook dinner instead. Healthy competition can really speed up the process of budgeting.
  • Laziness – This is not a problem for everyone, but most people are lazy from time to time. They never begin the process of creating a budget or determining what they can cut from their monthly budget.
  • It is better to have two heads than one – When it comes to saving money and getting out of debt, there are a lot of tricks to saving money, and I guarantee you will miss something if you do it on your own. That is why two heads are preferable to one. Share ideas and discuss your strategies with your accountability partner.

4. Don't Increase Spending

You’re trying to pay off debt so make sure that you’re not adding new debt into the mix while you do it. You should absolutely make sure that you’re not spending on your credit cards during this process.

People are creatures of habit, and this includes their spending habits. Because it's convenient, we shop at the same stores, eat at the same restaurants, and drive the same car. It's also costing you more money than you can afford. Remedy: If you do not change your spending habits, you will never be able to get out of debt.

If you find that you’re tempted to buy then cutting your cards up or locking them away is a good idea. If you can keep yourself from spending then just put them up somewhere and promise yourself you aren’t going to use them.

You definitely don’t want to add more debt to your problems. It’s only going to make sure that you stay in debt forever and that’s going to keep you discouraged. So, pay attention to what debt you have and focus on getting out of that.

However, it's critical to maintain your newfound mindset once you've achieved your goal. Even if you have paid off your credit card debt, it is easy to revert to old habits. It's critical to change your attitude toward credit cards so you don't end up in the same situation again.

You must make it stick after you have paid off your credit cards. Use credit cards only for purchases that you can pay off quickly. If you have trouble using credit cards responsibly, it may be a good idea to stop using them entirely – and that's what bring us to the next step.

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5. Stick to Cash

Spending with cash is going to be the best thing you can do about debt because if you only use cash you can’t get into even more trouble. Using the envelope system is one way to do this, meaning that you have to spend money only in the approved categories that you’ve set, and only as much money as you’ve allocated to that area.

It's a concept known as “pain of paying” in behavioral economics — because humans are loss averse, spending money is painful. However, if you pay with a credit card, the pain is postponed until a later date. The pain of parting with one's money, on the other hand, is felt immediately with cash.

Of course, different people will feel different levels of pain when paying in cash. However, because dealing with cash involves a greater physical component than using a credit card, it is easier to remember what we spend.

Furthermore, sticking to cash is a difficult practice in more ways than one. Cash is simply inconvenient for most people, aside from being more difficult to spend due to our emotional attachment to holding onto our money. If you don't work in a cash-intensive industry, making regular withdrawals for your spending money will almost certainly necessitate going out of your way to find an ATM.

For those who struggle with keeping track of their spending, this is a great way to pay attention and to make sure that you’re finding the problems right away. You’ll notice where you run out of cash.

6. Find Inspiration

If you can read stories of other people who have succeeded in their debt reduction goals it’s definitely going to inspire you to how you can do it too. You’ll be able to find these stories all over the internet and you’re definitely going to find blogs and articles from people who have been in even worse shape than you.

You might also find out some tips and tricks that you could be using to help get you out of debt faster, and that’s going to really improve your odds. Start looking at your budget and imagine what you could do with it if you didn’t have to pay off that debt. What could you be doing?

When you start really paying attention you’re going to see that the process is going to take a while, but you can absolutely get it done and you can absolutely set yourself up for success. You’ll see that a whole lot of freedom is there if you can get rid of the debt first.

7. Know Why You’re Here

Think about why you’re on this journey. What is the purpose that you have behind getting out of debt? Do you want to save money from that interest? Do you want to get a new house? Are you looking to save for retirement?

No matter what the reasoning is you should focus on that while you’re working on getting out of debt. That’s where you’re going to get the motivation that you need.

Make sure you write it down and then, when you’re feeling overwhelmed and unmotivated, go back to those words and read through them. When you can see why you’re doing what you’re doing it’s definitely going to make you more inclined to stick with it when things start getting hard.

You’re not going to be perfect. You’re going to have months where you have to make changes or where something just doesn’t work out the right way. You might even have to step back and make only minimum payments on something for a while.

But that doesn’t mean it’s time to give up. It means you keep evaluating and as soon as you’re able to get back to your full plan you do it. Hold yourself accountable to getting back on schedule but give yourself a little bit of slack when things just don’t work (as long as you’re trying hard to make it work). 

FAQs

In mathematical terms, the best way to pay off debt is through the avalanche method. This sees you marking the debts that you have in order from the highest interest rate to the lowest interest rate. You will be paying the minimum balance on each of these debts and then you will be looking to use any extra funds in order to pay off the debt that has the highest interest rate.

The snowball method is also a popular way to pay off debt. It sees you making your smallest debts the priority. The idea is that you will be gaining momentum as you eliminate different forms of debt and you will be motivated to keep up this process.

You are able to get all of your debt into one payment if you consolidate your debt. This sees you bundling all of your debt into a single monthly payment. This makes things much easier to manage in a lot of cases.

You can also often end up paying a lower overall level of interest on the debt when you go through consolidation. There are numerous ways you can consolidate debt with a personal loan, tapping into your home equity, or getting a 0% APR credit card.

There are various types of debt payoff plans that you will come across. Each will usually have its own set of pros and cons that need to be considered. The debt snowball strategy sees you focusing on paying off your smallest debts first.

The debt avalanche method sees you focusing on paying off the debts with the highest interest first. Debt management plans can help you strike a deal with your creditors that can often see you getting lower interest rates or a more flexible repayment approach. Then there are debt payoff plans that are custom-made by individuals depending on their needs.

Picture of Baruch Mann (Silvermann)

Baruch Mann (Silvermann)

Baruch Silvermann is a financial expert, experienced analyst, and founder of The Smart Investor.  Silvermann has contributed to Yahoo Finance and cited as an authoritative source in financial outlets like Forbes, Business Insider, CNBC Select, CNET, Bankrate, Fox Business, The Street, and more.
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