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During my journey to pay off my massive student loan debt, the toughest thing for me was the motivation. I was lucky enough to be in a position (no kids, single, disposable income, minimalist lifestyle) in which I could afford to pay more than the required minimum monthly payment.
When you have a large debt to pay off, in my case $77,000, this amount can be daunting. I experienced my first case of demotivation in my 20’s during the early periods of pay back, which is why I ended up defaulting on my student loans. I got a resurgence in motivation a decade later.
Looking back there were a few key actions I took that helped me to continue being motivated.
6 actions I took to stay motivated in paying off my massive debt
- Get in the right mindset. One day I started listening to literally hours of personal finance podcast episodes. I realized that those who make less than me, are in worse situations, or have families to support were paying off their debt quicker. If others can do it, then I certainly can as well. This realization helped put me in the right mindset.
- Set a goal and literally write down your goal. This was the first actual action I took. I always heard about how writing down your goals is a step to actually achieving those goals. I figured what do I have to lose. I set a debt payoff goal for everyone to see. Once I achieved my goal, I realized I should write down my other goals. I used one of my empty walls in my house and plastered it with all the short term goals I wanted to accomplish.
- Watch debt pay down progress through an amortization chart. As a visual person, what helped me was to actually see the debt pay down progress I was making. In the blog post, I provide a link in which you type in your total debt amount, how much you intend to pay per month or when your debt payoff goal is and you can see how long or how much you have to pay. This visual chart helped me to stay motivated and finish paying off my debt several months earlier than my goal.
- Celebrate the progress and milestones. I think this is so important. I realized first hand that the moment you are debt free, all those years and hard work in paying off the debt just kind of ends. By celebrating small steps and certain dollar milestones (for example, paying off $1,000 at a time), you will feel a lot more gratification at the end of this debt pay off journey. Just do not celebrate by getting into more debt.
- Refer back to your goal as a constant reminder. When you have a massive loan amount like I did, it is easy to get sidetracked and get demotivated. What I did was not only post my written goal on my wall, but I also went back into my account every other week and played around with the amortization chart. This was a constant reminder.
- Remind yourself of the debt freedom. I knew that getting out of debt would free up literally thousands per month of extra income that I did not have before due to the debt. The end goal always seemed to be far away, but reminding myself of the debt freedom I was striving for kept me on the right path.