Should we just cut to the chase and talk about what is really going to move the needle on your debt payoff? It isn’t waiting for a windfall or winning the lottery. It is about taking action, spending less than you make and paying off debt with the rest. You know that, but why is it so difficult? I believe that when you stray from debt pay off you are missing one critical component. Let’s call it the X factor your debt payoff is missing.
The Difference Maker
I’ve openly discussed mistakes I have made or reasons why I failed at paying off debt in the past. When I did get it right though I knew something was different right away.
I’m not saying it was an instant overnight change, but something did click that made it possible. In fact, it was really a year in the making before the light bulb went off. It doesn’t have to be that way for you though.
Once it did click though, there was no stopping me.
So, what was the difference?
Personally, it was that I finally had intense motivation. I’ll get to why in a bit, but let’s dig into this a bit deeper.
I’m not talking about motivation of the casual kind. This isn’t a statement saying “it would be nice to be out of debt” while you also talk about going on vacation, buying a new wardrobe or thinking you can afford a higher car payment since your 5-year-old car is showing some wear and tear.
No, this is a motivation where your sole desire with your money and time is geared towards paying off debt. There is no greater motivation.
Think about it, when you were accumulating debt, what was your motivation? I guarantee it wasn’t to improve your financial standing. At best, it was through a series of decisions where you thought it was OK to go into debt because you could ‘afford the payments.’ Or maybe the debt was justified because you felt there were no other alternatives so therefore it was just a way of life.
Those are strong desires that are difficult to defeat.
The only way to do so is to fight fire with fire.
Just Doing A Budget Isn’t Enough
This isn’t a matter of needing more head knowledge either. Doing a budget, tracking your spending, cutting your expenses and increasing your income are all ways to get control of your finances.
Let’s be honest though. Those aren’t the most fun things yet that is where most people start their debt payoff and ultimately fall short.
It can’t just be about doing a budget, knowing about the debt snowball or even having a high income.
You must be passionate and hungry to be debt free when doing those things. It must consume you, in a good way, although there should be some friction there to keep you hungry.
You make tons of decisions daily that involve money. Whether it is when you decide to spend it or when you decide against it, money is much more embedded in our lives than you realize.
When you are seriously motivated you’ll find that the first thing you think of when any money decision arises is your debt payoff.
Suddenly, your first thought won’t be “it’s only $5.” Instead, it will be a level of disgust where you work through all the reasons and ways to avoid that purchase and to keep that $5 knowing it adds up. It is never “just $5.” You make that decision so many times which result in large swings of money over the course of your life.
Sick And Tired Of Being Sick And Tired
Dave Ramsey has said this phrase quite a bit but there is a ton of truth in it. There is a certain point where you will get sick and tired of being sick and tired.
There is a breaking point that we all reach. Sometimes, it is born out of frustration or maybe it is a real low point in your life but these can be powerful moments.
It doesn’t have to be that drastic though.
Plenty of people find the motivation without hitting rock bottom.
That was the case for us. There were no sicknesses, job losses or marriage hanging by a thread but there was an acknowledgement that something had to change or else maybe things would get worse.
Me, personally, I was sick and tired of being sick and tired of being in debt. I saw a light at the end of the tunnel and I chose that over the other things I previously had been motivated by.
I changed my priorities and used motivation to fuel the success of the debt payoff.
How To Get Motivated When You Aren’t Motivated
I don’t think you can just will yourself to be motivated though. It simply won’t last.
So, if you aren’t at your breaking point but you know you need to make changes consider doing the following tasks.
1. Change Your Influences
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” – Jim Rohn
This quote is important to consider. It is possible that the decisions you have made were influenced by those around you. If they weren’t good with money, then you likely may not be either if you are getting your advice from them.
Now, you don’t have to change your friends, but you can find a whole new set of friends/influences through podcasts, reading books or reading blogs. This provides constant motivation, tips and tricks and keeps the topic of debt payoff fresh on your mind.
After hearing people constantly share their story and talk about cutting costs it starts to become the norm for you just as debt was the norm for you before.
I have heard so many stories about people being retired by 30 that it just doesn’t faze me anymore. When I mention it to the average person though they don’t believe me, but it is just a standard thing depending on who or what you are listening to.
I recommend reading Debt Free Living by Larry Burkett for a Christian perspective, the Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey or Your Money Or Your Life by Vicki Robin.
2. Make A Pros And Cons List About Your Debt
Analyze the many ways debt is affecting your life. Make a pros and cons list and be honest.
I doubt there will be many pros (tax deduction?) but there will be lots of cons. This includes less money to travel with, less flexibility, less money to invest, being vulnerable if you lost your job or maybe it means 2 people working instead of 1 person.
Think about who you are accountable too. This was a big part for me. After getting married I had to change my behavior and fortunately I did, but I left a trail of debt from before marriage that we had to dig out of together. This provided extra motivation to never go back to that again.
Take this list and put it on your fridge or somewhere you see it often. As you combine this with listening to podcasts I think you will start to get frustrated with where you are at and start to make changes.
3. List Why You Want To Be Out Of Debt
List why you want to be out of debt. What does it allow you to do now that you can’t currently do?
You can put this on the same page as the pros and cons, so that it is seen often.
For us, we wanted to live off one income, so one person could stay home with the kids. We also wanted a house and we felt that the amount of debt we had was too risky for being homeowners.
Those were what we had focused on.
4. What Do You Want For Your Future
So, on a similar train of thought, think long term about what you want now. Be bold and push the boundaries.
Do you want to retire early? Do you want to have a different career or one that allows you to travel throughout the world while working a few hours each week? Or maybe you just want to stay in one place and have a big family. Or maybe both!
As you listen to podcasts or read books you will come across several stories that open your eyes to what is possible. Seek these out and be open to them!
Use this to inform what kind of future you want. Yours doesn’t have to be the same either as what you hear. Make your own path!
I can still find influence from the story of someone who retired at 30 which at this point is not possible unless I find a Delorean and make some key stock picks.
This will evolve though, but don’t be afraid to dream big now even if you are in debt. You need a lot of motivation and if your end goal is to just be debt free you will feel lost after you hit that goal.
I know because I experienced that. It wasn’t until a couple years later that I found a direction for what I wanted with my future.
5. Listen To Similar Debt Free Stories
This is kind of like the first suggestion, but I am highlighting it because this can be very motivating.
Sometimes you need a swift kick to the pants. Hearing others that you can relate to share their story is motivating.
Use these to fuel your debt payoff.
Don’t just listen to ones that make you comfortable though. Listen to ones that have people paying off more debt than you while making less and in a shorter time than you thought possible.
These were effective for me because I knew it was possible, even if at first I was cynical to the idea of what they were doing.
By constantly having these stories in your ear, it starts to sink in and it stirs something up inside of you that makes you realize that you are no different and that you can be just like them.
6. The X Factor Your Debt Payoff Is Missing
So, you can have all the tips and tricks you need to make an impact on your debt. The x factor though is the motivation that causes you to seek them out or push through to stay on budget.
Don’t think the head knowledge is not important. It absolutely is, but it just isn’t enough.
It is like your car. The budget, income tracking and snowball approach is the vehicle. The motivation is the fuel that powers the car to get you over the hill to debt freedom. Without fuel, that car isn’t going anywhere.
You need to be intense about your debt payoff, because that will set you up for even bigger success down the road. You should have a sense of urgency regarding your debt. There is so much more out there for you to do and you can’t afford to be constantly stuck in the cycle of debt.
There are bigger and better things out there waiting for you. You have untapped potential just waiting to be unleashed.
Find the motivation and do yourself a favor by getting passionate and kill this debt once and for all.