Guest post from Jamie of Medium Sized Family
It’s a big thing to decide to get serious about paying down debt. It takes commitment and dedication.
Our family has a BHAG (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal) of paying down a debt that amounts to 19% of our take-home pay. Everyone in the family is on board with doing the work it will take to get this goal accomplished. We’re making different choices, and sometimes just saying “no” to help us meet our bigger goal.
We did so many things right. But it turned out that this month, the money we had saved wound up being needed for an unexpected expense instead.
It’s discouraging to work so hard and not see any improvement!
The worst part about discouragement like that is that it can derail your hopes before they even get any real traction. So rather than letting myself wallow in that disappointment, I made some different choices.
If you have been discouraged by the lack of progress you’re making towards various goals, here are a few things you can try:
Look for the good.
If you try hard enough, you can usually find that silver lining — even in a moment of disappointment. While we weren’t able to put money toward our debt this time, the fact that we didn’t have to dig into our savings account or pay with credit is still a big win.
Learn from it.
“Unexpected” expenses happen to all of us. You might not know where the unexpected expense is going to come from or what moment it might happen in, but you can bet your cookies that it is going to come along some time!
I’d rather not touch our savings account if we can help it, and if we do touch it, the next dollar earmarked towards debt will have to refund the savings account instead. But at least it is there if we need it!
Revisit the goal.
If you find that you are discouraged by your debt month after month, it might be that your goal is not realistic. We had to take another look at our big goal to see if we still considered it to be doable. Once we decided that we our goal is definitely a stretch goal, but still reasonable, then we revisited our baby steps towards that goal.
A big goal to pay off a large debt can be exciting, but it can also be overwhelming. It’s far easier to handle it by breaking it into chunks. Then you can look forward to meeting several smaller goals along the way.
Some ways to break down your large debt goal into baby steps include:
Break down the goal into percentages. Create a visual thermometer and color in a rectangle as you pay off the debt. Each time you’ve hit 10%, 20%, etc. of your goal, celebrate! Dance in the kitchen, pull out the good china, treat yourself to a delicious dessert, or find your own special treat.
For something simpler, watch your bill. Each time the first number (or second or third number depending on your circumstances) goes down another notch, you’ve reached a baby step!
Find the Fun!
There are a few surprising things that are helping our entire family get through our debt payment plan. Try a few things and see what makes the challenge of paying off debt more fun for your crowd:
Get a Mantra. We’ve decided that our mantra for 2016 is that this is the #YearofNo. When someone asks if we can stop for fast food, all we have to do is say “Hashtag: Year of No!” Yes, we do sometimes still get whining and complaints. But far more often than not, we get a little giggle and a joke in return. This mantra has also helped me get through several shopping trips when I am trying to separate the “needs” from the “wants”.
Choose a Challenge. There are so many different challenges out there to try! Your family might enjoy seeing how long they can go without spending in a No Spend Challenge. Maybe your culinary side would like the workout it would get from an Eat From the Pantry Challenge. You could try generic versions rather than your usual brand name and treat it like a science experiment. (Get the whole family’s opinion of one versus the other!)
Don’t Break the Chain. Choose a habit that you’d like to change, then, see how many days you can go without using that habit. We were able to go the entire month of January without stopping for fast food. That was a major breakthrough for us! If and when you do finally break the chain of days, don’t be discouraged. See if you can break that record with your next try.
No matter how you choose to lift yourself from a debt discouragement slump, make sure that you find ways to stay positive. You can do this!
What are some ways you’ve gotten over discouragement?
Jamie is a wife and mother of 5, ages 2 to 12. Her family lives in the country where they raise goats (whenever they aren’t playing baseball!). She blogs at Medium-Sized Family where she shares tips on saving money in small and big ways so you can afford to give your family a beautiful life.