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When It Feels Like You’ll Never Get Out of Debt

 Feel like you'll never get out of debt? Read this inspiring post full of hope and practical tips!

We are trying to get out of debt and after going over numbers again today it never seems like it’s gonna happen, and after spending time crying today, I just need to get up and make it happen one step at a time. -Amber

Amber left this comment on my Instagram back in December and it’s one of those comments I’ve thought about a lot since reading it. I think many of you can probably relate.

Maybe it feels like you’re working so hard to make progress on paying off debt and for all your hard work, you have little or nothing to show for it.

You’re tired.

 

You’re worn out.

You’re sick of having to say no to extras in the budget.

You’re exhausted from working extra hours or having a spouse who is working extra hours.

Maybe you just got one credit card paid off and then you had a medical emergency and now you have the same amount of debt — or more! — to pay off.

It feels like you are fighting a losing battle.

You just can’t ever seem to really get ahead.

You’re frustrated that your husband didn’t get that raise he thought he was going to.

You’re tired of living in a less-than-desirable apartment that is too small for your family.

You’re overwhelmed by all the bills coming in, the rising costs of living, and just trying to make ends meet.

You just want to give up and give in… and maybe go shopping without having a bud

get, for once.

Can I just encourage you today? You are not alone.

There are many, many others out there who get what you are feeling. I read their comments and emails every week. And my heart hurts for you and the financial struggles that so many of you are going through.

Here’s what I want to encourage you with: Don’t give up. Don’t throw up your hands and give up on your budget.

You might feel like you are stuck, like there’s not a lot that you can do to fix or change your situation. But there is always something you can do!

What You CAN Do

  • You can choose to make the most of today, exactly where you are. (“Bloom where you are planted!”)
  • You can choose to look for the blessings and be grateful for them. (The more you look for something, the more you’ll usually see it!)
  • You can choose to approach saving money as a game or a challenge. (“Let’s see how little we can live on today! Let’s see how far we can stretch this meat to last this week. Let’s see how creative we can be with what we have in our pantry!”)
  • You can choose to celebrate any win, no matter how small. Because a win is a win! (You stayed within your small grocery budget this week? Totally a win! You put $5 extra toward your debt? Absolutely a win! You found a way to make do with what you had? 100% a win!)
  • You can choose to focus on the next right thing you need to do — instead of being overwhelmed by everything you need to do, want to do, or feel like you should do. (When you start feeling completely overwhelmed, ask yourself: “What’s the next right thing for me to do?” And then just focus on doing that.)
  • You can choose to set small goals — for today, for this week, for this month. (Stop focusing on big picture of how much debt you still have to pay off. Just focus on paying off the debt you can this week and this month.)
  • You can choose to make the right decisions to help you make progress today. (How do you replace bad habits with good habits? By making one right decision at a time! You can do this!)

Take baby steps. Live fully present today. Do the next right thing. Don’t give up!

What encouragement do you have for Amber or others in her situation? Share in the comments!

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29 Comments

  • Michele says:

    The most challenging thing I have encountered with working my way out of debt is the isolation.

  • Laura says:

    I can so relate! Yes, it seems like we’ve been saying “no” to ourselves forever. Yes, it seems like we are working every extra job, searching out every deal, watching every penny, saving every day, putting up and making do, just to find ourselves worn out and in the same place, or worse behind. Oh, we know the victory in paying off debt, then having an unexpected medical crisis that costs twice as much. Yes, yes, and yes.

    We are FINALLY doing better. We started a new business ten years ago (in addition to our regular jobs). It is FINALLY making some significant money (not just enough to pay the taxes). We are FINALLY making strides with our debt (hooray for the snowball effect). We are FINALLY taking a break. We are not anywhere near our goal, but the concept of taking baby steps and celebrating every victory is huge. It takes as much discipline to maintain a good attitude as it does to save.

    I agree. Don’t give up. Keep praying, saving, working. Follow where God leads. No matter how it feels, you won’t go wrong.

  • Lynn says:

    Do the next right thing. I’ve struggled with anxiety stemming from many sources lately and this is what I needed to be reminded of. One thing at a time.

  • Denise says:

    No advice. Just wanted to say I feel the same way :(. I was passed over for two promotions. It seems I’ll never get stuff paid off.

  • What stood out to me was “after going over numbers again today it never seems like it’s gonna happen”.
    I’d suggest taking a deep breath and put on a “financial analysts'” hat to logically analyze what the current state of your finances really are.
    – Is there a reasonable budget in place (one that includes payment towards debt)?
    – Are you able to stick to that budget every month (why or why not)?
    – Are you tracking and seeing progress, even slowly, towards paying off debt?

    If you have a good, reasonable plan in place, and are making progress towards you goal…great job! Keep going! It’s a marathon, not a sprint…one step at a time.

    If you’re really not seeing any progress, you may need to determine what is hindering progress. Not having a budget, not sticking with it, expenses too high (any room for cuts?), income too low (work more hours, get a 2nd job temporarily, look for higher paying job…get additional training if needed)…a combo of the above?

    Look to see if there are any non-conventional, even temporary, ways to reduce expenses. Downsize to a smaller house, look for a roommate, move in with family for a period of time are just some examples. What works for one family may not work for another…but thinking creatively about different solutions can really help. And, be grateful for everything you have now.

  • Liz M. says:

    Amber, hang in there. I know it seems impossible right now, but don’t give up! My husband and I started working on our debt payoff and overall financial position 8 years ago. And just this month, we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. We started with the basics, like going to a cash envelope system, and developing and tweaking the budget, and when that couldn’t be tweaked any more, we took online marketing surveys, we did product testing, we listened to music for money, I wrote little odd pieces for a freelance writing service, we used search engines for points to turn into gift cards and I even did small tasks on Amazon’s MTurk for as little as $0.02 each (I know MTurk wasn’t efficient, but some nights, it’s all my brain could handle) … we did whatever we could do to bring in a little extra cash. We both went back to school as well. And along the way, we said “no” to a lot of things. Eight years in and we are finally getting close to the end! Another comment noted that it’s a marathon, not a sprint, and I can tell you that’s definitely true. Doing the math, we have a little bit left to go, but we have breathing room now. It was a long time coming, but we are so grateful we kept at it.

    Don’t give up, don’t lose hope. It is possible!

  • I felt that way for a long time, and I just gave up on the thought of getting our debt paid off. Then one day I realized that debt was keeping us from doing any of the things we wanted to do the most. And I was ready to get rid of it!

    Have a good cry, dig into some ice cream. It’s ok! But then think of ways to use your emotions to your advantage.

    Don’t feel hopeless. Remember all the things you can do. Get an extra job (just long enough to get the ball rolling on your debt payments). You can even work from home these days. Be more tired of debt than hungry for that candy bar. Choose to pay even just $2 down on your debt whenever you can. I promise those little moves will add up to something powerful.

    I’m rooting for all of us working so hard to dig out of debt. ((Hug))

    (And I always love your encouragement, Crystal!)

  • Heidi says:

    We’ve just paid off a very large debt but when we were in the midst of it, that extra $10 we would throw at it would seem so insignificant and so small compared to the very large balance, I would wonder why we even bothered. Especially when my plan would be to put an extra $100 but could only put a fraction of it on it, it would discourage me. However when I now look back and see those small, insignificant payments, I rejoice that we made the sacrifice and did it. I calculated how much of our debt was paid off by the seemingly small amounts and was astounded to discover that those small amounts added up to be over $17,000! Those small amounts do matter! If I had not put those on our debt and had bought a pizza instead, we would not be debt-free right now, not to mention all the interest we would still be paying! Please be encouraged that the extra $5 does make a difference and even if you can’t put any more than your regular payment on your debt for one month (as we didn’t MANY TIMES!), the balance still goes down! Don’t let your feelings get in the way of the real numbers. Look at where you were at one, two, or three years ago, and chances are, you’re probably paying off more than you think, or at least you aren’t in as much debt as you could be if you had given up. It will happen! Just be consistent, even if it is small and you’ll look back and be so glad you did it!

  • jenna says:

    One thing that we do on weeks or months that get really bad , if you can get $5 or $20 dollars together sometime for you and your husband then make it a challenge how much you can grow that into. For myself and my husband we do this in Jan on the 1st to be exact $20 each see how far we can grow it.
    We might use $3.00 in gas to take on an extra job. We might buy an item at a thrift store to clean up and fix and resell at a higher price. We might use coupons to get items at a store for overage the idea is at the end of January we see what we did with our $20 and how much we were able to grow it into. Then we take $20 out of whatever we grew it into and put the rest to the debt and do it again in Feb. It is a game to see who has more a the end of the month you or your spouse.

  • Anders says:

    At one point in my life I was so broke that I couldn’t even afford to buy food. I had to prioritize paying bills and rent, because having a place to live was more important. I didn’t really see any way out of my situation where I was and it felt hopeless. Fortunately I had family and friends who could help me with the food issue for a while. Eventually I went back to school and got student loans to support me instead.

    In short, I agree with Crystal. It’s not only a money related question, even if it is to a large extent. But it’s also mainly a question of mindset. Having the right mindset to encourage you is what will help you the most in the end and will keep you going when things feel really tough.

    Focus on every little win. Without each and every single drop of rain there would be no ocean.

  • Sarah says:

    My heart goes out to all of these comments!! We never had significant debt, but we did have debt when we were first married. We had $15K in student loans, $15K in a car loan, and $5K on a credit card. Ok, I guess that is pretty significant. We’ve always “side hustled” our way out of debt. I took on a TON of freelance writing jobs as soon as my first daughter was born and continued to freelance until the debt was paid. My husband did his fair share, too. He posted ads on Craigslist to do painting and construction work on the side, sold tools he no longer used, etc.

    Freelancing really is a great way for moms to make extra money. I used to write every single night, I woke up early to write, and I wrote during naps and on weekends. It wasn’t easy by any means, but it allowed us to get out of debt and have a little more freedom today!

    -Sarah http://www.thefrugalmillionaireblog.com

  • Elizabeth says:

    Really needed to read this today!

  • Sara says:

    Is it possible to change the way of looking at this? Even when in debt, isn’t it a blessing that accruing that debt was possible? Many don’t even have the means to be in debt, if that makes sense. While it’s always a good idea to be good stewards of our money, isn’t focusing on that debt to the point of it being a problem in our lives akin to worshiping money?

    We have a car payment for the first time in many, many years. Instead of being upset about it, I’m grateful for the ability to obtain a loan to get a much needed new-used car. What a blessing!

    Being debt-free is a great goal. However, debt shouldn’t have the power to make you unhappy. You accrued that debt at a time in your life when you needed it. It was there for you and that’s a blessing.

  • Crystal – your encouragement and words will help so many. I hope that a million tired, exhausted, and hopeless feeling mommies read your words today!

    Amber – I have been in and still fall in the rut you feel you are in. My husband and I are working through 6 figure debt (without a mortgage!) while raising a baby. We get tired of saying no, we get tired of stretching and bending and being creative with that we have, we get tired of making really tough decisions about life and we get tired of budgeting and planning. My husband was raised in a family that were not stewards of their money. They struggled every month and almost lost their home on several occasions. When we feel like we are getting exhausted and close to throwing in the towel, we think about what our end-game is. What are we trying to accomplish? What kind of life do we want for our daughter? What kind of life do we want for ourselves? What will that freedom be like?

    Don’t feel so restricted that you don’t treat yourself every now and then. Small things like a family trip to the local ice cream stand ora matinee movie. Instead of buying *things* for your children or significant other, purchase time and experiences. We feel that spending time together doing fun things rather that just giving each other things helps ease the load we’re carrying.

    You can do it, be steadfast and keep your mind on your goal and understand that EVERYONE fails, no matter how successful they end up being.

  • linda says:

    I was in that situation. Medical bill put me there. Opening the mailbox to stacks of bills was enough to make me cry. I finally decided to pay the minimum on all but the smallest bill. All the extra I had went to that bill. That way I was able to eliminate that bill quickly and then the extra went to the next lowest bill. It took about a year but made me feel better getting less and less bills in the mailbox.

    • Jill says:

      Linda, I totally agree with you regarding the snowball method. Are you a Dave Ramsey follower? My husband and I have been following his plan for a year. We started with $33k in debt and have paid off over $20k in one year. We can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s not an oncoming train. We will be debt free (except for the mortgage) by the end of this year. Each time we pay off a debt, the momentum builds and we just get more intense.

  • Tracy says:

    I am in major debt as well. I also have a health condition so trying to do a side hustle is not really an option for me. However I finally realized that my love of crafting could help pay down my debt. With the help of my son I made small batches of 5 different craft items. Then I participated in my first ever craft show. I learned that people loved the one craft and I sold almost half of what I made and that was with only 50 shoppers coming to the show. The best part for me is that the craft that sold the best also was the cheapest and easiest to make. So now I am saving up my change to buy the supplies I need and will be making a bunch of them and participating in a lot of craft shows this season. My hope is to pay off one small bill with the profits. And because I don’t have to do a lot at the show it is a perfect option for me.

  • K Ann Guinn says:

    Great points, Crystal!

    It may sound anti-budget-friendly, but one thing we’ve always been taught and counselled to do is to build in at least a little “spending” or “fun” money. Even if it is only a very tiny amount, everyone needs a little breathing room or fun or reward, in order to have the strength to keep pressing on.

    This will look different for everyone, and yes, there may be those times when the last couple dollars need to go for food instead of fun, but for the most part, just a little should be budgeted for spending and/or fun each week/month.

    If you budget absolutely nothing for non-essentials, what will usually happen is that we just give in and spend some money on a “treat” anyway, and then feel badly and our budget is sabotaged.

    But with even a little put aside, you can have that one little treat, or save it up for a slightly bigger treat (which could still be small), and you will be able to stick to the rest of your budget. It could mean just a cup of coffee out somewhere, picking up a grocery-store pizza to bake at home for dinner, or saving two dollars a week until you have enough to buy that coloring book you wanted or something for your hair.

    Thanks for writing on this challenging topic.

  • Pam says:

    So many great ideas. My situation is a little bit different. I am currently separated and my income decreased by 50 percent. My current debt is my mortgage and my daughter’s high school tuition. I did a lot of soul searching and looked at the possibility of selling our home and changing schools. I live in CA and homes are very expensive. I live two miles from work and my daughter’s school. So my current plan is to keep her in her school ( I have tuition assistance of 40 pct of the cost) and stay in our home. I work in an elementary school and found an afterschool program three days a week and Saturday school that pays me overtime.

    It’s not easy; we sacrifice a lot. I feel like I know every free event in the area. I’m also busy with service oriented projects my daughter is involved in and we are really busy. My biggest dilemma now is paying for major home improvements like a roof, fence etc.

    One thing not mentioned by others is that we need to acknowledge that we are not using credit. It’s been ten years since I utilized a charge card. That thought really helped me as I was paying off debt. It was slow but started to really snowball at around year three until it was all paid. Small payments and small sacrifices were a big key for me. I saved coins, $5 bills, recycling, rebate checks. It all goes into an account for one goal. When that goal is met, I continue but with a new goal.

  • Leigh says:

    I feel this way right now. We seem stuck. We both work full-time on opposite shifts so we don’t pay childcare. We live in a too small, barely affordable apartment. We don’t have credit card debt or vehicle loans. Our expenses are necessities – we cut cable a while ago. Our grocery budget is high but I don’t really know what else to do. Lots of food allergies mean we’re paying more money than usual for those normally cheap items like milk or flour. Young kids with a dairy allergy means $3.59 a half gallon for coconut milk (no tree nuts or soy allowed) and we typically go through 7 half gallons a week – that’s $25+ a week just in milk (they drink water too). It feels like we need to move to a different area or we need more jobs or at least better paying ones. It’s discouraging but it does help to know we’re not alone.

  • Amber, I completely understand where you are coming from. It took us about 8 years to get out of debt.

    Every time we took a step forward,it felt like life threw us a curve ball and we took another step backwards. We had to pick ourselves back up and keep going.

    Then you know what happened? We got surprised by a few good things like raises and help paying for school. Because we had been working hard, we were prepared to make the most of it instead of wasting it.

    I have been where you are and I came out the other side. It can be done and you are not alone.

  • Melinda says:

    Crystal, I would love to say to Amber find an older lady for your cheerleader, your pusher,a confidant. I have been there please don’t give up keep pushing! I am at a point I my life where I can look back at the hard times,those brick walls that I think everyone has run in to with wisdom. I would love to put my arms around her and help. Be it with a few meals, babysit the kids, show her the ways to cut more costs and share the wisdom. We are no where rich but comfortable and better off than most of our friends and relatives. We raise a huge garden, raise chickens for eggs and meat, have cows for meat and extra money. We have worked hard all of our lives and paid for everything along the way. My husband is self employed so we still struggle with all the taxes but food and bills are no worry any more. We love the life we chosen. So as it has been stated before it is a mind set. Set your mind on the goal, try not to get discouraged find friends and loved ones to push you in the direction you choose.

  • Jackie says:

    I can relate to this. Seems like my husband and I have been paying down our debt forever. I had a huge amount in student loans and we both racked up credit cards before we were married. We will finally start to make a little headway this year. It sucks to talk about the budget with my husband. He gets so discouraged and is sick of working his part time job. I had to cut our grocery budget in half at the start of the year. I took a job with much better hours, but took a pay cut. This also resulted in more daycare cost. In the long run though it will be so much better for my family. Seems discouraging I know. When parents of my sons friends are going on vacation all the time to tropical places and we don’t go anywhere. I’m glad to have learned the things I have. It keeps me humble.

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