Paying off Debt: Preparing Yourself for the Journey

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Happy Wednesday, friends!  We’ve had great weather here this week, sunny and 70ish.  The fall colors are just starting to come in, and we’ve finished up the last of our canning efforts, I think, so WOOHOO for that!  Today I’m going to kind of bounce off of a two-part series I did over at Frugal Rules.  The first part, Why So Many People Fail to Become Debt Free, was posted last week, and part 2 debuts tomorrow.    It’s important when beginning a journey as daunting as revamping your financial life that you are aware of potential roadblocks and failures before you start, which is why I wrote the 2-part series over at Frugal Rules.  But there are some other things you need to know before you start your journey to debt free.

There are a number of things you need to be prepared for before you begin your getting-out-of-debt journey.  Why?  Because if you don’t expect them, they’ll smack you in the face good and hard, and potentially keep you knocked down.  If, on the other hand, you expect potential attacks, you’ve got your heart and mind prepared to overcome them.  Preparedness and financial freedom do indeed go hand-in-hand.

What to Expect:

 – A long journey.  Most people who come to the point where they realize they’re in big debt trouble have just that: big debt.  This is why it’s crucial to give yourself a more conservative timeline of paying it off, rather than a more aggressive one.  You’ll do better emotionally if you get your debt paid off before your set payoff debt rather than after.  This is not to say you shouldn’t challenge yourself, but make your challenges and goals reasonable and doable.  Success breeds more success, and by making your goals reasonable, you’ve set yourself up for reaching those goals.

–  Failures and Disappointments.  If you’re going to get serious about paying off debt, you’ve got to accept the fact that failures, disappointments and setbacks will likely come.  This is not a bad thing, provided you use it correctly.  In our particular debt situation, we’ve got LOTS to pay off.  Any wrench in our budget, such as an unexpected house repair or vehicle repair, gets us off track pretty quickly.  In order to not fall prey to the temptation to give up, we instead focus on our progress.  We remind ourselves that, no matter how small the amount, we are moving forward each and every month, and it’s a step in the right direction regardless.  Having a plan for setbacks ahead of time will help ensure that those setbacks don’t keep you down for good.

–  An ever-changing budget/debt payoff plan.  One of the reasons we’ve been able to stick with our debt payoff plan for nearly 10 months now, in spite of many failed previous attempts, is because we are regularly evaluating our budget and our plan to see what we can do better.  Things change: bills come and go, expenses increase and decrease, and a successful debt payoff plan is one in which the navigator regularly assesses the plan and its progress to see where there might be a better way.  This “better way” might include cutting more expenses, bring in more income, switching payoff methods, or whatever.  The key is to be committed to regular evaluation of the plan and to be open to making changes when necessary.

By utilizing these tips, and avoiding the pitfalls I have listed in my educational posts over at Frugal Rules, you’ll have a MUCH better chance of reaching financial independence.  Are you ready for financial freedom?

 

40 comments

  1. “Success breeds more success, and by making your goals reasonable, you’ve set yourself up for reaching those goals.” I could not agree more Laurie! This helped getting me through paying off my debt. The goals would ebb and flow bases off what I had, but I knew if I could hit my minimum goal each month I’d be good. Once I got started, it really was like a snowball going downhill.

  2. Matt Becker says:

    These are really great lessons for almost anything big you want to accomplishment. The road will be long and there will be setbacks, but you have to learn, stay determined and keep going. If it’s really worthwhile it won’t be easy, but that’s what will make it so satisfying.

  3. Great tips Laurie! I like the last one because that pertains to people with debt an without…you have to evolve and constantly look at things and see where you can make adjustments and improve. I’m always doing that.

  4. I’m expecting a very long journey too. My debt won’t be gone for another 5 years, 4 if I’m being optimistic but I guess that guarantees that Girl Meets Debt will be around for awhile longer 😉
    Great Post Laurie!

  5. Great tips, Laurie. As wonderful as it would be to wave a magic wand and make debt disappear overnight, it doesn’t work that way unfortunately. It takes time and it’s important to set a realistic timeframe. Challenging yourself is good but being too aggressive and find yourself missing your goal every money can be deeply demoralizing too. Like you said, you have to be focused, patient, kind to yourself and be adaptable.

    • Laurie says:

      I agree, Shannon. Setting overly-agressive goals and then failing at them is a huge downer and can easily lead to one falling back into old spending habits. Slow and steady wins the race. 🙂

    • Laurie says:

      We know that, don’t we, Hayley. 🙂 It helps Rick and I SO much to focus on how far we’ve come instead of how far we’ve got to go. It’s what keeps us in the game!

  6. Jake @ Ca$h Funny says:

    Nice post here, Laurie. I think the main one that a lot of people forget about is that your budget will keep moving. After a few months, it stays pretty similar, but there is always something that comes up that will make you have to adapt and change it.

    • Laurie says:

      Right, Jake. And too, I think it’s important to remember that you can almost always make additional cuts in spending too, even if it’s just $5 a month.

  7. It is very important to be flexible as your needs and income change. I used to try budgeting and then we wouldn’t hit the numbers, and I’d just give up. It’s OK if you don’t always hit every target as long as you don’t throw in the towel.

    • Laurie says:

      Ugh, I did the same thing for years, Kim. And I completely agree with your last line here: keeping on it is what is really important, failures aside.

  8. Jim says:

    Laurie, I think your writing also helps you be cognizant of your debt and keep you focused on paying it off. Keep it up! IT being your writing and your debt paying, I’ll bet you look up in a year and a significant portion of it will be paid in full!

    • Laurie says:

      I think so too, Jim. One of the reasons we started the blog is to hold ourselves accountable, and it’s really working. Whenever we think about giving up, or about spending where we shouldn’t, we are always reminded of all of the eyes on our progress, and it’s a huge help in keeping us frugal and focused. 🙂

  9. Planning and evaluation are so critical. Things will constantly change and adapting the plan to meet those changes will enhance and hopefully speed up the debt payoff. No need to get stuck in a rut if a change will be more beneficial. Great stuff!

    • Laurie says:

      So true, Brian! Change also, we’ve found, helps us to have a renewed sense of drive for our journey too. It cuts down on the boredom factor. 🙂

  10. lyle @ the Joy of Simple says:

    Hey Laurie and thanks for an informative post.

    I have many friends who are well over their head in debt and while they do acknowledge their debt, they can’t seem to get in down to a manageable level.

    It amazes me how quickly a large debt can be amassed, while paying it off takes a heck of a lot longer!!

    Thanks again and take care.

    Lyle

    • Laurie says:

      So true! We are learning first-hand that when you’ve got a ton of debt, you need to be super patient and super committed if you’re going to pay it off – there’s just no other way!

  11. Stuart@DailyMoneyBucket.com says:

    Becoming debt-free is a major step towards achieving financial freedom.

    These excellent tips will make it easier to keep things in perspective and keep going during the tough times.

    Just imagine how good it will feel when you’ve made the last payment and you don’t owe anyone a cent.

  12. Liquid says:

    If it’s going to be a long journey then that means there will be a greater feeling of accomplishment at the end 🙂

    “This would be a much better world if more married couples were as deeply in love as they are in debt.”
    ~Earl Wilson

    • Laurie says:

      Love that quote, F35! It reminds me of a song I like, in which the singer says “Love isn’t someplace that you fall, it’s something that you do.” Love is an action, not a feeling, and so is getting out of debt. 🙂

  13. Mark Ross says:

    Having a good plan can really give you a boost in paying off your debt but, just like you said, things can change and you will have to redo your plan and make sure that it is still a good one, so that you could pay off your debt properly and hopefully, much faster.

  14. Kelly @Stayingonbudget says:

    Paying off debt is not easy–if it was, everyone would be debt free and it would be weird to have debt. I think keeping the end in sight is the most important part!

  15. I love the line that success breeds more success. I’ve found that to be true over and over again. Stretch goals are tempting but I’ve found them not to be helpful over the long run. Attainable (yet still challenging) goals are the ticket, at least for me.

  16. My Wealth Desire says:

    Paying off debt can bring you to the fast lane of achieving financial freedom. Having a financial goal and budget nothing impossible, you can make it. Good luck to your debt free life journey!

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  19. I loved your note about paying down debt being a long journey. I think we’re all so used to instant gratification that the idea of working at something for years without immediate results becomes daunting in itself. I’m so close to the end of my own journey with debt, but I still vividly remember writing the first payment check, seeing what a small dent it made and feeling totally hopeless.

    Thanks for the encouraging post!

    • Laurie says:

      You’re SO right! Huge congrats at being close to the end of your journey – that is a huge accomplishment, especially given those feelings of hopelessness you had in the beginning. Great job!

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