Home » 3 Ways to Avoid Discouragement During Debt Payoff

3 Ways to Avoid Discouragement During Debt Payoff

If you’re like we were, you might find after making the decision to get out of debt that you may have bit off more than you could chew.  I know that many of you are in way over your heads right now.  You’re facing a mountain that – let’s face it – is just too big.  I know that, because that’s the situation we were in four years ago. Then things got better. And then, after a series of personal crises, they got much, much worse, and we had to start our journey to get out of debt all over again, with a debt load over twice as high as we began with. 

If you’re feeling much too overwhelmed to face your financial situation, I’m here to tell you that you can get out of debt, but if you’re going to succeed, you’d better prepare yourself right now for the fact that you’ve got some work ahead of you.   Because often what happens on the road to debt free is that the first few weeks are exciting: you’ve got a new plan, a new hope, and a new vision for your future.  You might have some small successes that increase your hope and drive even more.

But often what happens after that, when you see how much more debt you’ve got to pay off, is that you start to really come to terms with just how big of a mess you’ve created.  The truth hits home, and it hits home hard.  You come to face the fact that this journey isn’t going to be finished in a year.  Or two.  Or three.  Or five.  Or maybe even ten.

Discouragement Does Happen

Your mind starts to play tricks on you.  It condemns you for screwing up so bad.  It tells you what a failure you are.  And then it tells you that the pile really is too big, so you might as well give up right now and just enjoy life.


You see, what your mind isn’t telling you is this:

1. Those next 10 years are going to pass, debt free or not.  Do you really want to be in the same financial place in ten years that you are now?  Or would you rather face 2027 debt free and able to have the freedom to do what you want or need to do.

2.  You really can make the debt go away.  It’s hard to believe that’s true if you’re looking at a huge mountain of bills and not nearly enough income to free yourself from them.  But as the old Chinese proverb says “The one who moves a mountain starts by carrying away small stones.”  Don’t believe the lies that tell you it can’t/won’t happen.  The only thing that will truly keep you from being debt free are your own fears and lack of effort.

3.  The road is difficult, but you’ll be glad when you’re finished, and probably well before then.  We’ve seen that personal in our own journey to debt free. We started out with a 65% debt-to-income ratio, got the consumer debt down by about ten percent, and then faced some family crises that caused our debt to skyrocket to over twice what it had originally been. I’m sure you can imagine what that did to our original DTI of 65%. And I’m sure you can imagine that we were ready to throw in the towel and give up on debt payoff altogether.

So we know about setbacks and how they can take the wind out of your sails. But I’m encouraging you not to give up. After a starting over, our consumer debt is dropping fast and our DTI is now down to 53% and our consumer debt is dropping rapidly.

Some days it still feels like we’re never gonna make it. It’s been a tough road facing the image in the mirror.

But we also have come face to face with the fact that if we don’t do this now, we may never do it.  And that’s something that we just can’t do to our family or ourselves.  We deserve better, and so do you.

So how do you overcome those feelings of despair if you’re in a similar situation where your debt just feels too big to even bother starting to pay it off?

Find a Solid Reason Why

Make a list of really compelling reasons why you want to be debt free. Our list looked like this. Keeping a list of your whys clearly posted where you can see it often and use it to discourage you from spending will help keep you on track when the times get tought. Carrie over at Careful Cents had a great guest post on this at PT Money.  Check it out by clicking here.

To keep you compelled: Love Your Life, Not Theirs: 7 Money Habits for Living the Life You Want

Do Something to Improve Your Money Situation

Make impactful moves – no matter how small – that will give you some extra cash or some extra motivation to encourage you on your journey. Make a colorful chart that tracks your progress. Make a plan for a big celebration when you’ve reached debt freedom, like a dream destination vacation or an important purchase you can make with cash once your debt free.

Sell something.  Or lots of somethings.  Turn in your change jar or scour your pockets for an extra few dollars and immediately make a payment on your credit card to lower that balance.  Every penny and every action really does count.

To show you a plan: The Total Money Makeover: Classic Edition: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness

Imagine the Future

Do you really want to be sitting here 10 years from now in the same place that you are in now, having the same conversations with yourself about money that you’re having today?  Do you really want to continue to live this life of constant worry and bondage over money?  No, you don’t.  So decide in your heart today that you’re going to choose to walk this road.    Decide that you won’t be held in bondage to debt anymore.  And as the old Nike commercial says, Just Do It.   

To help you envision the future: The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy

Stop Acting Rich: …And Start Living Like A Real Millionaire

No, it won’t always be easy. Some days it might really suck. Some days you might be really angry. Or really discouraged. Or really tempted to stuff your face in a bag of Oreos. Or really tempted to run away to Jamaica for a week just to pretend to make it all go away.

But don’t do it. Don’t give up and don’t give in. Choose to live life differently. Choose success. Choose debt freedom.

Today’s your day to start turning over a new leaf in your personal finances.




  1. “Find a Solid Reason Why”

    That really is SO important. Paying off debt just for the sake of paying off debt isn’t very motivating. WHY do you want to pay off debt? Do work toward a comfortable retirement? To give yourself work flexibility? To redirect that money toward paying a child’s college education?

    People need to spend a little time exploring their “why”. It can make all the difference.

    • Laurie says:

      Yes!!! This is one of the most important parts of a successful debt payoff. If you can get your “why” down, you’ve won half the battle!

  2. Great post, Laurie. I’m 54, and last year we became ENTIRELY DEBT FREE (including our home). Stick with it, and in time you’ll reach your goal. Having just reached ours, I can tell you that the satisfaction of being debt free is well worth the struggles while on the journey.

    • Laurie says:

      Woohoo!! Yes, I KNOW without a doubt we’ll get there. So glad to hear from someone who made it through to the other side. Victory is ours!

  3. I’ve always overcome feelings of discouragement with celebrations. I celebrate all of the little wins, money-related or not. Some days it’s as simple as “I got out of bed and got dressed today!” It’s hard to be hard on yourself when there are so many great things happening. Even if you slip up on your money goals, like I do soooo often, you correct the mistakes and move forward. It’s all about growing, not beating yourself up.

    • Laurie says:

      I love that you celebrate the little things, Mrs. Picky Pincher!! Every step in the right direction is a step of victory, right?

  4. Brian says:

    Never give up! We had a few minor and a few major setback during our debt repayment journey. My wife was in a major car accident, needed surgey and was out of work for over a year. That event slowed our debt repayment, but her health was our biggest concern, even if that meant she could never work again. She’s healthy and back to work today, and we are so thankful we had the right mindset during these events.

  5. Mrs. Groovy says:

    Great post, Laurie. I agree with Mrs. Picky Pincher. Celebrating little victories can help keep you motivated when facing any challenge. We love celebrating ANYTHING with DQ Blizzards. But a little hike in a state park or a specially planned stay-cation can do the trick too. The idea is to keep it free or frugal. (No, you don’t deserve 2 nights in a hotel and dinners out because you paid $75 extra on your mortgage this month!)

    • Laurie says:

      LOL, we are HUGE DQ blizzard fans here. Love your last line. We used to use the “I deserve” statement all the time – it’s a big part of what got us into our mess!

  6. It is so important to remember that the time will pass, like you mentioned in point #1. Sometimes I have to repeat that statement to myself when I feel like slipping into neutral as I struggle with goals, both physical and financial. The old adage is true, time flies the older you get!

    Great post, thanks for the encouraging words.

    • Laurie says:

      That has really helped us too. We envision our lives ten years from now: do we want to have the same amount of debt (or more?) or do we want to take advantage of that time and get debt free? It really works!

  7. I think it can become too easy to get discouraged over time. It’s important to stay focused and figure out your why like you said. Do you really want to be in the same position 10 days from now let alone 10 years from now. Making short term goals is huge. I think that’s why the debt snowball is so successful even though it’s doesn’t make as much financial sense as the debt avalanche. Small wins are huge.

    • Laurie says:

      Short term goals ARE a big help. I know for us, when we’re feeling like it’s taking too long, even if we put an extra $10 or $20 toward our debt we feel encouraged. Keeping track of our monthly balances helps too, because we can see how much progress we’ve made over six or twelve months.

  8. That proverb is perfect!

    That’s exactly how we approach our finances, not just debt, but everything from saving for a new car to saving for retirement.

    All these goals seem so daunting until you break them into little chunks. As long as you stay focused on moving those little stones you’ll look up one day and be amazed at how much you’ve accomplished.

    • Laurie says:

      So true, Owen. Good idea about keeping the same techniques in mind for saving from a new car, etc. We are going to be buying one next year, and right now it seems as if we are so far from our savings goal to do so, but I know we’ll reach it if we keep up the work.

      • Absolutely you will.

        Just on buying a new car.. we bought a new car last year (new to us, its actually 2.5 years old) and we ended up making it work by selling our old car privately. The dealer wasn’t offering enough for a trade-in so we decided to sell it privately and made an extra $1,500. We ‘borrowed’ from our emergency fund in the interim to fill the cash flow gap. Not a ton of money but it helped us make it work.

  9. We can really identify with this post. We started at the beginning of 2017 with 84% DTI and as of this morning we’re down to about 70%. We found ourselves in a bit of a rut last month feeling sorry for ourselves, even though we’ve still got a great life. After some good discussion and soul-searching, we remembered our “why”, re-focused, and ended the month with our best progress yet!

    • Laurie says:

      You’re doing GREAT, Ryan!! Keep up the good work. You can do this!!!!! And when you’re feeling sorry for yourselves (we all do it), just remember what a huge gift you are giving yourselves by paying off your debt.

  10. Great post, Laurie! It’s not easy, but it’s so worth it. And along the journey you learn so many important lessons you would miss if you didn’t tackle that debt. Those lessons will carry over and improve your life in so many different ways. I have to say, having the debt paid off (student and auto loans) is a relief, but my life has changed in so many ways that go beyond just the finances. The stress levels, time, and values are all different – in good, life changing ways.

  11. Easy F says:

    This is so true! Every time I check my student debt balance I get discouraged beyond reason… I guess it’s just the name of the game. Little by little, or stone by stone as that Chinese proverbs puts it, is the only way when your someone like me.

    I’ll have to get back to this with my own list of reasons for paying down my debt over the next ten years!

  12. Great tips. Anyone can get out of debt. Just takes time and determination. Like you said time is going to pass anyway. So it’s better to use the time wisely and make the most of it. Just make a strategy and keep at it. The debt will be gone eventually and you will feel so much better for it afterward.

    • Laurie says:

      I agree!!! It’s tough to think long term and to hang in there when your goals are going to take years or decades, but since you’ll pass those years anyway, you might as well do it debt free. 🙂

  13. Calvin says:

    So glad I found this site!

    I began my debt free journey two years ago. I started reading PF blogs for some motivation and it just kind of snowballed from there. At first it seemed like it was futile. Then I bookmarked some blogs with success stories of good folks that were further in debt than me and was extremely motivated by their accomplishments. I started devouring blogs and books on the subject of investing, finance and real estate and decided I needed to get closer to being debt free before I even attempt to take that leap. I look back now I realize all I do is think about finances. EVERY DAY. I put reminders on my phone, visualization boards in my bedroom, sticky notes in the bathroom. I automated everything, savings included. Great Post! Stay Motivated!

    • Laurie says:

      You can do this, Calvin!!! When you do, I hope you’ll let me share your debt success story. Motivation like yours doesn’t go unrewarded. 🙂

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