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How to Stay Disciplined During Debt Payoff

The Road to Debt FreeThe other day I shared on Fruclassity about how debt payoff isn’t all about discipline. I shared some stories about my crazy perfectionist psyche and how it really messes with me as I work on controlling spending and budgeting properly. I shared that debt payoff doesn’t just involve discipline – that you have to learn to work with the messages in your head and with the mindsets you’ve adapted so that you can re-train yourself to think about money in a healthy way.

These same rules apply to losing weight as well, and last night I had an experience that reminded me that although discipline isn’t everything, it is vitally important that we do work to stay disciplined during debt payoff, weight loss goals or reach any other goal we might have set.

Long-time readers might remember that several months ago I started on a quest to lose the 35 pounds I gained after we moved to the farm. It’s been going well. 27 pounds down, 8 pounds to go.

One of the ways I’ve been able to successfully drop and keep off the weight is by keeping sugar consumption to a bare minimum. Sugar is highly addictive for many people, and I’m one of them. I love all desserts, but I’m especially fond of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and my all-time favorite: Double Stuffed Oreo Cookies. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke – I’ve never even tried coffee. But I LOVE me some Double-stuffed Oreos. The problem is that I usually can’t just have one or two. I eat one, and then another, and then twenty. Yum – a – licious!

For this reason I largely avoid sugar, but last weekend we had our annual family reunion on my dad’s side. Β Super fun it was, and since we are a foodie family I decided that reunion day was a “no holds barred” day for eating. I ate desserts and casseroles to my heart’s content. It was wonderful: no guilt, no shame, just fun. After we got home, I topped the night off with a package of strawberry pop tarts – something we never have in the house but picked up at Costco on the way home from the family reunion because the kids are having their yearly camping night with Rick soon, and it’s the one time a year I let them have pop tarts and sugared cereal (I know – I’m a mean mom πŸ™‚ ).

Strawberry Frosted Pop Tarts are another fave of mine, and it was awesome to sit and munch on them while we watched our Saturday night TV lineup: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Star Trek (I LOVE you, MeTV!). Please don’t call our house during the Saturday night lineup: you’ll be asking for big trouble if you do. πŸ˜‰

The problem with the Pop Tart treat on Saturday was that on Sunday evening I started to crave Pop Tarts again. And Monday evening I started to crave Pop Tarts again.

You might not know that many processed foods contain addictive chemicals such as MSG (monosodium glutamate). Sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, along with certain omega-6 fats, have also been shown to have addictive qualities. This is why we eat a whole bag of chips instead of just a few, and why we I eat 20 Oreo cookies instead of just 1 or 2. Not all people respond to these addictive chemicals, but many do.

So, how did I do in my temptation to have more Pop Tarts the last two nights? I can gladly tell you that I won the battle. No additional Pop Tarts for me. But I’m not always that disciplined, in food consumption or in money. Here are the tricks I use that work to help me stay disciplined in money and in food.

1. I use distraction or replace my desire to spend money with other more healthy activities. If I’m tempted to spend money I shouldn’t spend or eat food I know I’ll feel bad about later, often times I’ll try and distract myself. I’ll play a game with the kids, go for a walk with Rick or do some other fun thing that will keep me busy and distracted from my secret plan for rebellion. πŸ™‚

2. I revisit my goals. Another thing that helps me stay disciplined when working toward a goal is that I revisit my goals. I usually have them written down on a spreadsheet or wall chart. I study them for awhile, remind myself why the goal is so important, and get renewed motivation to stick with the plan.

3. I take an extra step toward the goal. When I’m tempted to spend money that I don’t need to spend, I go and make an extra payment on a credit card instead. Or I work on a plan to decrease expenses even further. I re-write the budget so that we can have extra going toward debt that month. If it’s food-related I go for a run, do some sit-ups or eat some fresh fruit. Anything to solidify the plan of action.

4. I talk myself down. I think self talk is important, as is using positive affirmations to reach your goals. When I’m feeling tempted to get off track and abandon discipline, I sit myself down and have a talk with myself, reminding myself of my whys.Β 

It is certainly important to work with yourself and to forgive yourself and allow yourself some room to breath when working on long-term goals. It’s equally important, however, to discipline yourself and to push yourself to reach your goals even when you’re tempted to stray off path. The balance is the important part, but you can do it – I know you can.


  1. I love these tips, and I think they would work for reaching any goal. I’m currently trying to get back into shape, and I find that distracting myself with something non-food related (even work!) is a great way to keep myself from eating.

  2. Lisa Hoashi says:

    I love especially what you have to say about positive affirmations. Yes — one of the biggest things that matters when it comes to changing behavior is how we talk to ourselves. And congratulations on only being 8lbs from your goal. Awesome!

  3. Laurie, that’s awesome – congratulations!!! I cannot imagine life without coffee, though.

    I really like #3. It feels kind of like a “positive punishment”.

  4. I should really try these tips, Laurie, as I have recently had a strong desire to spend… and I spent. Thankfully, I am debt free now and have no intention of going back into debt, but still, I’d rather have this money in my savings account.

    Good luck with weight loss! Not long to go till you’ve reached your goal! πŸ™‚

  5. MJ says:

    I love these! You are so right about debt payoff being about both discipline AND changing your thoughts/mindset. I think that’s been the biggest challenge for me: changing what I think about money. This list is spot on. Revisiting goals is a big one.

  6. We were just away on a family trip/extended family visit to the Toronto area, and we went to Canada’s Wonderland (amusement park) for a day – something we’ve been doing on an almost yearly basis for 20 years. For the first time ever, I did not eat funnel cake at Wonderland. I didn’t have Tiny Tom donuts either. I stuck to my diet. I am mighty impressed with myself! That was no small deal. Self talk was my strategy. I felt the temptation, and I looked it calmly in the eye – and said “No.”

    • Laurie says:

      SO proud of you, my friend!!!!!!! That is a hugely big deal, IMHO. Sugar is hard for me to turn down, especially at an event where eating it is kind of a “given”, you know?

  7. Great story and really good tips. I typically allow myself to indulge in foods that have processed sugar, and I know how difficult it can be to wane yourself off. I did a 1 week diet with no processed foods and it was really tough. I was constantly tired and my body didn’t know what to do without the sugar intake. I might have to give it another try.

    • Laurie says:

      Yeah, that first week can be really hard, but people generally find that after that they feel terrific. You’ll have to let me know if you try it again.

  8. Chella says:

    I love # 3. I think I should do that. Whenever I think I have an extra amount, instead of buying for extra things, I will go to the bank and pay extra.

    • Laurie says:

      They sure do. We’ve learned as a society to give into our immediate desires and to avoid waiting for something better like financial freedom.

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