Do You Have What it Takes to Pay Off Debt? [6 Characteristics]

I can’t say that I’m known as a patient person. Working on it though. 

When I put forth the effort and hard work at something I’m typically overly anxious to see the results. 

I think most people would agree that success doesn’t usually come over night and certainly overcoming big challenges doesn’t occur instantaneously. Sigh.

I think the same can be said about overcoming financial issues and certainly in paying off debt. Quite often people want the quick fix, or to see their debt reduced to zero by morning. 

That’s natural, but it just doesn’t work that way. There is work involved: organizing, planning, persevering and staying consistent for as long as it takes.

Unfortunately, when someone realizes they have a problem with debt and actually request help, it’s usually a problem that’s taken a long time to create. The problem has grown large enough that it’s difficult to see a resolution and certainly weighing heavily enough for them to finally get serious about solving it.

So, if paying off debt isn’t going to happen tomorrow, what does it take to conquer it? There is hope! There are a few common characteristics I’ve seen in people, through my volunteer work in budget coaching ministry, who have been successful with paying down debts both big and small.

Here’s the good news: paying off debt doesn’t require special skills, talents or calling a debt settlement company.

Debt doesn’t have to be forever!

1. Are You Honest About Who You Really Are?

If the debt was the result of impulse buying or a spending problem, it may require looking deep inside to find the reason and dealing with that issue first. Without solving the problem, it’s likely to repeat itself again and again. That’s why credit card balance transfers can be dangerous

The old credit card account gets paid off and it can be tempting to spend with it again while the initial debt still exists, but on a new card. Those who can openly deal with root causes related to spending issues or other negative behaviors, turn their situation into a positive learning experience and avoid digging themselves into a deeper hole.

2. Are You Willing to Accept Help?

Why should you go at a big debt problem alone? Those who can put pride aside and are open to help are well on their way to getting some financial peace back in their life. A budget coach can help with creating a spending plan as well as a plan to pay off debt. 

Beyond the planning, a coach can help in identifying the root cause of the problem, as mentioned above, but also provide accountability to staying on track. Finally, a coach can help determine what adjustments need to be made to make forward progress as well as identify when outside resources such as consumer counseling may be necessary.

3. Do You Focus on Quick, Small Wins?

Looking at all the payments it will require to pay off debt can be overwhelming. Once a debt payoff plan is created, it’s great to keep in mind the debt free day to stay motivated, but it’s better to focus on staying on track each month.

Staying on track can be done by using a spending plan and making proactive decisions for how money will be used. Celebrate the small wins. Small goals always lead to achieving the big goals!

4. Can You Avoid Temptation?

Don’t make the problem larger than what it already is. For debts that take longer to pay off, there will be temptation faced along the way. Believe it! 

The temptation may be in purchasing a TV with 0% interest, but it just adds further payment obligation and increases the total amount of debt owed. The people who are serious about getting out of debt build up a tolerance and ignore these temptations. Their debt free date is bigger than short-term gratification.

5. Are You Flexible?

This is a tough one. Being willing to make some adjustments or delaying certain milestones in financial plans may be necessary. Perhaps it requires the delay of purchasing a home, or even downsizing (depending on the size of the debt).

Yes, some situations require major adjustments. The more money that can be applied on top of the minimum payment, the faster the debt free day will occur. Again, this date is bigger than other plans to the person ultra motivated about getting out of debt.

6. Are You Opportunistic?

This characteristic is for those who are extra aggressive at paying of their debt. They look for opportunities to make extra payments using every penny they can. They work an extra few days per month, use work bonuses, or tax refunds to make extra payments. 

They pinch pennies which can add up to reduce debt pay off by months, or years if large enough. They are the Dave Ramsey people working the pizza delivery jobs. They are constantly looking for the next opportunity to save or earn money so that any extra money can be applied to their debt payment plan.

As I mentioned, anyone can adopt these characteristics. No special talent or skills are required. Would you add anything to this list?

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  1. Solid post. I think flexibility is not encouraged enough. You have to be self-aware enough to know you might need to make adjustments. Making a tweak to your plan does not constitute failure, it shows that you are committed to being realistic.

  2. Temptations are everywhere. It is easier to sleep with hefty debt amount than work on finding means to get extra bucks that will be allotted to pay for your debt. If you won’t be facing your debt problem headstrong, then you won’t arrive at the finish line and enjoy life being debt free. The secret is patience and perseverance. If you’re really determined to taste victory over debt, then you’ll work hard for it and patiently pass on the hurdles along the way.

  3. Jonathan Craig says

    This is a great post. It’s amazing what starts to happen to your approach once you have a goal in mind.

  4. Mrs. Frugalwoods says

    I think that having an articulated vision of what your life will be like post-debt is also important. Remaining focused on that long-term goal will help motivate you through the monotony of repayment.

    And, like you said, realizing that you didn’t get into debt overnight and aren’t going to get out of it overnight is a healthy way to set realistic, attainable goals.