10 Ways to Stay Fired-Up While Paying Down Debt

At the beginning of the year, we’re all fired up about making New Year’s resolutions and changing our habits for the better.

We get excited about the prospect of this year being the year we finally take back control of our finances and pay down our debt.

But then a month or two goes by and we become less enthusiastic and less motivated. The further away from the beginning of the year we get, the less likely we are to actually reach our goals.

Statistics show that the longer your resolutions are maintained the less likely you are to achieve them.

This is even more true when it comes to paying down debt because, like losing weight, it’s not something that happens overnight — it’s a long and hard journey. It takes a lot of discipline and consistency to stick with something over any period of time. We are an instant gratification kind of generation.

So how can you keep from becoming a statistic this year and actually follow through with your get-out-of-debt plan? Here are 10 ways to stay motivated and fired-up about paying down your debt.

1. Find a like-minded community. Depending on what works best for you, there are different types of communities available:

  • Social media groups
  • Online forums
  • Your friends and family

You might not want to broadcast your personal finance struggles to your friends and family, and that’s okay. Instead, use something like a Facebook group or an online forum to connect with other people who are going through the same thing.

2. Read inspiring stories. Read blogs, books and listen to other people’s stories, to find out how they did it. Join their personal journey and you’ll see that you’re not alone, and that we all face the same obstacles at some point.

If you’re super busy like I am, try listening to finance and business podcasts or audiobooks. You’ll find inspiration by listening to another perspective, and find inspiration in other people’s success.

3. Use an Anti-Charity. An anti-charity is an organization that supports a cause you don’t believe in or is against your values. Basically, you’re punishing yourself for not completing your goal by donating to a charity you wouldn’t normally give money to.

It’s like using an accountability partner, except the stakes are a little higher — which means you have more skin in the game. And the more invested you are in the process, the greater your chance of success.

4. Celebrate the small wins. Every time you find an extra $50 to throw at your debt or stop yourself from making that impulse purchase, celebrate it! Reward yourself when you make small wins. Take a moment to enjoy the feeling of accomplishment, and use that to propel you towards your next small win.

5. Create a dream board. If you’re visually motivated, like I am, create a vision board for what you hope a life after debt will look like. I call mine a dream board, and keep photos of places I want to travel, organizations I want to give money to and all the things I’ve accomplished along the way.

Leap List to Stay Fired Up to Pay Down Debt

My dream board or leap list keeps me fired up.

Keeping a chart or vision board of your progress is very motivating. Something like Pinterest is very inspiring for this! Just make sure to put it in a place where you’ll see it every day, so you’ll remember the big picture and see how far you’ve come.

6. Think of the future. If you can’t find the motivation to change your financial life for yourself, then do it for your family’s future. You don’t want your children to grow up and struggle with debt.

You don’t want them to start their life off handicapped with lots of debt. Put in the effort now, pay down your debts and create wealth for yourself and your family’s future.

“If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl. But whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

7. Make it a game. If you take getting out of debt too seriously, you’ll quickly crash and burn. Remember to have fun with it. Engage your children, your spouse and your friends (both online and off) to help make paying down debt both rewarding and fun. You can even turn it into a game or a sort of competition among your friends.

8. Change your perspective. Even with all the financial issues we’re facing, we’re still blessed to live such an abundant life. This age of technology has brought us a lot of amazing opportunities and all the tools we need are at our fingertips.

When our grandparents were growing up, they went through much harder times like the Great Depression. We have to remind ourselves to be thankful, to learn the meaning of “make do” and be content.

9. Be realistic. Biting off more than you can chew is a sure-fire way to get discouraged and think you’re working towards an unobtainable dream. If you have a huge mountain of debt, or finances that are massively out of control, understand that your problems won’t be fixed overnight.

Be realistic in your approach, set small goals for yourself — and celebrate them — so your task to pay down debt won’t be so overwhelming.

10. Use the right tools. Are you a visually driven person? Are you a numbers nerd, or a free spirit? Find the right tools that work for you and stick with them — but don’t be afraid to experiment. Technology is always improving. It seems like every day another really cool digital app or online tool is introduced.

I found ReadyForZero really helpful when I was paying down debts and tracking my progress. I also use ImpulseSave to avoid the temptation of making impulse purchases. But I also enjoy using good old pen and paper too. Find a method that works for you and stick to it!

During your journey towards being debt-free, you’ll experience a ton of emotional ups-and-downs. There will be days you want to stop the struggle, to buy stuff you can’t afford and to give up on the whole mess. And that’s totally normal!

Just remember, that the point is to push through and keep going. In the end the sacrifice will be worth the journey!

How do you keep yourself motivated to pay down debt? What’s one trick you use to keep going?

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About Carrie Smith

Carrie Smith is a small business consultant and former accountant. She paid off $14,000 in debt and launched a successful freelance writing career and blog. Carrie now advises online marketers, startups, and virtual teams on how to start, grow and scale their businesses via CarrieConsiders.com. Carrie has contributed to Inc.com and Time.com and has been featured in Glamour Magazine, NerdWallet, Refinery29, Yahoo! Finance, and Redbook Magazine.


    Speak Your Mind


  1. Laurie TheFrugalFarmer says

    Love this post!  We are at the beginning of our debt freedom journey and it’s nice to know that the emotional ups and downs are normal.  This list will help us so much – thank you, Carrie!

    • Carrie Smith says

      @Laurie TheFrugalFarmer So glad I can help Laurie! Experiencing ups-and-downs while paying off debt is completely normal. I’m still going through them from time to time with the normal money issues that arise, but the point is that we push through and stay motivated. 🙂

  2. Jacob Erickson says

    I really like this article.  I think your 10 reasons cover many of the ways to stay motivated.  I find it motivating to keep updating how I’m doing and watch myself get closer to the goal.  Another way I stay on task is by having post-it notes around with helpful reminders.  It also helps to have an accountability partner from someone in the like-minded community you mentioned above.

    • Carrie Smith says

      @Jacob Erickson That’s a smart ideas Jacob! Post-it notes are a great way to stay reminded as well as stay on track. And having an accountability partner is key too!

  3. DebtRoundUp says

    Great article Carrie. Motivation is key to paying down debt. The drop in debt was what kept me motivated.