Absolutely no one is motivated 100% of the time to do something hard. In fact, motivation switches from actively pursuing a hard goal to actively seeking rest and distraction. It is called balance.
To get out of debt, to graduate, to find a job, to get fit, to keep relationships or to go to work requires consistency and discipline more than it needs motivation.
Now, discipline sounds harsh. The first thought that comes to mind might be punishment. So let’s focus on the real secret, which is consistency.
So how can you stay motivated and, more importantly, stay consistent while trying to get out of debt? This article gives you four steps to keep you from inconsistency in achieving your goal of getting out of debt. In fact, these tips can help you stay consistent for most situations.
1. Find Out Where You Stand Right Now
First, collect all of your financial information. If you don’t already know how many bank accounts, loans, credit cards or investments you have, don’t worry.
Check your emails for notifications from your bank or credit card. Check statements you get each month by mail or email. The easiest way might be to check your credit file.
Your credit file shows you how many financial products you have open, even if you don’t use them.
Second, get a free financial app, a pencil and paper and calculator, or open a spreadsheet.
Third, get a calendar. You can find one online, on your phone, or maybe your financial app has one.
No Struggling: Enter All Your Financial Information Into Your New Tracking Tool
Steps two and three are tracking tools. This helps you with consistency. Here is how.
Enter every single type of financial product you have into your tracking tool. It can look like this:
Type of Debt
Current Monthly Payment Amount
Time Until Debt Free
Once you’ve entered everything, your debt is no longer a scary unknown. The picture is clearer.
With that, you might feel really proud of yourself. You can feel really motivated to continue. Some might feel hope that they can do this.
Congratulations! You deserve that pat on the back. If you filled out everything, you demonstrated discipline in a hard and unpleasant situation.
Are you ready to remain consistent? Here is what comes next.
2. Stay Consistent and Put In Your Estimated Time To Get Out Of Debt
Now that you know exactly how much debt you have and what your minimum monthly payments are, you can find out how long until all the debt is paid off.
You can use online calculators to help you.
This is where motivation and consistency start to conflict.
Time and calendars can make the effort seem endless. Motivation falls. Consistency has to take over.
This is also how you figure out how you’re going to pay it all back. Generally speaking, there are three ways you can tackle your debt repayment:
Pay Off High-Interest Debt First
This method is relatively self-explanatory; you work at paying back your debts that have the highest interest rates first. This way you’re saving yourself some money by not having to pay as much interest and this “extra’ money can go towards paying back other debts.
Use The Snowball Method To Pay Off Debt
With the Snowball Method, you pay off your lowest debt first. The idea behind this method is that once you’ve paid off one of your smaller debts your motivation to keep going will snowball and continue to grow and grow as you move forward and tackle your larger debts.
Consolidate Your Debts
Sometimes it makes sense to consolidate your debts into one payment. To do that, you should first speak with a credit counsellor. Normally, you take out a debt consolidation loan and use it to pay off all your outstanding debts. In the end you have only one loan payment each month to worry about.
Choose whichever you want or whichever you feel you’re best suited for; just organize your spreadsheet accordingly.
3. Keep Consistent By Setting Realistic and Achievable Goals
Consistency brings momentum, and your momentum supports motivation.
Momentum and Motivation 101: Start Small, Short Term, Simple
Small, realistic and achievable goals tied to a timeline. It sounds like a SMART goal. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.
What does this have to do with consistency and motivation?
Setting yourself up for success that doesn’t feel like a struggle is a factor in avoiding inconsistency and demotivation.
Keep it short-term and tied to a date. Few people see clear progress in the short term, but long term plans without little pit stops do not work for everyone.
When motivation falls, you can look back at all the mini, short-term goals you achieved.
Here are a few short-term goals to help you get started:
- Set up an automatic savings plan to take a consistent amount, say $50 from your paycheque and put it towards your debt right away. At the end of a month, you have $100 put aside to pay off your debt.
- Earn an extra $100 one weekend a month doing odd jobs. Put the money toward your debt repayment plan.
- Choose one thing that you do not use to sell or return it to the store. Get your money back.
4. Consistency And Motivation Requires That You Reward Yourself Appropriately
Think about Pavlov’s dogs. They paired the sound of a dinner bell with food and developed the behaviour to drool whenever they heard the bell.
Pavlov made it happen with consistency. However, it happened fast and was long-lasting because the dogs got a reward.
Therefore, reward yourself consistently when you reach your timely, short-term goal. Just remember to keep the reward small so that it doesn’t add to your debt problem.
If you gave up your morning coffee at your favourite coffee shop to help cut back on spending, then rewarding yourself with that coffee once you’ve achieved a small goal.
These are your goals so set whatever rewards you want; just remember that maxing out your credit at your favourite store is not an appropriate reward for paying off a small portion of one of your debts.
The Final Word
Consistency feels great. There is plenty of evidence that motivation is important to start and to keep going when times are hard. However, consistency does the leg work.
If making plans is not your strength – don’t worry. You do not have to do it yourself. You can reach out to a credit counsellor or a trusted friend.
It seems most Canadians turn to their mothers for financial advice, so why not enlist mom? If that is not possible, read financial literacy blogs because they can help you with a downloadable plan or at least show you a quick and easy outline.