So you decided it’s time to get out debt.

Great! That’s fantastic news! I’m right there with you!

I’m working on my own debt journey as well and have been totally obsessed with reading the debt payoff stories of everyone willing to share their journey online. Partly because it’s inspiring to give you a kick in the butt, but also because you never know what tip you might learn that can help you crush the debt monkey once and for all.

And after reading, I don’t know, a few hundred stories, there are a few things I see that is pretty common between people who are successful at getting out of debt – beyond using the snowball method and budgeting – do that helped them stay the course and ultimately be successful.

They Have A Plan to Stay Motivated

There is a reason why getting out of debt is one of the most frequent New Year’s Resolutions. Because doing it is freaking hard. Changing your lifestyle takes time and lots of effort, it’s not sexy and it’s tiring. And motivation wears down over time – no matter how strong it feels right now.

Those who are successful at getting out of debt know this.

They divide the huge plan of ‘getting out of debt’ into smaller milestones like ‘pay off 10% of card #1’ or ‘bring balance owed to under 30% of card limit’ and then they celebrate the tiny wins and set little rewards for each milestone.

Those who slay the debt monster also do whatever means necessary to remind themselves what the end goal is – their ‘why’. They use visual aids like a debt payoff coloring sheet or put vision boards up in their bedroom to visualize their new life after debt.

They Don’t Stop Giving

It sounds counter-intuitive, but giving while you are in debt – out of joy – seems to help people stay the course of debt repayment probably for the following reasons.

  1. Giving – especially while in debt – is very empowering. When you give, you are making a conscious choice to determine where your finances go.  Not just getting paid to pay off a debt, instead, you building something up.
  2. It helps you to have gratitude for the blessings you have received and takes the spotlight off the negative (debt) and puts it on something positive (sharing with your community).
  3. Giving scientifically helps us feel better about ourselves and our lives. It makes a great substitute for retail therapy

They give to their churches, causes they care about, family members/kids, wherever they feel inclined and an amount that doesn’t derail them from their goals. The bottom line is it is their choice and it helps to feel you are in control of your money, not the other way around.

They Focus On Only One Goal

This one is huge. By the time we realize we need to do better at our finances and get out of debt, there are a host of other goals that we should be starting on building up on – saving for retirement, purchasing a house, building wealth, etc.

Those who were successful at paying off debt were masters at the ‘gazelle focus’. They weren’t trying to max their retirement contribution, save for 9 months’ expenses, and get out of debt at the same time. They either stopped progress on all the other goals (I won’t be doing that) or did the minimum on the others to not lose momentum but made debt the primary target (this is more my style).

It increases the speed in getting the debt paid off, and makes allocating income a lot less complicated.

If you don’t know I’m not an advocate for stopping everything to get out of debt, but I do believe it’s important to stay focused. If I’m trying to getting out of debt, then it might not be the right time to buy a new house … see what I’m saying?

They Keep Their Mind On The Money

Mindless spending is how you get budget leaks, lose money, and can be why you get into debt in the first place, so it makes sense the remedy is to keep better tabs on your money.

There isn’t one person whose story I read that didn’t have a means of tracking their spending. They had printouts, cash envelopes, notebooks, spreadsheets, apps, all manner of devices to track where their money was going. And they did it all the time.

I’m sure that at any moment if you asked them how much they still owed on a card they could tell you with precision detail. And they constantly had their finances at the forefront of their minds.  Even though they automated their debt payments and savings etc. they still frequently kept a pulse on the finances and could react quickly if needed.

A great way to help you do that is to use an app that can track your spending, monitor your credit cards and show you you’re debt payoff progress in one place. My favorite tool is a FREE tool called Personal Capital.

I just link all my bank accounts and easily keep track of my financial life in one place. I can see graphs of my debts going down (Yeah! A great motivator) and my assets going up (Yeah! Progress).

And it’s completely FREE … my favorite price.

They Make More Money

People who are successful at paying off their debt found ways to get more money. Whether they increased their income by finding side hustles or getting a raise at work, or they cut their expenses or both.

Getting more money coming in is key to cutting down the time it takes to pay off the debt and it also helps to provide funding for activities and items we love and would not want to give up.

The less disruptive we can make this journey to the life we are used to the better.

They Make It Part of A Bigger Plan

Paying off debt wasn’t the ultimate goal of these successful people. Paying off debt was a part of a larger strategy of achieving family goals, finding financial freedom, financial security, or financial independence.  So they didn’t get wound up in the guilt and shame of how they got in the mess. They were focused more on where they would end up after they were out of it.

Their mindset was evolved to focus on long-term prosperity rather than short-term gain. So deciding to stop spending or accumulating more debt, cutting costs where ever they had to, or making more money was less of a chore and more of a joy.

They were happy to downsize their apartment or reduce the frequency of their grooming or bypass a vacation or two because they saw it as saying no today so they could say ‘YASSSSS!’ tomorrow.

They Are Flexible

The best lessons I learned from reading get out of debt stories were from ones where people were flexible. When they started their journey to get out of debt, they had gazelle focus, but then something happened. Something that derailed their debt payoff plan … they found out they were pregnant, got in an accident, parent needed help.

They didn’t beat themselves up about the situation, instead, they made a pivot. They were willing to halt the repayment plan or restructure it so that they could continue living and reaching the ultimate goal.

Everyone’s situation is different and let’s be honest when we are making our get out of debt plans, we never plan for losing our jobs, getting injured, or a downtown market that is prime for buying low. We assume smooth sailing on the created budget, with no surprises until the end.

But life rarely follows our best-laid plans. So a key to being successful is to be fluid and open to change, whether that means slowing down on the debt repayment plan, postponing it, or even going a different route if needed.

Let’s Do This!

Now we know some of the key things successful people have to get out of debt for good. None of them are hard and all of them you can start today.

As for me, I’m putting all these goodies in my arsenal because this will be the last year I have ‘get out of debt’ as one of my financial goals.

Are there others you have noticed in your own research? If you are already out of debt, do you have a tip that worked great for you? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below and tell us so we all can learn.

What are you waiting for, let’s do this!

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