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5 Tricks to Fight Debt Fatigue

When you’re trying to pay down a pretty steep pile of debt, getting to the finish line is usually more of a marathon than a sprint. If you’ve been living on a tight budget so you can get those credit cards or student loans paid off more quickly, it can easily lead to burnout. When that happens, you run the risk of overspending to compensate for the sacrifices you’ve made, or worse, giving up altogether. Finding ways to keep your motivation up so you can stay focused on your end goal can help you counteract the symptoms. If you’ve reached the point where you can’t stand the thought of putting another penny towards your debt, however, here are some things you can do to beat the mental block and keep going.

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Focus on Small Steps Forward

When you first start in debt payoff mode, you’ve probably got your eyes on the bigger picture. You know how much debt you started with and roughly how long it’s going to take to get rid of it. And when you don’t get ahead as quickly as you’d like, it leads to frustration. Eventually, you can fall into the mental trap of thinking you’ll never get out of debt so why bother.

If that’s where you’re at, focusing in on what you’ve accomplished already, or breaking that seemingly insurmountable number into bite-size chunks, can relieve some of those negative feelings. When you focus on what you’re doing right and set micro-goals instead of trying to tackle the debt all at once, it becomes easier to tune out self-defeating talk.

Visualize Your Goals

It’s really easy to develop tunnel vision when you’re trying to knock out a large amount of debt and all you can see is the end point. Taking some time to think about what your plans are once the debt disappears is a good way to re-energize yourself so you can keep plowing along. Setting up a visual board with images that represent what you want your debt-free life to look like can be a huge help.

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The kinds of pictures you include ultimately depend on your goals. Always wanted to travel but haven’t been able to because of student loans? Include photos of sandy beaches or exotic destinations. Thinking of buying a home? Try building a collage of what your dream property would look like. When you’re seeing that physical reminder every day of why you’re paying off your debt in the first place, it suddenly becomes much easier to stay on track.

Find a Cheerleader

One of the things that often happens when people find themselves in debt is they feel too embarrassed to share their situation with friends or loved ones. If you’re having a particularly hard month because you haven’t been able to pay off as much as you wanted, the pressure can seem enormous.

Enlisting someone you trust to act as a coach or cheerleader keeps you from feeling isolated and provides you with a sounding board when you run into problems. You may be surprised to find how far a little encouragement can go when you’re dealing with the debt blues.

Reward Progress

If you’ve ever been on a crash diet, you know how impractical it is to starve yourself. At some point, your body rebels against the constant hunger and you end up eating way more than you should. Afterwards, you may have intense feelings of guilt and decide to abandon your quest to lose weight altogether.

The same thing can happen when you’re stretching yourself too thin for the sake of paying off a few extra bucks. At some point, you’re going to end up resenting the fact that you don’t go out with your friends as much, or you can’t afford to buy those new shoes you’ve had your eye on. Building small treats into your debt payoff plan is a nice way to reward yourself for what you’ve achieved without going overboard.

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Take a Break

Let’s face it: paying off debt can be mentally and emotionally taxing. Sometimes you just need to walk away for a little while so you can come back feeling refreshed. If you feel yourself starting to buckle under the weight of your bills, giving yourself some breathing room may the best thing you can do. And easing up on the amount you’re paying or extending your debt-free timeline by a couple of extra months can breathe new life into your payoff plan.

Photo credit: flickr

Rebecca Lake Rebecca Lake is a retirement, investing and estate planning expert who has been writing about personal finance for a decade. Her expertise in the finance niche also extends to home buying, credit cards, banking and small business. She's worked directly with several major financial and insurance brands, including Citibank, Discover and AIG and her writing has appeared online at U.S. News and World Report, and Investopedia. Rebecca is a graduate of the University of South Carolina and she also attended Charleston Southern University as a graduate student. Originally from central Virginia, she now lives on the North Carolina coast along with her two children.
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