11 Tips To Stay Motivated & Avoid Burnout When Paying Off Debt

There’s a reason that paying off debt is constantly compared to scaling a mountain; it’s tough, and it only gets tougher the more you have to pay off. The key to avoiding burnout while paying off debt is to reinvigorate your motivation. Here are 11 ways you can stay motivated and energized to avoid burnout when paying off debt.

1. Work With Purpose

The first step to any journey is identifying the destination. It’s no different in becoming debt-free. But debt freedom isn’t the destination. It’s an essential stop along the way, but understanding that there’s life after debt is imperative to making it out of debt, and staying there.

What’s your purpose for getting out of debt? Mine and my husband’s is to have career and lifestyle freedom. We want to be able to quit or be let go from our jobs and have savings to hold us over until we find something else, or create our own career.

When the struggle is real it’s this purpose that will grab you from your whiney tower, and pull you back down to reality.

2. Use Time Management Hacks

Do you feel like you need more hours in the day? Maybe you just need better management of those hours. There are productivity methods you can use to be more efficient and avoid burnout. I’ve been really interested in the Pomodoro method of breaking tasks into 25-minute chunks with 5-minute breaks. (Lots of freelancers swear by it.) Start with the tasks you have, do those more efficiently and see if extra time to rest doesn’t pop up right when you need it.

3. Eliminate Tasks

Maybe with the best productivity hacks, you still can’t fit it all in. Between multiple jobs, family, friends, errands, keeping a semi-clean house, cooking, etc, etc, etc; you can’t do everything. If your time is worth more working than doing simple tasks, you can afford to delegate rather than work less. You can hire someone to clean your house, have your groceries delivered, or buy the precut veggies.

Prioritize the tasks that get you closer to your goal, and eliminate the ones that don’t.

4. Give

Giving time or money can feel like you’re connecting to the world, even in your intense debt-payoff bubble. We do it by volunteering and giving to our church, but there’s no shortage of options for you to sacrifice a little to make a big difference in others’ lives.

I also think giving of your experience is helpful. It’s cathartic, reminds me what I’ve accomplished, and helps others learn how to live through my story. You can do it through Facebook, Instagram, or by starting a blog.

(I’m obviously an advocate for sharing stories through a blog. The number of people you can reach is huge. It’s also a way to pad your income and lay a foundation for establishing career freedom. You can read my how-to on starting and monetizing a blog here.)

5. Exercise

I use exercise to break up the monotony of my day. When I was working three very inactive jobs, exercising was the outlet where I could make the stank face I wanted to make all day, and no one would ask me what was wrong.

And I don’t need to remind you of the physical benefits exercising has on improving energy, sleep, and motivation — but clearly I will. I pay big bucks for Crossfit, because the community and direction are invaluable to me. But there are plenty of ways to work out for free or cheap, if it’s not as high on your priority list.

6. Celebrate Wins

Every time we pay off a loan, we have a little celebration. Sometimes it’s as small as texting a ton of emojis back and forth, and sometimes it’s having a meal out. More than once, my disdain for cooking has motivated me to put a little extra on a loan to clear it up and go out for dinner. Having fun times to look forward to keeps us motivated, and has ultimately helped us get where we are more quickly.

7. Stop Being a Perfectionist

Perfectionism is the enemy of progress. Relinquish the need to have a perfect budget, perfect income, or perfect life circumstances. Emergencies will come up, weaknesses will win, and income may fluctuate, but if you drive yourself crazy over every setback, you’ll never win!

Embrace the mistakes and “Murphies,” and you’ll have a much better time getting through this thing.

8. Track Progress

In our apartment, we had a thermometer we’d color in when whenever we made a payment. It got lost in our recent move (RIP thermometer). People have come up with really cool ways to visually track their debt progress. You can check them out here, where I also have a downloadable thermometer pdf you can print off and color yourself!

9. Share Your Successes

I have a friend living 1,200 miles away from me who texts me whenever she pays off a debt or makes a substantially good money decision. It allows me to encourage her by telling her how proud I am of her and how great she’s doing, and send lots of bitmojis.

My husband, Travis, and I do this, too. When we do well with money, we lift each other up and encourage each other in our strengths. Telling someone else that you’re doing well isn’t fishing for compliments — it’s reassurance that you’re making it! Find someone you can share with. This is really easy with a spouse, but a supportive friend works just as well.

10. Keep Good Company

Having friends that are also paying off debt or are supportive of you doing it is clutch. Saying no to spending money can be isolating. Having friends who want to hang out at home or at parks instead of bars and restaurants makes the weekends much easier.

Some people don’t care about their financial future right now. It doesn’t make them bad people or even irresponsible. I repeat: It doesn’t make them bad people or irresponsible. But you’re in a different place than they are, and you need to keep company that’s on the same page, or you’ll keep spending and spending, because saying no every week is near impossible.

11. Be Real

Don’t fake it. If you’re behind on your debt snowball, don’t pretend you’re doing fine.

The more you lie about your progress, the more backed up you’ll feel, which could lead to giving up. When you’re honest with yourself and the people around you, you’ll stay committed to the process and help more people with your story.

I hope these steps will help you avoid burnout and stay committed to this process, because it is worth every sacrifice and every no that comes out of your mouth. And I’ll be here every step of the way to see you through it.

Jen writes about her and her husband’s journey to pay off $86,000 of debt in less than 2 years on her website, Saving with Spunk. Follow her on Twitter here!

Image via Unsplash

  • Mary Harman

    I love this! Often times the articles discussing big debt payments focus on the end result, and it’s so nice to see this one catered to the people still in the trenches!

    I payed off about $25k in 15 months, so I personally view myself as qualified to add a couple of my own thoughts 🙂

    Firstly, I would like to echo the “track your progress” point! I kept a post it note on my monitor at work with the current level of my total loans, and every time I made a payment, I’d make a new one and stick it over the old one. It was very satisfying to watch the number go down. It also worked as motivation for a better work attitude because I was constantly staring at my goals while at my desk (I never put a dollar sign on the post it, and nobody ever asked me what it was, so it was actually pretty covert!).

    I would also add that while being extremely frugal in order to pay off my school debt, I built in a few luxuries so I didn’t lose my mind. These things for me were broken down into a small everyday luxury and two weekends. A) I allowed myself to get a guilt-free americano from starbucks on my way to the office ANY day I wanted one. B) I took two long-weekend trips during that year and a half, and I just didn’t worry too much about being frugal during the trips.

    While these things look like pretty not-frugal, the rest of my spending was. I often referred to that year and a half as the Mary Has No Fun Financial Plan. I didn’t eat out, see movies, go to concerts, buy any new clothes, etc etc for over a year, so these things allowed me to feel like I wasn’t financially starving and made the whole endeavor more sustainable.