Debt-free by thirty-three. Has a nice ring to it, right? I will turn thirty-three on September 29th of next year, and my heart is harboring a semi-secret, somewhat outrageous hope that we will be able to pay off our remaining non-house debt by then. We’ve been working on paying down debt for a few years now–when we really started, we had over $90,000 between cars, credit cards, and student loans. That number has drastically decreased, but is still there.
For anyone who has worked on a similar goal, you know that the feeling of paying off a debt is awesome. There’s a sense of freedom that comes with it, and it’s addictive. We were able to pay off both of our cars this month, and I think that’s when it hit me that we might actually be able to do this. But, as I’ve heard is the case with most people who try to pay off debt, just as you’re starting to get some traction…Murphy moves in.
In the past month, we have gained a lot of momentum on our goal. At the same time, we have been hit with an unexpected medical bill. We are very lucky in that we make a good income, and that we have an emergency fund saved for this very type of expense. It still kills me, though. Even though the money is saved for emergencies, I still hate using it. Using that money means that we have to stop paying off debt temporarily in order to rebuild our emergency fund. Every dollar steals a little piece of my soul.
So how can you stay motivated when Murphy inevitably stops by for a visit?
- Review your progress so far: Maybe January 2016 won’t be a great month for paying off debt, but if I look at all of 2015, or at the past few years, I can see the amazing progress we’ve made.
- Be realistic about your situation: When it comes to money, my first reaction is to panic. Rarely is that a reasonable reaction. For instance, yes, we were hit with the unexpected medical bill, but we have an emergency fund to cover it. We also had some unexpected money come in–not enough to completely pay the bill, but enough to take a nice chunk out of it. We. Will. Be. Fine.
- If you pray to a higher power, keep doing it: I personally identify as a Christian, and when I find myself discouraged or scared about finances, I pray this little prayer over and over again: My God will protect and provide. And you know what? It works time and again. Because I’ve prayed it so often, I associate it with times in my life when I’ve been certain that things won’t get better, but then something unexpected happens, and all of a sudden, everything works out. If you aren’t a pray-er, just remind yourself of that small fact–almost always, everything works out.
- Revise your plan: I am someone who needs a plan. I am a list maker, and a goal setter. When Murphy moves in, I find it really helpful to sit down and revise my plan. It gives me a sense of control over the situation and makes me feel as if I’m still taking action, even if that action is to be patient for a few months (not my strong suit).
- Don’t quit: Don’t give up. Just don’t. Let yourself feel bad about it for a few minutes, or a day, but then, in the immortal words of Taylor Swift, shake it off. It will get better, and you will get back on track. Don’t let yourself quit. You’ve worked too hard!