Staying positive can do wonders for your finances.
It doesn’t matter how many times you wipe the slate clean: You probably won’t be able to stay out of debt unless you change the mindset that got you there in the first place. Use these tips to help change your perspective and get on track to beating debt once and for all.
1. Take responsibility
If only: If only you weren’t so underpaid. If only your creditors didn’t screw you over with those fees and crazy interest rates. We would be living a much better life if only a few things were different, right?
Or maybe you’re in debt through no fault of your own: Medical emergencies or the death of a spouse are not uncommon and can be an unmanageable financial burden. Almost everyone would agree it’s unfair.
But when it comes to debt, unfortunately, fault doesn’t matter. If it’s in your name, it’s your responsibility. Accepting this can help you free up the mental space to actually go and do something about it. Turns out you didn’t have to spend all of that time feeling guilty after all!
2. Think of debt as an obstacle, not a burden
A burden is something you always have to bear. An obstacle, well that’s something you can get around eventually.
Instead of making minimum payments on your credit card debt, try making payments with the aim of eventually getting rid of your monthly balance. If you have loans, talk to your lender to see if you can shorten your term or make extra repayments without penalty.
This shift in approach does one thing immediately — it makes your debt seem a lot less scary, depressing and inevitable. Rather than feeling like you’re throwing your money into a pit each month with no real end, making repayments can start to feel like you’ve just scaled the side of a mountain. In the long run, it can also help motivate you to make — and stick to — your goals. One way to do this would be to use a debt thermometer.
3. Know your debt
Before coming up with a plan to eliminate your debt, learn everything you can about what type of debt you have. Why’s this important? Different types of debt come with different methods of dealing with it.
Think of it this way: Say you have $50,000 in credit card debt and your friend is struggling to pay off $50,000 in federal student loans.
You can apply for a balance transfer credit card or a debt consolidation loan. Your friend can’t qualify for either of these, however. What she can do is take advantage of government programs like an income-driven repayment plan or even loan forgiveness if she works in the right industry.
Same amount of debt, totally different solutions.
4. Set a goal and have a strategy
Chances are, if your goal is to be debt-free one day, you aren’t going to achieve that. If, however, you set a goal of being debt-free by April 24, 2021 — that’s something that might actually happen. You don’t need to pick a specific date, but having a timeframe makes it a lot easier for you to come up with a plan.
Research your options to come up with a plan to repay your debts based on your income and credit score. If you have a lot of debt that you don’t see yourself being able to repay, you might want to enroll in a credit counseling program to help you strategize.
It helps to have smaller goals to make it seem more manageable. Try setting monthly or weekly targets for yourself that aren’t as scary as that one large date in the future.
5. Stay focused by making it fun
It’s easy to lose steam after the initial push to get this thing done. Just thinking about debt can make a lot of people feel helpless, so it can help to try making it more positive.
Treat yourself to something nice like your favorite snack or a bubble bath each time you do something you don’t enjoy doing — even if it’s as small as checking on your bank and creditor balances.
And remember, no win is too small to celebrate. Meet your weekly goal? Pour the wine! You’re one step closer to getting out of debt.
6. Practice gratitude
It’s perfectly normal to feel resentful when you’re making a real push to get out of debt. Most likely you can’t afford to indulge in the same luxuries you used to enjoy on a regular basis — but everyone else sure seems to be able to.
Practicing small gratitude exercises can help you stay positive, sane and focused on your goals. Try writing down three things you’re grateful for each morning to set the tone for the day. Make an effort to find the good in the people around you — even the ones that drive you crazy. If you find yourself feeling resentful, don’t reprimand yourself, but remind yourself this one little thing — this is temporary.
4 methods to get out of debt faster
Now that you’ve got the mindset, you need strategies. Here are some ways you can get yourself out of debt faster:
- Negotiate your debt. Call your creditors and ask them to lower your interest or monthly repayment. If the person you’re speaking with says they can’t help you, ask to speak to their manager. Make a case for yourself: Point out improvements in your credit score, income, debt-to-income ratio, etc. when asking them to reconsider.
- Debt consolidation loan. If you have several debts that are difficult to keep track of, you might want to consider consolidating them into one loan or credit card with a lower interest rate.
- Refinancing. Only got one loan you need to pay off? Consider taking out another loan at a lower rate and shorter term that can get you out of debt faster and at a lower cost.
- Debt relief. When your debt is soul-crushingly unmanageable, you might want to consider looking at your debt relief options like credit counseling, debt management or debt settlement.