Paying off debt is a drag, right? I mean, who willingly spends their cash on paying off a credit card, rather than doing something that they enjoy?
Or, and least that’s what I used to think. Which is probably why it took me so long to actually become debt free. One of the key turning points, however, was figuring out how to make paying off debt enjoyable – even fun!
When you succeed at this goal, suddenly the whole experience of paying off debt changes. It becomes pleasurable to watch those outstanding balance statements dropping in value.
Personally, once I’d introduced the techniques we’re going to discuss paying off debt became not just bearable – but actually quite exciting. In fact, towards the end of my debt repayment journey I would even say that was almost sad to see the end of it.
If you’re trying hard to pay off debt, and loathing every minute of it, here’s how to make paying off debt fun…
Grow Your Income With a Passion Project
One of the most effective ways to pay off debt is to increase your income. That said, getting a second job or working overtime isn’t most people’s idea of fun.
But you know what is? Turning a hobby – something you’re passionate about – into a business.
It’s almost like getting paid to enjoy yourself.
When you’re spending your time doing something you love – while also being able to pay off your debt quicker thanks to the income produced – paying off debt really can be quite fun!
So let your imagination run wild. What project could you start this weekend, which is not only great fun but also has the potential to earn some extra money.
Perhaps you could start a blog on a subject that you love. I currently have seven different blogs, all covering different subjects that I am passionate about. Not only do I love to read and write about these subjects, but I receive free products to review, invitations to events.
I also, of course, earn money from my blogs too – money that in the past was very effectively employed in paying off my debt. Today, these same blogs are even bigger than before, and have a significant positive impact on my lifestyle – such as being able to move to France for the summer.
If you’d like to learn how easy it is for anyone – irrespective of your technical knowledge – to start a blog then read my step-by-step tutorial here.
Of course, a blog is only one option. Could you start a dog walking business, or make jams and chutneys to sell, or propagate plants in your garden, or look after kids, or write an ebook or… You get the point.
There are, quite simply, tons of ways to start a money-making business based on what you’re truly passionate about – and each of them has the potential to make paying off your debt more enjoyable!
Declutter Your Home
For many of us, possessions bring with them “mental weight”. We need to look after them, store them, maintain and clean them. Many of us have cupboards, lofts, garages and sheds filled to bursting point with junk we don’t need or want any more. Yet still, we leave it sitting there festering.
Decluttering your home and getting rid of all these unwanted possessions can be an astonishingly satisfying exercise. It frees up space – both physically and metaphorically.
Even better, quite a bit of your “junk” probably has value to other people. So sell it. Have a yard sale. List things on Craigslist or eBay. Put an advert in your local paper. Join a local Facebook buy/sell group.
All too soon you’ll not only be able to relish in the pleasure of a clutter-free home, but you’ll also have a whole load of extra cash to offset against your outstanding debts.
Strategize About the Future
Let’s imagine for a moment that you’ve committed to paying off $500 of debt each month. I know, right now, that may seem like a bitter pill to swallow. But here’s the magic you might not have considered…
Assuming your spending doesn’t inflate once you become debt free, you’ll suddenly find that you have $500 extra each month to do whatever you like with.
Stop just for a moment, and imagine what that would feel like right now. Imagine if someone just started to hand you that money in cash on the first of each month and told you to do whatever you like with it. That would feel pretty darn good, right?
The fact is – this is your life when you become debt free. So another way to make paying off debt fun is to spend time considering what you’ll do with all this newfound wealth.
Will you go on vacation? If so, where will you go? Start looking at the options. Read the guide books. Plan your itinerary.
Will you save up and buy a house? If so, start looking around at properties for sale. Get your eye in on the market, so you know the areas you like, the style of home you’re after and so on. Heck, buy some interior design magazines and start planning what your dream home will look like.
And so the pattern continues. Spend time strategizing about what this new-found wealth will look like to you. Make the end goal as vivid in your mind as you possibly can, confident that every debt repayment you make takes you ever closer to this heady goal.
Turn It Into a Game
As kids we used to love playing games. Whether they were video games (any older readers remember Duck Hunt?) or board games, Lego or Barbies, games filled all the time available.
Yet as adults many of us grow out of that habit – and in doing so we miss out on the simple pleasure of challenging ourselves and reaching our goals.
So how do you turn paying off debt into a game? Here are some of the best ideas that worked for me….
Track Your Progress
One of the key problems with paying off debt is that we don’t get any “tangible” benefit from it. Unlike shopping, where you come home with a new iPhone or that jacket you saw in the window, paying off debt seemingly has no obvious reward. The only difference measurable is those numbers dropping on your statements.
This can make is hard to stay motivated, as the money we invest into debt repayments seems to just disappear – as if by magic. One key strategy that proved effective for me was therefore to track my progress, each and every month like clockwork.
I had arranged with my creditors to repay my debt on the first of each month, which was normally a few days after I got paid. Each payday I would therefore log into each on my accounts and see just how much lower the outstanding balance was.
It started to become addictive – like the countdown to a big, exciting event. Like booking plane tickets and crossing off the days until your vacation begins. Heck, I don’t mind admitting that not only did I set up a spreadsheet to track my progress, but I even projected my results forward, allowing me to see when exactly I expected to be debt free.
In this way I was able to make paying off debt fun – slowly moving my way towards the eventual goals that I had visualized.
Set (and Beat) Targets
I believe that the reason so many people struggle to pay off debt is that they’re looking too far into the future – at a goal so far away they can barely make it out. It’s the same reason why so many people smoke – they know it’s dangerous and is unlikely to end well but the potential downside is so far away they don’t worry about it.
And so it is with debt. If you’re seriously in debt, and expect it to take years to become debt free then it’s all too easy to be overcome with the enormity of the situation – and to not even start.
The solution, which makes paying off debt more rewarding, is to break down a giant goal into many smaller targets. Quite what those targets are will depend on you as a person, on how much debt you have, and on how much motivation you need. A few ideas of targets you could set include:
- Your next $1,000 of debt repaid
- The next 10% of your debt repaid
- The next rounded number (i.e. if you have $20,495 of debt then your next goal is $20,000)
- Paying off more debt than last month
- Seeing how much earlier you can become debt free than your projections suggest
You don’t only have to use one goal – you can even decide on multiple targets as things go along. Then commit to these targets, and perhaps even try not just to meet them – but to exceed them. This constant competition, trying to figure out how you’ll hit that next small goal as rapidly as possible really can make paying off debt fun.
Reward Small Successes
Lastly, if you do nothing but save every last penny in order to pay off debt there’s a risk that sooner or later you’ll lose your mind. Think of it as the financial equivalent of someone on a super-strict diet finally having a carb splurge.
No, if you’re going to stick with your debt repayment plan for the long term then you need to give yourself little treats along the way.
You know those targets you decided upon in the previous section? When you get to these, try to reward yourself. Hopefully the thrill of watching your debt dropping will be a good start, but there are also all sorts of other ways to treat yourself on a budget as a reward for all your hard work.
What do you hate most about paying off debt? What tricks do you employ to make paying off debt less painful? Please leave your experiences in the comments section below so we can all learn from one another…