Do you hate your debt?

Are you angry at it?

Can you FEEL the control it has over you?

Having an emotional response to debt or money problems is human nature. Either your emotions control you, or you learn to use them to control the situation. All you need is a plan and a shift in how you think about debt.

Your anger at your financial situation can be directed toward your debt, then used to motivate you into changing your spending habits and sticking to your debt payoff plan.

It works like this: every time you want to make a purchase, remind yourself of your debt and let the anger build. Then, think about your plan to pay it off and redirect your anger toward your bad spending habits.

Become so determined to limit your spending that you even question buying necessities like toothpaste or soap. (I’m not suggesting that you actually stop buying toothpaste, but you might avoid name brand products for a bit.)

Every purchase matters: it either helps or hinders your plan to pay debt off!

Keep your debt top-of-mind in your day-to-day life and you’ll be more likely to avoid excess spending.

debt freedom: how to ensure your successs

Most people can admit their debt is a problem, and some will take the next step to create a plan to pay it off. The point where people get hung up is in the follow through.

You start off with good intentions, then life happens and unexpected events put a wrench in the plan. Rather than adjusting to your new circumstances, you let your mind fill with discouraging thoughts and lose hope. Eventually, you drift back into the daily routine and chaos of life, giving up on your debt payoff plan altogether.

If this has happened to you, know that you are not the only one!

I encourage you to try again by applying the tips shared below.

There is a crucial step that is often missed or overlooked during the process of creating a plan.

Luckily, it’s rather simple:

  1. Admit your debt is a problem.
  2. Identify your ‘why’. (crucial)
  3. Get angry. Get serious. Get intentional.
  4. Make a plan.
  5. Stick to the plan, but reward yourself along the way.

Step One: Admit your debt is a problem

Acceptance is the first step toward any type of change. You aren’t going to fix something if you don’t think it’s broken, right?

In this step, you’ll realize YOU are making your life harder than it needs to be. You don’t have to live paycheck to paycheck.

There are exceptions to every rule, as some people in poverty are stuck living this way because of circumstances beyond their control. If this is not you, listen up!

You are most likely in debt because you’ve made a series of poor choices, including frequently making small purchases. The most common cause of money problems is a lack of control over your spending.

Gaining awareness of your spending habits will help you take control of your money and stick to your debt payoff plan.

“You can wander into debt, you can’t wander out. You have to get really mad, really intense, and really focused to get out of debt.”

Dave Ramsey

Wherever your debt came from, release any negative feelings (blame, guilt, etc.) you have toward it. Own up to the fact that only YOU are responsible for paying it off. No one is going to do it for you.

Accept responsibility and you’ll be ready to face your debt head on!

Step Two: Identify your ‘why’ (crucial)

Your “why” is simply your motivation for getting out of debt. It’s the thing that fuels you to keep living way below your means, eating cheap food, staying in on the weekends, etc.

This is the crucial step that many people skip or don’t take seriously. If you don’t know WHY you want to be debt free, you will quickly lose focus and motivation.

When it starts to feel like it’s not worth it, you’ll say things like “I just want to have fun again” and “I work really hard so I deserve to buy this”. I’ve even heard: “I need to have experiences and fun while I’m still young!”

Motivation for paying off debt

Knowing your WHY is what will keep you on the plan.


Here is a list of some common “why’s” that I’ve seen or heard:

  • Your children – building a better future for them, or as Dave Ramsey calls it: “changing your family tree”
  • A career change or to start your own business
  • Freedom
  • A dream of traveling more
  • Owning a home
  • Owning a vacation home or rental property
  • Building wealth
  • Retiring early

My Why

During my debt free journey, my co-workers and I walked to Starbucks nearly every morning. It takes a lot of self-control and determination to not buy something every time you walk into that coffee shop (for me, at least). It became almost like a game for me.

I asked myself: “What can I do to make this process quicker? How can I pay off just a few more dollars this month?”

This was easy because I knew my WHY and I thought about it every time I made a purchase.

I am deliberate about how I spend my money and I strategize before I earn it. With my budget, I get to tell my money where to go, instead of the other way around.

My why is that I want CONTROL over my life (another name for that is FREEDOM).

Owing money to someone is the direct opposite of that. You lose all the control when you owe someone money and are basically a slave to the lender. That alone motivated me to pay off my $60,535 of debt in 20 months.

Step Three – Get angry. Get serious. Get intentional.

Use your emotions to motivate yourself. Do this by spending time thinking about the limitations in your life caused by the debt you owe. Make a list of anything you cannot do as a direct result of making your debt payments each month.

Anything can be blamed for your financial circumstances (i.e., not having much money to spend freely). The trick is to place that blame on the debt you owe and take personal responsibility for it.

Maybe your monthly debt payments total $600, so you have to stay at your awful job in order to earn enough to pay your bills. You aren’t able to save money to take your dream vacation or replace your old, beat-up car. Plus, your job is so draining that you don’t even have time to be social (make friends, go on dates, have fun experiences, etc.).

Turn your anger or frustration into motivation. Get mad at your debt!

Now that your emotions are directed at your debt, focus on solving the problem. Get serious about creating a plan and sticking to it.

Use a budget to gain control and understanding of your spending habits. Get intentional about how you spend your money!

Imagine what you could do if you were able to change your mindset when spending money. Slowly shift toward constantly questioning how to spend less or eliminate the expense altogether with every single purchase, and your spending habits will change dramatically.

This is the stage where you learn to tell your money where to go, not the other way around. It won’t happen overnight, but if you stick to your plan, you’ll see changes very quickly.

Step Four – Make a plan.

List your debts and choose a strategy to pay them off.

One commonality among all strategies that I’ve seen is that you always focus on one debt at a time.

The Debt Snowball Method is what I used to pay off my debt and it will always be my number one recommendation.

If you can’t wrap your head around this method, another strategy is to pay off the debt with the highest interest rate first. I don’t recommend this method to anyone who needs a quick win to stay motivated, like I did.

That is the POWER behind the debt snowball method: You stay motivated because of the constant feeling that you are building momentum.

If it takes a year to pay the first debt off, you might start to feel tired and lose excitement. Whereas, if it takes one month to pay the first debt off, you’ll FEEL the momentum and excitement. This encourages you to keep going and to pay off more of your debts.

Identify how you will track your progress

tracking debt payoff

Here are a few ideas that I thought were creative or helped keep me motivated:

  • Debt thermometer (you can find free worksheets on Pinterest) – This is motivating because you can see the progress as you fill up the thermometer.
  • Excel spreadsheet – This is the method I used because I love Excel. If you are good with the program and understand many of its capabilities, this might be a good fit for you!
  • Chain Links (like kids use for a countdown to Christmas) – This method is great for teaching and involving kids! Just cut up some colorful paper into strips and assign each chain a dollar amount. Once you reach that amount you rip the chain off and watch it get shorter and shorter.

Whichever way you choose, make sure you track your progress. If you don’t, it will be more challenging to maintain your motivation because you won’t be able to see the progress you’ve made.

For more on tracking your debt payoff, check out this post.

Step Five – Stick to the plan, and reward yourself

This is the most challenging step in the process, because it is where all the work will need to be done. Be encouraged, because I believe that YOU CAN DO IT!

One mistake I think a lot of people make, is that they go too hard in the beginning and then get burnt out. What I mean by this is that they cut out everything that brings joy to their life and get really serious about paying off debt. After a while, they get tired of working so hard (which is normal) and they stop working the plan altogether.

To avoid burn out, set up small rewards along the way to motivate yourself to keep going. Keep small things in your budget, like date nights and a monthly subscription or two. You can have fun without going overboard.

It’s a fine balance, but you can find it. And when you do, it will be very powerful.

The key is to keep your rewards small, spread out, and connected to a milestone or goal. Keep the reward in line with the accomplishment.

Don’t go on a vacation every time you pay off one of your debts. Instead, spend $5-10 on ice cream or a fancy Starbucks drink when you pay off debts in the $100-2,000 range. Then scale up from there as the debt payoff grows.

A good rule of thumb is to keep rewards small enough that they don’t derail your debt payoff plan and you can easily add them into your budget.

As long as you plan for the reward and keep working the plan, nothing will stop you from accomplishing your goal.

How to go from Chains (debt) to (financial) freedom in just 5 steps


If you struggle to stay motivated while accomplishing goals, my recommendation is to post your WHY as many places as you can.

  • Put it in your phone and computer as a screensaver.
  • Draw a picture of it and hang it on your fridge.
  • Write it down and put it in your wallet, somewhere you will see it every time you make a purchase.
  • Write it on your mirror or next to your mirror on a piece of paper.
  • If your motivation is your kids, keep a picture of them with you at all times and look at it each time you make a purchase.

Here are the KEYS for ensuring your success when paying off debt:

  • Use your emotions.
  • Know your why.
  • Have a plan.
  • Stay focused.
  • Reward yourself.

Start changing your life today! You can do it!

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