There are times for most of us when motivation is lacking. Be it from our own internal struggles, or the pressures of the world around us, almost everyone could use a little jumpstart now and then. When I need a little more “oomph”, for whatever reason, I start treating debt elimination not just as a journey, but as an actual road trip. I love road trips, and have taken more than my fair share of them in my life. Just like I wouldn’t leave out my front door without an idea of where I was headed (well, I did once the summer between high school and college, but that’s another story), successful debt elimination needs a plan of attack – or in this case, a roadmap. Start your road to debt elimination now by creating a roadmap of your own.
1. Know where you are
This is, in a way, the easiest step as far as phyiscally completing it, but can be the scariest as well. The activation energy (the oomph to finally do it) needed can be enormous and overwhelming. If you are stuck here, take it one step at a time. Gather up all your financial information into one place. Then, one piece at a time, go through it. it doesn’t all have to be looked at at once. Keep a tally on a piece of paper. What do I owe (credit cards, loans, other debts)? What do I have (bank accounts, investments, property)? What comes in each month? What goes out each month?
Without a doubt, it is much harder to get to your destination without knowing your starting point. The time invested in getting an idea of where you are will pay off down the road when creating the path to your destination.
2. Know what your destination is
This can be very simple, but creating a “debt-free” goal versus a specific payoff amount goal is the difference between saying you want to go to California vs Los Angeles. One is more vague and harder to create a specific plan for, while the other is more specific and more in depth. The more specific you can be, the easier to see the steps to get there.
3. Draw yourself a map
Just like it is harder to get where you are going without directions, reaching your debt elimination goal is tougher without a clear way to get there. As I tell my taekwondo students, a goal without a plan is better labeled a dream.
Look at your money coming in and money going out. Look at where you are as far as assets and liabilities, and start drawing up plans for how to accomplish the debt elimination journey. Start with a monthly amount you can commit to debt elimination. As you progress, you can begin to work in plans to earn extra money, or snowflakes, that can also be committed to the cause. Every journey begins with that single step.
4. Plan your rest stops
Every journey needs a little pit stop somewhere to regroup, refocus, and re-energize. You can base rest stops on time, on milestones, or a combination of both. For us, we use each passing year as a time to really examine our roadmap and determine what we need to change or tweak within it to better accomplish our goals. And we use specific milestones, such as a certain debt paid off completely, or a certain amount of total debt paid, as a place to build in a little reward for a job well done.
5. Budget plenty of extra time and resources
Once you know what you’ve got to throw at debt, and how much time based on that it will take you, budget in just a wee bit of wiggle room. You can always re-evaluate later, if you are far ahead of those original plans. But life is unpredictable, and may throw you curveballs you just never anticipated. Leave yourself some wiggle room to deal with unexpected challenges, and you’ll be more likely to stay on course. When we plan a road trip, we plan an “optimistic” time of arrival as well as a “realistic” one, and we do the same thing with our debt elimination plans. Budget some room into that realistic arrival time and place.
6. Enjoy the journey
You may not enjoy being in debt – but take time to enjoy the journey out. Be it by recognizing milestones, looking at progress, or forecasting new plans for the future, enjoy the steps you take on your ultimate journey to debt freedom. Each step forward is one step closer to living a debt-free life, so take the time to enjoy those steps and be proud of what you’ve accomplished so far.