get motivated with a debt elimination roadmap

February 17th, 2009

Get Motivated With A Debt Elimination Roadmap

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.

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17 Responses to “Get Motivated With A Debt Elimination Roadmap”

  1. Great post. I struggle to stay motivated sometimes and I find that looking at my “map” helps me to get excited about accelerated debt reduction.

  2. Nice – I really like this. It’s impossible to go anywhere if you don’t know where you’re going. I’ve been following your ‘re-start’ over the past couple of weeks and something like this always helps – I’m actually going over ours this week!

  3. Very good illustration. I travel a lot so I love arriving at my final destination but sometimes the best part is the journey to get there.

  4. Good advice. I completely agree that having a measurement of your performance is great for maintaining motivation to eliminate debt. If we don’t make a plan for ourselves, it’s far to easy to get off track.

  5. You need a game plan for getting out of debt and there is no better way to do that than to lay it all out. How are you going to get to the end if you do not know where the end is?

    It is most important to be realistic with yourself as I have come to find out. Living on “rice and beans” is ridiculously hard and just is not sustainable without the rest stops you detail. There needs to be that time for the pat on the back, good job praise and reward.

  6. Thanks for this illustration. As one who has been in debt and out and now back in, having a game plan and sticking to it is the only thing that will work. The harder step, though, is learning to live within my means and not be persuaded to have ‘things’!

  7. Great post – I remember Step 1 quite well. Just as you said, it was scary – way scary. I felt sick to my stomach once the damage was all added up. At the same time, seeing the desperate reality of my situation helped motivate me even more. I looked the numbers over, installed my newly purchased version of Quicken, and started the process of getting my life back.

    This type of post has never been more relevant than it is right now. The situation out there is going from bad to worse. The only way anyone can hope to survive it is if their financial house is in order.

  8. Spot on… for many (myself included at one point)the thought of getting out of debt is impossible to comprehend. Similar to a cross country drive, you can go on and on and on and never feel like you’re making any progress. And if you’re not watching the milemarkers or celebrating the milestones these feelings of no progress can become self defeating. For me, I created a tool I call a Snowball Scheduler (available free at my site) that allows me to track my debt payments and forecast exactly when I’ll be debt free. This tool is ESPECIALLY fun or motivating when you’re adding Snow Flakes each month because it brings the scheduled date closer and closer.

    Having a road map is at once critical and motivating!


    February 18th, 2009 at 10:07 am

    You are absolutely right….being in debt is NOT fun, however what took years to build up incredible debt, cannot be wiped out in minutes. We might as well enjoy the journey out, learning along the way, appreciating what we used to take for granted, and becoming better Christlike stewards with each step toward FINANCIAL FREEDOM………ZERO DEBT!!


  10. Great visualization you make here. Its amazing the way one can trick one’s mind into success just by visualizing something like this.

  11. Excellent post. When I first started my debt snowball, I taped a current map of my finances next to my desk. Daily, I would see the monthly finance charges & the debt I was under. This made me mad to the point where my sole focus was paying off everything I could. I also created a monthly snapshot of total debt, interest for the month so I could see how well I was doing, the progress I was making, & projected payoff date. The key is constant motivation (to change) & inspiration (to reward progress).

  12. Thank you for your much needed focus. I used a debt calculator today and now see that my loan can be paid off in the next 5 years! I have $23,000 left to pay. It has been a slow, but steady process. I really want to be debt free in my older years. As a renter, I have no mortgage and no credit card debt.

    Your words of wisdom keep my eyes on the light at the end of the tunnel. Thanks!

  13. In today’s climate, it feels awesome to have zero debt. It used to keep me up at night. Here’s hoping folks can get out from under the avalanche of credit cards and get thru this crisis.


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