How to not give up when paying off debt

“I can’t do this anymore, I feel like I am running but not getting anywhere and I want to quit.” That’s what the message I got on Facebook read. 

It wasn’t the first time I have gotten a comment or email from someone who was just at the end of their financial rope. I get hundreds of messages and comments each week from women who are frustrated, exhausted and they just want to give up. 

It’s really hard when you’re clawing your way out of debt and you just don’t seem to be getting anywhere. The number just isn’t moving fast enough. Or you build your emergency fund and you feel like you’re really getting somewhere and then life comes and knocks your feet out from under you. That emergency fund is gone and you’re back to zero. 

Oh sister, I have been there more times than I can count. 

It feels so overwhelming when you’re working so hard and not getting ahead. And it can become so easy to look at what another family is doing and what is working for them and feel like a total failure. But you’re not. 

Today I want to offer you a little encouragement, but I also want to give you a few ideas of things you can do when you just feel like it’s not working. 

Take a break

Can you go a full week without sleep? Just running and never stopping? Nope. That’s now what your body was designed to do. You have to sleep at night. That’s when your body heals and restores. Just like you need to give your body rest, you need to give your brain and emotions a break from the contestant pursuit of paying off debt. 

I am not telling you to stop paying off debt. I am not telling you to ignore your problem. I am not telling you to go on a spending spree and rack up MORE debt. I am simply telling you to take a break. Decide that for one week you aren’t going to talk about your debt. You’re not going to obsess over it, cry over it or worry about it. You’re going to take a little mental vacation. Clear your head and come back. 

Take stock

Sometimes when we get overwhelmed it becomes easy to throw a pity party and only think about what we haven’t accomplished, rather than focusing on what we have. Instead of looking at how far you have to go take stock of how far you have come. Make a mental list of the things you have accomplished, it can be something big like listing off the debts you have paid off or the money you have put into your emergency fund. Or it can be something small like making your first budget and sticking to it for a whole month. 

We often stand in the middle of the road and cry about how far the finish line is when we could simply turn around and be shocked by how far we have already run. 

Instead of focusing on the battles you haven't started fighting yet, focus on the war you have already won.

By focusing on the things we have done we can change our attitude. It gives us a sense of vigor. 

Take an honest look

Sacrifice can hurt. It’s not easy. It’s uncomfortable and we just don’t want to do it. But sacrifices are usually short term. We are trading in what we want right now for what we want long term. 

So if you’re not getting where you want in the debt payoff process this might be a time to take another look at your budget. It might be time to make really tough choices and get a little brutal in the process. 

If you’ve already cut out every possible thing you can cut and there is nothing left (and I mean NOTHING) then know you are doing the best you can and don’t beat yourself up. 

Take on extra work

I know, I know you are getting really tired of seeing bloggers write that. You are probably thinking "you can’t just snap your fingers and make a job appear." I know that. But there are probably far more opportunities out there for you than you realize. 

Start small. What would just $50 extra a week do for your family? I say this without judgment and from experience, taking a job you don’t necessarily like in order to make ends meet is far better than worrying about money. So you might not like the idea of babysitting someone's kids, or working overnight at the supermarket (for real, that was my job!) but it’s better than being broke. 

Take time to respect your place and not someone else’s 

It is so easy to look at what someone else is doing or read a blog about someone else’s life and feel like garbage. But you are not someone else. You are you. Don’t fall into the trap of comparison and get so stuck you can’t find your way out. 

You don’t know that person’s income. They may have less debt than you. They may have been at it longer. They may not have kids with food allergies. They may live in a place where the cost of living is less. There are a million little reasons why someone else’s path won’t be the same as yours. Yours might be longer and more frustrating than mine, but it may also be easier than your neighbors. We just never know what is really going on. 

So respect where you are. Respect yourself as an individual and don’t worry about how fast or how slow someone else is moving.