I’m three months into my debt-reduction plan, and I’ve felt a little unfocused this past week. I think with any major change in habits, like weight loss or debt-reduction, there’s a natural slump around this point. The early energy devoted to making changes has waned. The thrill of making progress is routine. I now have $1,000 a month for my debt; that’s huge but it has also become the norm. So, it’s harder to get excited about mailing that payment off to the credit cards. After traveling and shopping recently and not seeing a huge drop in my debt, it would be easy to fall back into my old ways. How to stay on track? I decided to tackle the issue head on and write it out. If you’re struggling with the three-month mile marker in your goal, follow along.
First off, I think it’s healthy to acknowledge the slump. I didn’t stick to my regular schedule of blogging last week, and I didn’t produce much to submit to carnivals. After shopping Thursday, I have been generating a list of more things to buy. I’ve also let the future husband pick up a few purchases for me. While that helps my debt-reduction goal, it doesn’t help our overall financial goals. Finally, I was really disappointed not to go under the $5,000 mark by June 1. So, a small slump in the grand scheme of things, but I could easily fall into bad habits and ignore the blog at this rate. The next question is why am I in a slump?
My second step is to analyze the slump. It really does help to acknowledge slip-ups without beating yourself up over them. Figuring out why something is happening helps me correct it. Writing things down is the best way for me to see them more clearly. If you’re in a slump, blog or journal; you’ll be amazed at the discoveries you’ll make through the writing process!
Problem #1: waiting around to see the debt shrink is getting frustrating. I feel like I was really focused on the June payday and then felt bummed that the payoff wasn’t as big as I wanted. I felt like there wasn’t much that I could have done to get a bigger payoff. I also can’t wait to shift these payments to savings rather than debt. It will be so nice to have this money going toward our financial goals rather than paying off junk I don’t even remember buying. Finally, I think I’m also feeling pressured by my new goal of paying everything off early. Rather than relishing the challenge, I’m not sure if I can make it.
Problem #2: I’m sliding back into the “shopping cycle.” I’ve been spending money over the last two weeks. Opening up the Pandora’s box of spending seems to be creating more “needs.” Once I start shopping, it’s easy to think up new things to go with what I’ve just bought. I bought sandals and now feel like I need trail shoes. I got a cute top and now feel like I need white jeans for the top. I bought some herbs and now want to buy more seeds for a second crop of salad in the fall. Rather than visualizing ways to earn money and putting my energy in that, I’m visualizing ways to spend money and creating lists of “needs” that probably aren’t really needs.
Step three for me will be to tweak my plan of action to combat my slump. Now that I understand that I’ve become more passive about debt-reduction and am sliding into the shopping cycle, I’ll refocus on creating more snowflakes and “shopping my house.”
One great thing about snowflaking is that it keeps you generating debt-reduction money all month long. If I just waited until the end of each month to pay down my debt, I’d have one day of excitement and twenty-nine days of impatient waiting. By snowflaking, I can create the pay-off high more frequently throughout the month.
As for the shopping cycle, I’ve found that “shopping my house” helps here. At the end of winter, I was sick of all my clothes. Instead of running out to buy something new, I cleaned out my closet and found several beautiful scarves that I rarely wore. Those helped tide me over and kept me out of the mall. I bet that if I go through my summer clothes, I’ll find that I can wait on the jeans and the trail shoes. I may decide that the seeds are worth it, but then I’ll only spend $5 rather than $150!
If you’re looking for more ways to stay motivated to reach your goals, check out Zen Habits’ great series, “Top 20 Motivation Hacks.” It’s helping me make a few changes and reminded me how important writing can be. I feel a lot better about my slump and plan to make a fresh start now that it’s June!