This is the final post in a series on the three R’s of debt reduction. Read the introduction here. Learn how reflection can help here. Read about replacing bad habits here. Today, I examine how success stems from a constant process of renewal.
Renew Your Enthusiasim
Unlike running up charges on your credit cards, paying down your debt is a lot longer process and can be a lot less fun. There are no wild shoppping sprees, no extravagent feelings of glee at buying something “forbidden.” Instead, day after day, you have to tell yourself, “I won’t go into debt.” “I will stick to my budget.” “I will make do with less.”
All that resolve can make for some tough going. So many times in the past, I’d set a goal and make a plan to pay off my cards. Then something would come up; I’d give in to the impulse to charge, and I’d be back at square one. When I moved from DC to Ohio, I totally planned to pay off my cards and start my new job free of credit-card debt. However, I spent a couple of lonely weeks trying to make my new apartment feel cozy. That involved almost-daily trips to Target for a shower curtain, or a new rug, or a new lamp. Still, I thought I could make a few charges and still keep things under control. Then, I discoverd that we wouldn’t get paid for another month due to how the university constructed our contracts. Suddenly, the savings that I planned to use to pay off my debt had to go toward living expenses, and I had all these silly charges racked up as well. So much for that plan!
In March, I started a new plan, and this time, I WAS able to stick to my plan, and even paid off my debt six months earlier than I had planned. Partly, this was because I moved in with my fiance and was able to put a lot more money toward my debt. Partly, it was because I made paying down my cards a public act, so I was too embarassed to make too many dumb charges.
Mostly, renewing my enthusiasm for my new goal helped me along. Every day, I reminded myself about that debt. Every month, I had to account for my success or failure. Often, I’d wake up in the night, calculating payments and “snowflakes.” The process of paying off my debt really was that: a process. Setting a goal once and then moving on is not enough. I discovered that I had to renew my commitment to that goal every day! Some days it was really fun, like when I could send a big payment to my card. Other days, it was no fun at all. However, following my other “R’s” of debt-reduction: reflecting on my emotional habits and replacing bad habits with good, new ones helped me along. Here’s hoping it helps you as well!