But who knew that paying off debt made me feel so miserable? MISERABLE! I could see so many things that I was giving up, and I was not happy. I socialized less, I avoided events, and I was living off of peanut butter and jellies. I know I was trying to accomplish a huge goal – but STILL! I’m merely human.
These feelings came to me immediately, and I dealt with it for awhile. Then I said NO MORE!
I knew the only way that I would be able to pay off my student loans and feel like a person was to find POSITIVITY while pursuing my goal.
Think about it! The only way to reach a goal is to stay positive while pursuing it.
I know what you’re thinking. “Duh, Jesan! Everyone knows that.” You’re right. It is a major duh. But how many times have you pursued a goal – any goal – and quit before you made any progress? And I bet your bottom dollar that it was because of the negative thoughts and feelings that like to creep in saying, “I can’t do this!”
Those thoughts are GOAL KILLERS!
Taking on a goal, any goal, can be challenging on so many levels, but negative thoughts can absolutely be combatted with small steps. These steps will help you continue to make progress on paying down the mountain of debt, but also keep you happy throughout.
Step 1: Find cheerleaders
In sports, cheerleaders contribute their energy to an athlete or team to score the point. They encourage fans to cheer for the team. Their purpose for that moment is to yell any negative thought an athlete might think out of their brain.
I used to hide my debt from my family and friends. I used to think they would look down on me and withdraw me from their lives if I told them the $143,000 in student loans that I owed. But now, they are my biggest cheerleaders. They all know my struggle.
A year ago, I hit a major hiccup in my repaying when I moved to a different city and changed careers. It was really easy for me to be a Debbie Downer and forget the whole thing. When talking about these struggles to my wise mother she simply said, “Yes, but I am so proud of you.”
And that was it. That was all I needed in order to keep going.
There are many moments like this when paying off student loans. We definitely are our own worst enemy and take every negative thought into consideration. The people on the sidelines may not know the heartache, the preparation, and the sleepless nights of anticipation and anxiety, but they do know that they love you so much that they want to cheer you on to accomplish your goal!
Step 2: Create sticky note motivations
One of the first jobs I took when I started to aggressively pay off my student debt was as a call center agent in a huge insurance firm. At first, I hated it so much. I would cry going to work, cry at night knowing I had to go back the next day – I even ate my lunch in my car because I didn’t want to socialize with anyone. I wanted no connection with this job.
Then one miserable, Midwest wintered morning, as I was leaving for work I saw a note on the door. My (now) husband had written “Rock it” on an orange sticky note. Just that. “Rock it.”
That little 5”x5” sticky reminded me that what I was doing was something bigger than what I believed. I wasn’t getting up early to go to a job I hated because I wanted to. I was doing it because I wanted to take down my student debt fast.
I began to write myself “sticky note motivations” all over my apartment, car, cubicle, wallet, everywhere. Notes that said, “Pay off loans in 5 years” and “Once paid, go to France” were there to remind me that I was doing this for a reason. I was working towards something bigger than myself.
I was with that job for 2 years, and now I can say that I loved it. This sticky note changed my attitude which helped me get promoted, increase my income, and make lifelong friends.
The motivation changed my heart to look at a positive outcome.
Step 3: Treat yo’ self
From the very beginning of my aggressive debt journey, I had become a penny pincher. Everything that I made went to my student loan. This caused me to give up being with friends and spending money on simple pleasures – I was basically a hermit (+ the cat made me a little bit of the “crazy cat lady loner”). This is no way to live! I was punishing myself and my friends for the horrible situation of me and my student loans.
This absolutely had to stop. I had to find some way to be with people and reward myself while paying off my student debt.
It first became a small thing. Coffee. I had given up going to the coffee shop because buying my nonfat iced caramel latte added up to $1,040 a year. (That withdrawal could have contributed to my depression at that time as well.) BUT, a tall dark roast in a grande cup costs $2.00. I budgeted myself to get coffee once a week, and at this time, I’d invite a friend or two to join me. PERFECT! I got to spend time with my friends, get a little caffeine, and save BUCHO BUCKS!
I was a bit of a shopaholic before taking on my student debt, too. When I became aggressive towards the loans, I had to find a way to pay off debt, but still get me a little sumpin’ sumpin’.
That’s when my goal sheet really came into play. For every $1,000 I paid off (to the principal – read this to explain principal and interest), I would spend 1% on me ($10). If I wanted a $50 jacket, I had to pay off $5,000 to the debt.