When Brandon and I got engaged, I knew that I wanted to come up with a plan to pay off our debt more quickly. After all, we had a combined six figures of debt, and I didn’t want that hanging over our heads for decades.
I knew that much debt would be a lot of work, but at that point, I had already dove into the world of personal finance. I knew the practical tips to follow to pay off debt faster.
And yet, I found myself struggling to sit down and come up with a real plan to put in place.
It took me a while to learn that it wasn’t the logistical steps of paying off debt that I was struggling with — It was the mindset.
All of the best advice in the world isn’t going to help you crush your debt if your mindset isn’t in the right place.
In this post, I’m sharing the five mindset shifts I had to make to help me pay off my debt. They can help you pay off your debt too!
Let go of the victim mentality
It took me a long time to stop playing the victim when it came to my debt and instead start taking responsibility for it.
I would blame the system for my student loan debt. I was angry to live in a country that puts people tens of thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of dollars into debt for a degree.
And I didn’t just do this for my own debt! I went through another round of it when my husband and I got married, as he had even more student loan debt than I did.
I would also blame my ex-husband for my credit card debt. I believed that he had forced me into that situation through the circumstances of our divorce.
And honestly, sometimes it feels better to have someone else to blame. It’s comfortable to believe that it’s not your fault.
But here’s the thing: Until you learn to take responsibility for your debt, you’ll continue to let that victim mindset keep you in debt.
In other words, you’ll believe that since you aren’t the one who got yourself into debt, you can’t be the one to get yourself out of it.
Once you really take responsibility for your debt and acknowledge that you took it on, you’ll understand that you and you alone have the power to eliminate it.
I do want to acknowledge that there are absolutely societal and structural problems that lead to people having debt that feels unmanageable. I don’t want to ignore those issues. But for the purposes of paying off your debt, I think it’s more helpful to focus on the things you can control.
Let go of any shame or guilt
It’s important to take responsibility for your debt, but it doesn’t help you to carry shame or guilt over it.
In a perfect world, none of us would have debt. In a perfect world, you would have found a different solution rather than borrowing money.
But we don’t live in a perfect world. And more importantly, there’s absolutely nothing you can do today to go back and change the decision you made.
The more time you spend sitting in shame and guilt regarding your debt, the less time you spend focusing on how you can pay it off more quickly.
Be grateful for your debt
You’re probably reading this and thinking that it sounds ridiculous to be grateful for your debt. But hear me out. You can find something good that has come of your debt if you look hard enough.
Maybe it’s that you really love your job, and you only could have gotten it with a college degree. For that reason, you can be grateful for your student loans.
Maybe it’s that taking on credit card debt is what allowed you to leave a bad relationship and start over somewhere else, even if you couldn’t do it in cash.
Or maybe you’re like me, and your debt helped you to get back on track financially. If I hadn’t been stuck with credit card debt after my divorce, I wouldn’t have learned finance. And if I hadn’t learned finance, I wouldn’t have my business today.
Having debt is also what helped my husband and I to get so serious about budgeting. Sure, it’s still going to take us years to pay off our six figures of student loan debt. But when the debt is gone, we’ll have those good money habits forever.
Believe that you can pay off your debt
Have you ever talked yourself out of getting serious about paying off debt because you felt like no matter what you did, you’d never get there?
That’s what limiting beliefs do. They stop you in your tracks and prevent you from making real progress.
At the end of the day, you won’t be able to pay off your debt until you really believe that you can. And once you believe you can, you’ll be amazed and the ideas you come up with to help you get there.
If you’re struggling with this one, something as simple as putting a post-it note on your desk with a positive reminder can be a huge help!
Learn to think outside the box
I can’t tell you how many times I stared at my budget, having no freaking clue what I was going to do, because there just wasn’t enough wiggle room to aggressively pay off my debt as fast as I wanted to.
I know so many people who are in this exact situation. They think they don’t make enough money to pay more than their minimum payments on their debt.
That’s when you have to get creative.
I decided that I didn’t want to cut anything else from my budget. I wanted to have the money for date nights with my husband and to spend money on things that bring us joy.
So instead of trimming my budget even more, I increased my income. For me, freelance writing was the answer. I already knew a lot about personal finance, so I decided to start writing for other people’s websites.
For you, it might be something else. Maybe you’ll give pet sitting a shot, or deliver groceries part-time.
There are so many options out there, you just have to think outside the box.
When I first started paying off my debt, I wanted all the tactical budgeting tips to help me get there. But what I eventually realized was that if I didn’t first fix my mindset, I’d never be able to fix my budget.
If you’re struggling with debt, I sincerely hope you give some of these mindset shifts a shot.