Debt can be one of the most common and one of the most dubious things we have to overcome in adulthood. It dulls your sparkle. It takes the wind from your sails. The goal line seems so far away, and it is not fun chipping away at a mountain that seems insurmountable- yet, you keep trying.
In comparison to some, my student loan debt was manageable. In undergrad, I made some sacrifices to cut costs down to 1/4 of what my friends were paying. I lived at home, got scholarships, took care of my Gram and worked part time. I never took a spring break, and I attended community college for two of the four years of college. I graduated debt free, but went off to graduate school- where no funding was available and had to take on student loans to pay for my $32,000 degree in Applied Sociology. (ugh).
There are plenty of bloggers out there who have tackled much more debt than I have- and they have amazing stories to help you do the same, including quick tips and monthly strategies. This article isn’t going to show you how to get out of debt, it will help you survive and thrive as you get out of debt….basically, I want to make the journey suck just a little bit less.
Here’s some habits that helped me as I got out of student loan debt, I hope they’re helpful!
When I had to work downtown, the nearly hour long commute to my job was an ideal time to listen to a podcast. During rush periods, even having a bubble big enough to read a book was a luxury, and podcasts were free. I would listen to podcasts every morning just to give myself a boost and to learn new skills. If I could learn more about finance, learn more about a useful skill or an inspiring story- it helped me feel less stuck.
Some of my favorites have been, Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income Podcast, This Is Your Life with Michael Hyatt, The Eventual Millionaire with Jamie Tardy and Zen Habits Radio.
To pay back my debts, there were literally weeks I had to eat rice and beans. I drank boxed wine that I carried 5 blocks from the train after hitting up Target and getting it on sale. I worked all the time and went to school. Man, it sucked. Books were a good way to escape and get my sparkle back- plus, going to the library, they were free.
A few key books for me were Uncertainty by Jonathan Fields, The Secret (yup, guilty as charged), Think and Grow Rich and pretty much any blog post, or later, book by Danielle LaPorte. I needed to believe it would get better- but mostly, I needed to believe that I was in control in making it so, and sometimes a little book on manifesting and the power of thought reminds you it’s true, cheesy as it sounds!
Most of us that are in debt haven’t faced up to those projects that need to get done- we’re hiding from them for a variety of reasons. We have books that have never been read, closets that are overstuffed and disorganized, scrapbooks that we spent hundreds of dollars to get supplies for, but never finished. When I was in debt, I worked on finally finishing projects to stop the cycle of consumerism that distracted me from my mission. Plus, it’s cost efficient to use what you’ve got!
I also took time to start projects that wouldn’t cost a lot. I began running, and used the same running outfit every single day until I ran consistently for a month- then I allowed myself a new outfit. (I seriously would wash the outfit in the sink and air dry it to reuse, dryfit Nike gear is stupid expensive.) When I ran consistently for three months, then I bought new shoes. All this time, I was also working very hard to pay off my debt, and I had to get out of the house or I’d go insane…walking my pug, Ralph, and taking 45 minutes to run, was a chore that helped me feel productive and in control of my life. It helped, a ton.
There are many ways you can be grateful and cultivate it in your life. Debt can sometimes suck the spark right out of you and send you on a total shame spiral. I started journaling as a way to vent about the crummy situation I was in, only to realize that beyond the necessary moments of venting- I didn’t feel much better unless I also took into account the good things in life I wanted more of.
I started a gratitude journal, and sometimes I could only write that I was “grateful the day was over.” Amen sister. Other days, I was grateful for “crappy boxed wine,” because, at least I had wine and a wifi connection to help make the evening somewhat comfortable? Other days were true gratitude that put my life in perspective. When I finally got an air conditioning unit for a birthday gift, I can tell you, I was never more grateful for relief in my life. My roomie and I would camp out next to the thing in the summer, and it made it into the journal consistently for months.
My debt seemed so big, my job prospects, so bleak- little things, sometimes were big things, and when I had something small to be grateful for, I made it as big as possible. Sometimes, I had to force myself to be grateful, but I got through it.
Going through debt, sucks. It really does. I hated it, HATED it. It made me hate my choices and even hate myself at times. I was so debt averse, it even made me a killjoy for much of my twenties. I was totally unfun- but I got through it. I can tell you, if you’re going through debt repayment right now, do what you have to do to stay positive and stay motivated, even if it’s weird. I’d say, ESPECIALLY if it’s weird…do it. You have to get through this, and if you can do it faster or with more positivity, even better.
Good luck to you and don’t stop kickin’ tush. 😉
Thank you for such an encouraging, informative post! I especially appreciate your including all of these resources for becoming more informed about debt and planning for a stable financial future.
I have recently gotten married and finished graduate school. However, I have built up some credit card debt in the process. I am thinking of transferring the balances on two cards to one with 15 months of 0% APR.
Your post focuses on paying off student loan debt–I’m wondering if you have thoughts on the best resources for credit card debt as well.
I’m glad you enjoyed it, Elizabeth! I don’t have experience with consumer debt, but there are plenty of other blogs out there that talk about it. Magnify Money has a few resources specifically on transfers and what to look out for. You just want to make sure you can pay off the amount before the 0% APR offer expires.
I love what you say about debt about how it dulls your sparkle because that’s literally how it feels! At the end of this year I would get this absurd feel of dread wash over me every time I thought about money.
Now that I figured it all out, I’m so much calmer and you’re right, I feel like I have my sparkle back!
Great post! I especially agree about reading. It’s always been an escape for me. When you’re having a bad day or are worn out from responsibilities, there’s nothing better than going to a different world. Fantasy, historical and sci-fi are especially good, since they don’t mirror real-life as much (I can’t tell you the nightmares I had after reading about a girl who got pregnant accidentally). We talk so much about erasing debt – I love hearing about how to live with it!
Yes- books are great for an escape!
I really like these points because they’re not just the typical “how to pay off debt” things. Thanks for sharing 🙂
I’m glad you liked them!
Thank you for this post. A lot of people, including myself find money in general hard to talk about but you’ve reassured me that I just need to put some effort it! I think I’ve finally realised that it isn’t going to fix itself.
That’s great to hear, Charlotte! Once you realize you’re in control money issues become easier to overcome as well.