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.
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. 😉