When you’re on your journey to debt-free, you might experience a moment that feels like you’ve hit a brick wall, and progress has stalled. Perhaps you can’t bring yourself to even glance at your statements to check your balance – this is debt paralysis. Unfortunately, ignoring your debt won’t make it go away. Here are five ways to get back in the game and overcome debt paralysis.
First, you have to forgive yourself for your past choices and mistakes. Getting an education is not a mistake, but maybe you could have supplemented paying for tuition with scholarships instead of student loans. Buying a car to get to work every day is not a mistake. Taking out a high-interest auto loan may not have been the best choice. Now you know, and you will do better in the future.
Next, you start doing better by removing the options for new debt. If your credit cards are paid off, you can cancel them or freeze your account. If you’re carrying credit card balances, make sure you stop using them. Save as much as you can in an emergency fund. Once you have at least $500, you can focus on your debt payments. Your emergency fund should give you some breathing room in case a situation occurs where you would want to use your credit card. If you are unable to save money, you need to review your budget for expenses to eliminate and increase your income. Once you have control over your income and budget, you will be equipped to tackle your debt.
When you have been paying off debt for a long time, but your progress has fallen by the wayside, consider reversing your process. If you were using the snowball method, switch to the avalanche method or vice versa. The snowball method is advantageous for small balances because you see results quickly. The avalanche method is better if you have a considerable balance or high-interest rates, such as the annual percentage rate (APR) on a credit card.
Making the minimum payments only get you so far. It might be time to overpay each month or make multiple payments a month. For example, it is taking graduates 21 years to repay their loans. The longer it takes, the more interest you will pay. Look at your amortization schedule, and you’ll see your payments barely put a dent in the principal. Making additional payments can reduce your interest and principal. Additionally, some companies will allow you to make your extra payments directly to your principal.
Finally, don’t forget to reward yourself. For every debt you pay off, find a way to celebrate. A YouTuber named Stacey Flowers has wine chilling in her refrigerator that she opens when she reaches certain milestones. Maybe you enjoy your favorite meal or dessert after you make your final payment. Families love to post photos on Instagram and tag Dave Ramsey when they have paid off their debts. He shares them on his page, so they get virtual back-pats from strangers all over the world.
Don’t let debt paralyze you. You will pay it back, one payment at a time.