There's nothing fun about paying off debt, but there are a ways to make the process smoother. I've faced $10,000 in consumer debt, and I repaid more than $20,000 in student loans over just 22 months. To beat these, I had to come up with strategies that turned my debt into something manageable. You can do the same thing with these three tips.
1. Make Your Progress Tangible
One of the best ways to beat the sense of disconnect from debt is to make it into something you can see and measure every day.
It may sound juvenile, but why not use your elementary school craft skills and create a paper chain where each link represents $100 of your debt? In addition to serving as conversation-starting home decor, this chain lets you literally see your debt shrink. Each time you make a payment, snip off the corresponding amount. This way, you can feel a sense of accomplishment with each payment and your decreasing debt seems a lot more palpable than numbers on a statement.
If you're not feeling particularly artsy, do what I did and keep a simple chart to track your progress instead. Seeing the line of my graph dip lower and lower each month was more satisfying than simply watching hundreds of dollars disappear from my checking account toward my student loan bills.
2. Determine Your Debt-Free Date
If you want your debt to stop feeling like a burden you'll carry forever, the easiest way is to determine your debt-free date. Look at the remaining balance you owe, then divide that by your monthly payment—you'll end up with the number of months before you're debt free.
I kept track of my debt-free date throughout my student loan repayment, updating it whenever I made any extra payments that put me ahead of schedule. Watching the date draw nearer and nearer reminded me that my indebtedness was a temporary situation, and the closer I got to it, the more comfortable I felt planning for the fun I would have in my debt-free life.
3. Find A Way To Make It Happen Faster
No matter what tips and tricks you adopt to better manage your student loans, at the end of the day, the only thing that's going to make them disappear is paying them off in full.
If you calculated your debt-free date and the term is so long you'll pay the last of your loans just as your future children take out the first of theirs, it's time to increase your payments. It doesn't take huge cash windfalls to make a dent. If you can make $40 babysitting or $100 selling stuff on eBay, putting that extra little bit toward your student debt will get you out of the hole that much faster (and let you snip an extra link off of your awesome paper chain).
Once I got going on my debt repayment, I always looked for ways to beat the balance down, sometimes making payments as small as $10. It seemed insignificant at the time, but after nearly 2 years, that little bit extra let me get to debt free even sooner than I anticipated.