Budgeting and setting on a course to pay off your debt and save money is a great thing. You’ll improve your ability to weather a storm and increase your credit rating. In turn, this will mean that it costs you less to borrow money – be it for a car, a house, or finally getting your master’s degree. In the end, you end up with more cash and more options for your life.
The momentum is great when you first begin budgeting. With grand ideas and mapped out plans, you calculate you can pay off your debt in three years, for example – and everything starts out just fine. You stick to your budget, cut corners where you can, and slowly start to rebuild your finances. You feel almost a rush that you have started to take care of your finances and saving money becomes almost a game – at first.
Before long, that momentum fades, especially if you owe a lot of money or barely make enough to cover your bills, and suddenly living on a budget feels like an unhappy chore. You focus on all the things you can’t afford to do or buy – but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Especially if you have a lot of debt, setting milestones is important. It helps keep you on track and gives you something on which to gauge your progress. Think of it like passing a milestone on the highway. You know you are putting mile after mile behind you but it feels great when you see you are only 10 miles from your destination – milestones are like that.
Start small. Remember, steps are just as important no matter how large or small. For instance, if you maxed out your credit card, try setting a milestone to free up $100 in credit. Likewise, you could try to boost your bank account by $500, increase your savings account by $50, or pay down your student loan by $1,000.
It is a small thing but if you keep at it, it will just be a matter of time before that debt disappears.
Once you reach a milestone, treat yourself. This is a type of positive reinforcement and can really help you associate paying off your debt as a good thing – even something to look forward to – but what do you do when your idea of a “treat” is a night on the town with your besties?
Admittedly, it can be tricky to treat yourself while still keeping your budget in check, but it isn’t impossible. You just have to get creative.
Ideally, your “treat” should be something you can budget out as opposed to something that will hit your bank account, so think less about what you can buy and more about what you can do. Using the example above, don’t think about how many drinks you can afford to buy. Instead, invite your friends over. Sharing a bottle of wine over your kitchen table isn’t really any different from having a drink at the bar – the only change is the venue. You won’t laugh any less.
Need other ideas for celebrating on the cheap? Try visiting a museum or exploring a different section of town, or just relax in a bubble bath – whatever feels like you are spoiling yourself and doesn’t cost more than your budget allows.
Getting your finances on track can be exhausting. It is a hard thing to think about the money you owe, the lack of cash in your pocket, and the inability to charge something if you had to – but every little step toward saving money is a step in the right direction. Be good to yourself and treat yourself for your efforts.
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