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Financial Encouragement

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Financial Encouragement?

I am single and have been on a self-imposed debt repayment program for the last four years, reducing my debt from $20,000 to $5,000. According to my figures, these debts should be paid off in about one year.

This is great, but I have been having discouraging thoughts. It's been four years of pretty tight living. I do not want to charge or buy any thing extravagant. I just think I need a few words of encouragement. Has anyone else felt this way?

Be Proud of Your Accomplishments

Wow! You say you need encouragement. Would it help you to know you have encouraged me? I'm a single mother of six, and living frugally is a way of life, but I know it can get old after awhile. I have almost $20,000 of debt in one school loan left over from helping to put my ex-husband through school, and it seemed so impossible to bring down that I have been just paying what I have to each month and forgetting about it otherwise. But seeing how you brought that amount down in just a few years makes me want to start paying extra again.

Related: Be Debt-Free This Year

If nothing else, you can feel like you have accomplished something tremendous. You set a goal and stuck to it, and that calls for determination, perseverance, self-discipline, patience, consistency over the long haul, wisdom about finances, and several other skills that I bet you didn't realize you possessed. If you sat down and thought about it, you would realize that you have accomplished something much greater than just saving money. Maybe a fun thing to do now would be to take your new-found skills and apply them in a new direction. Maybe there's something you've wanted to do but didn't think you were capable of accomplishing. If you could bring down that much debt in that short of a time, just imagine what else you could do if you put your mind to it!

It's important to realize that saving money is a means to an end and not an end in itself. Money is useful for what it can do for us. Hope this is on-target for where you are. Thanks again for being a wonderful example of how to accomplish a difficult goal!

Allow Small Luxuries along the Way

I know what it is like to live on a tight budget for a long time. My suggestion is to allow yourself a small luxury every once in a while. By doing this, the tight budget won't get to your emotions as much, and you won't feel deprived. By small luxury, I mean anything from 50 cents to $10. For each person the luxury may be different. It may be allowing yourself to buy a fountain drink on the drive home, buying a book on sale instead of borrowing one from the library, or going to a matinee movie.

A Boost from a Budget Counselor

Look at what you have accomplished! My goodness, you should be so proud of yourself.

I am a budget counselor. I sit across the table from people every week struggling with the $20K of debt, not seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

Plan how your spending will change when you pay off your debt completely. Please plan to take some portion of what had been going to debt and spend it on you. Reward yourself! But do it with funds that are available, not credit. You have been through a lot, but this can be such a wonderful, freeing experience if you take what you learned and make your future so much better.

I know it sounds old fashioned, but a budget is actually a very freeing thing. It plans out your spending such that you can have "fun money" without worrying about paying the bills. If you are on a budget, that is great. If you are not, please consider getting on one. Everyone thinks a budget is for people who are struggling to pay bills. They are not. They are for everyone. They truly make your life easier, once the budget is established and going.

I don't know you, but I am very proud for you. I've been in your situation and came through it. I'm better for it. I now share my "wisdom" with others. You might want to consider doing the same.

Related: Don't Toss Your Financial Resolutions Just Yet!

Enjoy the Fruits of Your Frugality

Living on a tight budget can be discouraging, but it appears you've been doing a great job paying off your previous excesses. Only one year to go is reason for celebration, not discouragement! It seems to me you have been handed a wonderful learning opportunity, and when the debt is paid off, you will be in a great position to pay yourself and build serious savings in a relatively short period of time.

When life handed me a lemon in the guise of a disabling illness, my income plunged to one-quarter of what I formerly earned. To forestall feeling sorry for myself, I make a challenge/game out of the need to be frugal. I continually look for ways to improve and top what I've been doing. My slogan will be familiar to many: use up, re-use, and recycle.

Whenever I find name brand clothing, which formerly retailed at $70 to $100 on the clearance rack for $5 to $10, I am thrilled! Because I keep the thermostat on only about 65° in winter (60° at night), I seem to get fewer contagious illnesses as well. I dress, eat, drive and live as well (except for fancy vacations) as friends whose income is literally ten to fifteen times my own.

So congratulate yourself on your successes and enjoy the fruits of your frugality! A good life isn't dependent on the size of your pocketbook, but on the size of your heart.

Reflect on What You've Accomplished

You have done a great job paying down your debt. Now is not the time to get discouraged. You are almost there! Your goal is within reach. I'm sure that when you began your journey to become debt-free, that it must have seemed nearly impossible. For most people, it takes a lifetime to pay off $20,000 in debt. Most of us are lazy, and would have just filed bankruptcy. But you didn't. You lived frugal and hung in there. And now, you're just a year away from your goal! Surely, you have become much wiser and disciplined along the way. Now is the time to reach deep inside yourself and reflect on all that you've accomplished. Write down your feelings and this time next year you can publish a book for the rest of us!

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A Picture's Worth a Thousand Words

Congratulations, Kathy! Your self-discipline to reach your goal is very admirable. Perhaps, in addition to "words" of encouragement, a "picture" of your accomplishment might inspire you to the finish line. Prepare a colorful graph/timeline that shows your debt amount (vertical axis) decreasing over time (horizontal axis). Hang this where you will see it daily or weekly.

Now that you're coming into the home stretch of reaching this goal, you might want to begin thinking about new goals, such as saving up for a very nice vacation and researching how you can do it frugally.

Imagine Your Possibilities

Be encouraged! You are at the threshold of true freedom! Four years represents 80% of your goal already attained. Getting rid of mind-numbing, stress-inducing, anxiety-producing debt is like running a marathon. So, take a minute to refresh and rehydrate. Splurge a little on a new book or a manicure and pedicure, and continue on with the race. At the end, you will be able to say that you finished. You will be so empowered that nothing will intimidate you again in your life!

We recently paid off more than $90,000 in credit, loan, school and other debt. We looked back a lot at the balances and goals for each year and marveled at how good God has been to us at each step of the way. The worn towels and pots and pans and furniture and clothes that annoyed us so much during that time don't seem so bad now, because we know they represent our commitment and attainment of a goal that seemed so insurmountable.

Write up your new, future budget without debt and dream about the possibilities. And you are almost there! Look back at where you were and vow to never go back again. Press on toward your goal and know that your steadfastness will be rewarded. Congratulations on your faithfulness!

Your new reality in twelve short months will be to control all of your income, and owe no one unless you choose to. The peace is sweet and the absence of pressure and stress is unbelievably wonderful. Be encouraged and splurge a little while you imagine what your possibilities will be soon!

Take the Next Step

  • Find smart ways to get radical on cutting costs.
  • Stop allowing debt to cramp your lifestyle and rob you of peace of mind. The TDS ebook How to Conquer Your Debt No Matter How Much You Have can give you back both. Get started today!
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