Five tricks for painless debt pay-off

Coins” by Randen Pederson, copyright 2007

Paying off debt can be really hard! You visualize what your life will be like when you’re finally debt-free, but that day seems like it will never come. Over here it feels like we have been paying down this one last student loan for EVER! In fact, it has been close to 20 years.

We all need some tricks up our sleeve to lighten our load and make that day come just a little sooner. Here are my top five tricks to pay off your debt a little quicker, for very little pain or effort. Let me know how they work for you!

1.Save all your change. Roll and deposit it, and put it towards your debt.

This can actually be kinda fun if you make it special. When my daughter was born, I devoted a pretty bowl to saving for her education. I did a little ritual where I “promised” all it contained would be devoted to her education. The ritual helped me to never touch what accumulated there, and I eventually deposited a little extra into her RESP.

I’ve got a really nice hand-made pottery bowl in my cupboard which I am going to take out tonight, put in a special place, and pledge its contents to our debt freedom!

2. Set up a “Simply Save” bank account, and deposit the accumulated savings into your debt account.

At my bank, we have the ability to forward a set amount to another account every time we use our debit card. We have set up a savings account into which the bank automatically deposits 50¢ each time we make a payment with our debit card. The deposit is made at the end of each day, which supplies a little slush fund for gifts and travel.

Transferring this to our loan account will speed up our debt repayment by 20-30%, saving us hundreds in extra interest payments. And the best is, we won’t feel it at all!

3. Whenever you decide not to make a purchase, immediately take that amount and put it towards the debt.

Okay, I’ll admit: this one might be a *little* painful. A recent example in my life was deciding not to order pizza. Which meant that I had to make supper. Which I didn’t want to. But I adulted hard, and made something much cheaper, and much healthier. I then logged into my online banking and made an extra payment to the loan, of the amount that we would have spent on pizza.

While it does require a bit of will-power to resist spending on extras, this technique likewise keeps your goal at the front of your mind, and may increase motivation knowing you are getting closer to your goal.

It might just be me, but this kinda feels like a little game. Forego that fancy soap? Transfer that $5 to your debt instead! It can actually reward the “pleasure centres” in your brain–replacing the “hit” you might get from a treat with something even better: progress towards your debt-free life!

4. Say it out loud

I have had so many experiences of simply stating out loud a goal or intention, and then having the universe jump on board with surprising immediacy and effectiveness. I’m sure there are some more mundane explanations for this (probably relating to mental focus and frame of reference), but I choose to think of it as a big burst of energy that partners with my own, that comes on board as soon as I say what I want out loud. Not to imply that this always happens, and certainly there are limitations, but still, I say, Why not? Why not put some faith in yourself, and some faith in the world, name your goal, and see what happens?

If you share with your family your vision of a debt-free life, it could help get them on-side. At the very least, they’ll now understand when you make home-made pizza instead of getting take-out, and then go to your computer and say “cha-ching!”

5. Blog about it.

The other day I told you about my husband saying to me, “You know the expression, ‘You’ve never had a problem that x wouldn’t fix’? Well, for you, x is a new blog.”

Here’s why I believe that’s true: Like saying something out loud, writing about something also sets your focus and names your goal. Writing about something regularly keeps it at the front of your mind. Making that writing public ups the commitment to reaching that goal. After all, you’ve just told all these people what you want to achieve. And you know what? They’re rooting for you!

We all like a good redemption story.

So, start that debt pay-off blog! Research other bloggers’ tips, and then make your own list. Soon you’ll be reading success stories–of people who’ve been where you are now, who made the journey you’re just starting out on. It’s a huge motivation to know that others have made it–and with focus, determination and vision, you will too!

So, that’s my list. If you have any painless debt pay-off tips to share, put them in the comments section!


Goals and dreams


Last night my husband said to me, “You know the expression, ‘You’ve never had a problem that x wouldn’t fix’? Well, for you, x is a new blog.”

Predictably, I started another new blog, this one with the goal of working towards a new career as a freelancer. Two days ago, that seemed like a completely realistic and marvelously perfect solution to my life. Yesterday–less than 24 hours later–I was already having doubts.

The truth is: I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up.

My instinct tells me this is one of the biggest myths of adulthood: that we’ve got it in the bag. From where I sit, I just don’t think we’ve got “it” at all, and we can’t seem to find the bag anyway.

Back in 2009 when I started this blog, I used it as a tool to work towards staying home with my kids. I planned my meals and cloth diapered and nursed two kids and made my own bread and laundry detergent, and lots and lots and lots more.

And we made it work. Somehow, between my domestic machinations and my husband’s career growth, we went from two incomes, to one income plus maternity leave pay, to one income plus a half-time income, minus childcare costs, to one plus a half-time maternity leave pay, to–finally–one income living.

On that one income, we went from car-free urban apartment renters with two little wee kids, to car-owning home-owners in a much smaller town, with two bigger kids. Until some big changes happened, bringing us to today: two incomes (though we both work less than 40 hours/week), and two kids in school. We are so fortunate that we made it through the transition of job loss so smoothly: our blessings are many!

Goals and Dreams

I guess you could say we’ve hit a bit of a stride by now, a year and a half after the big changes hit. I have been at my job now for over a year, and with experience, it gets easier. My husband is in a job that uses many of his skills. And the kids are happy every day when they burst out of the school doors into our waiting arms–and yes, we can *both* be at pick-up, almost every day. Plus, we get to walk to school and work, often all together as a family.

There are so many blessings. I mean, I have SO MUCH! A house, car, a beautiful family, both immediate and extended, a garden, and a cat. I walk to work, have enough healthy food to eat & feed my family, and I am healthy and able. I have kind friends and a wonderful church, and my freedom. Running water–both kinds! Safety and democracy! Shouldn’t I be happy?

But I am going to whisper my sinful, shameful secret:

still ache to be at home more, to do more of *my own* thing, and less of *someone else’s* thing.

Maybe it’s an INFP thing, or maybe it comes from a shameful lack of gratitude. In any case, there’s something about my life that itches like an ill-fitting sweater.

All I know is that in order to move forward, I need to have options. In order to increase our options:

We need to pay off our debts.

So, as of today I am re-harnessing the power of my blog! Not a new blog, but this good old blog that’s been with me through so many changes and challenges, losses and triumphs. This old blog that already has wonderful loyal followers, interesting SEO, and a lot of content that’ll be good for me to revisit!

Anyway, since 2009, I’ve never had a problem that *this blog* couldn’t fix!

One Step Closer

At midnight this morning, we became one step closer to being debt free. We paid off the last part of the loan for my partner’s Bachelor’s degree. This is just starting to sink in, but what it means is that we have made significant progress.We have lived frugally and consciously for about a year. We have stuck to our plan. Our efforts to pay attention, make changes, and follow our priorities have paid off.

What it means is that we now have $300 per month that we can snowball into the payments for his M.A.. It means the end is in sight. It means we will also have the flexibility of not putting that monthly $300 towards debt if we really need it some time.

We’ve been able to change our ways with money–largely over this past year–prioritizing paying off debt and saving money over travelling or buying stuff. It’s starting to sink in that we’re capable of making a plan and following through.

A year is a long time and a short time. In this past year, we’ve paid off our credit cards and line of credit, and two student loans. Just think what we can do in five years or ten. What about in fifteen-ish years, around when our kids will (hopefully) graduate from high school?  It feels good to hope that we can accomplish what we set out to achieve. It feels great to have faith in ourselves, for a change.

Some Confessions & Reasons for this Blog

This past month we’ve been very frugal.  Almost penny-pinching, I’d say.  We’ve had a high percentage of zero-dollar-days, and we’ve been very organized around meals and lunches.  I think we deserve a pat on the back!

I should go back a little and explain why the crackdown.  In early May, my daughter and I went to Scotland.  Yup–International Travel!  And no, we didn’t go on points or get some amazing deal on our trip; we just went.  We did have a free place to stay and free meals apart from lunches out, and without that our trip would have been impossible, but it broke the bank, totally.

And to make matters worse, my dear husband, who was left home alone while I was galavanting in the Scottish midlands, consoled himself by going out for dinner and drinks nearly every single night!  I kindof understand why; I would need a little cheering up too if my husband went away on some fun vacation while I minded the fort back home . . . but it still made difficult matters even worse.

Of course I have reasons for going on this improperly budgeted-for trip.  I’m pregnant, and have a 2-year old, and I have a good friend whose family lives just outside Edinburgh.  She’s been inviting me to come visit for years, and this time, when she had to go back for a wedding I thought, “Well, if it’s not now, it might well be never!”  I can’t imagine either doing this with two little ones, or even leaving one behind.  Also my mom really wanted to go, and the timing just seemed right.

We were very good with our Pounds while we were there, and didn’t go crazy with souveniers or anything, but still, I managed to use a fair bit of spending money.

So, I get back and see that our bank account has been bleeding while I was away, and this on top of our line of credit, and our credit card balance . . . we needed to react swiftly and strongly.  Hence the blog.  Hence the intense frugality.  Hence the search for every little way I can find to save money, at least until we can pay our bills and get rid of a couple of our debts & headaches.

People might read this blog and think “I should be more frugal.  I should be better with my money.” But really, I think, if you don’t need to be because of some crisis, don’t beat yourself up about it.  If you’ve got your head above water, if you’re in the black, you deserve to relax about money.  I’m not saying go crazy, but if you don’t have to spend every day asking, “Did we spend zero dollars today?” then don’t worry too much about it.

There are better things to do with your life than think about money all the time.