There are many different ways to get yourself out of debt – like creating multiple income streams, selling possessions, living below your means, and going without a lot of comforts you were used to. But when you change your life so drastically, at a certain point, you might start to get tired of concentrating so hard on your debt. This is called debt fatigue.
Debt fatigue is a mental state that can happen when you’ve been in debt for so long that you think you’ll never dig yourself out of the hole you’ve created for yourself. Financial expert Gail Vaz-Oxlade often tells people on her television shows to try and make a plan to get out of debt in 36 months or less – because anything more than three years, and you’ll likely suffer from some form of debt fatigue.
I was in debt for years – from age 19 to 24, but I only actively cared about eliminating my debt for 12 months. Near the end, I could feel myself slipping (and that was after less than a year!). I remember I was just a few thousand dollars away from being debt-free, and then I bought a $3,000 iMac computer. What? Yeah. I was sick of living such a limiting, frugal lifestyle, and it took a lot to remind myself of the path I was on, and how much better my life would be once I got out of debt.
Related: Can lifestyle inflation be avoided?
Being extremely money conscious all of the time can really put a strain on your quality of life. Because I never had a great relationship with money, once I got myself out of debt, I really struggled to find a balance between spending and saving. It took me a very long time to come up with a budget I could live with, and I still find it hard today – which is why I track my spending on a weekly and monthly basis here at GMBMFB.
So if getting out of debt seems impossible, and it seems like it’s too hard for you to deal with, don’t give up and revert back to your old spending habits. Here are some suggestions on how you can fight debt fatigue:
Keep in mind the big picture
It can be really, really easy to fall into the habit of feeling sorry for yourself when you’re on a strict budget. Especially when you find yourself working a part-time job on Friday and Saturday evenings, when you could be out with your friends instead – trust me, I’ve been there. I worked minimum wage jobs for years – it helped me get out of debt, and save for a down payment on my first home.
When you’re trying to get out of debt, holding onto the impression that you are depriving yourself will only bring you down and make it harder to stay on track. It helps to create a list of both short-term and long-term goals for your debt-free life. Then, whenever you start to feel yourself slipping, you can remind yourself of your goals, and how amazing it will feel once you achieve them.
Think of your debt-free life
Take a few minutes to think about what being debt-free will mean to you. Whenever I started to feel tired during my journey out of debt, I kept in mind all of the positives that were waiting for me once I got there – like sleeping better at night, being able to afford a vacation, owning a home in the future, starting a life with someone, and most importantly – freedom. Not having to stress out about where the rent money was going to come from, or how I was going to pay for groceries? That was something I was really looking forward to, and unfortunately, it’s something I sometimes take for granted now. It wasn’t that long ago where I had to shuffle money around just to make ends meet, and it’s good to be reminded of that.
It’s okay to celebrate financial milestones when you’re getting out of debt. Whether it’s paying off a credit card, or getting your total debt down to a certain threshold, make sure you give yourself a little bit of wiggle room to treat yourself – within your means, of course. I used to treat myself with ice cream cones. :)
What are your goals once you become debt-free? Many people are visually motivated, so creating a collage of photos or a vision board is a great way to stay on track. Social media websites like Pinterest and Trippy make it easy to save and share photos with friends. So whether you’re looking forward to a trip to Europe, owning a home, or starting a family once you get out of debt, start cutting out photos or pinning images of your goals.
Don’t beat yourself up
Nobody is perfect. So if you slip or make a mistake, the worst thing you can do is give up. Don’t wait until the following month to get back on track (I’m super guilty of waiting for a milestone to “start fresh” with my goals if I haven’t been doing well). Just pick yourself up, learn from your mistake, and keep going as quickly as possible.
Have you ever suffered from debt fatigue before?
I’m talking about a lot of debt. Like, $40,000+ in student loans, or thousands of dollars in credit card debt – without a solid plan to get themselves out. Or what if you’re a saver, and they’re a spender?
It’s obvious that the financial habits of your significant other can play a huge role in defining what kind of life you would have with that person – both short-term and long-term. But are poor financials a big enough reason to eliminate someone as a potential mate? According to a new survey by Match.com, almost half of Canadians would not date someone who is in debt. At all. That’s huge.
Now, I usually don’t write about press releases or surveys that I get sent, but I thought this one was fun, and also pretty interesting. Here are a few more results:
- 57% of singles have stopped dating because of their own lack of money.
- 50% of singles have stopped dating someone else because of a partner’s lack of money.
- 75% of singles would not borrow money from a partner
- 42% of singles say they have lent money to a partner in the past
Related: Could you ever marry for money?
I’ve dated guys in the past with wildly different financial histories and ways of managing money. One was extremely frugal, to the point where it was sometimes frustrating. One was incredibly bad with his money, and didn’t seem to think it was an issue. One had a weakness for expensive cars. One had more money than he knew what to do with.
I think that I could date someone with a moderate amount debt, as long as they had a reasonable plan in place to get themselves out of debt.
But there are definitely big differences in the type of debt that someone has.
For example, maybe you’d date someone that had $12,000 in credit card debt, but had a plan to be debt-free within a year.
But would you date someone that had just $5,000 in credit card debt (and was currently sinking further into debt), but had no plan (and no means) to pay it off? Maybe. Maybe not.
Would you date someone with $100,000 in student loans, knowing that their debt would likely have a significant effect on the timing of buying a house, getting married, having children, travel, etc?
When I was $20,000+ in the hole, I hope nobody would have dismissed me as a potential match just because of my financial situation. I knew my debt was a burden, but I had a plan to get myself out of that mess. And it definitely would have been nice if I had found the courage to confide in my partner at the time about my debt (and the serious stress I had because of it). But instead, I hid it because I was ashamed. However, if I had $200,000 in debt, maybe that’d be a different story. I would never want my debt to hold someone else back from achieving their goals in life.
And it’s not just being in debt as a potential factor in determining whether someone is (financially) compatible. Debt is just part of it. I think it’s important to have open discussions about money, debt, and goals on a regular basis – and if that doesn’t happen, regardless of the person’s financial situation – in my opinion, the relationship is likely doomed from the start.
Could you date someone who has debt?
Congrats on graduating! :) Be proud of yourself and all that you have accomplished so far. It must feel good to be done with school, right? After all those final exams, essays, and assignments, you’re now enjoying the freedom of summer. But for those of you moving onto post-secondary school, there’s a lot to think about. Your parents have probably tried to talk to you about “your future,” but since it’s hard to listen to parents sometimes, maybe this letter from me might help instead.
Since I was the older sister, and one of the oldest cousins in my family, I didn’t have many people to get advice from. I made a lot of mistakes over the years, and I had to learn the hard way. But now that I’m closing in on 30 (or the first anniversary of my 29th birthday), hopefully I can offer you the words of wisdom I wish I had been given when I was your age.
We all know that we should be putting some of the money we earn – whether it’s through a part-time job or gifted money – into a savings account. But it’s not just something adults do – it’s something we all need to be doing as soon as we start to buy things on our own.
You don’t need to make big bucks to open up a savings account – just start small. If you only think you can save $10 from each pay cheque, that’s okay. Putting that money into the bank is the smartest thing you can do for yourself. While it might not seem like much, you’re developing the habit of saving money, and that’s what’s really important.
Think ahead in life – past university
What will you do with your degree? How will you earn a living and pay back your student loans?
So many of my friends went to University for degrees in subjects that they were interested in – not degrees that they could cultivate into work after they graduated. It’s great to be passionate about what you’re studying, but you have to be realistic. Have a plan of attack.
Whatever it is you’re majoring in – understand what kind of jobs you can get from those degrees, and make sure it’s what you want to be doing when you graduate. If you’re a communication major, what are you going to do with that degree? Sure, it’s a fun topic to learn about every day, but how will you make money with that degree? What kind of job can you get, and will you be able to make the sort of money you will need to pay back your loans, and live the life you want for yourself?
I know it’s hard to think about right now, but you really need to be smart about an education that will likely put you tens of thousands of dollars into debt. Remember – education is only an investment if you can develop a career out of it.
Understand how student loans work
If you are applying for student loans, once you are approved, you might notice that the value of your loans will usually far exceed the cost of your tuition. Free money, right!? Wrong. Student loans are not free money. You will eventually have to pay it back (and yes, you will be charged interest on the loan), so be smart with how you spend that leftover money. I blew through my student loan money every semester, ended up having to take out a line of credit, maxed out my credit card, and then had to fix the mess I had created once I graduated. Don’t make the same mistakes as me.
Be careful with credit cards
Those free t-shirts and frisbees that credit card companies try to offer students sure are tempting, aren’t they? I fell for one when I was a student. I received a free t-shirt right away, and a few months later, I received a maxed out credit card bill in the mail. That card sat maxed out for years. YEARS. So that free t-shirt ended up being totally worth it, right?
A credit card can help you start to build a credit history – which you will need for many things later on in life. But it will only be a benefit if you use your credit card responsibly. Being reckless and keeping a balance on your card, missing payments, and getting into consumer debt will only make your life more difficult and stressful. Make a budget, and don’t buy things that you cannot afford to pay off immediately.
Work while you go to school
Having a part-time job while you go to school is a smart idea for most students. Not only will you have to take out less student loans, but you could potentially graduate with little to no student debt at all. If you’re worried about a part-time job being too hard while taking full-time classes, there is no law that says your post-secondary education must take 4 years. If taking a little longer means you won’t have to borrow any money, then do it.
The extra year or two it might take to finish your degree will be worth it when you graduate debt-free, and your peers are saddled with student loan debt for the next decade. Nothing feels better than landing your first “real world” job, and knowing all of that money belongs to you – and not the government.
Consider community colleges
Try not to dismiss community colleges. A lot of them offer great hands-on programs not offered at universities. After going to a university for 2 years, I ended up going to a community college instead. The program at college provided me with a much more hands-on education. Instead of sitting in a lecture hall, I gained real-world experience working and learning beside industry professionals, and I truly believe my community college education is what sets me apart from other people in my field.
Plus, not only is a community college much, much cheaper than a university, but many of the courses will transfer into a university degree program. Some colleges work in partnership with local universities, where you can do your first 2 years before transferring to do your last 2 years at the university.
I wish you the best of luck in your studies come September, or whenever you decide to go to post-secondary school. Study hard, don’t take anything for granted, and have fun. :)
P.S. yes, that really is a picture of me from my high school graduation celebration!
- How I landed my first job out of college
- How much should you save before moving out
- My student line of credit disaster
- Are teenagers out of touch with reality?
What advice do you have for today’s high school students?