There are so many reasons to pay off debt. Maybe you want to be free from creditors. Or you want to increase your disposable income. Maybe you want to save more for things you care about like travel or a home, or maybe you straight up just want more money in the bank.
These are all very valid reasons to pay off debt. But they are “nice-to-have” reasons, not “must-haves”. They are happy and positive, but they often aren’t enough to motivate you to buckle down and pay off that debt.
When I accumulated my $38,000 worth of debt, I knew that I’d like to pay off my debt for all of the reasons listed above (and a few more), but they weren’t enough to motivate me. They didn’t put fear into me and force me to tackle my massive debt load.
No, when I finally made the commitment to pay down my debt, it wasn’t because I wanted to achieve my dreams of travel, homeownership, and freedom.
It was because I was afraid
You see, when I graduated from university in 2011, I had a ton of debt. I wasn’t worried, I had a job, and I was prepared to take the full ten years to pay my student loans back.
But then I was in a car accident, totalled my husband’s car, and broke my wrist.
Suddenly, I was in a precarious financial situation. My husband and I didn’t have enough money to replace our car, and since I use my hands to work, having a broken wrist that potentially required surgery meant I could be out of commission for several months.
Frankly, it was a scary time.
My husband and I were new graduates, we didn’t have a cash cushion to help us through this difficult period, and when we finally got through it a few months later, I vowed that I never wanted to feel like that again.
My car accident scared me straight.
I knew I wanted to improve my financial situation, and that started with getting rid of my debt because it was sucking away 25% of my take-home pay every week. I couldn’t build up a solid financial footing with my debt dragging me down, so I made a plan to pay it off.
I started by saving a small cash cushion to cover a minor emergency, and then I set about destroying my debt.
For the entire two years that I was slaying my $38,000 debt monster, I was constantly afraid.
- What if I lost my job?
- What if my newly financed car called it quits?
- What if I hurt myself and I can’t work?
- What if, what if, what if?
I was afraid of the unknown. I was scared of being in a situation where I couldn’t pay back my debts. It was a horrible feeling, but it spurred me to pay off every last penny as quickly as I possibly could.
Fear is a powerful motivator, and it’s the real reason I paid off my $38,000 debt load in two years.
After my debt was paid off, I was still worried, but with every extra dollar in the bank, with every increase in my emergency fund, that fear lessened a little bit more. I stopped worrying about minor emergencies like car repairs. Then I ceased to worry about bigger emergencies, like a car wreck.
Finally, I stopped worrying about the big ones. Things like fire, job loss, or illness. It took many years, but I can finally say fear no longer motivates me, and it’s a great feeling.
What motivates you to pay off debt?
Image Credit: Equity Bank of Minnesota