How do You Stay Focused?

Sometimes it feels like we’ll never be debt-free. I’m having one of those weeks where I can see the path ahead, and I’m tired of walking it. I know that we’ll be challenged to keep paying off debt over the summer. But instead of bucking up and feeling more resolve, and that “gazelle intensity” Dave Ramsey and his fans talk about I feel like I want to curl up in the fetal position in the bed and stay there for 6 days. Coincidentally the same day I leave on my trip.

Usually, my solution to this feeling of bleak pessimism is to run some numbers.   Seeing our net worth grow, and our debt decrease, over the course of the next month always puts me back on track. But I don’t see that happening in the next month.

We have our trip coming up, and while my ticket is paid for and our other expenses are within the budget I set, we will be putting our debt repayment on hold for a month or two. We won’t be making an backwards progress (I hope), but we won’t be moving forward by much either.

We also have several other things on the horizon that will cost major moolah, so I’m trying to figure out how we’ll fit those into the budget.

The Big Expenses

1) Our trip: estimated cost $1,500

Hotel is the highest cost here.   While I’m a bit of a foodie, I will likely buy lunches at the restaurants I want to try and we’ll eat at some of the cheaper restaurants or cafes while we are together. (for part of the trip I get to be solo!) The exception will be one nice dinner which we aren’t paying for. The other expenses include public transportation costs, any activities we decide to do (I’ve budgeted about $250 for this), and gifts for the kids. The temptation is to throw caution to the wind and just spend whatever, so I padded the budget by $300 just in case.

2) Car Maintenance: estimated cost $600-$750

I need new tires and new brakes for my car. We just did this for the hubby’s car, and I don’t think we’ll have to do it again for another 2-3 years, thank goodness. I plan to shop around, but this will still be around $600 at the least.

3) Gym Membership: estimated cost $289

In an effort to get more fit, lose a bit of weight, and have access to a pool for the summer I’m contemplating joining the local YMCA which we can walk to. It seems like a no-brainer since the summer membership is only $289 for our family of 6, but that’s still a lot of money. I just have to wonder if my health and sanity is worth it? I will likely add swimming lessons for the kids as well, since the 7 and 5 year old are super close to learning how to swim.

4) Camp for 2 Kids: estimated cost $300

There is a camp I want to send the 2 littlest ones to for a week. It’s at my youngest’s preschool, and I think it will be good for her to take her little brother and show him around before he attends next year.

5) Fence for the yard: estimated cost $5,000

Fencing in the yard is high on our list of home improvements mainly so we can let the dog run around without him being in danger of running into the street. I was hoping we could do the work ourselves, but we likely won’t have time until Fall. Then again, that gives us plenty of time to save up!

The kicker is if we were debt free none of these expenses would hurt as much as they do, but I guess that’s the point. I wonder if everyone who goes through paying off debt feels this way? It’s not easy for me, I really just want to be on the other side of it talking about how we succeeded. I think mainly my fear comes from knowing in the past we’ve paid off all our debt in the past only to rack it back up again. This is a major lifestyle change, and I’m still trying to wrap my head around it.

Trying to look on the bright side, here’s what we’re doing right. Listing it out makes me feel slightly better.

What we’re doing right:

1) Paying more than the minimum.

We’re focused one one debt at a time, but we’re not paying the minimum on anything. I just round up slightly. Every little bit helps.

2) Not adding additional debt.

We have not been adding to our debt (other than using one card to pay for expenses and paying them off at the end of the month). No plans for any large purchases, and our spending is (mostly) under control.

3) Keeping expenses low, while maintaining some money for fun stuff.

I have always budgeted too strictly in the past, so my current plan is to pad things a bit, and have a “grace” category. That way any little things or unexpected expenses are taken care of. We also include eating out in our food budget, allowances for everyone, and entertainment. (once a month movies, and Netflix)

4) Keeping tabs on future expenses and planning for them.

I keep a spreadsheet with known, expected expenses like the fence, the bathroom remodel we’d like to do, and other things on it. It helps keep me focused, and it gives me a timeline for when those expenses will be possible.

When I posted about how I was feeling on twitter, I got some great responses. (this is why twitter rocks!)

@21stcenturydad Sometimes we need to get mad at debt once in a while. Keep pushing through! You can do it!

@GetOutOfDebtGuy Don’t give up. It’s OK if you take a step back from time to time. That’s life. Baby steps.

@mrsmicah focus on small victories. focus on other things that are going well (as long as I don’t fall completely off track)

How do you maintain a positive outlook, or positive focus while you are/were paying off debt or saving for a goal? Any and all tips are appreciated.

Kelly

About Kelly


is the founder of The Centsible Life, a blog where motherhood and money meet. Her goal is to help readers live well on less. Kelly is a mom to 4, and loves that she can stay at home with her kids, and still pursue her passions for writing, personal finance, and social media. You can often find her on twitter and Facebook talking money and motherhood.

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  • http://www.DebtFreeAdventure.com Matt Jabs

    My wife & I get antsy too…it is not natural to do what all of us are doing.

    We work are butts off, then watch every dime go out the window toward debt repayment…grinds the gears!

    I suggest what you have already mentioned, & that is to take a break every once in awhile by just paying minimums on debt payments, then treating yourselves with a nice trip or whatever.

    Hopefully you can be encouraged by the fact that we’re in the same boat and are fighting the same fight. Just keep your eyes on the prize Kelly! Eventually we’ll all be saving tons!

  • http://www.DebtFreeAdventure.com/ Matt Jabs

    My wife & I get antsy too…it is not natural to do what all of us are doing.

    We work are butts off, then watch every dime go out the window toward debt repayment…grinds the gears!

    I suggest what you have already mentioned, & that is to take a break every once in awhile by just paying minimums on debt payments, then treating yourselves with a nice trip or whatever.

    Hopefully you can be encouraged by the fact that we’re in the same boat and are fighting the same fight. Just keep your eyes on the prize Kelly! Eventually we’ll all be saving tons!

  • Wendy

    I am in the curl in a fetal position/panic attack mood every couple of weeks. Like you, I am taking the right steps, but it can be painful. I just look at my balances, close my eyes, and dream of how cool I will feel when I don’t have to send money to Cap One every month and I can tell them to pound sand. Hopefully I can pull this off without a total money meltdown. Best of luck to all of us!

  • Wendy

    I am in the curl in a fetal position/panic attack mood every couple of weeks. Like you, I am taking the right steps, but it can be painful. I just look at my balances, close my eyes, and dream of how cool I will feel when I don’t have to send money to Cap One every month and I can tell them to pound sand. Hopefully I can pull this off without a total money meltdown. Best of luck to all of us!

  • http://getoutofdebt.org Steve Rhode

    I’m really happy to see that you are budgeting fun into your debt reduction plan. Awesome!

  • http://getoutofdebt.org/ Steve Rhode

    I’m really happy to see that you are budgeting fun into your debt reduction plan. Awesome!

  • http://mrsmicah.com Mrs. Micah

    Summer is a discouraging time for our debt repayment too, because Micah only gets paid while he’s teaching. It’s good for his dissertation that he’s taking time off to write and we hope he’ll be done by the end of summer–but it’s still discouraging.

    Sounds like you’re doing everything right, though! Paying more than minimum, keeping spending under control where you can, not taking on new debt. Hope you have a fantastic summer!

    • Kelly

      @Mrs. Micah, writing a dissertation is a ton of work, but so worth it. You’ll both be so relieved when it’s over! Thanks for the encouragement!

      @Steve, definitely have to have some fun! We want to make sure the kids don’t have to deal with the same feelings we’re having.

      @Wendy, I totally understand where you are coming from. I have a big spreadsheet on the wall and take great relish in marking off debt as we pay it down.

      @Matt thanks for the support! I know I’m not alone in theory but it’s hard to remember. The hubby had to finally say no more money talk and worry until our trip is over, then we can penny pinch, and we’ll feel great doing it! You keep it up too! It WILL be worth it. My only complaint, I wish I had started earlier!

  • http://mrsmicah.com/ Mrs. Micah

    Summer is a discouraging time for our debt repayment too, because Micah only gets paid while he’s teaching. It’s good for his dissertation that he’s taking time off to write and we hope he’ll be done by the end of summer–but it’s still discouraging.

    Sounds like you’re doing everything right, though! Paying more than minimum, keeping spending under control where you can, not taking on new debt. Hope you have a fantastic summer!

    • Kelly

      @Mrs. Micah, writing a dissertation is a ton of work, but so worth it. You’ll both be so relieved when it’s over! Thanks for the encouragement!

      @Steve, definitely have to have some fun! We want to make sure the kids don’t have to deal with the same feelings we’re having.

      @Wendy, I totally understand where you are coming from. I have a big spreadsheet on the wall and take great relish in marking off debt as we pay it down.

      @Matt thanks for the support! I know I’m not alone in theory but it’s hard to remember. The hubby had to finally say no more money talk and worry until our trip is over, then we can penny pinch, and we’ll feel great doing it! You keep it up too! It WILL be worth it. My only complaint, I wish I had started earlier!

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