Don’t Burn Out on the Road to Debt Reduction

We set out with the best of intentions: we’re going to stick to the budget this time, cook every meal at home, and pay off our debt in record time.

At first we do great! We’re pumped.

But…then we pass our favorite restaurant on the way home one day after work. We’re tired, and hungry, and we just don’t feel like cooking. So we stop and pick up takeout. The next day comes, and a bill we’d forgotten about shows up. We figure we’ve already blown the budget, so what’s one more thing?

Before we know it, it’s the end of the month and things are kind of a disaster. So we chuck it all, and tell ourselves that we’re probably just always going to have debt.

Those are the kinds of things that will cause you to burn out on the road to debt reduction. Trying to stick to completely unrealistic expectations gets you nowhere fast.

Having unrealistic expectations regarding debt reduction is pretty common. Those are what I call paper goals — goals that look doable on paper, but reality never seems to match up with the paper. Most people just can’t spend every single extra penny on debt reduction for an extended period, no matter how dedicated they are. You will slip up. Slipping up is part of being human.

So build in little treats for yourself, in whatever way works out best for you. You could try scheduling them on specific days so that you have something to look forward to, or planning on a certain number or amount per week or month, etc.

Inexpensive fun helps keep you sane and rested, so that you can focus on getting out of debt — without getting burnt out.


  • Sound advice there! How many times I’ve told myself ‘ok, we’re not eating out this week’ and then, you realize at 5p.m., “I don’t want to the dishes, then chop, then cook…. I can order pizza or we can go out for a steak.”

    You can’t go from eating out 3 days a week to nothing at all. Slip-ups are bound to happen but it’s how we recover from t hem. Instead of saying ‘Well, I already screwed up. Let’s order pizza for now”, it should be “I screwed up, but that was yesterday. Let me prepare a meal tonight”.

    Inexpensive fun, like you said, will keep you sane!

  • I am thankfully not in any kind of debt but I imagine it can be a long and painful process. It is probably best not to beat ourselves up over it and get it taken care of slow, sweeping strides. Good advice!

    • Steven, I can’t wait til I’m completely debt free as well. It can definitely be a long process, but steady progress wins the race.

  • Definitely one thing you must have in your debt reduction plan is a rewards system. Every penny helps you get out of debt faster, but enjoying life helps you enjoy life better. Even if it is a small reward, it will be motivating!

  • Kris, I couldn’t agree more.