There was a time when I paid off my debt too fast.
“‘Too fast,’ she says?”
“Yes. Too fast.”
For four months, I changed my lifestyle to accommodate my debt repayment goals. I wanted to pay off my car ASAP, so I could start putting more money toward my debt each month, so...
I cut back on spending.
I went cash only.
I picked up a side hustle.
Then I almost lost my mind. Almost.
My plan was great in theory, but it all went haywire with my personality. And the fact that it was winter (um, seasonal depression anyone?) and that I wasn’t taking care of myself certainly didn’t help.
Don’t let the same to happen to you.
5 Promising Ways To Lose Your Mind During Debt Repayment
Don’t Take Care of Yourself
If you want to be on the fast-track to a mental health breakdown? Avoid taking care of You.
But actually, don’t take that fast-track. That’s an awful place to go.
Instead, take care of yourself first. Take strides to nurture your physical body and your mind:
- Get outside. Get some sunshine.
- Exercise. Lift weights. Go for walks.
- Eat well. Don’t skimp on the fruits & veggies. Plan your meals and keep things simple.
- Rest. Get sleep. Get time to piddle around the house and do your laundry.
Your body needs to be in tip-top shape. Your mind needs to be sharp too.
During most of my debt repayment, I just paid more toward my debt from within my normal salary. But during my four-month, super-intense debt repayment, I took $100 out of my regular budget to put toward my car loan. When I did that, I gave myself far less freedom to go out with friends.
I took what small expenses I was used to spending — maybe $10 at the bar with friends once a week — and cut them out of my budget. Fewer dinners with friends, drinks at The Tavern, time in coffee shops.
This was detrimental to my social health. As an extrovert, it made life pretty awful.
This doesn’t have to be the case! You can take time during debt repayment to be intentional with your friends. I was so run down from working two jobs that I didn’t have the energy most of the time. But, there are ways to be social that don’t cost much.
Make time to be social and to get time with friends. You don’t have to go out to dinner, a show or take a big trip — find other creative ways to spend time together that don’t cost a fortune!
- Have “slow time” — mingle and sit on porches or play cards.
- Host a meal (something cheap, like soup).
- Gather a group for sand volleyball or a run or a bike ride or basketball.
Almost two years ago, I started a brunch group. We would host brunch at one another's’ homes, each bringing something to share. It started in my house, then others took turns hosting. It has been very fulfilling for my extroverted soul.
Missing out on your social life while paying down debt may be feasible for a short while, but if it’s going to last longer than a couple of months, your mojo may start dwindling.
Just because you’re not spending much on entertainment doesn’t mean you shouldn’t treat yourself! There are many ways to be entertained that don’t cost much (or anything!).
Some ideas for cheap entertainment:
- Go to the library — they have books, audiobooks, magazines and even movies!
- Play board games.
- Go to the local farmer’s market and just browse. (In fact, my weekly tradition is to buy a $2 black coffee and sit on The Mill patio to people watch for hours.)
- Visit bookstores and make a wish list of what you’d like to read next.
- Go to coffee shop open-mic nights.
And you know what may help even more with the whole “not losing your mind” thing? Paying for entertainment. If a $12 concert ticket to see Penny & Sparrow will be a game changer for your mental health, then do it (they put on an amazing show!). For me, I never hesitate to pay $60 for a Needtobreathe show, because I know it’s worth it.
In fact, while in debt, I've traveled to Michigan (twice), Seattle, London and New York City. All of it was worth it, even though that money wasn't going toward my debt instead.
Sometimes your debt can wait. If you’re paying it off extra-fast because you want to, then that gives you some flexibility. If you’re paying off large sums and have less flexibility, that may be a different ball game.
Paying for entertainment has its benefits. But it also has its limits (and limits are healthy).
Skip Seeing the Big Picture
Remember why you’re paying off your debt in the first place.
Don’t waste away your time paying off debt (and worrying about it) and forget to live your life.
Hours are passing. What are you doing to dig deep into Today?
Take a look at the pace you’re going to pay off your debt. Is it too grueling? Would pushing back your timeline by a few months or years help make things more sustainable for you?
I realized after four months of intense debt repayment — remember: I worked two jobs, cut back on spending money and overworked myself — that life would have been a lot sweeter if I had said, “You know, Allea, how about you take your time and pay these loans off in 6 months instead of 4?”
Life would have been much better for me.
There was no need for me to push so hard other than the “debt must die” mantra that rings so loud. Yes, debt is not fun, it screws up your monthly cash flow and you might as well take care of it sooner than later, but there are limits to what one person can handle.
Find your balance. Pick your poison. Pay off your debt responsibly. Find solutions that are sustainable. But most importantly, don’t lose your mind over it.
Don’t put everything on hold while you pay off debt. Sure, there are some things you might need to wait on, but don’t hold off on growing and developing yourself.
Challenge yourself to do something new. For me, it was guitar lessons. I paid $15 per lesson, twice a month. For $30 each month, I was growing, developing and made myself pretty darn proud.
You could pick up baking, running, knitting or memorizing every line from Pride & Prejudice. Make a list of 50 books you want to read and get started. (Or do all of that. I’m not here to stop you.)
As much as we might be exhausting ourselves with our jobs and side hustles, it’s important to find things that make us tick, get us excited and remind us that we are living, growing human beings who can rise to a challenge.
(Plus, it’s super cool when you learn to play Wide Open Spaces on guitar. It’s a coming-full-circle-from-your-childhood phenomena.)
Evaluate Your Game Plan
I pulled in the reins too tightly. I gave myself less money for fun, less time to be with friends, less time for myself. When my coping mechanism is to become over-involved, I become the Queen of Overcommitment and run myself into the ground. (Not a good cycle to be on, guys.)
I learned the hard way what imbalance with debt repayment feels like.
What's the point of paying off your debt if you can’t balance it with some me-time, a social life, a healthy body and a sharp mind to enjoy each day?