You know the formula – spend less than you earn and use the difference to pay down debt, utilizing the snowball method for maximum effectiveness. This is an excellent recipe for debt repayment.
You rock that first month of debt repayment, seeing a real drop in your loan balance. Month two sees some progress, but you’re feeling wary from the deprivation of drastically cutting expenses. By the third month, it just seems easier to leave the debt repayment behind and move on with your life. Life is too short, right?
Been there, done that. My family was plagued by student and consumer loans for years. Although we knew we should work on paying them off, the sheer amount of debt was so overwhelming, it didn’t even seem worth it. How would we ever make headway with that amount of debt with our five-figure income?
Eventually we set our goal and worked together on chipping away at it a little at a time and, though it took time, we are now debt free (except the mortgage, see below).
Recently we’ve been talking about paying off the mortgage. For two years, we’ve talked about it, discussed ways to earn some extra money, and talked about it some more.
But that’s all it’s been – a lot of talk and no action. At the end of the month, after savings and bills are covered, there never seems to be extra.
Something recently lit a fire under our arses and got us moving – we publicly stated our goal of paying off the mortgage. And wow, does that ever provide incentive!
Since the day we decided to make the announcement on the blog, we’ve been hustling on craigslist and ebay, desperate to come up with any extra money to throw at this goal.
The one thing that got us to stop talking and start taking action?
Gail Matthews of Dominican University performed research on strategies for accomplishing goals. She found that individuals who wrote down their goals, the actionable steps to reaching those goals and created accountability through a friend/family member were, statistically, much more likely to accomplish their goals.
Not only did the most successful group in the study inform their accountability friend about their goal, they provided weekly progress reports as an added incentive to continue moving forward.
Writing down the goal and the action steps needed to reach the goal is the important first step to success. These written action steps provide the road map for the progress reported to the accountability friend.
You can write down your goals to your heart’s content, but if you aren’t accountable to anyone other than yourself, success is less likely.
How to Create Accountability
Tell a friend, family member, or accountability buddy
Choose a reliable person as your accountability friend, one that is interested, but also responsible and positive to help keep you on track. Inform your chosen friend of the overarching goal, along with the action steps needed to get there. Schedule a time each week to provide them a status report on your progress.
Start a blog or use social media to publicly announce and track progress
As I’ve recently discovered, announcing your goal to the world is a powerful incentive to get moving. Use a blog or social media to announce your goal, your action steps, and your timeline for reaching that goal. Commit to reporting your progress on a regular basis – weekly or monthly progress reports work well.
Keep a chart of progress
Charting your progress can be a fun way to visually track your progress. Though I wouldn’t recommend using this method alone, charts are useful tools for reporting progress.
Don’t get discouraged if a week goes by and your chart shows little progress. Just pick back up the next week and get that chart moving in the right direction.
Join a group
Organized groups of people with goals similar to your own are an excellent way to stay accountable, as long as you meet, or check in, regularly with the group.
Weight Watchers is a great example of a support group with the accountability factor built right in. Check for groups of interest in your area (check out meetup.com).
Don’t have debt payoff or personal finance group in your area? Start one! You would be surprised at the number of folks with goals similar to your own that would be grateful for the opportunity to share and work on their goals.
Any number of these strategies can be combined for better results. Do them all and you will have your debt repayment goal knocked out more quickly than you imagined!