That’s me, age 3, holding my hands to my face in disbelief (a common expression).

Remember when you were young, and holding a crisp five-dollar bill made you feel like royalty? You could barely keep yourself together before slamming that money down in front of the cashier in exchange for your favorite candy.

Later, as a teenager, you leave the house with 20 bucks—a few bucks in the gas tank of your 18-year-old car, a few more on a movie ticket, and your remaining singles on the popcorn. Twenty bucks bought a little freedom and independence (and fake butter).

In college, you don’t have a car; you hoard cereal in your dorm stolen from the dining hall; and you live on Lucky Charms, macaroni and cheese, 99-cent pizzas, and cheap beer. You get a part-time job so you can live off-campus and buy more expensive beer, but you still call your mom to help pay for the clothes you’ll need for your teaching internship.

That may not sound familiar, but I’m sure we all have similar stories where even a little money felt like a lot, and it left our hands almost immediately. There was no room for long-term, at least not the way I viewed the financial world at the various stages of my life. Now, at 29 years old, I’ve said goodbye to the lifestyle creep that comes with the first post-undergraduate jobs, and I’m trying to keep only the long-term in mind.

It’s been almost two months since I shared my financial woes on this blog. Since then, I’ve been able to pay off a little over $1700 in debt. To the child, teen, and college versions of myself, $1700 would have felt like a ridiculous amount of money–so much money I wouldn’t know what to do with it! Now, $1700 feels like it barely puts a dent into the damage I’ve done. After all, it’s only 4% of my debt. The other 96%  sounds so far away, and my motivation if waning.

This post isn’t like the others, where I end with some grand conclusion and sweeping declaration. It’s to pose a question:

How do you maintain motivation when you’re still in the debt-destruction phase?

Some helpful and inspiring reads:

I thought the rest of my life would include more spending, more bills, more collection calls and more stress.

The Get Out of Debt Free Post
Courtney Carver

Turns out that I’d been running as fast as I could in the wrong direction.

Debt Free
Joshua Fields Millburn

Rule #1: If you’re trying to get out of a hole, stop digging.

The 10 Key Actions That Finally Got Me Out of Debt
Leo Babauta

No magic, no quick fixes, no debt consolidation, or bankruptcy filing. Just persistent sacrifice.

33 Proven Ways to Reduce Personal Debt
Gina and Josh Masters via Joshua Becker

It may feel like you’re riding a tricycle in the Tour de France, but you can move forward!

Featured Blogger Budget: Jennifer from Ditching our Debt
Jennifer via Mark (the bare budget guy)

To say it was stressful would be like saying this winter in Boston has been chilly.

Banish Debt Like a Boss: Demystifying Personal Finance Part 2
Kim Parr via Mr. & Mrs. Frugalwoods

I’ll never forget the grin that was glued to my face for the rest of that day.

What a Year of Being Debt Free Has Taught Me
Cait Flanders


  1. I too find it so interesting how money seems to leave our hands so quickly!
    I can empathize with the feeling of hardly making a dent in your debt, but you can only do what you can do today – $1700 is a great start. Thanks for sharing some of these quotes, especially the one about there being no magic fixes. I just recently read a book called The Power of Broke by Daymond Johns (of Shark Tank fame) and he said that sometimes, having money is one of the worst things that can happen to a business, because if they are already making mistakes, money only makes it easier to make those mistakes. When you don't have as much money, it forces you to consider other ways of moving forward and to examine how well you're living your life (or not). I will be totally glad to be rid of this debt, but in the meantime, I don't want to miss the lessons that come with having less money.

  2. Hi Jenni! Thank you for your comment.

    It's nice to know there are others still in the middle of getting rid of their debt. Reading success stories is really inspiring, but sometimes we need to feel like we're trudging through this together.

    I agree that, if we can adopt the mindset of having less money, we'll force ourselves to get creative. Some days, I try to pretend I'm still making only $18,000 a year to see how creative I can get! I will say that embracing minimalism has been incredibly helpful. If you haven't already, I would suggest reading a little from Leo Babauta, Courtney Carver, and Joshua Becker.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s