Monday, July 7, 2008

Paying off debt like an Olympian

Watching so much of the television coverage of the 2008 Olympic Trials over the past few weeks has me thinking of my own goals. Specifially, my goal to pay off my debt. While I am definitely no athlete I can apply the same focus and energy to making strides on my financial goals as an athlete makes strides to win that Olympic medal. Every month when I am juggling around my money to see how much extra money I can put toward paying off my consumer debt I get frustrated because I think of how much money I’d have saved if all of this money was going in my savings account and not on my credit card balances or student loan payments ugh!

I got lax during the month of June with using my credit card and my balance crept up some. But I have a new resolve and plan to have at least 2,000 of my credit card debt paid off by the end of the year. Once I have my EF up to 1,500 (not a month’s worth of living expenses but a small cushion is better than none at all). I will resume the more long-term goal of 5,000 in Emergency savings in January. It makes no sense to have more than a months worth of expenses saved up and still have credit card balances to pay off. I will then throw as much money as I can on my credit card balances because I am determined to have them paid off by this time next year. It’s time to buckle down and get this monkey off my back. I can comfortably afford to put $500 a month toward credit card balances if I curb my impulse spending.

A person seeking an Olympic medal and a person seeking to pay off debt both need:

  • Focus and Drive. You have to have single minded focus to pay off large amounts of debt. If your focus strays, you are more likely to incur more debt. If your focus strays in competition, you are likely to lose.

  • Visualizing Yourself Reaching Your Goal. Like any other goal, actually visualizing your goal is key in accomplishing it. Visualize a zero balance on your credit card statement as you would visualize yourself crossing the finish line in a race.

  • Good coaching. Whether it be from a financial advisor, trusted friend, or blogging community, everyone needs coaching at some point to reach the goal of paying off major debt, just as you would need coaching to beat your opponent in a gymnastics competition. An objective person that can see the good and bad things you are doing to meet your final goal is very helpful in accomplishing that goal.

  • A Plan of Attack. Just as a relay team has a plan of attack and knows how to play up the strengths of differerent members of the team at various points of the race, you need a plan to pay off debt. Whether you are paying off high interest debt first, or concentrating on paying off debt by amount, you need to devise a plan and stick to it to pay it off in a timely manner.

  • Know Your Opponent. Credit card companies, retail stores and other outside forces can suck you right back into a cycle of debt, so its good to know your opponet so you won't fall pray to their advances. Say no when you are offered a discount to open a store card when the cashier is ringing you up. Don't use that credit card just because you are racking up frequent flyer miles if you a carrying a large balance. Stay vigilant because there are deterrants everywhere to impede on your progress.

My closest brush to athletic competion was winning a gold medal in my brief run as figure skater while I was around 10 years old. I have forgotten all of the spins and jumps I so painstakenly practiced to win that medal, but I do remember that feeling of winning and the pure joy that goes along with that. I want to have that feeling again when I win this battle against my debt.

I'm going to train my mind to zero in on my ultimate goal of being debt free as if I have an Olympic gold medal riding on reaching this milestone. Hey whatever works to make it happen right?


Money Maus said...

I like your comparison! I am not an athlete either, but I think the points definitely match up :) Good luck with your EF & CC debt! I am (slowly) working on my EF, too.