For every link off the chain, things get a little better.
Back in January, I was inspired by a post at Get Rich Slowly to start collecting paper chains that represent my debt. I document that strong start here. The chains in the picture above represent my home equity, roof, credit card, and medical loans, plus a small family bridge loan that helped me get my credit score up last fall.
Then I went a little overboard.
Not pictured: The only chain I made that is bigger than this one, representing $230,000+ in my husband’s deferred student loans that I prefer not to think about till we get there. About three years from now.
I found it so satisfying to make these. The process offered me a sense of control and some much-needed patience with the years-long process it’ll take to clear these debs. Now I’m reaping the benefits — not often enough, but still— each time I take a link off one of these chains.
The very smallest loan chains have links that represent $100, but most represent $1,000. These days it takes me about 6 weeks to knock my debt down by $1,000, although we have fallen back this summer because my husband's teaching stipend stops until September, and that’s a full third of our income gone for three months.
I can’t say enough about the positive mental shift it’s caused for me to have these chains present in my workspace at home. You’d expect the opposite to be true — and I confess that I keep the biggest debt chain up high, knowing we won’t tackle it anytime soon, because I don’t want to be overwhelmed. Here are a few steps if you want to try this approach:
- Start small. I started with just a few of my most vexing debts at first, then added all of them when I gained confidence.
- Choose an increment for each link. I chose $1000 for most of mine, but if that doesn’t encourage you, choose a smaller increment that feels right.
- Make it fun. Choose nice paper or interesting old magazines, gather your supplies, and enjoy the process, especially if your chain is long.
- Relish the tear-off. It’s a really special feeling to yank a link off your debt chain. You might even make ritual of it. Indulge in a celebratory moment as you acknowledge what it took to knock down your debt by $25, $50, $100, $500, or $1000.
- If tracking your debt feels too negative, try chaining your savings instead. Hey, if staring at a pile of debt is too depressing, I understand. How about adding chains to a savings visualization instead?
The point here is to empower yourself. Don’t make it a punishment or create a shame cycle out of this exercise. Let it inspire you!
Need to start a budget? Check out these different approaches.
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