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About a year ago, I finally got the job of my dreams. (Prior to that I had a series of wish-and-a-prayer jobs - that included a lot of restaurant experience and not a lot of money.) Needless to say, this was my first time EVER being able to afford a student loan payment.
(Listen, my life was the serious struggle - and I was deferring those payments left and right. I didn't even know what making a payment felt like. #DontJudge)
The moment I was able to start making payments, I realized one thing: The interest on my $40k worth of debt added up to $200/month. In short, it finally hit me that the money I borrowed at 18 (a bright-eyed-bushy-tailed first generation college student with no understanding of student loan debt) was costing 28-year-old me $200 of my hard earned cash each month.
AND I WAS NOT HAVING THAT. (I'm a girl who likes her money. #SorryNotSorry)
So I decided then and there, after my first student loan payment, that I was going to pay this loan off before 30 (a little over 2 years).
I started to think about how I was going to get out of that debt and I had a few options to bring in more cash:
- Start Blogging (fo' profit)
- Become a freelancer
- Create a business of some sort (I wasn't very sophisticated at this point.)
- Sell stuff
- Get a raise at work
- Cut my expenses
At first glance, the idea of paying off $40K in debt in 2 years is a tough pill to swallow. (On top of that, I'm a single mom so I can't exactly live in my car and eat Ramen.) What I really needed was a strategy, a different frame to put around this big goal so I could see it differently.
I decided to go with one of the greatest goal setting principles of all time.
BREAK DOWN LARGE GOALS INTO SMALLER GOALS.
I love this principle, quite simply, because it works.
Breaking down your goals means to take the gigantic goal that you want to accomplish - and find smaller milestones within that goal that you can focus your attention on. When done right, the small milestones will eventually lead you to accomplishing the larger goal.
For example, I have a large goal of paying off 40K of debt in two years, but rather than focusing on the whole 40K, I can focus my efforts on paying off $1,000.
Focusing on $1,000 (aka. the much smaller goal) can make a huge difference in whether or not I make it across the debt-free finish line, here's why:
small goals make your large goal easily DIGESTIBLE.
In my journey, I decided to focus on paying $1,000 at a time. For the first few months, I was able to rent out a room in my apartment for $500/month. Then, I did vision board workshops for nonprofits and companies. At each moment, I knew what my goal is in the back of my head and with no stress, I was able to find more opportunities to work on my next thousand.
While a very large goal can feel incredibility out of reach, a small goal makes you feel like you can reach the goal - and it will be easy. This makes it much easier to START.
Helps You Build Momentum
The moment I paid off the first one thousand dollars, I knew how easy it would be to pay off the next one thousand and IT FELT SO GOOD to pay it off. It was a huge win for me. Rather than watching all of my payments go to interest, I was able to see the fruit of my labor. I put a dent in those darn student loans. In my head...
I WAS ALREADY WINNING.
One key to achieving anything is the way you FEEL while you're doing it. Feeling good about something can push you forward on those days where you're feeling less motivated.
Build Towards A Larger Goal
Each time I could pay off one thousand dollars, I was buiding towards the 40K, but I don't even think about the 40K anymore, I think about the next thousand - and celebrate each one. That way, reaching my goal feels like a succession of wins.
Rather than thinking, "I still have 39K to go" I can think - "Wow. I've ALREADY paid of 1K!"
Small goals are you opportunity to win - even if you haven't won the war (yet), you can win the battle over and over and over again.
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