Playing Debt Games
Today, Debt Debs and I are swapping blogs! I’m posting about Debt and the Single Girl over at her blog and she is here to tell you about the debt games she’s invented to keep herself motivated while paying off debt.
Do you play beat the GPS when you are driving on a long journey?
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Anyone out there know what I’m talking about? You know, when you program in your destination and it gives you an estimated time of arrival and you try to beat that time. Ya, it’s a fun game for me, but maybe I’m weird like that. I don’t condone reckless speeding or anything like that, it’s just a mind game I play to combat boredom on what can be a long and seemingly endless journey.
What does that remind you of?
Debt Fatigue Defined
It can get tiring, and tedious and boring and no fun anymore. My favorite personal finance expert, Gail Vaz-Oxlade, recommends that your debt repayment timeline last no more than three years, otherwise you suffer from debt fatigue.
But what if you’ve cut back your expenses, brought in additional income and still can’t make the numbers work? You run the risk of suffering from debt fatigue big time.
What to Do About Debt Fatigue
Now you can always do something drastic, like sell your home, take in a roommate – all the big, big lifestyle change options to get your debt repayment less than three years.
Or you can try what I do. Melanie from Dear Debt wrote on VOSA recently 5 Things That Will Help You Recover From Debt Burnout. In here she talks about playing debt games which reminded me about the ones I play.
I recently had to tap into my Emergency Fund, which I hate to do, but in this case it couldn’t be helped. Now I have the challenge of not only building it back up to where it was (and beyond!), but also continue with my debt repayment goals. Quite a challenge, even for a self-proclaimed debt wrangler like me!
So what am I going to do?
- I’m going to continue to manage expenses and look for savings opportunities
- I’m going to hope and pray and encourage my husband that he make more than the minimum income that I’ve budgeted on (his income is variable)
- I’m going to apply those savings/earnings to my debt / e-fund appropriately
- If all else fails, I will look for other opportunities to increase my income on short to medium term basis
- I’m going to play games with my savings/debt goals to increase my motivation and make this journey more fun!
Debt Repayment Games
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For example, my e-fund is sitting at $7,800 and it was at $10,000 before. I need to get it back up there as a first step of my goal. For the second step I want to get it to $15,000, because I’ve decided I need more to be less anxious about our finances due to hubster’s variable income. I also have a big property tax payment that will be coming out of there next month, bring the balance even lower to just over $5K.
Okay, before you chastise me for using my e-fund for regular expenses, I know you are completely right. So, a bit of background, normally I put $450 in my e-fund every month, so that it will bring my fund even higher and allow me to pay my property taxes from it. I just haven’t gotten around to researching other separate account options to keep this money separate. So for now, it’s one big pool that I manage.
Ahem, so back to my dilemma. I’ve got to increase my e-fund but continue to pay off debt. I have some debt that will be completely paid by August, which will free up that money to apply to my e-fund. Some quick calculations make me think I should be able to meet my $10K e-fund goal by October and my $15K e-fund goal by December. However, this assumes that hubster’s income continues to meet minimum or more, we have no unexpected surprise expenses yada yada yada.
But wait, where are these games you’re talking about, Debt Debs?
Debt Repayment Game 1:
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Well, as I said based on quick calculations, the above is a reasonable goal, but not quite sure if it’s totally achievable. In addition, I do not want to sacrifice my other debt repayment goals which need to be going on simultaneously.
For those debt repayment goals, I track the number of months left on each debt and I have a forecast for where I think I will be each month.
So here’s where the game comes in. I’m getting there, honest! I took a quick glance at my other three debts and each are expected to be down to the following amortization periods by October and December (I picked these dates as they are the target dates that I want my e-fund to be $10K and then $15K).
I know these look like astronomical amortization periods, but the two debts on the right hand side are smallish, and I’m only currently making minimum payments on them, so when I can reallocate funds to them, they will go down much quicker.
So my game is:
- Can I meet my goal of getting to $10K e-fund in October and $15K e-fund in December without upsetting these debt targets shown above?
- Secondly, my stretch game goal is, can I reach my e-fund goals and exceed these figures above?
Does it sound like I’m a glutton for punishment? Maybe. But that’s how I roll.
Debt Repayment Game 2:
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Here’s one more.
My car debt is currently $9,933.40 (ya, just kicked below 5 figures on Friday. YAY!) It should be fully paid by July 12, 2016. My mini mortgage above is $13,308.49 and it’s due for rate renewal June 2015, so I want to have it fully paid by then. It will come down as fast as any additional income / lower expenses I can throw at it.
So the question is: When will my mini mortgage meet and become lower than my car debt?
Since I need to fund my e-fund first from Sep – Dec, I don’t think I can throw a lot of money at this Mini mortgage until Jan 2015. So my quick estimate is that:
- It will be down to my car debt or less 5 May 2015
- My stretch game goal is to have it equal to or less by 21 Apr 2015.
Why Debt Repayment Games Motivate
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There are so many factors that I can’t entirely control: husband’s income, stretch expense containment goals, things breaking or not breaking. This is why I like to make it a game, instead of a goal. If I make it a goal and I don’t meet it, I feel like I’ve failed. If I make it a game, and I meet it, I feel like I’ve won! If I don’t meet it, it’s okay, it’s just a game. Better luck next time!
So this is how I like to play games with my personal finance plans to keep my motivation high and avoid suffering from debt fatigue.
So what do you do? Do you think I’m nuts? Lay it on me. I’ve got my big girl panties on.
Debs is a fifty-something wife, mother and new grandmother, who admits to having their “head in the sand” about their financial situation until amassing $247,500 worth of consumer debt. They’ve paid $68K in 2 years with four more years to go. Join her journey as she writes at debtdebs.com sharing ideas and motivation to all those coping with poor money management and bad debt decisions.
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