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No. of Recommendations: 7
Well, maybe not a complete idiot. But I've got a problem.

Like many of you here, I've run up some CC debt in the past, have addressed the issues that caused the debt and am now paying it off. Just to put some perspective on it, my total CC debt started off just a little less than my annual income. So it's taking some time to pay it down.

My problem is sitting down and getting the bills paid each month. I used to get a thrill out of attacking the problem. Now I dread it. I put off sitting down to address finances, and then get hit with late fees. But worse, I keep losing the good balance transfer rates.

I just looked at things again, and my rates are all up at 15% and higher. A year ago, they were all under 10% and on low rate deals for the life of the loan. I've made enough late payments to screw up all of the balance transfer work I did.

I'm sure someone will suggest putting at least the minimum payments on an automatic payment plan to avoid the problem. But I'm afraid to do that. I'm self-employed and don't get a regular income. Some months it's good and some months its really tight. Sometimes I have to go 6 or 7 weeks without taking any money out of the business. So I'm not sure the money will be there to cover the automatic payment. Over the course of a year I can be pretty certain of my income, but I never know exactly when it's coming in.

So how do you stay motivated to keep at it for long periods of time? I've got at least 3 or 4 years to go and I've already put about that into debt reduction. I'm just plain tired of the process.

--Peter
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So how do you stay motivated to keep at it for long periods of time?

Great question - the answer is ???
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No. of Recommendations: 28
Of course, posting at the Fool can be motivational, as you see others with similar problems getting through it.

I suggest you need to seriously listen to the internal conversation you have in relation to bill paying. Are you saying "I don't want to face the bills right now, because there is never enough money to pay them all", "I feel like a failure when I see how much I screwed up with these balances", "If I face up to what I actually can afford, I might have to give up what I really want", "I can't provide for myself", "I'm stupid when it comes to money and I will never get better at it".

Whatever negative thoughts you are having, they are making the bill paying so unpleasant that you are trying to avoid it. But here's the thing - avoiding it is making the problem worse. It is MORE stressful, because it is always hanging over you.

It is human nature to avoid pain now, even if the price is higher later. No wonder why credit cards are so popular!

Diabetics have the problem with burn out. It is hard to monitor your diet and take blood glucose readings and exercise and watch every little thing in your life to try to be as close to perfect as possible so as to avoid the very painful long term complications that come along. But any diabetic will also tell you that the constant vigilence is exhausting and you some times just want to take a break from all of it. I think paying down credit cards is like that too, especially if it goes on for years. You just get burned out. The rewards for following a budget and scrimping every where you can to send as much to the credit card companies can seem endless.

What needs to happen is you make the life choice: I will get out of debt. Make it a part of who you are as a person. Then adopt the habits that will get you out of debt, and don't think of it as a money diet that will soon be over and you can stop, but a lifestyle choice you will do forever.

Motivation is the coaxing you need to do something you don't want to do. Switch it around. Why DO you want to get out of debt? What will life be like when you are debt free? What are the rewards ahead that are so much better? Then you are striving for something, not just doing a miserable chore.

I don't know if any of this helps, just some random thoughts.
JBeauty
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No. of Recommendations: 5
I just looked at things again, and my rates are all up at 15% and higher. A year ago, they were all under 10% and on low rate deals for the life of the loan. I've made enough late payments to screw up all of the balance transfer work I did.

One thing I'd say is to look at your finances more often. Going a year without noticing a change in your rates shows that you're not really paying that much attention to it. I would suggest that you should look at them weekly or more often. Maybe saturday morning with that cup of coffee.

Also, you need to celebrate small successes. For me, I use financial management software so I can see graphically EVERY DAY where my financial life was 1-2-6 or 12 months ago or where it will be in 90 days or a year.

It helps me to see that I'm making progress and that keeps me motivated. I set little arbitrary goals like when a certain account reaches a certain number. It gives me more wins to feel good about.

I think the sofware would also help with your payment problem...I have a terrible attenion span and am entirely ADD. I love having all of my finances in one place that I can easily view it whenever I want to see when my payments are and all.

mz00m
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No. of Recommendations: 10
I'm sure someone will suggest putting at least the minimum payments on an automatic payment plan to avoid the problem. But I'm afraid to do that. I'm self-employed and don't get a regular income. Some months it's good and some months its really tight. Sometimes I have to go 6 or 7 weeks without taking any money out of the business.

You've already gotten some good responses, so I thought I'd take a crack at this piece of your post. My DH is also self-employed, so I am well aware of that feast-and-famine thing when it comes to cash flow. What I have done is to estimate how much he will net in a year, and spread that over 26 weeks because I pay the bills every 2 weeks. So when I pay the bills, I transfer a set amount of money out of his business account and into the house accout. This allows me to have a constant cash flow into the house funds so that I can budget and pay bills without worrying if this is a week he gets a check or not.

Something else that I do is to transfer his estimated Keough contribution out of his account and into the house money market account when I pay the estimated taxes. That makes his IRA contribution a top priority, and moves it to an account where it won't get spent on something else.

If there's a significant amount of money in the account at the end of the calendar year, I move that over to our savings account, but I leave what I consider a minimum in his business account to carry us as float for bills and so that he can continue to take a paycheck.

I am wondering if you might be able to set something similar up where you are taking a set paycheck at a regular interval instead of moving odd amounts from the business account to your general account. That would certainly help with you knowing that you will have x dollars in your account and you could then set up automatic payments as part of that process.

I don't know if this will work for you, but we've been doing it like this for about 4 years now, and it has worked very well even when he goes long periods of time without getting a check either because he is between jobs or because he is working on something that needs to be completed before he gets paid. I also give him raises in his paycheck as I see the business grow, so we started at a really conservative number and have worked our way up.
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Of course, posting at the Fool can be motivational, as you see others with similar problems getting through it.

Yes, it has been. But that's worn off now. 6 years ago (WOW - has it been that long?) I was reading every post here and on LYBM, and a few other places. A couple of years ago that grew wearisome and I dropped it - about the same time I quit paying as much attention to my personal finances.

I suggest you need to seriously listen to the internal conversation you have in relation to bill paying. Are you saying "I don't want to face the bills right now, because there is never enough money to pay them all", "I feel like a failure when I see how much I screwed up with these balances", "If I face up to what I actually can afford, I might have to give up what I really want", "I can't provide for myself", "I'm stupid when it comes to money and I will never get better at it".

OK - who gave you the direct line to my head? I DON'T want to pay the bills right now, 'cause there isn't enough money. I do feel like a failure sometimes - or a hypocrite (did I mention I'm a CPA and help tell others how to solve the problem I can't?). I've given up several things, and put off others waiting for the freedom from debt so I can redirect part of that cash flow again. And I'm tired of the deferred gratification. Things sure don't seem to be getting better, although I know they are.

Whatever negative thoughts you are having, they are making the bill paying so unpleasant that you are trying to avoid it. But here's the thing - avoiding it is making the problem worse. It is MORE stressful, because it is always hanging over you.

It is human nature to avoid pain now, even if the price is higher later. No wonder why credit cards are so popular!

Yep. Yes. Correct. Absolutely.
I know this, and yet sometimes I don't really care. Or perhaps its that I'm tired of caring.

I don't know if any of this helps, just some random thoughts.

Yes, it does. Thanks for sharing.

--Peter
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The long haul can be a problem. I know exactly what you are talking about because I know for a fact that I am the same way.

You will need to shorten your horizons just a bit. I've found it very helpful to set a series of smaller goals that lead to the big goal. At 10% debt reduction I will start up a ROTH, so hey theres all kinds of things I need to do between now and then to learn about ROTHs. At 15% I'll treat myself to a real nice night out (with cash). At 10% of my efund goal I will buy a new music CD. Things like that. When you are like me, and I assume you, you have to bite a large project down into more manageable pieces to stay focused.

Another thing, you need to smooth out your cash flow. I like the suggestion above about averaging things out. That might work for you.
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One thing I'd say is to look at your finances more often.

Well, that's the problem. I'm tired of looking at them more often. I know I need to, but I dread it.

Going a year without noticing a change in your rates shows that you're not really paying that much attention to it.

Oh - I notice every change. I look at the card statements they day they arrive. Then I toss them in my "bills to pay" basket and ignore them for a while. What pushed me over the edge is I wrecked my last low rate by making a late payment last month. The statement for that card came in the mail yesterday and showed a higher interest rate.

I would suggest that you should look at them weekly or more often. Maybe saturday morning with that cup of coffee.

God NO!!! I can't take looking at them weekly any more. I've been doing that for a few years and I'm sick of it. That's my problem. Oh - and I hate coffee. Nasty stuff. Smells OK - tastes like dirt. ;-)

For me, I use financial management software so I can see graphically EVERY DAY where my financial life was 1-2-6 or 12 months ago or where it will be in 90 days or a year.

I guess I didn't mention that I have a detailed record of my finances. I started using Quicken on Jan 1, 1992. I have a record of every bank transaction, every credit card charge, every mortgage and car and loan payment properly amortized from then until now. (Heck, I even have about a year back in 93 or 94 where I was attempting to capture every penny of CASH I spent as well!) Give me any date from then until now and I can tell you exactly how much I owed on each and every credit card and car loan and mortgage.

I have made charts of every up and down in my financial life. I can point you to the day in 1994 where I was debt-free. And I can show you how I went from a 22k debt in July 1992 to that debt-free day in December 1994. (Hint - living with friendly parents and virtually eliminating housing expenses goes a long way!) I can see how I went from debt-free to back into a bunch of CC debt. I can see how the spending improved in 2001 and 2002. I can see how the CC balances have gone up and down and up, but have a downward trend since then.

And I'm just plain tired of looking at it.

--Peter
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No. of Recommendations: 6
And I'm just plain tired of looking at it.

Peter,

I think this is where the word 'discipline' comes in.

I don't always want to brush my teeth and wash my face before I go to bed at night, but I know that the long-term effects of not regularly brushing my teeth are much worse than the thought of spending another five minutes vertical every night to get the job done right.

You may be tired of looking at your finances, but this is part of being an adult. Yes, it sucks, yes, it is difficult, yes it is a pain to have to pay attention to that part of your life that you'd like to be rid of NOW. But unless you focus on your debt now and regularly until it's GONE, you will have to deal with it for the REST OF YOUR LIFE.

Buckle down, pay attention, and take care of what needs to be taken care of. Regularly.

Regards,
Cassandra
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No. of Recommendations: 4
One thing I'd say is to look at your finances more often.

Well, that's the problem. I'm tired of looking at them more often. I know I need to, but I dread it.

Maybe a trick from your childhood might work. Give yourself a lollipop every time you do your banking. :-) ha ha

And I'm just plain tired of looking at it.

I understand. We aren't asking you to obcess over your finances. Just spend 15 minutes once a week seeing what needs to be paid and then paying it. Make it a habit. Put it on your calendar. Resisting and worrying is way more effort than just doing it.

JBeauty

P.S. What would happen in your life if we agreed with you? Don't pay your bills on a regular basis, wait until the mood strikes you.

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I think this is where the word 'discipline' comes in.

Agreed. It is the lack of self-discipline that is the source of the problem.

So back to my original question - how do you keep yourself motivated (self-disciplined) to keep at it when you get tired of the discipline?

--Peter
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And I'm just plain tired of looking at it.

Peter,

Perhaps not looking at the larger overwhelming "it" would help. Handle expenses in small chunks. When a bill arrives or is due, pay it or arrange online payment.

Not enough money to pay for it? Re-evaluate the expense. List what you're willing to do without or sell to cover the expense. You'll quickly discover whether you're headed into the black or red, and what's really necessary to you.

I don't think anyone's wise to avoid the larger picture when considering their personal finances. But if you're able to clearly and without deluding yourself look at each expense due, it might solve the "overwhelmed when sitting down to pay the bills" feeling. After over a decade of wrestling with consumer debt, it seems likely to me you just can't afford your desired lifestyle.

Good luck,

Bruce
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Resisting and worrying is way more effort than just doing it.

I guess you've never been a procrastinator? You know the joke: Discipline and hard work pays off in the future. Procrastination pays off now.

I don't really resist, and I don't really worry. So it takes very little effort. And I realize it's a problem, which is why I need to fix it.

What would happen in your life if we agreed with you?

Well, I was hoping someone could agree that it does get tiring over the long haul. But I'm not looking for agreement. I'm kind of hoping there is someone who's gone through the same tiredness and gotten through to the other side. How did you get through it? What helps keep you on track when there's a lot of work behind you and a lot left to go?

Don't pay your bills on a regular basis, wait until the mood strikes you.

<grinning>
Tee hee hee. If I waited for the mood to strike me, I'd be homeless and walking barefoot on the street. I still have enough motivation to keep that from happening. Heck, I've even managed to keep the credit scores decent through this. Just not the interest rates.

Sounds like the only solution is to finish up the pity party, and get to work. So tomorrow, after a good night's sleep, it's "fix the interest rates weekend". Make the calls and ask for better rates (yet once again). Gather up the latest low rate offers from the unused cards. Apply those to the rates that won't/didn't get improved.

And pay bills. I haven't done that in two weeks now.

--Peter
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I don't know if this will work for you, but we've been doing it like this for about 4 years now,

Thanks for the ideas here. I've thought about something along those lines before. But I never tried it. I think it's about time to give it a shot.

I have sometimes gotten caught up in the "I've got the money so let's pay down the cards" cycle. Make a big paydown when the big payday comes in. I usually planned on keeping enough to get through to the next expected payday. When I missed and didn't keep quite enough aside, it's a small step back. Those haven't usually been discouraging to me - I expect them - but they do keep me fearful of the automatic payment thing.

Another item to add to the weekend work. A slightly early look at the annual budget rejiggering. Combined with a look at weekly or semi-monthly transfers of regular amounts out of the business.

--Peter
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No. of Recommendations: 9
Peter:

I do woodworking as a hobby. One thing I found is when I am building a large project (I just finished 3 dressers and the mirrors for one top) if I look at the whole project it is like... Wow... how am I EVER going to get all that done.

But... I find if I forget the large project and just pick one piece of the project (plane the boards to 3/4"... or cut the sides to length) I get that accomplished. Then, after a week of doing those small projects I look and say "Wow, look at all I accomplished this week!!!"

What I am saying, in all my ramblings, is take a small piece of the finance puzzle and focus on that. Pay on time this week. Next week take the next piece, pay off an extra $150 on my highest interest credit card. The next week call one credit card company and ask for a reduced rate. The next week call a new credit card company and ask for a 0% rate card for 3 months and them transfer your highest % card to that card.

That way you are not doing it all at once. Each week, just one small step. If you do just one thing like that each week I think in 6 months you will step and say "WOW... look at how my balances have come down!!!"

Hope this helps...

Dusty

(posted and e-mailed)
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Well, I was hoping someone could agree that it does get tiring over the long haul. But I'm not looking for agreement. I'm kind of hoping there is someone who's gone through the same tiredness and gotten through to the other side. How did you get through it? What helps keep you on track when there's a lot of work behind you and a lot left to go?

I did agree with you. I'm not out the other side yet but I'm working on it and my overall plan takes into account my pernicious procrastination streak. I don't have a 4 year plan for getting out of debt. I have a series of 6 month financial goals that I reward myself for reaching. That's the key: reward yourself. You do not live for your creditors once you have your short term goals in place to reach your long term goal.

Until I hit on this plan I was much like you, except for the late payments. I would let the bills pile up until I absolutely had to pay them. The impact of that many bills on my cash flow always managed to set me into a spiral of loathing for the whole idea of finances. It was always easier to just sit on the next pile of bills to put of that feeling of helplessness.

Rethink your goals and cut them into manageable chunks. Focusing on the long term only is counterproductive to procrastinators.
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So back to my original question - how do you keep yourself motivated (self-disciplined) to keep at it when you get tired of the discipline?

The turning point for me came when I started looking at my bills and just got really p!$$ed off. I took the cards out of my wallet, took the scissors, and made confetti out of them. From that point on, it has been cash only. Sometimes, you just have to get really angry.

foolazis
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No. of Recommendations: 6
Small rewards and setting up a process that avoids failure.

First step is to prevent failure. An e-fund to cover 2-3 months of minimum payments would prevent the pain of needing to make payments, but not having the funds available. Use a float fund to cover minimum payments and replenish the fund at the 6-7 week intervals that you withdraw money from your business. It prevents pain and the punishment of losing good interest rates and incurring late fees.

Once you have the small efund then you use additional funds when they are available to pay down the debt.

The second part is small rewards. Some have built debt chains out of paper clips or other materials. Each time the amount of 1 link is paid off, it is removed from the chain.

As with investing, promising yourself appropriate rewards at specific levels helps keep your finances on track. Setup a schedule of rewards based on reaching specific reductions in debt. What the rewards are depends on what you want.

Debra

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No. of Recommendations: 4
So back to my original question - how do you keep yourself motivated (self-disciplined) to keep at it when you get tired of the discipline?

Fear is a great motivator, as is pain. So focusing on what might happen if you don't focus on your finances, or what future pain you might suffer because you didn't do it now might help.

Rewarding yourself for dealing with your finances and paying all your bills on time may be another way to deal with it. "When I get all the bills paid on time this month, I can take myself to the movies." Or eat an ice cream cone or play video games all day. Whatever you would be depriving yourself of (that would hurt) could be your reward for dealing with your finances. And really, what would it take weekly to deal with them? 15 minutes? An hour? Make the reward a really good one, too.

But those are all short-term solutions. You can justify anything - the pain, the fear, even the rewards. But doing so will compromise your integrity, and make you feel worse and worse about yourself (yes, I am speaking from experience here!).

I'm back in school now, and we have to read "7 Habits of Highly Effective People", which talks about what motivates us and what SHOULD motivate us, among other things. I highly recommend it!

Why do you brush your teeth every day, or take a shower or make yourself get to the gym, or go to work every day, whether you want to or not? Part of it is that you know you have to. Part of it is that it is a habit.

Part of discipline is that you just do whatever it is, no matter what. Lance Armstrong certainly didn't let a cold, rainy, nasty, ugly day keep him from training, even though I'm SURE he didn't want to get out of a warm cozy bed any more than the rest of us. But he did it, and look where it got him. For you, too, the long-term rewards will be greater than the short-term pain.

Peter, I think you are avoiding spending time on your finances, and devoting WAAAAAAAY more energy to NOT doing them than it would take to do them and get it over with.

Cassandra
ought to take my own advice more than I do!
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No. of Recommendations: 5
So how do you stay motivated to keep at it for long periods of time?

Great question - the answer is ???


Simple....

The older you get, and the closer you get to the eventuality of having to support yourself without income, the more motivation will come naturally.

xtn
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I'm just plain tired of the process.

Peter---

I think you have gotten good advice---

Is your self-employment business just erratic or actually under the weather? I'm self employed, and if I weren't in my 60's I would figure out how to apply my skills to a job with a regular paycheck (and whatever benefits).

I too have an adversarial relationship with my creditors, or with the 'dealing' with them--- would I be tired of it if my business were generating enough profit to pay current expenses and my debts?? H.., no, I would look forward to writing those pay-off checks--- but the day to day stress of wondering who and what will get paid is a huge turn-off. If your business is generating enough income to "write" yourself a paycheck regularly, as suggested, I think you just need a minor attitude adjustment; if not, and the bill paying is painful because the $$$ generated are routinely not sufficient, I'd rethink your whole business.

CTKaren ( picture framer with a great customer base, but not ideally suited for self-employment!)
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I too have an adversarial relationship with my creditors, or with the 'dealing' with them--- would I be tired of it if my business were generating enough profit to pay current expenses and my debts?? H.., no, I would look forward to writing those pay-off checks--- but the day to day stress of wondering who and what will get paid is a huge turn-off. If your business is generating enough income to "write" yourself a paycheck regularly, as suggested, I think you just need a minor attitude adjustment; if not, and the bill paying is painful because the $$$ generated are routinely not sufficient, I'd rethink your whole business.

CTKaren ( picture framer with a great customer base, but not ideally suited for self-employment!)


Please, please, please raise your prices. You don't have to work for free, it's okay to make a living at your job. I remember how you dislike taking credit cards--raise your prices. You can blame it on me if someone complains.


--Booa
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And pay bills. I haven't done that in two weeks now.

--Peter


That's how often I pay bills. I get payed every two weeks.

Pay bills...money's gone...sigh...
lather, rinse, repeat.

Eugene
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No. of Recommendations: 8
Peter -

Hi! I'm going to suggest a couple of things that, well, might might little weird. It works out because I'm a little weird as well.

I too, have a business with an irregular amount of income. We do what another poster suggested and draw a set amount from the business each month. To make sure that the business can handle it, I have been developing an e-fund in my business accounts of about 3 months. We actually have two e-funds - one for the business and one for our personal lives.

I would also suggest that you need some gratification outside the 3-4 year time frame. DH and I are working very hard to pay off a car loan and personal loan early. Our expected time frame for this is next June. Right now, the bills are sucking up most of our "spare" cash. (Is there such a thing as spare cash???).

There are times when we've delayed going to the grocery store, put off simple things like buying paint, etc to work on this goal over the last 12 months. And we are sick of it.

We will not be debt free in June - we will have DH's student loans and a mortgage. In June however, we will change our snowball to free up cash for other things. We will still pay ahead on debt, but in June we will be able to start working on some long delayed projects. I'm really looking forward to June. *grin*

I would suggest that it might a good idea to develop a plan with short term rewards. It might stretch out payback a bit but better that living with CC debt for the rest of your life. Base it on X amount of dollars paid down,number of months sticking to the plan, or a credit card paid off.

My last suggestion is counter-intitutive: start dealing with your bills every single day. Yes, I know you don't want to deal with it anymore. However, like laundry and dishes, you produce and spend money every single day. Take 15 minutes everyday to deal with those changes.

I'm aware that this method is not particularly efficient but it has one important feature: you are forced into the habit of thinking about and dealing with important financial issues regularly. After a while, you'll get used the pain (it will at least dull a little...) The most important thing is that you are developing the momentum of a habit.

For instance, you say you open a credit card statement and look at it the day it arrives. Immediately go do the next step - go at least pay the minimum, whether online or with a check. Then when you know how much money you have for the month, send them another check if necessary.

As I said, it's not terribly efficient, but then neither is 15% interest. Good luck...

JustSilly
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I'm an idiot

It's against the rules for one to say one's an idiot on this Board. Even

not a complete idiot


Thank you for your cooperation.

BklynBorn
not even a partial idiot,
occasionally faces challenges
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Motivation for me is easy.

As JustSilly mentioned, I look a the bills as soon as they come in and allow myself to feel the rage at the interest rate. Sometimes I even think about the annual cost in terms of % of take home pay.

Getting angry each time a credit card bill comes in, I go to the computer and pay the minimum immediately. Since I get paid every 2 weeks, once that check is deposited, I then make my *real* payment. Some weeks there is not any extra, but when there is, I do the best I can to send a second payment before the next bill comes out.

Another thing that helps me is a daily discipline. Eating lunches out, dinners, frivolous impulse spending is out of the picture for now. When I get the urge to shop for household or clothing items, I make my way to the Salvation Army and pick up a nice sweater or pair of jeans for $5 - small fraction of the retail price.

Food shopping at Aldi and coupon clipping is another tool.

Motivation is different for all of us.

A long time ago, someone on these boards mentioned a money chain. Remember the childhood project of a paper chain to drape around the tree during the holidays? This chain we make from our remaining debt.

Each chain in the link represents $100 or $200 of debt or $500 if you are in that kind of trouble. Hang the chain where you can see it every day. When you eliminate debt in the increments of the chain - snip off the link and toss it away. Just seeing the chain shrink in size is motivation!

Good luck and keep reading - there is much here and many of us are in the same situation.

Best,

donna
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No. of Recommendations: 8
Well Peter, for me it was pain.

The pain of knowing you're paying someone else interest when you could be collecting it yourself.

The pain of knowing that my impulsive expenditures were costing me more in interest than the item originally cost, and I didn't really have a whole lot to show for it.

The pain of missing out on some experiences with friends because "I can't afford it"

The pain of not being able to take a woman on a date once because "I can't afford it"

The pain of freedom, or the lack thereof.

Since I've paid off my credit card (3 days ago), the psychological benefits are absolutely wonderful. Thursday, October 20th, 2005 is a day I'll remember for a long, long time. First, I paid off my credit card, and second, I met a wonderful woman Thursday night and we hit it off so well that things seem to be heating up pretty quickly.

Peter, I wish you well in your efforts. Good luck.


Doug
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Peter,

Do you have an accountability partner? Like. . .your wife, if you're married? If you let your partner know when the bills are due every month, he/she can pester you until they're done. My husband helped me in this way, and now it's just a routine habit.

Andrea
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Some of my thoughts --

I do not like writing out the check for child support. The reasons need not be iterated herein, but suffice to say, it pains me to write the check. Therefore, I write the check every other month (sometimes three months at a time), which drastically cuts down the number of times I have to look at it.

I also do not like paying bills. Absolutely hate it. I have been known to go two or three months without opening mail. Therefore, I have all of my utilities on automatic payment. Nothing pertinent will be cut off for lack of payment.

My cell phone is programmed to send me a free instant message when my invoice is available. I can pay the bill via phone (completely automated), on-line, or by check. I usually pay it on-line when I pay the credit card.

I pay my one credit card on line because I can pay it at the last minute, but I usually pay it the third week of each month. When I was paying down debt, I programmed my checking account to automatically pay a minimum amount of my choosing each month per card. Extra monies were directed by separate check whenever I actually sat down and figured it out.

You can request creditors to change the date of billing. Changing the due date can alleviate spikes in your outgoing funds, especially large ticket items. I pay my mortgage and automatic transfer to savings in the beginning of the month. I pay my auto loan, credit card, and most other bills in the middle of the month.

Figuring out the minimum amount of money you can pay yourself from your business is a must. I cannot figure another way around it. If your business cannot support you minimally (the essentials), then alternative employment may be worth consideration. (I am sure that is as painful a thought as paying bills.)

Creating your minimalist budget based on that base number would give you the least amount of money you can count on to be in the bank account to set up automatic payments. Each automatic payment is one less that you have to think about after the initial set up.

P.S. I know that some people have reservations with automatic payments, whether by banking institution or creditor. In almost 20 years, I have only been burned once by my mortage company who took out an extra $300 one month. The mortgage company made a mistake in calculating my taxes at twice the actual rate doubling the amount of money needed for escrow. Other than that one time, I have never had a problem either with a utility company, credit card company, or my banking institutions. My automatic payment for the mortgage is now set up with my bank -- totally within my control.
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My movtivation is printing off my balanced owed / payment made page from the Sallie Mae website, highlighting the new figure and tacking it to my bulletin board. Then I have a flip book of how much I've paid off.

I also stare at my snowball spread sheet a lot.

The snowball is simply sacred. In the past 2 years, I have spent into the snowball once--and even then I made it up. I don't really consider it a SNOWBALL as much as a payment that must be made.

When I get extra monies, from consulting jobs or what not, I divvy them up and spend a little money on myself. I just got a check for 300 bucks; 200 went to the snowball, 50 went to the Big Screen TV fund <yippy!>, 25 into the general pot and 25 went for a sushi dinner.

This method helps me treat myself and pay off the snowball.

A book that really helped me (and it's not mentioned here a lot) is Carol Keene's *How to get what you want with the money you have*. Her book focuses mostly on Living within your means and learning how to save. She tells people to pay only the minimum amount due (sacreligious, i know), but only because she's trying to get people focused on living within their means. This for me was the first step. Next step came trimming the budget to build a snowball and then continuing that.

b
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Peter,

In my case, my income is regular, so the moment a bill comes in I schedule it to be paid on my payday. (electronic bill payment) This prevents bills from stacking up.

Prior to that, if income is irregular and you must wait until payday, what I used to do is open the bill, verify the date it was due, and put that date on the outside of the envelope. Then I'd put the envelopes of bills in a pile in date order. Then, when payday came, I'd go through the stack in date order and pay everyone.

If income is inconsistent, I might not overpay (pay more than the minimums) until you have AT LEAST 2 months of expenses in savings. (since you said 6 to 7 weeks to get money out of the business)

Cutting expenses will help. So too might be to set a self-imposed limit that any new charges must be paid for once the bill arrives. At least that way you've "stopped digging" into that deep hole you're in.

It may seem discouraging, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

- Lan
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My last suggestion is counter-intitutive: start dealing with your bills every single day. Yes, I know you don't want to deal with it anymore. However, like laundry and dishes, you produce and spend money every single day. Take 15 minutes everyday to deal with those changes.

I usually do just this, finding it easier to deal with the bill once it arrives rather than be surprised later. When you do it on a daily basis, it will take practically no time. Granted, I have broadband access and do everything electronically, so it's just a couple of clicks to schedule the payment for the payday closest to being before the scheduled due date.

- Lan
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So back to my original question - how do you keep yourself motivated (self-disciplined) to keep at it when you get tired of the discipline?

Hi Peter,

I've been posting at TMF for over six years, starting shortly after I got out of college and got a Real Job. Basically, I have been following these boards and working on improving my financial information steadily for my entire Real World career span. I can see where you are coming from - sometimes dealing with the finances is a drag, especially when it's not going well.

For me, the thing that has motivated me even during times when I was sick of being broke/in debt and my cashflow wasn't good due to paydown or emergency fund savings has been to keep track of my progress. For me, the key to having a progress report be motivating and stimulating is for it to not be complicated. For example, I have a very basic net worth spreadsheet that I update once per months with my savings/debt/401k balances. It takes about five minutes to update, and is not complex. The motivator in this comes from the very simple graphs I have which show progress. It's sure neat to look at the graph and realize that 3.5 years ago, my net worth was -$10,000 and now it is almost $50,000 and growing. Perhaps in your case, where are you sick and tired of looking at 13 years of Quicken transactions an just dealing with the situation in general, the problem is that you can't see the forest for the trees becuase you've tracked all this detail but don't have a one page consolidated report/view that shows how far you've come. I don't know quicken, but i would bet they have some good functionality that can do this for you.

As far as actually buckling down to pay the bills is concerned....well, I'm weird. I love paying my bills every payday, largely because I've been unemployed and almost broke, and I'm just grateful to have the money to buy pretty much anythingn I need.

Good luck!

d
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"So how do you stay motivated to keep at it for long periods of time?"

Mostly, I think about that little house. I've been wanting a house for a really, really long time.

I did come up with a system of sorts. Same thing does not work for everybody, I've noticed. But I can be scatterbrained and I have been known to lose bills.

In the bad old days, I used to keep all the bills in one place, with the due date written on the outside of the envelope, until I got hold of some money. Then I'd pay as many as possible, starting with the most important ones.

I still keep all the bills in one place, but now I deal with it on payday or at the halfway point (I still haven't gotten used to being paid every other week!). Sometimes I just pay the bill when I get it.

- dove
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Here's a word I don't often use in public

PRAYER

A few years ago, when I asked a friend how to do what I knew I should be doing, he had the nerve to say,

I guess I would pray about it.

For me (not a church goer), this has turned into memorizing great thoughts, purposeful statements, and inspiring quotes. I try to fill my head with words instead of my own worried, angry thoughts.

Usually only a sentence or two, things worth pondering.
I carry one at a time in my planner and keep track of how many days I've spent with them.
I read the quote, write it out, think about it.
6 days in a row, then once a week for 6 weeks, then once a month for 6 months, then once a year for 6 years


I read the quote, write it out, think about it.
examples

"water flows over obstacles and fills up holes. let your love flow like water"

"Plan purposefully, Edit activities, Act with restraint, Calendar your choices, Enjoy" from Restoring Order by Vicki Norris

"Tell me,
What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" Mary Oliver

"When...someone really hears you, without passing judgemnet on you, withour trying to mold you, it feels damn good." Carl Rogers

YeilB



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It's against the rules for one to say one's an idiot on this Board.

Thank you for your cooperation.

BklynBorn
not even a partial idiot,
occasionally faces challenges


That is 100% correct. Only I, The Great and Powerful XTN, am allowed to call somebody an idiot around here!

xtn
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Only I, The Great and Powerful XTN, am allowed to call somebody an idiot around here!

idiot.





mz00m
entirely and 100% joking.

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Small rewards and setting up a process that avoids failure.

Oh, I like this one. Maybe start a vacation fund or some other kind of fun fund -- something financial to track that is fun too.
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Create buckets for your money.

For instance, next time you get a big check do not put it all to pay off your credit cards. Rather make a normal payment and set the rest in a seperate account. Set up an automatic withdrawal from this seperate account for your minimum payment. Pay back up this seperate account to it's original balalcne everytime you have a good month.

Also every time you have a good month in the future in addition to the automatic payment which comes out of that account and bringing the account back up to full, write another check paying down the balance on your credit cards. Set up a reward for yourself everytime you do this. It could be the right to blow an amount equal to 10% of the extra check on something you want but it could also be something else you enjoy which doesn't cost money.

My wife once gave me a certain sexual incentive for every pound I lost. I lost 44 pounds in 6 months and had a great time doing it!

Minimum payment taken care of + incentive to pay off early taken care of.

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Hey Peter,

Well, I was hoping someone could agree that it does get tiring over the long haul. But I'm not looking for agreement. I'm kind of hoping there is someone who's gone through the same tiredness and gotten through to the other side. How did you get through it? What helps keep you on track when there's a lot of work behind you and a lot left to go?

Well, we had a hard time getting through it. We were over $25k in debt and over half of that was for CCs. I became disabled and we lost half our income. (That was in '98 and I get less than $6oo per month SS now.)

Until we learned to give ourselves some sort of reward every so often...3 months...six months...whatever...and make it worth working towards, we had a hard time getting through it without screwing up.

But we did get debt free and d@mn it felt good!*

You know what we worked towards? A weekend off from having to think about our bills. Seriously.

It was a weekend w/our children in a tent at a campground on the beach. Since that still cost us a fair bit, we had very few trips the first few years.

You know what we did while there? Absolutely nothing! We couldn't afford to do anything the first few years, but we didn't allow ourselves to think about the bills while we were on our trip either.

And, you know what keeps us motivated to stay out of debt now?* Year before last we had three private weekend trips, two weekend trips w/kids, and one week-long trip w/S-I-L and kids.

This year son #2 graduated and we had family for over a week. DW was laid off one week before graduation and is only working temp jobs right now. We have a budget and we know what it is. We are able to meet our budget, with no trouble so far, because of what we learned from our previous errors.

So what if we're not able to afford a trip right now. It's too dern cold on the ocean anyway. <g> By next Summer we'll be able to afford to take a trip again and we'll enjoy it as we always do. That's what keeps, and kept, us motivated to pay our bills on time. A simple reward.

(Others have already said this...in case y'all didn't notice. :-))

ßillƒ

*We do have debt, but nothing like it was before. Car loan and CC for $8k and most of that is owed on the car loan this time.
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I have been doing the the "lower Rate" shuffle for years now and currently have approximately 20k at 2.9 % fixed. Can't get money much cheaper than that. I am also self employed and have irregular income. I guess my answer to your discipline question is answered within the question itself. You work hard to achieve a good enough credit rating to justify the lower balance transfer opportunities and you need to constantly remember what you stand to lose if you should fall back on those committments. I don't now and hope that I would never pay any higher than 4-5% for credit card debt. I too am a bit at fault here in that I should'nt have that much CC debt anyhow but thats another story. The solution may be in contacting the company that you have the best record with and the highest available limit and ask that they give you a fair rate and in return you will transfer all or most to them. If necessary, do this with 2 of the companies. Your past history however will determine the likelyhood of them working with you. If you mention that the fees have become unmanagable and you may be forced to seek bankruptcy, they may work more in your favor. I view these "deals" as great oportunities to borrow money at an extremely attractive rate, so I am very diligent in managing my income to assure that the minimum payment can always be paid.
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Peter-

You can do it! You can do it!

You're not an idiot or you wouldn't be asking for ideas.

Maybe you should try the Dave Ramsey Total Money Makeover approach instead of the highest rates first approach. Considering you're a numbers guy you've probably been using the high-rates first approach and while this is mathematically correct it is not one-size-fits-all for emotional satifaction.

Instead, snowball to kill the smallest bills first. It is satisfying and motivating. Each cc you kill is a little happy dance, it improves your cash flow, & it is one less bill that you have a chance to screw up & pay late & get hit with a fee.

And I agree with other posters on the efund. I am still building my $1000 baby efund, and I have stopped using plastic. The rule is to use the efund first for any emergencies before using plastic, & that has been a good plan. I have not tapped the efund because I really don't want to, instead I have found things to sell first to raise money or other ways around my little emergency that used to have me going for the plastic.

Rooting for you-
p1
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