Paying Off Debt And Budgeting: Tricks For Staying Motivated

While I no longer have debt after paying off my student loans, I am always striving to save more money, to save for retirement, to find financial motivation, and more. Even with how much I love saving money, every now and then it can be easy to get unmotivated and want to SPEND ALL THE…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: May 24, 2023

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How To Stick To A Budget - Financial Motivation TricksWhile I no longer have debt after paying off my student loans, I am always striving to save more money, to save for retirement, to find financial motivation, and more.

Even with how much I love saving money, every now and then it can be easy to get unmotivated and want to SPEND ALL THE MONEY!

I’m sure I’m not alone either.

While many do choose to live a frugal life, it’s not always easy. Some have large amounts of debt to pay off, others find it hard to understand how to stick to a budget, and more.

Finding financial motivators will help you continue to work hard towards your goal, even when it seems impossible.

Without motivation, one might give up on a financial goal quite easily. This is why it’s so important to learn how to stay motivated.

Whatever your financial goal may be, there are many ways to stay motivated so that you can reach it. Here are my tips on how to stick to a budget and find financial motivation.


Make your financial goal visual.

Making your goal visual is a great way to find motivation. Having your financial goal displayed in front of you can make it that much realer, plus it’s nice to have a constant reminder of what you’re working towards.

Various ways to make your financial goal visual include:

  • Create a graphic that demonstrates your financial goal. An example of this would be if you are trying to pay off your house. You could have a picture of a house and section it into 100 pieces. Then, each time you reach a small payoff goal, you can color a piece in. I did some research and found a blog post about many other creative ways to do this on A Cultivated Nest.
  • Keep a picture of your goal on hand. Whether your goal is a vacation, an item you want, or something else, having a picture can help keep you reminded of it.
  • Start a blog. Blogging greatly helped me with my financial goals. I could easily look back to see how I was doing. Plus, I felt like I had to keep myself accountable and keep improving due to the fact that everything was public. If interested, you can start a blog for cheap with my easy tutorial.


Hang out with others who share the same financial goals as you.

Learning how to stick to a budget can be a hard task but spending time with others who share the same financial mindset as you can help.

I’m not saying you should unfriend anyone who is in a different financial spot than you, but I do think spending time with someone who you aren’t trying to Keep Up With The Joneses with can go a long way.

Related article: How To Live On One Income


Read and watch financial media.

Finance is all around you and it’s really not as boring as you may think. I read something related to personal finance every day and it’s not because I have a personal finance blog – it’s because I want to!

There are different ways to stay on top of financial media. You can watch the news, listen to financial podcasts, read personal finance blogs, read financial books, and more.


Set smaller goals in between.

Setting smaller goals in between can help a person stay motivated because it will help you keep your mind on your goal. Also, smaller goals can be a nice way to challenge yourself. Making it more of a game and a competition with yourself instead of a chore can go a long way.

For example: If your overall goal is to pay off $24,000 in debt in two years, then you might want to aim for $1,000 in debt payoff each month. This seems much more attainable than the $24,000 number, and this can help you stay motivated while still challenging yourself at the same time.


Keep track of your progress.

To stay motivated with your financial goals, you should review your progress every now and then. You might want to check in daily, weekly, or monthly, depending on what type of goal you have and what personally works for you.

Keeping track of your progress is a good idea because it can tell you what you need to do in order to reach your goal, if you are behind, or if you need to make a change.

I highly recommend you check out Personal Capital (a free service) if you are interested in gaining control of your financial situation. Personal Capital is very similar to, but 100 times better as it allows you to gain control of your investment and retirement accounts, whereas does not. Personal Capital allows you to aggregate your financial accounts so that you can easily see your financial situation, your cash flow, detailed graphs, and more.


Think about how you will feel in the end.

It can be hard to visualize the end when you’re just starting to learn how to stick to a budget.

One great way to stay motivated is to think about how you will feel later on and/or even when you’ve reached your financial goal.

How will you feel once you pay off your debt, save a certain amount of money, or reach whatever financial goal it is that you have? You should envision what your life will be like once you reach your goal, why you are trying so hard to reach it, and so on. A little daydreaming can go a long way every now and then.

For example: If your goal is debt payoff, then you may want to dream about what a debt free life would be like!


Still have fun.

Having financial goals doesn’t mean you have to be boring. You can still enjoy life, do many of the same things you usually do, and so on.

Remember to still have fun and enjoy life!

Related post: How To Be Frugal And Fun (And Not Boring)

What tips do you have on how to stick to a budget? How do you find financial motivation and what are your financial motivators? What financial goals are you working towards?


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Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. Mark@BareBudgetGuy

    Michelle so great to meet you this weekend, even though it was brief! Tracking progress and still having fun are the big ones for me.

    1. Yes, it was great meeting you Mark!

  2. Amy @ DebtGal

    My goal is to pay off debt. I’m following the steps you outlined above, and I think the last one is very important. Neither my husband nor I could stayed motivated if we were living a life of complete deprivation.

  3. Tracking progress is huge for me. I love to see where I’ve been and where I’m headed. I also think spending time with people who have similar goals works wonders on your mindset. Really, these tips apply to habit forming of any kind. Awesome list!

  4. We try very hard to stay on budget because the budgets we make align with our long-term goals. If we spend more, we are basically robbing our savings for the future. I’m not okay with that!

  5. Great advice. My favorite trick when working on something big is to set smaller goals along the way. As a project manager, that’s standard practice as we set milestones for project delivery, and I’ve found that it works very well in the personal finance world as well.

  6. I agree 100% with hanging out with people who share the same financial goals. It was very hard for us at times to say no to close friends who loved to go out and eat & wanted our company. That by far was the biggest hole in our wallet.


  7. Love the tip about using a graphic for visualization. I’ve used this a lot over the years and it’s a great source of daily motivation.

  8. Awesome tips Michelle! I think that making visuals and spending time with others who have a similar mindset always helps me with any goals that I am trying to accomplish. Both are key in helping me stay motivated!

  9. I’ve learned that hanging out with other people who share the same financial goals is much easier and leads to more fulfilling relationships for me.

  10. Ali @ Anything You Want

    I find reading personal finance blogs to be one of my best motivators. I guess its a bit like trying to keep up with the Joneses, but in reverse. I want to save just as much as those other bloggers!

  11. Heather @ Simply Save

    Visual goals really motivate me. I use progress bars to track goals and I get so excited and motivated when I can update the bar!

  12. Just this year, I and my wife made a collage of our goals and placed it in our living room. So far, it is really helping us to maintain and boost our motivation. Whenever I see it, it gives us energy and positive vibes.

  13. Great seeing you again last week Michelle – and of course I know who you are! ๐Ÿ™‚ Geez, give me more credit than that.

    I would add to the goal – make it a roadblock to your spending. Put notes on your credit cards or a picture in your purse/wallet/bag, let it get in the way so you have to consciously decide between it and spending.

  14. I really like the idea of using a visual to help you achieve your goals. I think we’ll have to come up with a good visual for each month to help us pay off our debts. Thanks for the great idea!

  15. I’m absolutely agree, I’ve tried to have a shopping ban period but I am better as budget planner instead shopping banner, so I try to keep my expenses under the budget still having a good social life and treat myself with a little gift every month….your posts have always great tips, thanks for sharing!!!

  16. Janet Fazio

    Hanging out with folks who have the same goals as you do is key. Otherwise, it’s like trying to stick to a diet when everyone around you is eating pizza.

  17. Gina

    I love all of these tips! I know that I’ve found it hard to be motivated to stick with a budget at times. It can be so tempting to just buy a couple of things or go out to eat more than I should. But, then before I know it I’m back where I started. I like this list a lot! I think that I’ll have to make a graphic like you mentioned. I think that would be a great way to stay on track. ๐Ÿ™‚

  18. These tips are so helpful right now for me. Thank you.

  19. Reelika @Financially Wise on Heels

    Such a great article! I have been diligently tracking my spending for years now and saving up for a house and retirement. But I totally agree that sometimes it can get discouraging to “count all the pennies” while your friends are going on shopping sprees. However, having a goal helps a lot! In my family, we have two savings jars. One is for Disneyland and the other is for Costa Rica. It keeps everybody’s eyes on the goal and also teaches my son how to save.

  20. I write my goals down 2-3 times per day to reinforce them into my subconscious and keep them visible. I love the advice to hang out with people who are also focused about their finances. It will be really challenging for someone to become a multi-millionaire yet surround themselves with people who are broke and always in debt. They will spend so much emotional energy passing on experiences or outtings because their friends do not understand what they are doing.

  21. Staying around other like-minded people really helps! When I was growing up, I felt like an outcast at times because I actually paid attention to money. Now I hang mostly with other money-minded people – entrepreneurs, travelers, etc. So much fun and I feel normal. ๐Ÿ™‚