Debt is an emotionally charged word that can prompt feelings of anxiety, shame and even guilt. Many people swimming in debt may also feel trapped and hopeless, and they're not alone. Total household debt rose to $12.96 trillion in the third quarter of 2017, as reported by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York's Center for Microeconomic Data's "Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit." [Read: Trying to Dig Out of Debt? Don't Make These Mistakes.]Unfortunately, there is no quick fix that can make debt disappear. It takes dedication and diligence. However, there is one powerful and often-overlooked tool that can be used to fuel motivation and reach success faster: mental strength."Your thoughts affect the way you feel and the way you act," says Amy Morin, psychotherapist and author of "13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do." According to Morin, “If you think paying off debt sounds overwhelming and painful, you won't succeed." But with a few simple mind tricks, you can tame worries to take back control and eliminate debt.Changing your mindset is the first step toward freeing yourself from the burden of debt. Consider the following mind tricks to psych yourself out of debt and establish healthier spending habits for good.1. Reframe your thoughts. Negative emotions associated with debt can keep you from reaching your repayment goals. For instance, someone who believes he won't be able to pay down their credit card balances is less motivated to try and may give up too soon, Morin says. Consumers who maintain positive thoughts when it comes to overcoming debt, such as focusing on the benefits of becoming debt-free and using verbal affirmations about their ambitions, can instantly empower a sense of reassurance."Perception is projection, and what we think becomes our reality," says Laura Payne-Stanley, a business life coach and hypnotherapist based in the U.K. "Reframing thoughts to become focused on where you are going and using affirmations opens up a world of possibilities and leads to positive energy."2. Overcome the fear of your debt. When faced with a large amount of debt across multiple accounts, a person's fear of their current financial situation and how much they owe can create a roadblock toward reaching their goal. Overcoming this fear becomes crucial for financial health."The first thing consumers should do is face their debt," Morin says. "Many people fear adding it all up because it's anxiety-provoking to look at it. You can't change your behavior until you know exactly what you're dealing with."Assessing your account balances is key to understanding your total debt. Then, you can take action to outline a repayment plan. Apps like Pay Off Debt by Jackie Beck and Debt Payoff Pro help consumers organize their debt in one place, outline a repayment strategy and track progress along the way.3. Imagine a debt-free life. Spending the time to visualize what a debt-free life might look like can spark hope and boost morale. This exercise can help you outline how your goals can be achieved and propel the willpower to work through any challenges along the path toward debt reduction."Envisioning yourself reaching a goal motivates you to act like the person you want to become," Morin says. "Imagining yourself paying off your debt and eventually enjoying a debt-free life gives you a brief taste of what that life would be like and gives you hope that you can achieve your goals."4. Let go of limiting beliefs. Limiting beliefs are thoughts that inhibit certain behaviors and actions, and are said to keep people from reaching their goals. For those who doubt their ability to overcome debt, Payne-Stanely suggests writing down any hindering thoughts in order to banish them."By letting go of limiting beliefs, people describe feelings of lightness and clarity as they are no longer weighed down by ideas and thoughts that are keeping them stuck in debt," she says.5. Keep a list of reasons for paying down debt. Whatever the desire for wanting to get out of debt – whether it’s to buy a house or reduce stress – writing down these reasons on a piece of paper that is kept in plain site can be a mental motivator."On the days when you're tempted to blow your budget or you feel like giving up, read over the list," Morin says. "It can help you stay on track when motivation is running low."6. Build momentum by paying down small bills first. Though it may feel impossible to pay off total debt owed, breaking it down into smaller, more manageable chunks can seem more achievable and help spur motivation. Consider the debt snowball method, which focuses on paying off smaller debts first to build momentum."The debt snowball technique works so well because borrowers see results quickly, so they score a quick win and feel a sense of accomplishment early on," says Brian Davis, personal finance writer and co-founder of SparkRental.com, a site that offers free mini-courses on creating passive income from rental properties. "That's critical because debt can feel incredibly overwhelming, so it’s a huge help to see tangible progress early on when tackling it."[See: What to Do If You've Fallen (Way) Behind on Your Credit Card Payments.]7. Automate payments so willpower can’t get in the way. With this "set it and forget it" strategy, consumers can make change without having to act on it or think about it each month. "Willpower will fail you sooner or later," Davis says. "The more you can automate and systematize the actions you want to do, the more likely you are to succeed with them."Automating payments also keeps the extra money out of sight and out of mind, which can have a powerful affect on spending. The less money you see in your daily account, the more you may be inspired to adjust your spending.8. Track progress to stay motivated. Writing down each debt and tracking repayment activities isn’t just a good way to stay organized, it offers a point of reference for reviewing progress and success. Whether keeping notes on paper, in a spreadsheet or in an app, visualizing progress allows a you to feel a sense of accomplishment for all the hard work you put in. You should take the time to identify milestones you want to reach throughout your debt repayment journey in order to track your degree of success."Looking back at your progress shows you that it’s possible to reach your goals," Morin says. "You can build upon each small success to stay motivated and keep going."9. Establish a rewards system to avoid burn out. Aggressive debt repayment plans typically include an element of austerity, and this level of commitment is tough to stick with over time. Keep yourself from feeling burnt out by celebrating smaller milestones and establish a reward system."Each small milestone you reach will give you confidence that you can reach the next hurdle," Morin says. "Celebrating your achievement allows you to appreciate the hard work you put in." Be careful that the reward don’t backfire, Morin warns. Don't buy a big-ticket item that can derail debt repayment efforts and sabotage progress," she says.10. Rely on a buddy to help keep you accountable. To reach any financial goal, a person has to have the willpower and desire to stay on track. It’s much easier to falter when going at it alone. That's why asking a friend, family member or co-worker to check in on debt repayment progress can help maintain accountability. Ideally, a person working toward a similar goal can stir competition and inspire motivation. Morin advises choosing someone who has self-discipline and willpower to keep you energized.Alternatively, apps like HabitForge take the place of a trusted friend and keep users accountable to their goals by sending daily check-in notifications along with progress reports and a community to encourage members to reach their goal. Meanwhile, the Beeminder app requires consumers to pay if they veer from their goal, which is the ultimate motivator.11. Identify emotional spending triggers. Whether feeling happy, sad or bored, emotions play a huge role in a person’s spending habits and their ultimate debt. While some shop to boost their mood, others may binge on purchases when they are happy because they aren’t as worried about money. Regardless of when or why this happens, experts say it’s crucial to understand the feelings that prompt excess spending. "Pay attention to the times when you’re experiencing the emotions that trigger unhealthy habits so you can prevent yourself from blowing your budget," Morin advises. "Look for healthier ways to cope with those emotions like exercising, talking to a friend or reading a book."Davis also suggests setting spending rules to limit impulse purchases. "Give yourself a 48-hour waiting period before buying anything for yourself. This restricts you to only buying the things you really need or want," he says.12. Stick to cash to avoid impulse spending. The best trick to prevent impulse purchases is to pay with cash. Physically handing over money to a cashier leaves a greater impact than swiping a card. "You want to make sure you're aware that you’re spending and your cash is dwindling," Morin says. "This is easy to forget when you never physically handle money."[See: 8 Financial Steps to Take After Paying Off a Debt.]Checking bank and credit card accounts regularly can help keep you accountable for your spending. Using an app like Mint allows you to link to all your financial accounts in one place and get a snapshot of your spending, savings and debt in real time. Reviewing account details before making a purchase may also help curtail an unnecessary impulse buy..
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