3 mindful money tips to take action on your debt

By Rebecca Lake

Reviewed by Kimberly Rotter

Feb 15, 2024

Read time: 2 min

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Mindfulness is awareness, focus, and acceptance. A mindful approach means acknowledging reality, and making conscious, deliberate choices for your own behavior, actions, and feelings. 

Debt can be stressful and paralyzing. It can be hard to figure out what to do about it. Anxiety, worry, shame—all those feelings might freeze you in your tracks. You might end up doing nothing. Or you might self-sabotage and make your debt worse. 

The truth is, you want to get rid of your debt, but you might not know where to start or how to keep the momentum going once you do. 

Practicing mindfulness in your financial affairs could help you get unstuck so you can move forward with your financial goals.

Here are some ways to shift your money mindset using mindfulness.

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Keep a debt diary

Mindfulness means being present and aware of your debt situation. Start getting your brain around the nitty-gritty details. Understand where you are now and where you want to go. 

Ask yourself these questions and write down the answers:

  • How much debt do you have?

  • What feelings does your debt trigger? 

  • What's your biggest worry where your debt is concerned?

  • How would paying off your debt make you feel?

Writing out what you're feeling about your debt can be a little scary, but there's a good reason to do it. You can't take action if you've disconnected yourself from the situation. 

Look back at what you've written and acknowledge how your debt makes you feel. Then take a deep breath and remind yourself that you can do something about it. 

Visualize what your life would look like without debt. Get as detailed as possible and keep that mental picture front and center, so it's there when you need motivation. You could even create a vision board to keep your goals front of mind.

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Set your intentions

Being mindful means being intentional. There are a few ways to focus on intention when you're dealing with debt. 

  • Decide on a debt pay-off method. Paying off debt haphazardly is a good way to get nowhere fast. Choose a set method to pay off your debt, like the debt snowball or the debt avalanche. Having a roadmap could make it easier to stick with the plan.  

  • Do the math on how much you can pay toward debt each month. Your budget is the key to your financial success, and you need to know what you can realistically afford. Once you do, you can automate those payments so you don't have to worry about that money getting where it needs to go. 

  • Check in with your budget and debt repayment progress once a month. Consistency eventually pays off if you stick with your plan. Track your progress to figure out whether what you're doing is working. You can also use a debt paydown app to help you stay on track. If you have a setback, acknowledge it and then refocus on working toward debt freedom

  • Go back to your debt diary and write down what prompts you to spend. Mindfulness means examining how you feel in the moment. If you've used shopping as a stress reliever in the past, for example, then understanding that can help you find new ways to deal with stress that don't involve needless spending. 

  • Create a money mantra. A mantra or affirmation is a simple phrase you can repeat to yourself as a reminder of your goal. For example, you could choose something like I'm in control of my debt; it doesn't control me. You can repeat your mantra any time you start to feel money stress or worry creeping in. 

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Get help if you need it

Changing your mindset can help you feel excited about knocking down what you owe instead of overwhelmed by the debt. But if you're trying out mindfulness tactics and still struggling, it's okay to ask for help. 

Talking to a debt expert can be a relief if you're able to get out those negative feelings you've been holding on to. You don't have to feel like you're struggling alone. There's someone who understands what you're going through. 

A credit counselor might be able to suggest solutions to your debt situation that you've overlooked. Also, a credit counselor could coach you on healthy financial habits that lead to a strong credit profile.

A mindful approach to your debt means recognizing what you can do and doing it. Even a tiny step moves you forward on your path to a better financial future.

Rebecca Lake - Author

Rebecca is a senior contributing writer and debt expert. She's a Certified Educator in Personal Finance and a banking expert for Forbes Advisor. In addition to writing for online publications, Rebecca owns a personal finance website dedicated to teaching women how to take control of their money.

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Kimberly is Achieve’s senior editor. She is a financial counselor accredited by the Association for Financial Counseling & Planning Education®, and a mortgage expert for The Motley Fool. She owns and manages a 350-writer content agency.

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