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By this time of year, most of our New Year’s resolutions have been long abandoned, with our old habits remaining firmly in place. But it’s never too late to make a get-out-of-debt plan that you can actually maintain.

And how do you make a plan that sticks? Well first it helps to determine your motivation for being debt-free. To help you do that, I’ll talk about the main reasons why getting out of debt can make your life better — plus strategies to help you do so.

Why You Should Become Debt-Free

Where do you stand when it comes to debt? Do you feel that debt isn’t a problem or that paying it off isn’t your first priority? If so, there are probably many, completely legitimate reasons for this. But I’m going to talk about the reasons debt payoff should be first priority:

  • For you
  • For freedom
  • For financial prosperity

If you are carrying any debt at all, then chances are good that you’ve experienced stress due to this at some point or another. It goes without saying that, if you pay off the debt, then you’ll never have to be stressed about it again. But why is this important? Because debt can be like a black cloud hanging over our heads. It affects nearly every decision we make in life — whether it’s regarding our careers, our relationships, or decisions for our future. Depending on the amount of debt you have, you may even find yourself losing sleep at night, having trouble focusing at work, and pulling away from your personal relationships.

Why would debt do this? Because too many of us feel shame for having debt. But it’s time to let go of that shame. So many of us have had to deal with debt at some point and I’d bet if you talk to your friends about it, they’d admit they’ve been there too. So don’t judge yourself or feel ashamed — rather, empower yourself to do something about it! You deserve to have peace of mind and a life without debt.

Become Debt-Free for Freedom

What happens when you don’t have to worry about debt anymore? You suddenly have freedom to make choices based more on your hopes and desires and less on financial obligations! Imagine a life in which you can choose a career you love — even if the pay isn’t as high as other jobs — because you don’t have debt payments to make. Or a life in which you can take that trip you’ve always wanted to go on or save for the home of your dreams — all because you can apply your extra money toward a savings account rather than paying off debt.

That’s the ultimate financial freedom — to choose where your money goes. Without debt, you have more ability to invest and watch your money grow, put aside for your retirement, and build a strong financial house.

Become Debt-Free for Financial Prosperity

Finally, let this be the year you kick debt to the curb so you can have more financial prosperity. You may say that you don’t earn enough for financial prosperity anyway, or that your debt isn’t having that large of an impact on your financial future. To the first point, the beauty of compound interest means that all you need to do is set a little bit of money aside each month to build a strong savings years later. And yes, any little bit that goes toward interest paid on debt is a direct competitor to that savings goal.

Think your debt doesn’t have a strong impact on your financial future? All you need to do is consult a credit card calculator for proof that long-term debt can cost a significant amount, more than you might ever anticipate. The fact is, carrying debt will always cost money, so why not get rid of the debt and use that money for building financial prosperity?

How You Can Become Debt-Free This Year

Are you convinced that this is the year to become debt-free? Now you probably want to know how to make that happen! Here are a few steps to follow:

  • Educate yourself
  • Make a plan
  • Celebrate your success

How You Can Become Debt-Free by Educating Yourself

For starters, it’s a good idea to get educated about all the things you can do to pay off debt. This includes reading books and blogs written by financial experts. The more you know about how to optimize your specific financial situation, the better you can empower yourself to move forward. No two debt payoff plans are the same!

How You Can Become Debt-Free by Making a Plan

Now that you’ve taken the time to educate yourself on all the ways you can optimize your finances and pay off your debt, it’s time to make a solid plan for doing so. Making a debt payoff plan should involve both doing an inventory of your budget (or spending plan) and making a solid decision for how you want to pay the debt off. No matter what plan you choose, just make sure it’s one you feel comfortable with and you know you can follow. You can even start slow. Once you see success along the way, you may just find yourself ramping up the intensity on your plan to get out of debt faster.

How You Can Become Debt-Free by Celebrating Your Success

This step is extremely important. When you reach certain milestones along the way, give yourself a moment to acknowledge this great achievement. Want to make this work even better for yourself? Enlist a debt-free buddy and help each other stay accountable and celebrate successes. What could be more motivating than a close friend with the same goal?

If you want some extra motivation, thousands of people have signed up for one program, The Debt Movement, aiming to pay off $10 million of debt in 90 days. The program also offers a scholarship to contribute to your debt payoff. The buddy system is yet another way to stay motivated and on track to get out of debt have more financial freedom.

Image: iStockphoto

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