For the past 18 months, I’ve been aggressively paying off debt. Most months I am putting over 50% of my income towards my student loans. Some months that has put me in a difficult situation, but it has been my choice to pay extra.

It was my choice to deplete my $10k emergency fund and throw the majority of it to debt. Now that I have $1.5k in an EF, I’m feeling a little vulnerable. I miss my safety blanket. I miss the cushion. I miss logging into my account and seeing that I DO have some money to my name.

All of this has got me thinking — can you be addicted to paying off debt?

I know what you are thinking — that how can this addiction be bad? Debt is evil and paying it off would be a win-win situation.

But think about it this way — my feverish intensity with wanting my debt gone has made me push everything to the wayside in the effort to pay off debt. I’ve put paying off debt above everything, including my relationship, my health, and my sanity. I’m not proud of it either. I’m an all-or-nothing gal, so finding a balance seems hard.

I think one can be addicted to paying off debt, at the expense of other priorities. Many debt bloggers are neglecting their retirement funds (myself included), relationships, and emergency funds all because of the thrill of making another payment.

The RUSH of seeing the number go down. The POWER of knowing your interest is lowering. It’s all so exhilarating. Like a junkie, I’m always thinking about when I can make my next payment. How much will it be this time? Am I closer to my goal?

Even though it can be so addicting and exciting, it is also exhausting too. I look at my original goal of being debt free in 4 years. That would require me to make payments of roughly $1,300 for the next 30 months. That is seriously depressing and I don’t know if I can do it.

I don’t want to give up and I don’t want to let you down. But I may have other priorities come my way. I might want to increase my emergency fund. Pay more to retirement. It doesn’t mean I’m any less serious about getting out of debt. Just offering myself some breathing room.

What is amazing is this: when I started this blog I was making $12/hr as a seasonal employee and there was no way in heck I could payoff my debt in 4 years. I just made up a number that sounded nice, with no real financial backing. Why? Because I felt like it could happen. Then I got a better paying job, and have been side hustling my butt off. I could technically keep up the pace and actually make my once unfathomable dream come true.

And isn’t that the way — as soon as something is in reach, things change. Your desire changes, life changes. Things happen that give you a new perspective.

All of this to say, I am still committed to getting out of debt. I will do my best at reaching my deadline. But I won’t beat myself up if I don’t make it. But hopefully I will continue to increase my income and I’ll be able to fund all of my priorities. I caution people in the debt payoff process of putting too much to debt at the expense of your mental health and financial safety. It’s probably not worth it.

So I’ll keep moving along. One payment at a time. Every single day. Working towards my life goals, not only my debt goal.

Besides, what will I write about once I’m debt free? πŸ™‚ Only time will tell.

Melanie

Melanie is a freelance writer currently living in Portland, Oregon. She is passionate about education, financial literacy, and empowering people to take control of their finances. She writes about breaking up with debt, freelancing, and side hustle adventures at DearDebt.com.

Currently she puts more than 50% of her income towards debt, while living a frugal, fun life. In addition to her love of personal finance, art and music, she is also a karaoke master. Follow the adventure @DearDebtBlog.

28 responses to “Can You Be Addicted to Paying Off Debt?”

  1. Wow, we have a very similar finance situation going on here! I, too, am paying soo much more on my loans, monthly. And, I am choosing to put more on them instead of build my emergency fund up a lot. My engine just got a leak in it and now I’m wondering if it’s worth it. However, I think I’d rather have a shotty car and less debt. So, for me, it’s worth it. It’s hard for people to understand why, as a lawyer, I choose to continue to drive my 2006 Civic and now I’ll be adding coolant to it so it doesn’t die on me. I guess my philosophy is that I refuse to get in more debt while I’m paying off my debt. If debt free is the goal, then my less than perfect car is going to be my reality for a while.
    Natalie @ Financegirl recently posted…6 Strategies to Keep You Focused on What’s ImportantMy Profile

  2. I do think it can become pretty addictive and you experience that rush you were talking about. I get that with side hustles. I love making extra money that doesn’t have anything to do with my day job. I do think though you need to be aware of when it affects your life negatively, like your health and relationships. That’s when you have to take a step back and look at your payment goals realistically.
    Tonya@Budget and the Beach recently posted…So Many Goals, So Little TimeMy Profile

  3. Lauren says:

    I totally see what you’re saying. It’s definitely not good to put your health and relationships at risk to reach your debt payoff goal, so it’s great that you recognize that and can make some adjustments. You will reach your goal in time, but you need to be enjoying life along the way. Look at debt payoff as a journey, not necessarily a destination to arrive at.
    Lauren recently posted…Side Hustle Ideas: My Fiverr ReviewMy Profile

  4. This is a great post Melanie. I know you’ve been seeking balance for a while now and I sure hope you are getting closer to finding it. πŸ™‚ I don’t think there’s any problem with slowing down your payments a little bit and using a little more money for savings and other priorities, even if you start spending a little more on yourself, your health, and your sanity from time to time. I think it’s totally fine to re-fine or set a new goal that is based on actual financial number rather that what sounds good, lol πŸ™‚ Do what works for you!
    Kayla @ Shoeaholicnomore recently posted…Looking Forward: October 2014My Profile

  5. One payment at a time is a really healthy way to be focusing on the journey. I have so much admiration for what you’re doing. I know I’d be incredibly burned out — and also a little worried about a limited e-fund. But $1.5k is still a pretty solid number for someone aggressively paying down debt. It gives you a little buffer in case something does happen.
    Broke Millennial recently posted…Frugal Find Friday: Summer in New York CityMy Profile

  6. I totally get it! Especially when you make yourself accountable to this group of people on the internet and you feel like you’re letting other people down. Trust me, you’re not. You’re rocking it month after month! I don’t think anyone is sayings “silly Melanie, she set an arbitrary goal date four years in the future and now she’s going to not make it!” Plans change and evolve over time. Don’t hold yourself to an imaginary standard that isn’t feasible.

    I’m trying to be all about balance now, if you can’t tell.

    I have a decent emergency fund, and I’ve started saving for retirement, but that was mostly because it is mandatory with my employer. If not, I don’t think I’d be saving for retirement yet. Though I suppose it is good that I’m being forced to.
    Alicia @ Financial Diffraction recently posted…Why I Am Not Changing Apartments.My Profile

    • Melanie says:

      Thanks for the encouragement! I needed it. I do feel accountable and maybe I’m afraid of letting myself down most? I want to devote 100% of myself to getting out of debt, but I realize that is not reasonable.

  7. I think you can totally be addicted to paying off debt! I feel like the key is to be flexible and open to changing around where you’re focusing on putting your money. Sounds like you’re on the right track, though!
    Molly @ FeeHacks recently posted…My First JobMy Profile

    • Melanie says:

      Flexibility is key! It’s hard for my OCD, lol. But in all seriousness, I want to fund all my goals, and feel secure about each aspect of my life, not just financial.

  8. Sometimes I wish I was a little bit more addicted to paying off my debt haha. Lately I’ve been way too causal about it…your drive and ambition amazes me Melanie. However health comes before wealth so put yourself and your loved ones first my friend! πŸ™‚
    Girl Meets Debt recently posted…5 Things to Buy (and Avoid) at the Dollar StoreMy Profile

  9. Michelle says:

    I definitely think that it’s possible to be addicted to paying off debt. I felt the same way when I was paying off my student loans. I depleted our emergency fund and I was so focused on seeing the number go down. I also felt bad whenever I was behind in my debt payoff goal.
    Michelle recently posted…Sales Tactics You May Be Falling ForMy Profile

  10. Mackenzie says:

    I can understand that feeling of wanting to pay off all your debt πŸ™ I hope you are able to find more balance and get some breathing room. I’ll help you with that when I move up there πŸ˜‰ #karaoke
    Mackenzie recently posted…Life, Lemonade, and UpdatesMy Profile

  11. I’m pretty sure paying down debt can become addictive and although it sounds like something good it depends on the person or couple. If both partners aren’t dedicated to pounding down the debt full force it could be harmful to the financial relationship. If you are someone who has debt and no one to answer to you could easily get a high from paying down debt especially if you are crunching numbers and know exactly what you are saving by getting rid of the balance you owe. I know we were addicted in a way to paying off our mortgage because we knew it was so close and in the palm of our hands. We earned extra money, saved money and did whatever we had to in order to make our dream a reality. πŸ™‚
    CanadianBudgetBinder recently posted…Will signing a room rental agreement feel like moving home?My Profile

    • Melanie says:

      Sounds like you guys were on the same page! That is so helpful. In a lot of ways, I feel like we are just getting started with our finances. Debt is a huge issue and I want to be smart and safe.

  12. Yes, I think paying down debt and living frugally can become addictive but really, what’s wrong with that? Only if taken to extreme and impacting relationships, I guess.
    Debs @ debtdebs.com recently posted…Top Ten Reasons You Need to Manage Your FinancesMy Profile

  13. Hm. Yes. Yes you can be addicted to paying off debt. And yes, blind mania toward anything isn’t a good thing so I’m totally on board with you when you started to worry whether it was taking over all other aspects of your life.
    Mario Adventuresinfrugal recently posted…The most important personal finance lesson my father taught meMy Profile

  14. Aldo@MDN says:

    I was also addicted to paying off debt. I put every penny I had into paying off my debt and was able to do it in about a year and a half. Well, I still have some student loan, but that’s going down this year as well!

    It’s a great feeling when you know that it is possible to get rid of debt, even if it takes you four years. Just keep at it!
    Aldo@MDN recently posted…DIY Phone Screen ReplacementMy Profile

  15. I think I’m with Debs here — it totally is addictive, but I’m not sure it’s a bad thing. At least over the short term. You could be right that if you’re looking at a period of more than two years, it might not be a good idea to spend all your time thinking about paying off debt. This stuff is emotionally tough.
    Cecilia@thesingledollar recently posted…Getting to JulyMy Profile

  16. E.M. says:

    I agree that you can become addicted to paying off debt, although in my case, I’ve been a little more addicted to saving (at the detriment of my student loans). Balance is so difficult to attain sometimes! I am really happy you posted this, though. I admire your efforts, but I know I’d never be able to dedicate so much of my time and life to earning extra on the side, and I’m happy you’ve decided to let other things take priority (such as your health!). There’s absolutely no shame in that at all. Debt already consumes us to some extent, not taking it *so* seriously (to the point of exhaustion) can be a good thing!
    E.M. recently posted…Do You Learn Lessons the Hard Way?My Profile

  17. Leigh says:

    After reading this post, I’m even more impressed and inspired by your choice to balance debt with your relationship. I felt like celebrating with your partner was important for both of you, and if it was me, it would have been really, really hard to spend the money. Or to not drag the guilt of doing something other than debt repayment with me until twice that much debt was paid off. I think you should be proud. I’m glad I’m finding such inspirational PF bloggers to keep me sane and focused. Thank you πŸ™‚
    Leigh recently posted…Summer Luxe Box ReviewMy Profile

  18. anna says:

    I completely get you when you talk about that ‘rush’ with paying down debt – I do get it somewhat with saving for some long-term goals, but it felt more so with paying down debt (maybe because it felt like I was metaphorically ‘killing that monster’?). I am SO proud of you for all that you have accomplished in just these couple of years I’ve known you – I can’t wait until you reach your debt free goal, because I know you’ll write about other exciting personal finance related stuff for years on out! πŸ™‚
    anna recently posted…You Know What’s Awesome Part 3My Profile

  19. Gina says:

    Oh man, I can relate to all of this. I want so badly to pay off my debt and improve my finances; it’s what I think about over 50% of the time! But there are other life goals I want to fulfill, too, like travel, saving, etc. I guess keeping a good balance between debt goals and life goals is really all we can do. πŸ˜›
    Gina recently posted…Debt Repayment Update: JuneMy Profile

  20. Steve says:

    It took me a couple months to get out of the debt repayment mindset that I had going for over 2 years on my student loans. You kind of get so used to it that it does become this automated thing you do every single month that it’s rather strange when it no longer is there. I guess in a way it’s like an addiction.
    Steve recently posted…Working Location IndependentMy Profile

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