The Banality of Saving: 5 Ways to Stay Motivated

I am working toward paying off my mortgage.

After long consideration of the pros and cons of investing vs paying off my mortgage, or buying rental property vs paying it off, I made my decision 3 years ago and have been attacking that motherfucker diligently. If I stick to my plan, I’ll have it paid off 2 years from now exactly.

After 3 years, I can tell you definitively: it’s boring. Not much happens except that I send the same amount to the bank month after month after month.

Every month, I watch my principle go down, and my end date get closer. I get a little thrill, and then….nothing. Until the next month.

So I stick to the plan…and wait.

When I first got my finances in order, there was something exciting all the time. 

I made a budget, and then I mastered it. I made a debt repayment plan, and tweaked my budget to squeeze more and more and more. And then my debts were gone, and it felt great!

I calculated how to max out my 401k, and then I figured out how to do the same with my Roth IRA. Heck, even figuring out what a Roth IRA is took some research, and then I had to figure out where to open one and what to do with it once I put some money in it. It was fun!

I saved and bought a car in cash. I learned about and opened an HSA. I built my emergency fund – that was loads of fun, strategizing where to put it, how much I should have in it. I mapped out CD ladders, researched the highest interest savings accounts. 

All of this took years. Researching, brainstorming, strategizing, doing, succeeding.

But all of those things are now set and automated. I tweak periodically, but mostly, they just happen. There’s nothing to decide – I’ve already decided. 

So now I put send my check to the mortgage every month, and I sit and I wait.

I check my budget to see if I can squeeze any more out of it, and I confirm that I can’t (won’t). I recalculate my mortgage end date and confirm that my previous 3 years of calculations are correct. 

It’s so boooring.

Here’s how I motivate myself to stick with it:

  • 1. I read personal finance blogs and I comment on them. It helps to have a conversation with people about things I’ve learned and done. The most helpful and motivating blogs are ones that either describe the poster’s own journey and feelings and viewpoints. Reading what motivates others motivates me. It reminds me of the thrill of discovering that you can get out of debt, you can learn how to invest. 
  • 2. I learn. I continue to pick up stock investing books and read about real estate strategies. I experiment with investment methodologies in my Roth IRA. I research rental real estate prices and daydream about how I will go about it once I’ve paid off my mortgage.
  • 3. I find like-minded people to discuss finances with. Mostly my Dad. He’s interested in anything I have to say (poor Dad). 
  • 4. I give my dollars a name. When I am tempted to go off track and buy something superfluous, my only option is to dip into the dollars that are named Mortgage. It helps me to remember that that money is not available for anything other than its destiny: the mortgage. (Sounds funny, but it really helps!)
  • 5. I find other interests and hobbies. I need a distraction while the slow, slow process of paying off my mortgage slowly winds its way down. I garden, I go to meet ups, I play board games, I walk. It helps to engage my mind in an activity where I can see more immediate rewards than waiting around for another 2 years for something to happen. 
  • What do you do to stay motivated?