awareness, big questions, goals, stories

The Longest Two Weeks in the World

Well, I had a seriously exciting experience this past Friday morning. Here’s a rundown of what happened, minute by minute:

6:15 am: The excitement begins! It’s the 15th: payday! I’ve been looking forward to this moment for a little over two weeks. I take the first sip of my morning coffee and log into my checking account to make sure the direct deposit has gone through properly.

6:16 am: I take another sip of coffee, log into my credit card account, and pay off the balance.

6:18 am: I log into one of my student loan accounts and make a $300 payment. Another couple sips of coffee while I do this.

6:19 am: Aaaaaand…that’s it. The excitement is over. I still have 2/3 of a cup of coffee left.

Or, if you prefer visual depictions, take a look at the following figure, which illustrates what my life sometimes feels like over the course of a month:

Screen Shot 2016-04-19 at 10.34.19 PM

Note: the figure is not drawn to scale because I had to make the red bars big enough for you to see them. But really, they’re only four minutes long. Two tiny, imperceptible blips in the expanse of my month.

In other words, what I currently seem to be living for is a specific four-minute stretch of time that occurs at my dining room table, in front of a pixelated screen, twice a month. A four-minute stretch of time that is followed by what feels like the longest two weeks in the world. Which is followed by another exciting four minutes! Which is followed by (once again) the longest two weeks in the world. And so on.

In other words, it’s pretty much always the longest two weeks in the world.

Is anyone else familiar with the fable of The Magic Thread? It’s about a little boy who is given a thread that he can pull whenever he’s looking forward to something in the future and wants to skip ahead through time to get there right away. At first he just uses it occasionally when he’s bored at school and wants to get to the end of the day, but he gets more impatient later on and eventually starts skipping ahead months and years at a time. Unfortunately he can only move in one direction though, and when he finally gets to be an old man, he realizes that he has skipped over a great deal of his life and can’t go back.

I had this story in a big collection of fairy tales as a child. I found it haunting then, and I find it haunting now. Because many paydays later, when I’ve paid off my loans, I’ll be older than I am now: at least two years older, maybe three or four. These are years of my life we’re talking about—years!—and I’m wishing them away in two-week chunks. And when they’re gone, I won’t be able to get them back again.

Thinking back, I’m not sure I’ve ever been in this much of a magic thread mindset before. Back when I was in grad school (that is, from the fall of 2010 through the end of 2015), long before I ever started making payments on my loans, I received a research assistant paycheck via direct deposit every Friday. But in those days it was always a nice surprise when I checked my email on Friday morning and noticed an email with my pay stub attached to it: Oh yeah, it’s payday! Whereas today there’s almost nothing that could distract me from the fact that the next payday is on April 29th. And I don’t like this new mindset. I don’t like it AT ALL.

I know this post is a little at odds with last week’s post, which was about how I’m really content with my life right now. What can I say? Human beings are complex, and both posts are true: I am content with my life (and I definitely experience a great deal of convergence), but I also feel that I’m looking forward to the future far too much.

For their final episode of Season 1, the Budgets and Cents podcast (which you should definitely check out if you haven’t already) answered listener questions. I submitted the question: “How can I be at peace with my life NOW, even if my financial future isn’t ideal?” Cait and Carrie’s answer, in part, was to recognize the progress I’ve made thus far and to be proud of that—to focus on the positive. You can hear their full response if you listen to that final episode; it’s the very first question they answered.

So, okay. Here goes. Let’s compare where I was a year ago to where I am today, and examine the progress I’ve made thus far.

Here’s where I was in April 2015:

  • I was still in grad school and didn’t know when I was going to finish.
  • I had just checked my student loan balance for the first time in about three years and found that, due to the accruing interest, I owed a grand total of about $56,000.
  • I knew that my paychecks were going to cease completely for the entirety of the summer, due to unfortunate academic/research funding issues. In other words, I was not going to be paid at all between May 1st and August 31st, other than a part-time clinical job I had lined up for the month of June.
  • I didn’t know if I would be paid during the fall semester or not.

Ok, now let’s look at what has changed between April 2015 and April 2016.

Well, that did help. (Thanks, Cait and Carrie!) I do feel good about what I’ve accomplished in the past year.

And I’m working hard on finding more ways to detach, to be less focused on these paychecks, to stop wishing my life forward into the future. Because payday is going to arrive when it arrives; counting down the days isn’t going to make it get here any faster. And once those two weeks are gone, I won’t be able to get them back again.

Do you have any suggestions as to how I can minimize my magic thread mindset and take the focus off of when the next payday is? Please share in the comments!

PS: Interestingly, I’m not the only one writing about the relationship between time and financial goals this week—there must be something in the air! For more angles on this topic, you should definitely check out Maggie’s post on the amazing things that can change in a few years and Penny’s post on being content with right now while also pursuing future goals.

Disease Called Debt

97 Comments on “The Longest Two Weeks in the World

  1. I know this mindset well. I was living for my Payment Days for so long. One thing that helped was finding ways to nurture the dreams on my list – free classes about gear and thru-hikes, writing essays and working with an editor/coach. Another thing that helped was my constant search for side gigs – the one off ones. I applied for a lot of focus groups and what not. Varying the ways I made money helped me feel like I was living more of a life, as did all the frugality practices I was learning to put in place.

    Also, congratulations on tremendous progress!

    1. Thanks! I agree that finding little side gigs can help. In the past two weeks I’ve made a total of $80 participating in research studies and a total of $24 playing poker with friends (Yeah, I know. But I’m counting it!). And having other hobbies and mini-goals definitely helps too. I just need to find ways to focus more on those things from day to day, and less on where I am in the pay cycle.

  2. I’m guilty of this. I’ve been in my career for a decade but I never feel settled. I’m always looking ahead to the ultimate goal – to leave my state – which is a few years away at this point. Every payday, I log on and move money around. However, I don’t have to wait two weeks. I spread my payments out throughout the month based on their due date so I have “something to look forward to.” Sad, I know. I’ve never been one to live in the present (unless I’m traveling). One thing that helps combat this is to engage in hobbies throughout the workweek.

    1. I can totally relate to spreading payments out or making other adjustments in order to have more to look forward to! It’s funny how these psychological strategies kick in. And living in the present is tough no matter what, I think. These days I’m trying to notice when I feel most in the present so I can try to create more of those moments — for example, I feel present when I’m walking or exploring outdoors, and also when I’m doing yoga. Which makes me think I would be more grounded if I did those activities more.

  3. I absolutely do this too! Like you I started a new job in March, one that actually lets me reach some major financial goals rather than just getting by, and at first it was so exciting anticipating payday, but the shine wore off pretty quickly, and kind of transitioned into a bit of impatience where it’s hard to chip away at goals slowly and pace yourself. To avoid wishing away the weeks, I find it helps to keep busy while not working, and put other dates in your calendar that you’ll look forward too, not just payday! Congrats on the progress you’ve made already this year!

    1. Congrats on the new job! I’ve had a similar experience as you describe: I was excited about the first two paychecks but now I’m feeling more impatient. I wonder if that feeling will continue to change over time — I’m crossing my fingers that maybe I’ll be less focused on the paychecks once I’ve gotten 8 or 10 of them and they no longer seem novel. But yes, in the meantime, it’s good to consciously find other things to look forward to! 🙂

  4. I can relate in so many ways because for 7 years as a freelancer I was able to save nothing, and in fact it depleted my accounts in so many ways, but now that I’m making more I’m trying to play catch up with retirement, so I understand that payday mentality. I think as I’ve settled into my job, that has dissipated somewhat, and since you just started your job recently, I suspect that might happen to you too! In the meantime, keep appreciating the little moments in life!

    1. Interesting! Well, I hope that happens to me too — I do think that the novelty of having these new paydays is probably a factor in my mindset, so maybe this mental state is temporary. I’m glad you’re feeling more settled in your job now! 🙂

  5. Oh my god the payday money shuffle is real and is my favourite thing too, so I can totally relate!

    On one hand, every time I look at my bigger money goals (house downpayment, emergency fund, etc.) I do get kind of antsy to have them done and fulfilled, and payday transfers are a big part of that. That said, I try to focus on how I’ll feel when those goals are done, especially the house one, because it actually helps me appreciate what I have now. Like, in a few years, the place I live now is going to be “the old house” or “the townhouse” and some seriously great things have happened in the house we’re in now! I know I’ll be nostalgic for it if/when we leave, and remembering that part – that these will one day be the “Good old days” helps me get out of the wishing-for-the-next-thing cycle.

    That said I doubt I’ll ever get over loving payday and loving the time I spend managing my money and moving it around, lol. It’s all about balance!

    1. Oh yes, the “good old days” mentality! That’s definitely one that I try sometimes. I tell myself that when I’m 40 I’ll look back on my 30s and feel so nostalgic, regardless of the fact that I was dealing with debt. I think it’s a good mental strategy.

      I’m torn on whether I’m okay with loving payday. It definitely is fun, but I also remember back when I didn’t really care about payday that much because I didn’t have any financial goals (slash, didn’t realize what bad shape my finances were in), and I’m a little wistful about those times. Like I wonder if i was enjoying my day-to-day life more back then. It’s hard to say though — perhaps not. And there are definitely positive consequences to moving things around appropriately at payday! 🙂

  6. You already know that we can relate to this in a big way. And ironically, getting focused on early retirement has slowed time down for us. Weeks used to zip by, months too. But now my time between paychecks feels longer than ever! I was starting to suggest that you automate some of your payments so you don’t focus on them so much, but then I thought that that’s actually stealing the joy of clicking “pay,” which feels exciting. So keep doing that if it brings you joy. But I love having all of our bills and savings automated, because I find that the less I interact with our money, the less I focus solely on the future. Because, as we’ve talked about before, I’m a little concerned that we’re training our brains to focus on the future, and when we actually quit sometime next year, we won’t be able to shift back to focusing on the present. But at the same time, focusing solely on the present is what leads to YOLO thinking and overspending, so I know there’s a balance in there somewhere… we just haven’t found it yet. 🙂

    1. The question of whether I should automate payments is definitely one that has occurred to me. It’s true, as you say, that it would take some joy away, but on the other hand it might also take away this crazy mentality that I’m in right now where my whole life centers around payday. I’m considering doing it when the weird hiccups of sorting out my post-unemployment finances have subsided. I honestly think I might have been happier back in the days when I wasn’t so focused on money. Although in those days I had a ton of anxiety about loans, so I guess I was still focused on money, just in a different (and much less productive) way. So I’m not sure how possible it would be for me to really take the focus off money completely. In any case, I think I’ll reevaluate in a couple months.

  7. I feel the same way!!! It took me a really long time (4 years after college) to get a position where I was paid a truly livable wage to be able to pay for life and save money. I started behind the eight ball by getting married younger and being a mom, but I live for payday! I get excited to see the progress in my emergency fund, or paying a loan. I also get irritated during the in between time because all i can think about is accruing interest and the HUGE (80k+) student loan balance that doesn’t seem to be moving at all. This post is a great reminder that there is life outside of balances, and pay day and I need to be mindful of wishing that time between now and better financials away. The goal will be achieved regardless.

    1. Yes, as you say, the goal will be achieved regardless! It’s as though I think I can achieve my goals faster if I think about payday more, and obviously I can’t. 🙂 So I definitely am looking for more balance, because wishing my life away is not a good or helpful option.

  8. I’m glad we’re on the same wavelength this week! It feels great looking back at what you’ve accomplished in a year or four years! My next step is to think about all the possibilities of the NEXT one year or four years. But as I said, I usually limit that dreaming and scheming to my early mornings. Then I shut it down and go live the awesome life I have now. It’s a constant struggle to find that balance (for everyone it sounds like!), but when we try, it’s worth it.

    1. Yes, it’s definitely a struggle. But trying to contain it to one part of the day seems like a good strategy (since human beings are all about routines!). I’m working on that — maybe when I’ve been at my job longer, the dust will settle a bit more and I’ll be more focused on the day-to-day.

  9. I flip-flop between feeling content with the present, and thinking/worrying/dreaming about the future as well! For me, focusing on bigger purposes than financial goals or debt payoff seems to help get me through to “waiting to pay off debt” moments. It seems that you’ve always wanted to help people, and you are doing that with your job & blog, so maybe that’s something to reflect on in those thread-pulling moments.

    1. Yes, I think that’s a good point: when I’m at work and thinking about how to help my clients, I’m not thinking about getting paid. And blogging has nothing whatsoever to do with my paycheck. So focusing on the work itself, whether it’s my day job, or writing, is probably a good strategy!

  10. I don’t think you are going to get away from this. Even with savings goals, I look forward to payday to do my money shuffle. The big thing is that you need to focus on other exciting times. Payday is not the only exciting time, even though it feels like it when you are paying off debt.

    Don’t wish for payday. Let payday be an extra boost in your energy. If you focus on payday, you really will wish this time away. If you have unhealthy money habits like I do, now is the time to learn how to deal with them. Face them head on. Build in other habits to distract you from payday. (Tangent: Sometimes I think this is why people get so into shows. A weekly routine is the perfect cycle.)

    1. Yeah, it’s true, I probably can’t completely get away from thinking about payday. Although sometimes I wonder if I’d be happier if that were possible…

      That’s a really interesting point about shows! There is something about weekly routines that is really appealing, isn’t there? I sometimes notice that I think back on the same day last week to compare. Like I always watch SNL on Sundays, and I’ll find myself thinking back to last Sunday when I watched it the last time, and thinking about what has happened since then.

  11. I definitely can relate. It’s so much fun on paydays to put those dollars to work right away, and sadly it only takes a couple minutes. I think you hit the nail on the head by living in “now” and realizing how much you’ve accomplished over the past year. Sometimes it may feel like you’re treading water, until you look back and see far you’ve swam 🙂

    1. I like the analogy of treading water and swimming without realizing it! I will have to keep that in mind! 🙂

  12. When I was paying off debt, I spent most of the time on a cycle where I was paid MONTHLY and it sucked. I wished for my theater freelancing days when I got paid once a week! That said, I think Kate’s advice is closest to what I’d say: don’t expect to get totally out of the “payday is exciting” cycle, because, well, payday is exciting. But it helps a lot if you have other things going on in your life that you can look forward to, so that those four minutes aren’t the only thing. I’ve made a lot of progress on this in the last year — don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the heck out of those four minutes, but now I sometimes don’t think about payday for a full week or two at a time! Because many of my goals right now are not actually financial, although some of them are, and so I can focus on doing stuff for them too.

    1. Whoa, monthly sounds challenging! Are you still paid monthly? In any case, that’s great that you’ve gotten to the point where you don’t think about payday all the time. I hope to get to that point too, maybe when I’m a little more settled in my job and more used to getting this paycheck. And I’m definitely trying to focus on other exciting things — because of course they do exist; it’s just so easy to get distracted by payday. 🙂

  13. Putting some other dates and goals on the list is a great suggestion for getting out of the Two Week mindset. I was working for today, when tax season is really really over, including squaring all the office away. But I was also working for a dinner out, Little Bit’s homework to be done for the week, Knitting Group (starting a new project that I’ve been dying to try), and getting my exercise goals met.

    So how are your Spanish lessons going? Making progress in your yoga? Going X amount of days without resorting to a car? Find a minute to celebrate some non-monetary goals too.

    1. Yeah, it’s true: there are lots of other things to look forward to. I don’t know why payday seems to eclipse the other ones so much of the time. It might be because my other goals/projects/activities are not particularly measurable (and I like it that way; measuring fun makes it less fun, in my opinion). But I do want to try to shift the focus onto those other things more. Maybe now that the weather is warmer I can distract myself by doing more fun things outside. 🙂

  14. I’m always like this in the first several months of a new job – I HAVE to log in and see the paycheck deposited. It’s possible I could have been caught refreshing the bank account page obsessively but I’ll never truly admit it.

    A few years on, I’m finding myself realizing it’s payday well after the deposit has been made because my payments are mostly automated and the ones that aren’t go on the credit card. And I enjoy having moved away from that mindset.

    P.S. Thanks for sharing the Magic Thread story. Somehow I don’t remember ever reading it and I’d love to find it for LB’s bookshelf.

  15. I love this post! I do the same exact thing- today is pay day in fact, and I spent about 5 minutes this morning transferring money around. I DO love that part. I feel in control, and I like to see the fruits of my labors. You’re 100% right though- you can’t miss out on life now for life in the future. We’ve got no guarantees, just today right (#yolo, haha). I applaud you for your efforts to change it up! I’m trying to do the same.

    1. It is fun to move the money around, isn’t it? 🙂 And that’s a good point that it’s a lot about control. I’m definitely working on taking the focus off of those four minutes though, because there’s a lot of other life to live too!

  16. YES! Great article and great fable too – had never heard before!

    This reminds me of a saying I always say to myself anytime I get jealous of someone who owns a fancy car/house/vacation/is super wealthy –> “I’d rather stay youjng”. Because most people who have these things are much older than I and it helps put things back in perspective for me 🙂

    People always wish they could be Warren Buffett and a billionaire, but do they realize it would require you to be 80+ or however old he is??

    Something to think about for sure.

    1. That’s such a good point! I hadn’t thought about it exactly that way before, but I would definitely rather be young than rich. I’m going to hold on to that thought — and I’ll definitely check out your post!

  17. Boy oh boy, Sarah, can I identify…

    Back when we were fervently paying off my school loans (then our mortgage) I was the same way. Because I had direct deposit into a credit union, my paycheck would appear the day BEFORE payday- so technically I would pay out money to our debt the day before payday!!
    I was so singularly focused on that day every two weeks. My husband was paid alternating weeks from my check, but his payday wasn’t nearly as exciting since mine was earmarked for debt.

    These are the things I found most helpful;
    -concentrating on saving money and eliminate most unnecessary spending while in our most hardcore phase. I’d relish in my packed lunches, home brewed coffee, and such. If really get such a charge out if knowing my everyday smart choices were helping to shape our financial future.
    – we focused on enjoying the leisure activities which didn’t cost us a cent (hiking, reading library books, creating nice meals at home when time allowed)
    -relishing our relationships and time spent with those we loved (at that point most of my family was elderly so we made sure to create memories with them. For that I’m really thankful, now that most of them are deceased.

    You’ve received good advice from the above posters, too!

    1. Thanks for sharing a bit about your experiences, Kim! I too get a lot of psychological mileage out of packing my lunches and making coffee at home and getting books from the library. 🙂 It’s true too that spending time with family and friends is helpful in taking one’s mind off of the payday schedule. I’m trying to find more of these positives, and to try to consciously focus on them as much as possible so I don’t get too caught up in numbers.

  18. I can relate to this feeling too. There is only so long you can stare at your internet banking screen. And all my payments are automatic so there is nothing to ‘do’. But I quickly remind myself to be grateful I have a job and I’m getting paid regularly. And like the other commenters I’m trying to do things today instead of waiting until I have time and just trying to enjoy the life I have now.

    1. Haha, yes, exactly: there is only so much time you can spend staring at your banking screen. I think that’s what the root of this issue is, really: there’s a maximum amount of time each month that I can be actively engaged in paying off debt, and so the rest of the time I need to find other things to focus on.

  19. Gratitude, even to ourselves for our past actions, is so huge in contentment I’ve found! As a super goal oriented person, though, I totally understand living for that next payment. It’s like a want for immediate gratification only for positive things instead of a new pair of shoes.

    1. I like the idea of focusing on gratitude for myself for my past actions — thanks for that idea! I hadn’t framed it in quite that way before. It’s true though: I’m grateful for myself for making a lot of progress and changes in the past year, and that’s a good thing to focus on.

  20. This is something I’ve been struggling with so much lately too, and also decided (very recently) to open a blog to write about personal finance. I’ve also thought about side jobs, but just haven’t tried any yet. Would love to hear more about the research groups you mentioned in one of the comments, how / where can you find them, etc. Just found your blog, I think I’ll have to go binge read now.

  21. I can understand where you’re coming from, and there have certainly been times in my life when I’ve foolishly wished away chunks of it. I would suggest you expand your focus…during those longest two weeks, surely you didn’t sit there with your cup of coffee doing nothing but waiting for payday. What about the time you’ve invested with family and friends, the other dreams you’ve pursued, the personal development you’ve undergone, or even this great post that you’ve written. Starting in January 2015, my wife and I worked together to develop yearly goals, except they’re not just financial ones. There’s categories for health, relationships, spirituality and a bunch more. While you want to keep an eye on those financial goals, there’s more to life than money. So fill those two weeks with other kinds of goals and be proud of your progress in lots of areas.

    1. Yes, it’s true, there are lots of other great things to focus on. 🙂 I just need to consciously practice focusing on those things instead of focusing on moving numbers around on payday, because somehow it’s really easy for the waiting-for-payday mentality to take over (at least these days). I also think that’s really cool that you and your wife formed goals in a variety of areas to work on together — what a great idea! 🙂

  22. Love, love, love this! I definitely have a bad habit of wishing away time to get to where I want to be. At least you know you’re not alone.

    1. Glad you liked the post, Mel! And I’m glad I’m not alone. 🙂 Now I just have to figure out how to stop wishing the time away…

  23. That Magic Thread story freaked me out too. It’s a hard balance to look forward with our goals yet enjoy the moment. Thank you for reminding me that both are important!

    1. Yeah, the story is scary! But I’m glad I happened to read it as a child, because I’ve thought of it many times since then. It’s still hard to find that balance between the future and now, though. Thanks for reading. 🙂

  24. I cannot tell you how many times my head nodded as I read this post. During my debt repayment journey, I was obsessive with checking my pay stubs, bank accounts, mint summaries, mint goal progress, student loan account, student loan interest charges, etc! For me the anticipation wore off after the first couple months and it started to become a routine that I could rely on. But the excitement was always still there.

    This really reminds me of a book I read called “Stubbling on Happiness”. You may have already read it, but if you haven’t, I think you’d really enjoy it (it’s right up your alley). There’s a part in the book that talks about the delay of happiness being equally as satisfying as the happiness stimulus. They use the example of a friend offering to buy you a free fancy dinner and you get to pick the date….most participants in the study chose to wait about 1 week in the future rather than that night or a month away. And the reason why is because people like to look forward to happiness just as much as they like to experience happiness. (It also talks about how poorly people report or perceive their own happiness in the past and future…super interested stuff and it’s a good read.)

    Anyway, whenever I get stuck thinking about my financial past or financial future too much I try to keep the lessons learned in that book at the front of my mind. The only true happiness we will ever know is in the present moment so it’s best keep your focus there!

    1. I’m glad the post resonated with you, Melanie! I should definitely check out that book — I’ve definitely heard of it but haven’t ever gotten around to reading it. But I definitely agree that anticipation involves some happiness, and the dinner example makes total sense to me. I’ll have to put it on my to-read list for sure! Thanks for the recommendation; I really appreciate it. 🙂

  25. Super post Sarah! It’s nice to see that I’m not alone in balancing today and tomorrow. I’m always excited for the paycheck and then once I get it and pay off the credit cards, it’s “Oh well, 2 more weeks!”

    I use meditation a bit to try and be more in the moment and enjoy where I am at. Once I got past the “Ok, i just sit here and breathe part?” It’s started to help. It’s great to be able to get back to in-the-moment and realize that most of the stuff about the future is in your head.

    1. Meditation sounds like a great strategy for being more in the moment. I’ve tried it at a few different points in my life, and I think it has helped during those times. I wish I were more focused on making it a regular part of my day. That’s great that it’s been working well for you!

  26. I also suffer from compulsively looking ahead to the future and forgetting to stay present and live in the current moment. It is hard because few things match the thrill of paying off large chunks of debt each month. I can only assume that it will be equally thrilling to invest those same large chunks of money when I am free from my non-mortgage debt in a few short months. Great post!

    1. It is thrilling, isn’t it? Before I started paying off the debt, I don’t think I realized how exciting it would be to make these payments. That’s great that you’re going to be free from non-mortgage debt soon — good luck with the final push!

  27. I know exactly how you feel about wanting that next paycheck to get yourself even closer to your financial goals. I have found myself in the past often wishing I was a few years in the future but came to realize that I needed to spend more time enjoying the journey of the everyday. I have never heard the story about the boy and the string but it is a great reminder of how important the present really is. I am glad you were able to figure this out and have seen the progress you are making.

  28. I was being paid weekly when I got serious about getting out of debt. I loved the weeks when rent wasn’t do so I could throw the biggest payment possible at that debt target. It sounds like you are on a good track. I suggest start saying yes to free and inexpensive fun things you find out about. It is too easy to get sucked into thinking you can’t do things because all of your money needs to go to debt payment. Good luck!

    1. Yes, I definitely want to find more fun/free activities to distract myself. Now that it’s almost summer, I think this will get easier — there are so many great outdoor activities that start to emerge when the weather gets warmer. 🙂

  29. When I had debts I was working on paying off, I felt exactly the same way–just looked forward to the next opportunity to make a dent in the debt. Unfortunately we can’t wish ourselves ahead financially but not in life-years! Cait & Carrie’s suggestion is surely a good one. I think a slight variation on that is to compare not only where you were to where you are, but also to where you’d be today if not for your campaign to repay debts.

    1. Ah, that’s a good point, I like the addition of thinking about where I’d be today if I hadn’t made the changes I’ve made. I will keep that in mind. Thanks for the suggestion! 🙂

  30. This is why I deleted my Personal Capital account – the obsessive checking. I’ve found that manually budgeting and tracking expenses, followed by tallying my net worth once a month, has satiated the constant need to be “taking action”. I still anxiously await payday, and think about my goals every day, but while I’m waiting I’m more likely to tinker with other areas of my life (that actually need tinkering!) rather than trying to fix something that doesn’t need fixing.

    1. Good for you for getting rid of the service that was enabling your obsessive checking. 🙂 I actually find that I don’t check Personal Capital obsessively; my problem is more of a mental one — I’m just constantly thinking, how many more days till payday?? and wishing the interim time away. But your point is well taken. Paying off debt is an odd goal because there’s a limited amount of tinkering we can do, as you put it. I’m glad you’ve found a system that works better for you!

  31. i love your writing. its very edgy and engaging. i seem to be missing something though. is it that you can’t find a job that you enjoy or is it that you just don’t want to be working right now. when does the loan need to be paid off by?

    1. Thanks, Ann. 🙂
      It’s not that I don’t enjoy my job (because I do) or that I don’t want to be working. It’s more that the debt has been a psychological burden for me for a long time and I’m extremely motivated to get rid of it. The loans don’t need to be paid off by a particular time per se, but they are accruing interest on an ongoing basis, so the faster I pay them off, the less money I will have to pay in total. So for both these reasons, I’m making much larger payments each month than my loan servicer requires: basically every extra bit of money that I can save or make goes towards the loans. And that makes it feel like a challenge or a sort of game, where I’m excited to make another large loan payment every time I get a paycheck. And it actually gets a little addictive watching the balance go down. The only downside to all of this is that I end up looking forward to payday all the time, and I’m uncomfortable with that because as much as I want to pay off my debt, I also want to focus on the present moment. So this post is about trying to find more of a balance.

      1. What would someone who loves themselves do? If i can remember to ask this question, I find it a good way to get to my heart and the present moment. The answer will vary at different times. Sometimes the most loving thing I can do is slog through paperwork and sometimes it is to play scrabble. In other words, at times embracing my demons is the most loving and other times play or positive focus is the most loving thing I can do for myself.

  32. Hey Sarah,

    Well it definitely is exciting to be paid :), nothing wrong with looking forward to that!
    Although I see what you’re saying here, basically you want to be able to enjoy the moment instead of wishing life away..

    Not sure how I’ve done it although where possible I look to get excited about hiking, spending time with friends, even reading.. Then you find that cash ends up banking up & you simply allocate as you’re already doing..

    You’ve got heaps of hobbies already at any rate, like Yoga yeah, plus your blog is on fire ;)..
    I’d say you’re closer than you think to having more purpose and avoiding the magic thread mindset!

    1. Yes, it’s an ongoing journey to add to my current hobbies and activities so that I can take the focus off of payday. I’m actually finding that this is getting easier as the weather gets warmer — there are more fun things to do outside, like hiking, as you say. Although if I remember correctly you’re in Australia, which means you’re headed toward winter now! Thanks for the comment. 🙂

      1. Haha yep we are headed towards winter although it’s unseasonably hot here atm for Fall (Autumn) at around 20 – 25 degrees Celsius (or about 70 – 80 Fahrenheit) during the day :), plus heading to Europe in about 2 months, which means I’ll miss the coldest part of winter here down under 😉

        Good on you for getting out & about!

  33. I feel the same way about the excitement on the 15th and the 31st!! I know I need to get sources of income outside of my employer. Side-hustles can pay me any day! The one good thing I did though was get a roommate in my house. That check usually comes in the first couple days of the month which is another thing to look forward to! Oh – and I sold a bunch of old clothes to a second hand store and a bunch of furniture on Craigslist which felt great! Good luck!

    1. That’s great — having a roommate can make such a huge difference in terms of finances! I love selling clothes too, and if I had extra furniture, I would be selling that too! 🙂 It definitely helps to have various other sources of income rolling in throughout the month.

  34. As excited as I am about getting paid again, I do my best to NOT think about it when paychecks come around. I’m so forward thinking about my finances that I try to not immediately think about what I need to pay for at the exact moment I get paid. I have my YNAB setup so that current month’s paychecks go towards the next month’s expenses so it’s something I don’t worry about.

    It’s definitely a challenge in your situation as you’re trying to pay off your student loans. What helps me with my only debt (my mortgage) is looking at the history online and seeing how my extra payments are going towards the principal and seeing how much my regular monthly payment is growing in equity as more and more money is going towards the principal instead of interest. 🙂

    You’re doing great Sarah! It’s awesome following your journey! You have a lot to be proud of 🙂

    1. That’s a cool idea to look at your mortgage history online. I’m not sure that my student loan servicers provide such a detailed breakdown, but I could easily build this into a spreadsheet myself. I definitely like the idea of being able to look back and see the progress I’ve made. 🙂

      Also, yay for getting paid again! You and me both. 🙂

  35. I have to say I agree with what people have said about looking for side gigs during the time.

    That is something I am currently experimenting with. I know roughly what our income will be for the month (fluctuating with OT that we pick up) but I spend any free moment I have finding other ways to make money. That and reading articles in the hopes that one day I will read something that triggers that AHA moment and I come up with an idea for something new.

    I am spending a lot of my extra time now trying to work the Ebay and Craigslist system. I’m hoping that I can get the hang of this and supplement enough income to cut my Debt Repayment Timeline down.

    Other than that I spend my excess time with my wife relaxing or at the gym relieving stress from constant financial worriment!!

    Exercise helps!


    1. Yes, exercise definitely helps me too! I find that I’m much more in the present moment after doing yoga or going running.

      That’s a great idea to take advantage of Ebay and Craigslist! I have never owned a lot of stuff, so I don’t have a lot I can sell; however, I did get rid of my skis last year via Craigslist, and some books via Amazon Marketplace. That was exciting! 🙂

  36. I’m absolutely guilty of this. I love that you distilled it down to the fable of the magic thread, that would be an excellent tattoo to get, to remind yourself to be patient and enjoy the times at hand. I definitely get caught up in my house down payment journey. I often catch myself wishing I have $5,000 more in there, or lamenting that it’s going to take me the whole year to get to my 2016 goal of $35,000.

    When I catch myself in that situation I try to remember that life is pretty freaking great where I am right now, and my money will get where it needs to go in due course.

    1. Haha, yes, that would be a good tattoo! 🙂

      I think that’s a really important thing to keep remembering — that life is good right now and the money will come in eventually. Other than maybe picking up a couple of side jobs, there’s nothing we can do to make it come in faster — and even side jobs aren’t going to help us reach our goals tomorrow. It just takes time.

  37. Ah! This is so true for me. I get paid once a month, so for about 30 seconds, I’m all “I’m rich!” because I get one big payment a month, but then it all gets divided up and paid out and 4 minutes later, I’m counting down the next 30 days. You’re right though – it ends up feeling like I’m wishing my life away trying to get to pay day and I’m not living in between. I’m trying to stop checking my bank balances as much during the month and to just trust my budget. That way I’m not stressing myself out by seeing the same numbers every day and not being able to do anything to change it until the end of the month. Thanks for this – I’m not alone!

    1. Wow, once a month! That is a long time between payments. And you are *definitely* not alone in wishing yourself into the future for payday! 🙂 I think checking your bank balances less often is a good idea. I check mine a lot too — as if checking them is going to change them, haha.

  38. This is a tough one. I find myself anxious for payday about a week or so after I get all my finances Dealt with (which is about 5 days after I get my paycheck, since I have to wait for the check to clear, write myself a check, wait for that to clear and then get everything scheduled). Problem: I get paid monthly. So… yeah.

    I try to just occupy myself with current finances: how we’re doing on the budget, making sure we’re keeping current on transferring money (since we’re paying credit card charges as we go), etc. That helps. Then again, so does putting down the computer and watching TV.

    1. Once a month is a long time between paychecks! It sounds like you’re able to do some useful monitoring throughout the month though. I do enter my purchases in a spreadsheet at the end of every day, so I guess that helps a little. (Although sometimes I’m not sure if it makes me more focused on the budget in a good way or just more obsessed with it?)

      But yeah, I agree: sometimes you just have to put down the computer. Watching TV is, in my opinion, better than sitting and ruminating/stressing out about something you can’t change! It’s definitely one of my go-to distractions.

  39. This is interesting to read because I have a similar (though far more draw-out) process. Generally I receive a paycheck and feel immense relief, which I then try to draw out. So I keep thinking “yes, I have the money to do this and I will and then I will be successful.” While this is happening, I start to get anxious about parting with the money (which makes no sense, the money is not mine, I do have to pay it back) so the peace quickly turns into anxiety, then I make a payment to make the anxiety stop and then I feel relieved instead of depressed about paying it. I’m not sure if that makes sense. But I appreciate that you are focusing on the link between psychology and finance. It is fascinating.

    1. Wow, your process sounds much more complex than mine! It’s so interesting that you say “the money is not mine” — I totally understand what you mean, but somehow I had never thought of it that way before. I’ll have to think of that the next time I make a payment.
      And yes — the link between psychology and finance is definitely fascinating! 🙂

  40. I feel like you took the thoughts right out of my head. I feel this way often on payday and I decided at the beginning of January that my “word” for this year is contentment. I am slowly understanding what that really means. I think that is why I started looking for other debt fighting bloggers. It helped ease my anxiety to read other people’s stories and to see that I am not really doing this alone. I also started journaling, which lead me to want to start my own blog. I thought writing my feelings down on paper was a better way to vent my frustration/ease my anxiety then holding it in or annoying the people around me. And I have recently decided to start working out every day in order to get in shape. I found that having a more obtainable goal that I can focus on daily helps ease the worry about my big picture goal of being debt free, because I am preoccupied in between those paydays.

    1. That’s great to hear that you’ve found some ways to deal with anxiety! I have definitely gotten a TON out of reading posts by other debt-fighting bloggers, as you call them (love the term!). 🙂 I wouldn’t be nearly this motivated to pay off my debt if I hadn’t found inspiration from others.

      In my opinion, working out is great because not only does it have health benefits, it can also ease anxiety. I always feel much more calm and centered after a yoga class or a run — I’m trying to do more of this as well!

  41. Oh yes, I am familiar with the pay day party! And the eventual, quick return to life.

    Here’s something I heard this week which has totally helped me out:

    Sticking to the plan every day IS progress.

    The only way you can have a pay day part is IF you kept to your budget/spending plan whatchamacallit so that when pay day comes you CAN have a party.

    1. That’s such a good point! We’re not just sitting around making no progress between paychecks; we’re working each day to stick to our budgets. Thanks for pointing that out — I hadn’t thought of it in quite that way before! 🙂

  42. I’m really enjoying paying down some debts, but I feel so lucky in other areas of my life right now that it does not feel like I am living for the days I get to click Pay. Perhaps because I get paid weekly and get to have the experience more often. Maybe the shine has rubbed off a little.

    1. That’s awesome! I could see how getting paid weekly could help a little, but it sounds like you’re mostly just excited about other aspects of your life, which is great. I hope to find more of this balance soon! 🙂

  43. I loved this post. I’ve heard stories similar to the Magic Thread before and enjoyed reading this one. When I worked two jobs to pay down debt, I found myself wanting to skip through whole nights and the weeks between pay checks and I looked forward to months later when I would be done with two jobs. I realized I was wishing my life away. I learned to love the little pleasures in my life: the feel of driving, the taste of fresh coffee or tea, a meal with family. I even came to enjoy pushing shopping carts in the moonlight after the store closed. Now, I still enjoy driving to work and try to really enjoy whatever it is I am doing. It’s hard to do all the time, but if I can live in the moment several times a day, it is sure to be a good day.

    1. I love your example of finding pleasure in pushing a shopping cart in the moonlight after the store closed. I too am trying to live in the moment more — I suspect it’s probably the best way to keep from wishing days and weeks away. I’m actually going to be working two jobs this fall, so I will need to keep this in mind more and more. Thanks for your comment. 🙂

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