How to Pay off Debt: Dealing With The Critics

Pay off Debt

When working to pay off debt, there are many facets involved in a successful journey.  There’s the monetary facet: learning exactly what a budget looks like for your particular situation and how to manage that budget.  There’s the emotional facet: learning how to overcome those messages in your head that work to convince you success isn’t possible.

Then there’s is the “outer influence” facet.

Yes, it’s true: if you’re choosing to head out on a journey to pay off debt, you won’t just have to deal with the internal factors of figuring out how to manage your head and your psyche, there will likely be loads of other people working to give you their two cents on just how you should run your financial freedom marathon. Some will have great ideas, and some will have not-so-great ideas, but there are tips you can use for wading through the various criticisms that might pop up as you pay off debt.

Have a Good Plan to Pay off Debt and Be Confident in it

Once you’ve created your plan to pay off debt, reassess it.  Does it work for you?  Is it the best plan for your situation at the current time?  If so, be confident in the plan you’ve created, and don’t let anyone else work to convince you that it’s not the correct plan.  Your journey and your plan to pay off debt will likely change at times, and it’s vitally important that you learn to identify when your plan is no longer working and needs to be revamped.  That doesn’t mean you don’t consider the advice of others.  It’s simply that when you’re working on reaching a goal to pay off debt – or any goal – part of achieving success is being confident in your own ability to know what’s working and what’s not, and in your own ability to adjust your plan accordingly.

Learn to Be Objective

It’s true that it can be difficult to be objective about financial and other goals involving you own personal situation, but it’s also crucially important to achieving success.  If you can learn to be objective, both about the advice and the criticisms other people give as you walk out your goal, you’ll find yourself better able to see the big picture.  This will allow you to determine when criticisms given are valid and need to be considered, and when you’ve got to take that certain piece of advice and trash it.  If you let your emotions and your personal connection to your goal trump objectivity, you run the risk of negating valuable advice that could help you accomplish your goal faster.

Put Yourself First

I’m not generally an advocate of selfishness, but when you’re working toward a big goal, whether it be a goal to pay off debt or any other goal, you’ve got to trust, on some level, that you know what’s best for yourself.  Yes, there is validity to seeing the goal from the view of outsiders, but there is just as much validity to putting yourself first and going with what you feel is best for your goal and the journey to reach it.   Since your goal to pay off debt is about you and your family, it’s important, on some level that you put your thoughts and objectives about how to reach that goal above the thoughts and objectives of others.

It can be difficult when you’re working to reach a goal and critics come whose seemingly only goal is to pop the air out of your proverbial tires, but hang tough; those criticisms, provided you don’t let them get you down, will only make you stronger in your quest to keep paying off debt.


Have you ever worked to accomplish a goal that seemed to draw criticism from others?  How did you handle it? What’s the strangest comment or piece of advice you’ve received on your debt payoff journey?


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Laurie is a wife, mother to 4, and homesteader who blogs about personal finance, self-sufficiency and life in general over at The Frugal Farmer. Part witty, part introspective and part silly, her goal in blogging is to help others find their way to financial freedom, and to a simpler, more peaceful life.


  • I agree with you putting yourself first, though it’s not something that comes naturally for many of us. My side hustle is a key piece in my student loan debt pay-down plan. The thing is, it takes up a big chunk of my free time and that comes at the expense of not having as much time to hang out with others. If I don’t put myself first, my side hustle will struggle and in turn, my debt pay-down plan will struggle.

    • Great example of why a bit of selfishness is important in reaching any goal. DC. At the outset it seems as if you’re being selfish, but in the long run, you’ll have more time for hanging out with others.

  • I actually love the critics in my life because they motivate me to work harder to prove them wrong. I had a number of people who thought I was crazy for starting my own company and with every new success I have I put it in the “I told you so” category for my critics. And it feels, phenomenal.

    • That works well for me too, Shannon. Not sure what it is, but sometimes that ability to say “I told you so” is a superb motivator. :-) Glad to hear you’re kicking it in your biz, Shannon – that’s an awesome thing!

  • When I look at debt repayment, I feel it’s not selfish. Being out of debt will emotionally/financially benefit far more people than just yourself. I’m thinking mainly your children here.

    • Absolutely, William, and this is what always enters our minds when people question our decisions of frugality, and shake their heads when we won’t vacation or do other expensive purchases. We’re doing it for the children.

  • I think one of the biggest things I faced is pressure from friends to spend more than I want…that YOLO thing, as if debt or lower than average income is not that big a deal and you should come to this social thing with us. It’s hard to stand your ground, but you know yourself and your situation better than anyone!

    • The YOLO thing has worked to bring us down too at times, so I totally get this, Tonya. But in the long run, you and I both know that our decisions to say “no” more often than not will pay off big. :-)

  • I have heard criticism that I’m living too frugally…they probably use the word cheap though. They wonder why I don’t drive a better car, buy a place or go out to expensive restaurants, etc. You’re right…sometimes you do need to put you and your family first. I know I’m doing what’s best for my family and that’s what is most important.

    • So true, Andrew!! For instance, people often give Rick grief at work about his frugal lunches, but when he sits and adds up the numbers, and tells them what he spends on lunch vs. what they spend on lunch, the room silences real quick. :-)

  • Kathy says:

    Anyone who isn’t a member of your immediate family should have nothing to say about how you choose to spend or not spend your money. You would be entirely justified in telling them to mind their own business.

  • You only live once is a big one. I mean sure it’s true and I believe you should always carve out a little money for the fun stuff but when you’re paying off debt you have to be selective about your entertainment. I don’t appreciate being pressured by others to do things I don’t want to do.

  • Great article. When I started my business, I definitely drew tons of criticism from others. I was leaving a day job that paid better than the average day job, and had very little income on the side coming in. I was told I was nuts. However, as you mentioned, I decided to put myself first. I knew my needs, an I knew what I was capable of. So, I just kind of drowned out the criticism. Now, I make more than I did in my day job and I’m happy. As far as getting out of debt, I never really had an epic battle with debt. All the debts I’ve had have been considerably small. Thanks for the great read Laurie, see ya around!

  • We have been criticized for concentrating on paying off our mortgage when we should have been investing. Surely it’s our choice?
    There are reasons behind everything we do, not just random acts of throwing money around. We do already invest and have been for quite sometime.
    Now, when the mortgage is fully paid off the funds that serviced the mortgage will more than likely be diverted to more investments.
    We are not going to throw a great big party and then proceed to blow money just because we paid off the mortgage. We just don’t want to place all our money into one thing, but we also want to be secure in what we do have.
    No one has a textbook life that they lead so everyone’s circumstances are different. Listen to critics, way up the pro’s and con’s and then make an informed decision.

  • oops * weigh* not way got my sleepy hat on today!

  • Everyone definitely has an opinion and wants to give their two cents – whether you want it or not! :) Like you said, it’s important to create a plan that works for you. It may be too aggressive or not aggressive enough for me, but if it works for you – that’s all the matters! You are the one who has to live and follow it! I find when people are the most critical, it’s often because they are scared by what the other person is doing. Most people unfortunately do carry consumer debt and when they hear of others feverishly working to rid themselves of it – it scares them. Some use it as a wake-up call for themselves while others will say hurtful things or try to sabotage your efforts. I always think whenever you’re making a huge change in your life – you really see who stands by you and who doesn’t.

  • Kassandra says:

    When I began to pay off my debt it was not long after I had met the man who is now my husband. When we started to talk about getting married I wanted to make the effort that I wouldn’t bring any debt into the marriage. Suffice it to say, I only had one more debt payment to make after we had gotten married. I felt so good that we were able to start our married life with a completely clean financial slate. I didn’t tell very many that I had debt let alone all what I was doing to pay it off. The ones who knew kept encouraging me although they felt I had sacrificed so much in order to get there and perhaps secretly they thought I was crazy :) I did what I felt was needed in order to come out ahead and to each their own as to how they go about shedding debt.

  • It can be a challenge to consistently pursue a goal with critics trying to second guess you all the time. When it comes to paying off debt, I agree that you really need to formulate a plan and be confident in it. If you have good reason to modify the plan, don’t be afraid to do so, but you really need to be confident in your game plan.

  • Kim says:

    I think adults can be as bad as teens when it comes to “peer pressure” about why you should spend money on this or why it’s OK to rack up debt. I think one of the things that stands out most to me was when we had just paid off our Altima right before we started paying off the credit cards. The sales people must get a memo when someone pays off a car. We intend to keep this car until it falls apart, but the salesman who sold it to us called and was saying how I needed to upgrade to a better model because with my profession, I needed to be seen driving a more luxurious car. That cracks me up. I’m sure people want to come see me because of what car I drive!

  • Great article. I’m not sure I necessarily see a lot of criticism toward people paying off debt as much as I see peer pressure. When all your friends want to go out to expensive dinners or have you go with them on fun trips it is really hard to say no.

    • Laurie says:

      I agree, Andy – there is a lot of peer pressure in keeping doing the things that get people broke in the first place, and it’s often difficult to say no. Great comment!

  • My husband and I chose to stop drinking alcohol – largely because we had started going to a church with a strong anti-alcohol bent – in 1998. The flak we got was incredible! People we’d known for years felt uncomfortable around us. My parents kept offering wine every time we went to their house for dinner. For ten years, we stayed away from alcohol, and we learned many great lessons. One of them was to carry on with our convictions despite negative feedback. That’s served us well in our debt-reduction efforts : ) And while we did decide in 2008 to start taking a glass of wine with supper now and then, I believe we’ll never choose to get into debt again.

    • That’s so interesting, Prudence! You’d think you’d get support for choosing to be healthier, not flak!I love what you said too, about learning to carry on with your convictions despite negative feedback. I’ll bet that lesson will help you with many things in the future as well. Thanks for sharing an awesome story!

  • Amy says:

    I’m so glad I found this post, as it really resonates with me. My husband and I have a lot of debt, and I just got serious about paying it off. To help keep me honest and motivated, and also to learn from others, I started a blog about this process. It’s great to get support from others and hear their ideas, but I wasn’t prepared for the “tough love” some people offer. :) It was initially a little off-putting, but you’re absolutely right that we need to be objective, yet true to ourselves and our plans. Debt payoff is such a hot-button issue, and everyone has their own belief system about it. Most are neither all right nor all wrong.

  • What amazes me is how most debt is usually so tactfully structured to almost cloak the real financial burden behind minimum payments, etc. When you get caught only looking at short term pay offs and not the big picture, you are basically trapped.

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