Budgeting, Debt, Personal Finance, Saving Money

10 Ways Getting Out of Debt is Like Running a Marathon

debt reduction is like running a marathon

Getting out of debt is an exhausting process that often requires a well thought out plan which needs to be accomplished step-by-step over a long period of time. When you’re buried under piles of dept, sometimes it feels as though you’re drowning in a pit you can’t climb your way out of. Fortunately, there are always ways to get yourself out of debt. Just as the process is similar to dieting, in many ways it can also be compared to running a marathon. You have to know your limits, pace yourself, and keep you mind on the finish line in order to achieve your goal.


Motivation is one of the most important aspects of running a marathon and getting out of debt. You need to want to climb out of debt. Getting out of debt isn’t easy, so you have to keep yourself motivated and think about the long-term benefits it will have on your life. Staying motivated will make it easier to work towards paying off your debt.

Making the Commitment

It’s easy to sit back and theorize how you’re going to get out of debt, but words don’t mean anything if you never put a plan in action. Instead of just talking about paying off your debt, make the commitment to actually pay off your debt. Once you start figuring out a budget or payment schedule, you’re committed to a goal.

Having a Plan

Having a plan is also a great idea. When you run a marathon, you want to set a training schedule so you can prepare months before the marathon date. When you’re trying to get out of debt, you need to create a budget or plan of action so you know how you want to start attacking your mountain of debt. For instance, you might want to make a budget to trim excess from your weakly spending or you might want to figure out which form of debt to tackle first.

Taking Action

Once you have the motivation to get out of debt, as well as a plan to get you started, you need to take action. Just as a runner would start going on daily runs for practice, you need to start cutting your spending habits or saving money to put towards your debt. This can be a huge lifestyle adjustment, but you need to forge on forward and keep with it.

Support of Friends and Family

Having the support of friends and family is a great bonus when you’re trying to get out of debt. They not only understand the changes you’re trying to make in your life, but they’re there to cheer you on as you go about making these changes.


Of course, as with anything, undertaking such a monumental life change requires sacrifice. Marathon runners often have to sacrifice diet and time in order to train, so it makes sense that you will have to sacrifice in certain areas of your life when you want to get out of debt. This might mean cutting a weekly trip to the movies or trying to spend less money on takeout.


It’s easy to want to quit when things look tough, but you need to persevere. Sometimes you just need to push yourself a little further in order to achieve your goal. So when the going gets tough, don’t quit. Just keep on running toward that finish line because if you stop now, you won’t ever get yourself out of debt.

Avoiding Setbacks

Marathon runners know that if they stop training and practicing, they’ll face setbacks. When you’re trying to get out of debt, even one setback could hurt your chances of paying off all your debt. Maybe you’re out shopping and are tempted to buy a big-ticket item that you’ve always wanted. While it may be tempting, you need to avoid needlessly wasting money that could be better spent paying down your debt.

Knowing Your Limits

On the other hand, you also need to know your limit. You might want to push yourself to the max and pay as much money toward your debt as you can, but you also want to make sure that you have money for your weekly and monthly expenses. Trying to get out of debt doesn’t mean that you have to live on next to nothing. You still want to have money for social activities. So, be smart about making a budget, but don’t try to force it in a way that makes you even more miserable.

Reaching the Finish Line

The best thing about both running a marathon and getting out of debt is the knowledge that there’s a finish line at the end. You know that whatever race you’re running will eventually end and that it’s only a matter of time until it’s over. It might seem like a long road ahead of you before all your debt is gone, but it’ll happen as long as you stick to your plan.

8 thoughts on “10 Ways Getting Out of Debt is Like Running a Marathon

  1. The marathon takes a lot of dedication, persistence, consistency and endurance. Getting out of debt is much the same, so the comparison is a good one. The personal reward in terms of satisfaction can be great with either.

  2. As someone who’s recently taken up running, this hits home on so many levels. I’m not specifically going for a marathon, I was just trying to lose some weight and get a bit healthier.

    In that sense, my original goal wasn’t defined, it was just ‘do something different’. For me, getting out of debt was similar. At first, just struggling to change some habits, even before I’d committed myself to getting out of $35k of debt, was very hard. Stopping that impulse purchase, waiting a few days to rethink about buying something, etc – all of those took some getting used to.

    Likewise, with running, my first goal was simply ‘get moving’. In December, I start running on a treadmill. I could do about 6 minutes, and was slow, and out of breath. It hurt. I was in pain, but I’d done something. Last month I ran 7 miles in just over an hour. If someone had told me in December “go run 7 miles”, I’d have thought they were crazy. If my goal at the start was “run a 10k” (in any amount of time) and then I’d started and hurt after 6 minutes, I’d have given up.

    For me, my initial goal was just getting the basics – running a bit, or with money, cutting out stupid stuff, setting up a small recurring savings ($25/check). Once I’d showed myself I could do those, I moved on to larger things. At some point with the money, I saw a bit of momentum, and started to increase my activity there until I could see some real possibility of paying off the debt (it took ~3 years). With the running, I’m at a point where I can now run 5ks and have done a 10k – I may realistically plan for a half marathon next year.

    But all those things listed above are key. I hurt my foot last night running – I’ve gotta take a few days off. It’s a small setback, but knowing how to deal with it, and that it’s not a catastrophe, are key. Same with money – one emergency or one bad decision shouldn’t set you back to 0 – just roll with it and keep moving in the right direction.

  3. The family and friends part is very important – with dieting as with debt. If your friends go out buying for a hobby every weekend – just as if your friends are always eating if you are dieting – then being with them is going to draw you back to the old way of life, either spending and increasing your debt or eating and increasing your weight.

    Hard choices to make.

  4. Great article. I’ve sprinted out of debt on many occasions but always ended up back in debt. I’ve finally figured out that getting out of debt slowly while saving money in an emergency fund is the way to go. I’m still in debt, but I feel confident that once I’m out of debt, I’ll stay that way.

  5. Great Article!!! As a closet runner and a bankruptcy trustee, I enjoyed the read. You have done a nice job of summarizing what is required to stop the endless interest and move forward!

  6. Love the meme! That’s right. With debt, even if you’re making small payments towards your debt it’s still something. The snowball effect works for many people, but I like paying down the smallest payment first and then building from there. This works well for those who have limited income and want to see some progress but likely can’t pay off the big payments at once.

  7. If you really have that much debt (which you shouldn’t ever get into in the first place), it’s time to take drastic measures. Cut your living costs to almost nothing:

    1) Buy food in bulk.. dry food.. frozen food.. whatever is cheap. It might not taste good, but it’s cheap and is a temporary solution until you pay off your debt.

    2) Cut all cable TV, internet, gym memberships, whatever else is a monthly expense that you don’t need.

    3) Cut transit costs. Drive a cheap car (or better yet, none at all). Use 4AutoInsuranceQuote for insurance ($25/month). Use GasBuddy for gas (save $100/month). If you have access to public transportation, sell your car and use it.

    4) Don’t get haircuts, manicures, your nails done, or whatever luxuries you indulge in until your debt is paid off.

    5) Try to spend $0 each day. If you don’t need it, don’t buy it.

    Desperate times call for desperate measures.

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