Finding Motivation: The Door of Student Debt

Michael Lux Blog, Student Loans 1 Comment

Last week a Redditor posted a link to pictures of he and his wife’s “Door of Student Debt”.  The Door of Student Debt is their way of tracking student loan repayment and providing motivation.  It is both simple and brilliant.  We were graciously given permission to share the concept with our readers.

On the inside of a closet door this couple has squares of paper representing their debt.  Each square represents $1,000 in student loans.  As they pay off the debt, the squares come off the closet door.  For certain milestones, such as paying off a high interest loan, there are rewards.  One square means they will be able to get a LASIK procedure, and another square means it is time to start a family.  Pictures of the Door of Student Debt can be found here.

While this might be one of the most creative ways of tracking student repayment and providing motivation we have ever seen, we also know that this exact method may not be for everyone.  The most important part of any motivation strategy is to find what works best for you personally.  Today we will look at some of the aspects of the Door of Student Debt that make it so clever.

Constant Reminder

A key component of student debt elimination is to stick to the task at hand.  If you splurge on unnecessary expenses, it sets back your progress.  Little thinks like a daily trip to Starbucks can really add up.

Providing yourself a constant reminder of your student debt is helpful in avoiding the daily temptations that we all face.  The advertising industry has one goal, to get you to part with your hard earned money, and they are very good at what they do.  Seeing the Door of Student Debt reminds one couple what they are working on, shows their progress, and the rewards they are working towards.

Not Obnoxious

Some people get too carried away with debt repayment and it becomes something they cannot sustain in the long run.  Daily Facebook status updates on your progress might seem clever at first, but keeping it going could be difficult.  You don’t need to tattoo your debt balance to your forehead.  They trick is to find a way to remind yourself without making it depressing or irritating.  Going into the closet door is something that is done once or twice a day.  Just enough to serve as a reminder, but subtle enough to be a constant source of stress.


Watching a balance drop incrementally on some webpage provides little satisfaction.  Ripping a piece of paper off the Door of Student Debt, crumbling it up, and throwing it in the trash seems like it is something that would be far more satisfying.  The difference between a balance on a login screen and at piece of paper is that it is something tangible, something you can actually hold.  It may sound silly, but that difference can help your accomplishments feel more real.


Paying off their student loans is the big goal, but it isn’t the only goal.  Each one of those sheets of paper is a goal.  Each one that comes down is a success.  Winning breeds more winning.  This is a battle that cannot be won overnight, but by breaking it into many winnable battles, long-term success becomes much more realistic.

Team Effort

This is something that they are working on as a couple.  The odds of success go way up when everyone is on the same page and working towards the same goals.


Each sheet of paper that comes down is a little reward.  Reaching the predefined goals on certain pieces of paper is a reward.  Seeing a door full of paper gradually become empty is a reward.

Every time they open that door, they will see what is still in front of them, but they will also see all the progress that they have made.  The genius of this plan is that it is rewarding in different ways on many different levels.

Clear Goals

Finally, the goals here are crystal clear.  This couple has certain milestones in mind, and student debt stands in the way.  The door of student debt clearly defines the repayment schedule, rewards for hitting certain goals, and how to achieve them.  This is better than telling yourself that “once I make some progress” or “once things are under control” you will do something or earn something.  Having clear goals means accountability and it eliminates excuses.

Bottom Line

Many people can benefit from making their own door of student debt.  Even if this particular strategy isn’t for you, there are lessons that can be applied to your own personal motivation plan.


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I actually really like this idea! Visualizing your progress is a great way to stay motivated and to always be aware that you’re working towards something.