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Finding Motivation: The Door of Student Debt

Meet the simple but genius strategy that one couple uses to motivate themselves to knock out their student loans.

Written By: Michael P. Lux, Esq.

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One of the best student loan motivators that I have ever seen is the Door of Student Debt.

The Door of Student Debt is one couple’s way of tracking student loan repayment and providing motivation. It is both simple and brilliant.

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 I have ever seen, I 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.

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 reminds them of 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.

The 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. It happens just enough to serve as a reminder but the reminder is subtle enough to not 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 a 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.

About the Author

Student loan expert Michael Lux is a licensed attorney and the founder of The Student Loan Sherpa. He has helped borrowers navigate life with student debt since 2013.

Insight from Michael has been featured in US News & World Report, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, and numerous other online and print publications.

Michael is available for speaking engagements and to respond to press inquiries.

1 thought on “Finding Motivation: The Door of Student Debt”

  1. 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.


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