Reasons You’re Still In Debt

4 Reasons You're Still In Debt Money PictureNow that I’m no longer semi-anonymous with my finance blogging, I tend to have a lot of friends and random people asking me finance questions.

I have people pouring what seems like their heart and soul to me because they really want to change and improve their situation.

This is something that I love about being a personal finance blogger – the fact that I can (hopefully) help someone change their life and teach them how to manage their money better.

Many of the questions I receive involve debt and what they can do to change their situation.

Someone told me they had over $200,000 in student loan debt, another person recently told me they had over $100,000 in credit card debt, some are hiding their finance problems from their families, some have told me that they are beyond house poor and they don’t know what to do.

The list goes on and on about the stories that I have heard.

I think the first thing a person needs to do when it comes to eliminating their debt is to realize WHY they are in debt in the first place (the next step is to actively reduce your debt – read How To Eliminate Your Debt). If you don’t know what your problem is, then it would be hard to make a positive change.

Yes, it is great to just start attacking your debt, but you also don’t want to fall into a vicious cycle of going into debt over and over again.

Here are some of the many reasons for why you may be in debt.

 

You think that you have plenty of time to pay your debt off.

When I was in the middle of paying off my $40,000 worth of student loan debt, I remember being asked why I wanted to get rid of my student loan debt so quickly.

You know the saying  about how there is no such thing as a stupid question?

Well, I thought that question was extremely stupid. I thought (and still think) it was probably the most stupid question I have ever been asked or heard.

I can’t remember the conversation exactly, but I remember them saying something about how I’m young and I should enjoy my money more and that I can worry about my student loans later.

UMM WHAT?!

Why not just pay off your debt more? Would you really rather have than 100th pair of jeans instead of putting more towards your debt? I know for a fact that I will probably completely forget about an article of clothing (even though I love clothes!) and I will appreciate my debt being paid off more.

I still enjoyed my life while I was paying off my debt, and I definitely do not think I was suffering at all.

It’s been around seven months since I completely paid off my student loans, and I couldn’t be happier!

You also never know what may happen. If you wait to pay off your debt and instead spend your money on things that you don’t need, you may fall into a bad situation. What would happen if you lost your job, came across high medical bills, or something else?

Wouldn’t you have wanted your debt to be gone?

 

Reasons You're Still In DebtYou treat your credit card as income.

Your credit card is not a new income source. If you treat your credit card this way, then you should cancel your credit card.

Oh well if closing your account means that you will be lowering your credit score, you are probably doing worse damage anyways by racking up large credit card bills that you can’t pay.

If you are using a credit card, then you should be working to pay off your balance completely each month.

 

So-and-so has debt, so it’s fine if I do too.

Many people compare their debt amounts to others in hopes that they will feel more “normal” about their debt and not feel as bad. An example would be if you are 30 and the average 30-year-old has $10,000 worth of credit card debt (I completely just made that number up). You then use this number as a “guide” to yourself so that you can feel more comfortable about your debt.

However, WHO CARES about how much debt another person has? How exactly does knowing what the average amount of debt a  random 30-year-old has affect you?

Is that person you?

NO!

So, why would another person’s amount of debt even matter to you? That makes no sense!

Just because someone else has $10,000 worth of credit card debt from buying too much clothing does not mean that you should too. You never know, this amount may be breaking them on the inside even if they aren’t showing it.

 

I deserve the items that I buy.

Yes, you may be awesome and think you deserve it, but should you really be buying it? Just because someone else just bought a 100 inch 3D TV (or a mansion, nice car, gadgets, a crazy-expensive wedding, etc.) doesn’t mean that you should as well.

You might think “oh well they have a comparable job to mine, so, if they can afford, then I can too.”

However, you have no idea how this person is paying for it. Maybe they saved for years, or maybe they are just putting everything on their credit card.

I recently talked to someone who has over $100,000 in credit card debt and I could tell they were in panic mode. They bought way too much house, way too much car, way too much everything. They thought they deserved it all since others were buying something similar.

You don’t need to keep up with the Joneses!

 

Why are you in debt? What reasons have you caught yourself using?

If you’re feeling extra brave, please share how much debt you have (house, car, student loans, credit cards, etc.).

 

Comments

  1. Dear Debt says

    I have student loans, and I have 43k left out of a total of 81k. I got into debt to get my education and I thought “everyone” had student loans. Not so! I did my best to lessen the burden, but have definitely made choices that have made the debt payoff process longer. I am lucky that I never really got into credit cards. I think knowing WHY you got into debt and WHY you want to get out of debt is even more important than the how of getting out. The mental motivation from the why, will get you to the how.
    Dear Debt recently posted..Let’s Talk About Debt, BabyMy Profile

  2. Kasia says

    Irresponsibility and instant gratification in my early twenties led to credit card debt. The cc debt will be paid of by end of March/April this year. We also have a car debt but the interest is 0% so while we do make larger repayments then necessary, we are focusing on increasing our savings and asset base.

  3. Dee @ Color Me Frugal says

    In the past my hubby and I were pretty complacent about our student loan debt, for one of the reasons that you mentioned- it seemed like everyone we know has student loan debt, so why shouldn’t we? Thank goodness for personal finance blogs- we have since had a serious change of heart and are now trying to get rid of those darn loans as fast as possible!!
    Dee @ Color Me Frugal recently posted..Finding Our Road to Financial IndependenceMy Profile

  4. John S @ Frugal Rules says

    “You know the saying about how there is no such thing as a stupid question? Well, I thought that question was extremely stupid.” Lol, I love it! I’ve seen the same thing as well and it just drives me nuts. We saw it this past week with our family in town – some of them it’s like they’re comfortable being in debt. I think a lot of it, though maybe not all of it, comes down to wanting stuff and prioritizing it over their future or being free from debt. Thankfully the only debt we have is our mortgage and are working on knocking that out.
    John S @ Frugal Rules recently posted..What Is The First Bill You Pay Each Month?My Profile

    • Michelle S. says

      Haha it was a stupid question! :)

      It seems like everyone around us wants to change their financial situation and I think a lot of it has to do with my blog. I’m glad I’m having such a positive impact by educating people!

  5. DC @ Young Adult Money says

    I’m in debt from student loans and our house. I have definitely used the “I deserve this” or “I deserve that” excuse to justify purchases, but I feel like I’m doing everything to build my income and in turn savings and ultimately pay down my student loans and then, at least on paper, my mortgage.

  6. Laurie @thefrugalfarmer says

    Michelle, every one of these reasons used to describe me to a “T”. I had all the reasons in the world why it was okay to have credit card debt. But once I dissected how much interest we were paying each month, and once I realized that retirement was closer than we thought, I woke up. I’d take our super strict budget that allows us to pay off our debt any day now over the above excuses. Financial peace and freedom is SO worth it!

  7. Alicia @ Financial Diffraction says

    I’ll admit I fell for the “everyone has debt, so it’s no big deal – it’s just normal” line. I think that line works “sort of “okay” if we’re talking mortgage debt, and even to an extent car financing… but the rest of it, like my pure consumer-based debt… NOPE!

    Now I’m actively trying to get far away from that because I can’t imagine that any more. The lies we tell ourselves to rationalize things, eh?

  8. Tanner says

    Hahaha… ouch, that photo, if real, is really, really SAD! How awful… first month’s interest would probably cost more than the soda (which is unhealthy for you anyway!). All great points. My debt payments were low once I paid off the car and my biggest credit card… the payments became tiny. But why stop there and just have NO payment? I dont know what life has stored for me, but I do know I’ll be much better prepared to face it with zero debt than with some debt.
    Tanner recently posted..And here’s how the cake turned out!My Profile

  9. Michael@Save-Invest-Grow says

    I think a lot of it is related to our consumer-driven culture. Many people feel the need to keep up and always have the newest “things.” They think that because they were able to get a loan on something, that must mean they can afford it. Its an easy trap to fall into. This happened to me a few years ago when I spent too much on a new car. Its been nice, but I’ve paid too much in interest for a depreciating asset. I’ll think twice next time.

  10. Amanda says

    My major reasons for being in debt are:

    1.) Taking too much school and funding it 100% with loans (currently owe over $49,000) – “I have plenty of time to pay off this debt” thinking
    2.) Buying a new car too soon/not having enough of a down-payment saved (currently owe over $10,000) – definitely the “I deserve this” thinking
    3.) Working 4 years at a job that did not pay me what I was worth and had no hope of a promotion/raise – “too scared of change” thinking

    I can’t change the first two, but since I did change jobs, I’ve noticed a HUGE improvement in my finances (but still plenty of room for improvement). The car loan is almost paid off, and I’ve finally started making reasonable monthly dents in the student loan.
    Amanda recently posted..January Money RecapMy Profile

  11. Bre @ The Weight of Debt says

    Thanks for sharing your post about us again Michelle! :) I’ve gotten so much traffic from your site! <3

    I just got below 89K in student loan debt, personally. Right now since we aren't married we are focusing on personal debts separately. Thankfully I have always hated the idea and use of credit cards and only have one with a Max limit of $200. That way I'm never digging my hole deeper. I use my credit card to the max on things I get 5% cash back and pay it off every paycheck.

    I recently posted about my poverty mentality. I constantly have to catch myself because I have habit's/mentalities that are really against me and my financial goals. Deep down sometimes I feel like I have to buy things that I "need" but in reality I don't need them. Some of this I think is attributed to growing up in poverty and now that I can afford nice things I feel entitled to it. I'm sure there is a lot more to it but I'm working on it! :D
    Bre @ The Weight of Debt recently posted..Poverty MentalityMy Profile

  12. kammi says

    I’m not in debt but I use the opposite reasoning; the reasons that I am not in debt are tied to my goals for the future. I have set a net worth for the next five and ten years, and goals for each year of savings that I have to reach in my mind. I also try to eliminate ANYTHING that will seduce me into going into debt or spending money that I don’t need to. When I buy certain things that I like, I buy them because they have some kind of return for me (ROI), so I’m buying them either as an investment (like a book, software, etc). Even food can have ROI technically; if I eat ‘junk’ it doesn’t fill me so the ROI is low, and I have a long, packed day/schedule, so I only buy food that will nourish me. Everything else goes into savings/ investments.

  13. Little House says

    I had a revelation last year and realized that I get into debt every 5 years or so. The reason for which is lifestyle inflation. With a fluctuating income, one year might be great which leads me to believe I can increase my basic costs. Not so much. Now that I realize this, I know I need to keep my costs low or the same as they are now.
    Little House recently posted..February Quarterly Goal ProgressMy Profile

  14. Shannon @ Financially Blonde says

    Using credit cards as income is a big issue for a lot of people. Just because you have it (the credit), does not mean you should spend it. I also see people treat their credit cards as their emergency fund, which is another poor use for credit.

  15. Brittany says

    We have a mortgage and student loan debt because: “that’s just what you do in America”–we never even thought twice about it. And because I would rather pay interest and have a good job/home now, than work at a minimum wage job and rent half my life until I could ever save up enough to pay for them in full. (Which I can’t see how that would happen)

    We also have a couple thousand dollars on the credit card because it made more financial sense to get the paid in full discount from the hospital and pay a very small interest rate for a couple months until we can get it paid off.

    My husband has used every single one of these excuses, especially “We should pay ourselves first before other people” and “How does everyone else have nice things when we don’t?” but thankfully I’m the one who does the bills, so I do my best to keep our debt as low as possible. I HATE debt.
    Brittany recently posted..Solve All of Your Money Worries With One Simple StepMy Profile

  16. Raquel@Practical Cents says

    I have credit card debt because I went over budget on my home renovations. We wanted all the major renovations done before moving in. Plus being first time homeowners we had no idea how expensive it would be. We should have done more research. It had been about 7 years since we had been free of credit card debt so it was painful to get back into that situation. Thankfully, we realize that we need to get rid of it quickly and we know what we need to do because we did it before.

  17. Lauren says

    My student loan debt was only 4 figures, which seemed small compared to others. I didn’t get serious about paying it off for several years- I just kept thinking I’d get to it someday. Luckily, I finally wised up and tackled it! I’m now debt free and it feels amazing. I know people who have that “I work hard, I deserve it” attitude, and I just want to tell them that they actually deserve the awesome feeling of relief and freedom that comes with being debt free instead :-)
    Lauren recently posted..Weekly Wrap-Up #2My Profile

  18. Charlie @ Our Journey To Zero Debt says

    We have my wife’s student loan and a car loan. Trying to pay it off as fast as we can, under two years at this rate.

    Wife’s graduate loan was in art education and she is now a teacher. We needed a bigger car with a toddler, dog, and another baby on the way. Love the 2013 Toyota Sienna and at least it’s 0% interest!

    Sucks to be in debt when all that capital can go towards investments and other retirement accounts.

    Slow and steady wins the race!

    • Michelle S. says

      Haha I know! People act like I am miserable and they use that as their reasoning to spend like crazy.

      I like my life, I don’t know why people think I wouldn’t! Just because I am careful with my spending does not mean I am miserable.

    • Stephanie@Mrs.Debtfighter says

      I agree!! Once you start focusing on paying off your debts, you realize there are a lot of things that you thought you needed which you really don’t! We are a youngish couple (32 and 34) and hope to pay off our mortgage within a few years. We splurge occasionally and travel/camp but I will be able to “enjoy” the money when there are no payments to worry about! :)

  19. Stephanie says

    Nothing feels better than the loans being all paid off! Happy dance!! I think the 3rd one was a big problem for me – alllll of my classmates had the same law school debt. $15k (just tuition) a semester times 6 semesters? No one paid for that out of pocket. And a lot had undergrad debt too, which I didn’t. So I trapped myself into thinking “Natalie has debt too, it’s twice as much as mine! and she married someone with debt too! She’s way worse off, it’s fine.” But her debt has nothing to do with me.

  20. Jessica says

    I have about 3k in credit card debt, 20k in my new car loan, 0 in student loan right now… my credit cards will be paid off next month :) my car loan is something I put a lot of time and consideration into and I bought a car with 10k miles on it with full coverage on any repairs for the next 5 years so I think it was a good choice at 2% finance rate. I do however hope to pay it off about a year or two early while saving some money for a down payment for my house/apt/probably a closet in NYC right now lol but hey doesn’t hurt to try!. ALSO for the first time ever I am taking out student loans about 15k for 6 semesters which I don’t think is too bad considering I will probably enjoy a 20k salary increase once I finish. Food for thought but I think the best mentality to have is weighing out the pro’s and con’s before signing yourself to owe money.

  21. Debt and the Girl says

    The whole entitlement syndrome is such a dangerous mindset. You can really end up on the financial edge just because you want to keep up with your neighbors. the truth of the matter is no one knows how other people are really affording those nice things. Best to focus on yourself and not worry about others.
    Debt and the Girl recently posted..Are We Spoiling our Kids on Finances?My Profile

  22. Blake @ BeanCounterByDay says

    I know so many people that fall victim to “well he can afford a new car, I should be able to also!” I am constantly trying to point out the logic between what someone makes and whether their possessions match up. Its almost like a sickness in this country!

  23. Liz says

    Coming to terms with your debt can be such an overwhelming process. Even when you do understand the why and how, it doesn’t mean that paying off debt is easy. It’s a long hard journey for most of us. I’m so glad I found this community of bloggers to enjoy the ride with.
    Liz recently posted..Are You a Personal Finance Olympian?My Profile

  24. Petrish says

    Love this article. I love that it deals with what is really going on behind the mentality of debt. I believe changing your mindset is the first step to becoming debt free….just saying.

  25. Amanda @ Passionately Simple Life says

    I decided to go to my first choice college and luckily it was also the one that gave me the most financial aid. But those years still came with student loans. I started out at 36k and am currently at 26k after about a 8 months (part of it was a lump sum). But knowing that I’ll be free from those experiences soon enough is what keeps me working harder and harder everyday. And I hate, absolutely detest when people say live life a little, you are only 23. Yes, but it’ll be even better when I’m 25 or 26 and have no debt.
    Amanda @ Passionately Simple Life recently posted..One of Those Long Days…My Profile

  26. Kasey @ Debt Perception says

    I currently have about $95,000 in student loans from attending a for-profit school (have been paying for 4 years). Naivety is the only excuse I’ve used for that. I also had a couple thousands of dollars worth of credit card debt because when I found myself un(der)employed, I often resorted to paying rent with a credit card. Not my proudest moments but that debt has been paid off.

    My husband and I, collectively, have about $15,000 left on our car loan we got last year after needing a new car when my beater bit the dust. We also have about $4000 in credit card debt because my husband is a big spender. When he was scheduled to go on a last minute deployment in November (it was cancelled), he went and bought himself a $2500 gaming laptop. When my video card stopped working he bought components to build a brand new computer instead of replacing my video card. We opened this credit card only a few months ago to help him build his credit after he paid off debt that was in collections. He obviously doesn’t know how to use it and never seems to hear me when I tell him we can only purchase things we budget with it. I’m currently at a loss with this one.

  27. Marvin says

    I am a firm believer that you don’t “deserve” anything, you can only “earn” things. My mother in law is like that and it drives me crazy. It doesn’t surprise me that she’s in debt!
    Marvin recently posted..By: MarvinMy Profile

  28. Richard says

    I’m pleased to say that I have roughly $2 left on a credit card and then I’m DONE! Analyzing why I got into debt originally is tough but I’d probably say I spent too much time thinking I’d pay things off in the future. I lived in the now, but borrowed from the future to do it. What a fool I feel for that now (though hopefully I’ve learned my lesson).

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