There are many reasons why you may be stuck in debt and they’re not all necessarily related to the state of your finances. In fact, your money woes may be exacerbated by your mindset. Your beliefs are often what guide you, and if you’re carrying around problematic ones, you’ll have a much harder time getting debt-free.
Here are five excuses that could be keeping you in the red.
1. ‘I Deserve It’
One of the most common phrases debtors bandy about is “I deserve it,” Jeff Jones, a Certified Financial Planner in Huntsville, Ala., wrote in an email. “It’s an excuse and that transcends financial matters … but this usually comes at the expense of a larger, long-term goal.” This mentality, for instance, enables people to reward themselves with a lavish vacation (on credit) or a new car (and the payment to go with it), Jones added, when instead you should be thinking about becoming debt-free or saving more for retirement.
2. ‘I Don’t Know Where to Start’
Facing debt is overwhelming. It involves owning up to whatever got you there in the first place and taking responsibility for paying it off. Add to that the sinking feeling that comes with realizing how much you owe and the whole thing starts to become one sad situation that seems insurmountable. How will you ever get out from under this mountain of expenses? Fortunately, there are options, including, for instance, debt consolidation, balance transfer credit cards or the help of a credit counselor. You just have to be willing to face your debt head on and put the time in to research what strategy may work best for you.
3. ‘I’ll Deal With It Later’
Another day, another excuse. “I’ll draft a budget in the new year” or “When I get a better job, I’ll start paying off debt.” And on it goes. The problem with this mentality is that the timing will never be right. It’s like keeping a diet: If you always find an excuse to get out of it, you’ll never reach your goals.
4. ‘I Only Need to Make the Minimum Payment’
Initially choosing to make only a minimum payment on your loan obligations can be a hard habit to break. “This one is invidious because it anchors you to making a payment, which means that, in the case of a credit card, it will take, say, 10 years to pay off, assuming you don’t add to the balance,” Jason Hull, a Certified Financial Planner in Woodbury, N.J., wrote in an email. “We tend to become attached to the first number we see, so when we see the minimum payment, we assume that’s what we should pay. Instead, we should pay as much as we can on our credit cards to pay them off as soon as possible — and make sure that we’re not adding any more to the balance.”
You can see just how much adding a few dollars to your monthly payment can impact your debt-free timeline using this credit card payoff calculator.
Remember, high credit card balances can damage your wallet and your credit. You can see how your credit card debts may be affecting your credit score by viewing your free credit report summary, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.
5. ‘I’m Not Responsible’
It’s easy to blame our debt woes on external forces, like car repairs or a medical emergency, but when all’s said and done, we need to take responsibility for our actions. That could mean not living like an upper-class family on a middle-class paycheck, being able to sign off of our favorite shopping sites when we know our credit card bills are already too high and avoiding “friends” who spend to have fun (and encourage you to do the same.) It’s a good idea to try to stop justifying your habits with the idea your debts aren’t your fault — someone got into debt, and whether you acquired it by marriage, co-signing, or on your own, it’s yours, and yours alone, to pay off.
More on Managing Debt:
- The Credit.com Debt Management Learning Center
- How to Pay Off Credit Card Debt
- 5 Tips for Consolidating Credit Card Debt
Image: Alberto Bogo