Top 10 Reasons People Can’t Get Out of Debt

How many people do you know – and maybe it’s “you” – that have tried and tried to get out of debt, but they just can’t seem to make it work. On paper, it sounds easy:

  • cut expenses
  • make a budget
  • put extra money toward debt

But if it were easy, everyone would be debt free. Yet millions of people are still suffering with thousands of dollars in debt and dealing with paycheck-to-paycheck living. Why is that? If we know what to do, why isn’t everyone doing it?

The truth of the matter is that there is more to paying off debt than the three steps listed above. As a person who tried several times to dump debt (and even successfully dumped debt, only to fall back into it again) before making debt freedom stick for real, I can tell you that there are several reasons why people stay in debt even when they don’t want to.

Today we’ll talk about the 10 top reasons people can’t get out of debt. In true Johnny Carson style, we’ll start from number 10 and work our way down to number 1.

10 Reasons People Stay in Debt

10. They haven’t faced their financial situation. You can’t change something unless you know exactly what it is you need to change. So many people – and I totally understand this – are afraid to even look at their current numbers. They know it’s bad, and they’re afraid to find out just how bad. When we first started thinking about paying off our debt in November of 2012, we went back and analyzed our 2012 expenses up until that point.

It was freakin’ traumatizing. When we faced up to all of the money we had been spending on SLS (stupid little stuff) we were SO angry at ourselves, and ashamed of our irresponsibility.  It took us several months to forgive ourselves and focus on the present.

HOWEVER, until you have faced up to your financial mess, you’ll likely continue to turn a blind eye to the problem and avoid taking the steps that will get you free of debt.

9. They aren’t ready to change. Like with any problem, whether it be a weight problem, a drinking problem, a behavioral problem or whatever, true change will not come until a person is sick and tired of living with the problem to the point where they’re ready to make the changes necessary to fix the situation.

If debt doesn’t hurt enough, your attempts to become debt free will likely fail. We like to make our debt hurt “enough” by playing “what if” games. What if there was a job layoff? What if the world went to hell? When we think about our finances in the context of those scenarios, we get scared enough to work to kick our debt to the curb.

8. They don’t have enough support. Another factor that is crucial to a successful debt freedom goal is that the person working to pay off debt has a good support system. If you don’t have enough support in real life, I highly recommend becoming a regular part of the personal finance blogging world by reading and commenting on blogs. Reading stories of those who have become debt free or are working on a journey toward debt freedom will encourage and motivate you.

7. They aren’t ready to live without debt. In order to get out of debt, you need to be ready to live without it. You need to be ready to cut up those cards and be committed to living within your means no matter what.

6. The haven’t created a plan. To reach any goal successfully, you need to have a plan. The plan needs to lay out specific, concrete steps that will help you to find extra money and pay off debt.

5. They haven’t fallen in love with budgeting and spend-tracking. I used to HATE budgeting and spend-tracking. They felt like punishment to me. Once I learned that budgeting and spend-tracking provide me with freedom (having the freedom to choose to spend my money in the way that most benefits me), I fell in love with budgeting and spend-tracking. They’re now our new best friends. 🙂

4. They haven’t learned the art of discipline. Discipline is hard, especially in this instant-gratification world. The great thing about discipline, though, is that the more you practice it, the easier it becomes.

In order to learn to discipline yourself to stick with your get-out-of-debt plan, practice disciplining yourself in other areas. If you lack discipline in the area of eating healthy, practice choosing healthy foods over unhealthy ones. If you lack discipline in the area exercise, choose to take the stairs instead of the elevator or park at the back of the lot when you’d rather park up front.

By exercising discipline in small, baby steps, you learn to practice discipline in the area of spending and debt payoff.

3. They haven’t learned the art of perseverance. Perseverance says “I WILL stick to my goal NO MATTER WHAT.”  Success isn’t about not failing – it’s about getting up and trying again after you fail. No matter how many times you fail, you will reach debt freedom if you choose to never give up on attaining it.

2.  They haven’t learned to envision themselves debt free. Being in debt is a mindset. It’s a picture you have of yourself in your head because your reality matches it. Part of being successful at getting out of debt is learning to see yourself as a debt free person. Learning to see yourself as a debt free person will enable you to persevere in your plan to become debt free.

1. They haven’t determined their “why”. Having a motivational list of whys is vitally important to achieving a goal of debt freedom. If you don’t know why you’re working to be debt free, you likely won’t stick with your plan. Make your own motivational list of whys and hang it somewhere where you can see it every day.

If you can conquer these 10 roadblocks to becoming debt free, you too can have financial peace and freedom from debt. Fruclassity is here to help you along the way. Enter your email address in the box on the sidebar to receive encouraging Fruclassity posts automatically.


*Photo courtesy of Nicholas Canup

11 comments on “Top 10 Reasons People Can’t Get Out of Debt

  1. “They aren’t ready to change” is a big reason why people stay in debt. Like you said, this can be applied to any behavioral problem. You just absolutely have to be fed up with your situation to make any sort of change.

    Great post, Laurie! 🙂

  2. Absolutely agree! Discipline and perseverance are biggies, but knowing your “why” is crucial. Falling in love with tracking and budgeting definitely helps! Even though I’m a numbers person, my wife had to convince me that tracking every penny was worthwhile. Now I love having all the information at my fingertips to make smarter decisions.

    1. Same here, Gary! I never saw the value in tracking spending until we started doing it. Now it’s vital to our spending. Knowing where every dime goes is crucial to success.

  3. Numbers 10 and 5 hit home the most for me. Before we tackled our debt, I was unable to say:
    1. How much we earned.
    2. How much debt we had.
    3. What our expenses were.
    Yikes! As for falling in love with budgets and tracking . . . I’m still waiting for that to happen. I might need a love potion. It just isn’t happening of its own accord.

  4. I think your reasons are spot on!

    “They haven’t fallen in love with budgeting and spend-tracking.” You bring up a really great point about how you felt like it used to be punishment but now you realize how freeing it is. I have felt both of those myself. That’s the biggest misconception about budgeting. We don’t budget to be cheap. It’s not supposed to be restrictive; it’s supposed to be freeing! Great job!

    1. YES, Luke!!! Budgeting really is freeing. It’s so nice to know now that we are spending our money on things that are important to the family instead of spending it on useless stuff simply because we aren’t paying attention to our spending. This is the freedom that comes with spend-tracking and budgeting!

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