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10 Reasons People Stay in Debt

8 Minute Read

Do you remember the moment you decided to get out of debt? Were you drowning in last year’s expenses and tired of paying for the past instead of planning for the future? You were probably sick and tired of being sick and tired. You might have even gotten angry at being in debt. Eventually, the stress of too many bills and the burden of debt piling up pushed you to your breaking point. Something inside “clicked,” and you decided it was time to make a fresh start.

But what keeps people from getting out of debt? Why would someone want to stay in debt instead of living in freedom? Sadly, there are all sorts of reasons people choose that shiny credit card instead of being debt-free. Don’t fall for any of these!

1. They want to keep up appearances.

This is the dreaded “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality. But little do you know, the Joneses have a leased BMW, an underwater mortgage, and an unwelcome visitor named Sallie Mae living in their basement. The Joneses are the most broke people in your neighborhood! And if you’re not careful, you’ll be following them into bankruptcy by trying to keep up with them.

If you have trouble constantly falling into the comparison trap, consider some sound advice from best-selling author and Ramsey Personality Rachel Cruze. In her book Love Your Life, Not Theirs, she shows you how to quit playing the comparison game, how to think before you actually spend money, and how to start saving like you truly mean it. Pretty soon, you’ll be so caught up in your own life you’ll find yourself saying, “The Joneses who?”

2. They don’t think they make enough money.

Most of the time, it’s not someone’s salary that’s the problem—it’s their behavior. Spending more money than you make will cause you to stay in debt. That’s why it’s so important to budget.

Budgeting can help you see where your money is going every month and where you can cut back. Simply making a budget and being intentional with your money will make you feel like you got a raise!

That’s not to say income doesn’t play a large role in why people stay in debt. Sometimes it really is an income issue. If that’s the case for you, start doing things to bring in extra cash! Get a part-time job on nights or weekends and sell everything that’s been collecting dust in your garage. Or maybe it’s time to get bold enough to ask for a raise or put your resume out there and start looking for a higher paying job.

3. They are unwilling to sacrifice.

How could you possibly give up eating out three nights a week? Or what would your life look like without cable? You’ll never know until you’re willing to give something up in order to build a legacy for your future. If you’re in a lot of debt, something in your lifestyle has to change. Here’s a question to ask yourself: What am I willing to temporarily give up?

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4. They have no hope.

When you’re buried under thousands of dollars in debt, it’s easy to feel like there’s no way out. After making minimum payments month after month and seeing little or no headway, sometimes you feel like you’ll never see the light at the end of the tunnel. If you can’t find a reason to keep up the fight, sooner or later you’ll probably just throw in the towel.

Some people stay in debt because they’re too afraid to make a move. Debt can be comfortable, kind of like slowly cooking in a pot of boiling water. If you’ve always used a credit card and you’ve always had a car payment, sometimes it’s hard to make that change.

Sure, trying to pay off all of what looks like a mountain of debt can be scary and overwhelming. But remember this: Millions of people have gotten out of debt and changed their lives by following Dave’s 7 Baby Steps. You can do this!

5. They’re addicted to stuff.

In other words, they’ve bought into the myth that you are what you own—and they simply can’t get enough. The more they have, the more powerful and confident they feel. But it’s all fake. They can’t afford that stuff and it’s going to weigh them down. At some point their addiction to debt will cause a financial heart attack.

Our culture has twisted what it means to actually be able to afford something. Society echoes, “If you can ‘afford’ the minimum payment, then go ahead and buy it!” That’s just ridiculous, and it’s a sure ticket to financial regret. You’ll end up spending more on monthly payments to pay it off than if you would have just bought it outright! Instead, don’t buy things you can’t pay for in cash.

6. They don’t make it a priority.

They keep putting it off thinking, I’ll start a budget next month. But each month passes by and guess what? Still no budget. Paying off debt isn’t exactly a fun pastime. It takes a lot of work! We know changing your lifestyle is uncomfortable, but the end result is 100% worth it. Make it a priority!

7. Their spouse isn’t on the same page.

Money and relationships can be tricky territory, especially when a couple isn’t seeing eye to eye. Maybe one of you is fully committed to becoming debt-free and the other isn’t quite convinced that debt is all that bad anyway. If you really want to get out of debt, you and your spouse have to be on the same page with the same vision for your future.

And remember, it’s not “my” money or “their” money—it’s our money. Once you get married, your vocabulary needs to change. You’re on the same team, and it’s time to start acting like it.

The same goes for your debt. It’s not “his credit card debt” or “her student loans,” it’s your collective debt together. And if you want to get rid of it, you need to tackle it as a united front.

8. They aren’t managing their money.

According to a survey by U.S. Bank, only 41% of Americans follow a budget.(1) No wonder so many people feel like they’re spinning their wheels getting out of debt! If you don’t have a monthly budget, you don’t really have a plan for your money. You aren’t telling your money where to go, so it’s going out the window!

Managing your money means more than just tracking your expenses after they’ve already happened. You have to prepare ahead. Our free budgeting app, EveryDollar, makes it super easy to create a budget. You’ll finally wave goodbye to stressing out about your money once you actually take control of it.

9. They haven’t cut up their credit cards.

Getting out of debt is amazing. But if you keep those credit cards around for a rainy day or “emergency,” you’ll likely land yourself back in debt again. Just don’t do it. Cut them up, close the accounts, and be done with them forever. If you follow our plan, your emergency fund is your safety net—not credit cards.

10. They don’t know how.

These people have good intentions—they want to kick debt to the curb—but they don’t know how. They’ve been in debt so long that getting out from under $50,000 in credit card bills seems impossible. But it isn’t. People call The Dave Ramsey Show every day to tell us about their debt-free victories.

Getting out of debt isn’t easy. It takes a lot of hard work and discipline. But it’s not impossible. All you need is a plan.

The debt snowball method is our simple plan for helping you get out of debt. Start by listing out all your debts from smallest to largest. Keep paying the minimum payments on everything except the lowest debt—we want you to attack that one with a vengeance! Once it’s gone and out of your life forever, take the amount you were paying on it and roll that over to your next debt on the list.

You can do this. People are making the decision to get out of debt and change their lives every day. Take control of your finances—and your life—by deciding to get out of debt for good!

What if you never had to worry about money again? Financial Peace University can help you make a plan for your money and transform your future. Over 5 million people have gone through the program and experienced life-change—are you next?

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