7 Surprising Reasons People Struggle with Debt

By Jackie Beck   Updated 09/16/2021 at 11:04 am

Ask someone why they haven’t gotten out of debt, and they’re likely to give you a deer in the headlights look. Or they might reply with “I can’t” or “I’ve tried, but it didn’t work”, and then go on to explain what happened when they tried to pay it off.

Have you ever thought about the reasons people stay in debt? Here are seven surprising reasons why.

1. Getting out of debt doesn’t occur to them.

In other words, they think debt is just a normal part of life. Many people grow up seeing debt used just as a matter of course. Their parents have car payments and put the Christmas gifts on credit, and don’t think anything of it. This is probably the easiest reason to overcome. Believing that you CAN be debt-free is a big step.

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

Many people are under the mistaken impression that they need to make a lot of money in order to get out of debt. While making more money can certainly help once you decide to get out of debt, the real key is to stop borrowing.

3. They don’t make it a priority.

They make other things, like going out to eat or getting a new car that they can’t afford a priority instead. They may want to get out of debt, but deep down they’re not willing to do what it takes. Or they’re gung-ho about it for a little while and then fall off the wagon, much like someone trying out an extreme diet.

4. They feel overwhelmed, hopeless, or afraid.

Debt can be overwhelming, especially if it’s due to medical bills or losing your job. The pile of debt may look so insurmountable that it doesn’t even feel worth trying to overcome. They key to escaping this is to break things down into pieces that you can handle — maybe calling one creditor this month to try to workout a plan, opening up the bills, or sorting them into piles. Every little step is one step closer to getting out of debt.

5. They don’t think it’s possible.

This is very similar to the first reason. Some people just plain old can’t even visualize a life without debt. They’ll say “But what if I want to buy a house?” or “What if I need a new car?”. There ARE people who live life without using credit — including buying houses with cash. I know some of them.

6. They don’t know how.

Sometimes it’s just a matter of education. People aren’t born knowing how to manage money or get out of debt, so sometimes a little research is required. Just avoid those who promise a quick and easy way out of debt. It’s quick and easy to get INTO debt, not out. Those methods usually wind up setting you further behind.

7. Their spouse or significant other isn’t on the same page.

This can be a toughie, depending on how far apart the people are. They key is to try to come to a compromise both parties can live with by explaining why getting out of debt is important and being understanding about the other person’s point of view. Seek counseling if necessary.

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Finally, if you’re curious, here are the reasons why I got into debt (and why I got out).

7 surprising reasons struggle with debt; sparrows perching on a stick

3 thoughts on “7 Surprising Reasons People Struggle with Debt

  1. I have learned that people also stay in debt because they actually think that living with debt is normal. Having this mentality allows them to accept the debt and deal with its restraints, which equates to living below their privilege. It is so freeing when you realize that you can live a better life without debt having you in the choke hold.

  2. I think I have thought each of those things at one time or another, but this year my husband and I finally have our heads on straight [LOL] and are working through some goals. We want to change our lifestyle and getting out of debt will really help with that. No more being servants to the lenders!

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