Debt is one of those kinds of illnesses that never goes away. It takes and takes, never satisfied until you take action or succumb to your injuries.
Lured Into Debt
At 19 years old, I started leaving a trail of debt behind. By the time I found out about credit reports and credit scores, I was already down in the dumps. I knew nothing about budgeting and living within my means. The poor choices I made were about to make their presence known, and I was not ready.
In my early to mid-20s was when I got wind of the mess I had created for myself. By then, there were over 20-25 delinquent accounts on my credit report. It was super scary; I did not know where to start. So for years, I did nothing about it.
Unpaid bills and credit card debt pushed me down that path. It stemmed from a terrible case of envy. I wanted to live the life others around me were living. That “red eye” mentality did an outstanding job of reeling me into its trap. I longed for all the things I didn’t have growing up. I said “yes” to every card I could get my hands on.
I wanted to be like the “Joneses” so bad that I bought furniture on credit from Rent-a-center. Twice. I got a couch set, a big-screen TV, a bunk bed, and a bedroom set once. And a big-screen TV and a sofa set the next time. 2-3 years later, I had wasted thousands of dollars paying interest. I thought it was my only way of owning things like that.
Many Ways To Get Into Debt
The convenience of borrowing makes it almost impossible to escape debt. When it spirals out of control, it creates unimaginable stress and financial burden.
It can go beyond the inability to pay bills on time; it can cause physical and mental health problems. The emotions it causes are enough to drive you or anyone insane. Shame, depression, embarrassment, anger, and anxiety are some emotions you’ll experience.
Here are some other ways you can get into debt:
- A financial emergency
- Your monthly expenses are too high
- Medical expenses
- An eviction
- Mental health issues such as suicide, stress, and depression
- Relationship issues such as a divorce or separation
- Little to no savings
- Reduced income
- Social acceptance (your social status)
As you can see, there are various ways you can accumulate debt—both personal and impersonal.
The Slow Death of Procrastination
Procrastination is a slow and painful death. That was my biggest downfall when trying to get out of debt. With the time I wasted procrastinating, I could’ve paid them all off and padded up my bank account.
When I was not procrastinating, I made some headway. Extra paychecks, income tax refunds, and work bonuses went into paying them down fast. Those debts dropped like flies, and I was on my way to financial freedom. But then, I had relapses.
Getting new debts was another thing that worked against me. I paid off debts, and a few months later, the balances would be high again. I’d make large purchases and didn’t have the cash to cover them. It was a destructive cycle that took decades to overcome.
I’ve spent over two decades paying for my bad choices. I lived paycheck to paycheck—no emergency funds and experienced its mental agony. I’ve spent many nights without sleep, stressed out, and worried about what to sacrifice. And with kids to feed, it made it much harder.
Another major thing that held me down was saying “yes” to every family member who asked for money. Anything extra I had in my bank account would go to them. Saying “no” even to this day is one of the hardest things for me to do. The amount I would send to them in a year would sometimes add up to thousands.
If I had been wiser, I could’ve paid off my debts sooner. It was hard to keep my head above water. Something kept yanking me back down to the bottom. There was no getting ahead with all the debts that were holding me hostage.
Carrying debt can lead you to other disastrous consequences in your life, like:
- Tying up your resources and costing you more money
- Leading to divorce, bankruptcy, or wage garnishments
- Causing serious medical problems
- Becoming addictive
- Forcing you to worry and stress
- Keeping you from reaching your financial goals
- Hurting your credit score
When you carry debt, it’s a slow and painful death. It cuts into your purchasing power, disposable income, and ability to hold your life together.
To wiggle your way out of debt, you need to have a plan and then execute it.
I made a plan and executed it. Financial freedom was my only goal. By all means necessary, I planned on getting to a place where I could breathe. So I combed through all my credit reports and found some loopholes. I disputed everything, gave it time, and took over from there. It wasn’t easy; it took years of learning and relearning.
Tip #1: Paying down and paying off your debts is the best way out of the mess. There is no sugarcoating it. You can pay it off fast or slow; it’s up to you. But if you wish to pay little to no interest, the fast route is the way to go.
Tip #2: Always make your payments on time. Consistently. Solid payment history is a plus. It works to keep your credit score in good standing. It is one of the good guys on your credit report.
Tip #3: Keep your credit usage below 10% or no higher than 30%. The lower, the better. The higher, the worst. But paying off your balances each month would be ideal. If you can, always pay more. Beware, though, that sometimes you might not see much progress. Interest is a mood killer; you’ll learn that soon enough.
Tip #4: Avoid getting personal loans if you can; run far away from them. After three personal loans (two unsecured and one secured), I would not do it again. I would rather save up than borrow from someone else. But, I get it, things happen, and sometimes they are out of your control.
Here are a few more things you can do to dig your way of the hole:
- Pick up a side hustle
- Don’t add on new debts
- Lower your interest rates
- Create a budget and debt payoff plan
- Ask your current boss for a raise
- Live beyond your means
Any of these approaches can help you get out of debt quicker. And the faster you become debt-free, the quicker you can live the lifestyle of your dreams.
Whether it’s hundreds or thousands of dollars, getting out of debt can be overwhelming. More of your income goes into eliminating debt; the more your balances go up. It can become a pitfall that leads to you rely on debt to cover monthly expenses or large purchases.
It would take almost ten years to get to a point where I could breathe and start saving. In my mind, I didn’t make enough to put something aside. I would make payments and lower my balances but relapsed every time. There’s something about seeing zero or low balances and wanting to feel the high of spending. Those are the moments I would think of all the things I wanted to have but couldn’t buy when my balances were high.
It takes a lot of energy, time, dedication, and money (with interest) to get out of debt. If you develop good budgeting and money management skills, you can avoid going that route. The ultimate goal is to live within your means. Even today, I am still struggling with this lesson; I’m human, after all. But it is especially tough when everyone is showing off their social statuses.
Finally, on a positive note, there are good debts you can have. Debt can allow you to buy a home, go to college, or start a successful business. If you manage what you have well, it can work for you instead of against you. And that’s another lesson I’ve learned. I destroyed my credit by piling on debt. But, once I understood how everything worked, I rebuilt it and bought a house. But that’s not the end.
Buying a home comes with great responsibility; it’s an enormous expense. Whether you have little or large debts, they all come with some level of commitment. Paying your bills on time plus paying off or paying down your debts is the best advantage you have. Saving and budgeting well is the glue that holds it all together.
Are you in debt? If so, are you still in debt? If not, how did you get out? Have you ever been in debt? How long did it take to get out? How did you get in debt? Any advice?
Please share your stories; I’d love to hear from you. You can also like or share this article with your friends and loved ones. Thank you for reading.