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5 Ways to Get Out of Debt

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If debt is stressing you out, here are three ways to reframe the way you think about what you owe.

Find at least one person you can be honest with about your debt. “Saying it out loud — ‘I’m up to my eyeballs in debt’ ó can be very powerful and help break the shame cycle around debt,” says Denver psychologist Stephanie Smith. The physical act of speaking can begin to alleviate anxiety, and friends can offer new perspectives. “We only see the bleakest of futures; we donít see our positive options,” she says. “Often when you talk to someone, they can shed some light on the situation.”

Choose your media influences carefully. If looking at pictures of fashionista celebs makes you want to own couture you can’t afford, curtail your fashion-magazine habit. If gadget catalogs are your weakness, get off those mailing lists. If watching lap-of-luxury TV characters makes you feel underprivileged, turn the channel — or turn off the TV entirely. “This stuff gets stuck in your subconscious and it is going to influence your emotions and your behavior even if you tell yourself it won’t,” says Stanford University health psychologist Kelly McGonigal. “Start to pay attention to that low-level twinge you feel when you see something you want,” she says. “By simply noting how you’re feeling, you can start to withdraw from the cycle of ‘I see, therefore I want.’”

Start saving. As soon as debt-laden people make a little money, they usually scramble to pay off bills, says Brent Kessel, a financial planner and author of It’s Not About the Money (HarperOne, 2008). So they never experience a feeling of abundance or the pleasure of being rewarded for hard work. Instead, they are always in the red, which makes them vulnerable to falling back into old habits of self-soothing by shopping. Kessel suggests opening a savings account and putting away a few dollars every week. “It doesnít take much to help shift your mentality away from deprivation to one of surplus.”

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10:47AM PDT on May 11, 2012


2:57AM PDT on May 10, 2012

So many people, myself included, buy stuff or experiences to make us happier. Unfortunately this only works for a while. Dealing with the pain and emptiness is the only way around it.

6:42PM PDT on May 7, 2012

thanks for share

9:08PM PDT on Apr 23, 2012

thanks for the tips...

2:02PM PDT on Apr 23, 2012

Thanks for the article, very interesting!

1:46PM PDT on Apr 23, 2012

I'm still a bit confused. Since NO savings account of any sort will pay even a tenth in interest what I'm being charged, why should I try saving money that's earmarked for bills? And EVERY extra cent is going towards that.
I'd rather not have debt, but married a man who, every time his mom sneezes, calls for an immediate plane ticket. That's how you end up with debts that total 3/4 of his annual paycheck. I went to work for a while, but realized it was costing us more than I made between buying uniforms, washing uniforms, paying for the gas to get to work and taking away time to do everything else in the house.
And how should I deal with the fact that every time I seem to be gaining speed in paying off all our debts, some other catastrophe that ends up being expensive comes up? Like truck repairs, broken HVAC units, frig going out, etc.
Not seeing it. At least I'm not behind, there's always that.

9:46AM PDT on Apr 23, 2012

Thank you

7:29AM PDT on Apr 23, 2012

it's overwhelming to read this for me but I think if I concentrate on one thing that I have NEVER done it would be the weekly expenditure budget with cash that would really force me to not over spend! Hmmmmm, I think I can do this!

6:09AM PDT on Apr 23, 2012

Credit cards should ONLY be used for real emergencies

3:09AM PDT on Apr 23, 2012

The biggest cause of uncontrollable debt is credit companies lending the money and then piling on the interest at exhorbitant rates. And, society making so many things like internet, cars and mobile phones into necessities for those who want to live in the modern mainstream.

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