5 Tips For Explaining and Dealing With Debt

Debt. No one likes to talk about it, from individuals all the way up to national economies. But sweeping debt under the rug doesn’t make it go away. Debt is an affliction that very few of us live without, and most of us live with a lot.

In the United States

  • Average credit card debt is†$15,191
  • Average mortgage debt is†$154,365
  • Average student loan debt is†$33,607

And it’s not just the U.S. In late 2013, household debt in the U.K. reached a record-breaking†£1.43 trillion, including mortgage debt. In Canada 1 in 20 people fear that they’ll never pay off their credit card debt.

All that debt isn’t just hard on us financially. Studies have shown that ongoing debt takes a toll on our emotional health as well.†Former financial reporter and author of†Zero Debt: The Ultimate Guide to Financial Freedom Lynette Khalfani-Cox knows firsthand the havoc debt can wreak on your life. “I was living above my means,” she says. “It’s a tremendous burden. The true cost of debt and financial problems isn’t just the interest rate you’re paying to Mastercard or Visa. The true cost is the toll that it’s taking on your life and your relationships.”

Since debt is a problem for everyone, isn’t it time we opened up about it? What are some good ways to talk about it, to ourselves, partners, families and friends? More importantly, what are good strategies for reducing debt and the stress that goes along with it? We’ve got a few ideas…

1. Be Honest About Why

Did you make some stupid decisions as a teenager? Bought a car you couldn’t really afford? Got caught up in the sub-prime scams? Trust me, you’re not the only one. Denying it only makes things worse. So yeah, you have some financial regrets that you’re paying for now, big deal. Own it, don’t let it own you. Once you acknowledge the why, it’ll be much easier to find solutions and avoid the same mistakes in the future.

2. Dont Look at the Whole Pile

If I tried to wrap my mind around all my debt at once–car, student loans, credit cards–it might explode. It would definitely make me feel completely overwhelmed and I might crawl under the bed. Instead, I prioritize. Ask any financial expert and they’ll tell you that credit card debt is the most destructive, so that goes to the top of the pile. And even then, when I decided to really start tackling my credit card debt, I chose the worst one, and focused all my financial energy on paying it into oblivion first, while just making the minimum on the others. Much easier to digest, and you’ll see progress faster, which keeps you motivated.

3. Be Willing to Ask for Help

Managing personal finances, especially if income is limited, is a tricky affair. And if you weren’t really sure about how it all works before you got into debt, those nagging bills won’t make it any easier. If you feel like you’re spinning your wheels, don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are professionals that provide debt advice for a living, and trust me, they’ve seen it all. You don’t have to be embarrassed about your pile of debt, no matter how you acquired it. Just telling someone else what you’re struggling with will be a huge relief. From that point on, they’ll be your partner, giving strategic advice about how to dig your way out.

Related: 5 Ways to Get Out of Debt

4. Stay Positive

When your debt reaches five figures (or even more) you may feel like small achievements don’t matter, but they do. All progress is progress, and you should look for a way to stay positive about forward movement when it comes to debt. Make a big thermometer chart for the credit card or medical bill you’re tackling, and fill it in every time you pay of small amounts. Give yourself a gold star when you make payments on time, etc. Achievements like this are addictive, and hey, it’s better than moping around about it.

5. Stay Active

Like I mentioned before, debt-related stress can literally make you sick. This is no good, especially when getting rid of it depends on getting to work every day! “Physical exercise releases chemicals in our brain which make us feel happier. So if you feel that your money worries are getting on top of you it might be a good idea to go for a jog or even a brisk walk,” explains Money Aware.

How do you cope with debt? How have you overcome debt in the past? Share your best tips in the comment section below.

Image via Thinkstock


ERIKA S1 years ago


ERIKA S1 years ago


Serena A.
Serena A.3 years ago

Well, many of us have debt. It’s not worth forgetting that there are bad debts and good ones. The worst thing is to lose control over you debt, if you have a complicated situation but can control it everything is not so bad. It’s not worth to be shy of debt and of asking for help. Fortunately, there are many ways of dealing with the debt, many people tell stories how they pay off thousands dollars of debt. On one hand, it’s good that we can get money in advance or use online loan to cover expences but on the other hand, variety of lending products makes consumers get in debt. It’s worth to be very careful and not to let the debt to become #1 problem in your life.

Mary B.
Mary B3 years ago

if you don't live owing debt you will live in poverty.If you depend on a job to support you and the job ends for any reason you will live in poverty.If the government has no safety net, you will live in poverty.Even if you despretly wanted to go into debt in order to keep a roof over your head, eat and have a way to get to a job, banks and credit cards won't carry you because you can't pay them back. All this talk about 'poor decisions' is a smoke screen to obscure the reality of our economic system, which is basically a massive crime against humanity. 'Living within your means' when you have no means, is living in poverty.

Donna F.
Donna F3 years ago

my self-imposed debt is a curse upon myself

Alina Kanaski
Alina Kanaski3 years ago

Thanks for sharing!

Beth Buczynski
Beth Buczynski3 years ago

@Lisa L: The advice in that point was specifically addressing those who feel guilty about or try to deny the reality of their debt. You, and those like you, who were forced into it by less than ideal circumstances that you couldn't control, are in a different boat. Obviously. And it seems like you struggle with neither guilt nor denial, which means that point doesn't apply to you. Unfortunately, there are others who have both.

Rosa Caldwell
Rosa Caldwell3 years ago

Credit card debt can get repaid, if you will stop using the card and paying an extra $25 to $100 a month on top of your minimum due. Better than nothing.

aj E.
aj E3 years ago


Carole R.
Carole R3 years ago