10 Mental Barriers to Paying Off Debt: What’s Stopping You?

rfz_mental_barriersAt the start of The Debt Movement, we began thinking about the mental barriers to paying off debt. Most people already know the concrete reasons why debt payoff is difficult but the act of paying off debt goes far beyond numbers and excel spreadsheets. More often than not, there’s some sort of emotion that prevents us from taking the necessary steps to eliminate debt.

That’s why we decided to create a series that discusses each barrier in detail – along with the steps you can take to fight them. Now, we want to hear from you. What’s your barrier? What’s that one thing that you just can’t seem to get past? In case you missed it, here are the ten barriers we discussed…

Ever think to yourself, “debt’s not a big deal – everyone has it”? If so, then this could stand in the way of you paying it off. At the end of the day, debt costs money. Whether your debt is in the form of an auto loan, mortgage, student loans, or credit cards, you’re paying for it in the form of fees, interest rates, and sometimes even origination. That’s money that could be going to a retirement account, emergency fund, and fun things like vacations! While debt may not be the end of the world for some, it is still something to be dealt with.

Do you want to pay off debt, but feel there are just too many other things to worry about right now? Believe it or not, working to eliminate debt can actually alleviate stress in other areas of your life. Sometimes we live with the burden of debt for so long that we forget the weight we’re carrying. But nothing can compare to the feeling you have when you know you’re in control. It’s not a road that ends over night, but simply getting on the right path can change everything. Plus, there are tons of free tools like ReadyForZero to help you automate your debt payoff!

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Just like any other goal, if you don’t believe you’re capable of it (or if you think it’s just not in the cards for you) then you won’t achieve it. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy: you don’t think you’ll achieve your goal, so you take no steps to make it happen (and maybe even steps to set you back), then you never achieve your goal. If you want to be debt-free, you must first believe that you can be debt free. You must believe that a good financial future is in your hands – no matter how much debt you have or how much money you make.

Mental Barrier: You Hate Budgeting

For some, budgeting is about as fun as washing dishes or doing the laundry. But just like you wouldn’t wear clothes that have never been washed or eat off of dishes that have last night’s dinner stuck to them, you shouldn’t go through life without a budget. Not keeping a budget means you never have an exact picture of your financial situation, what you’re spending, or what you can improve upon. It’s like driving in the dark. A budget is critical to debt payoff. But if this word makes your ears bleed, then call it your spending plan. A spending plan empowers you to know what you have and where it’s going.

Mental Barrier: You Aren’t Saving Money

Do you have a savings account? How about an emergency fund? If you’re not saving then it’s unlikely that you’ll focus on paying off your debt. Why? It’s all mental! It’s not about how much you save but that you are focused on trying to save as much as you can – even if it’s only $5 per month. Once you see that you can do it, suddenly you’ll find more ways to cut expenses or earn extra income. That’s because saving is as addicting as buying – and the strategies you learn will inevitably bleed over into your debt payoff goals!

Do you feel stuck? Have you been making payments but can’t seem to get that total debt number to shrink? This feeling can discourage all of us. But there are ways around it! First, use tools to automate and track your progress. Then find an accountability buddy. This works the same way as it would if you were trying to eat healthier or lose weight. It’s much easier to stay on track if you are sharing your goals and every win – big or small – with someone you trust.

The cycle of debt is tough to break. Sometimes people work hard to pay off their debt, only to wind up back in debt years later. This happens because debt is only partially a financial issue. Debt can also be a product of a financial philosophy. In order to break the cycle, it’s important to evaluate your past, realign your priorities, and hold yourself accountable moving forward. You’re sure to find an improvement in all of your financial goals if you follow these steps!

This one’s tough – do you know anyone who doesn’t suffer from instant gratification syndrome? Technology has shortened all of our attention spans. And the relative ease with which to obtain credit makes it harder than ever to fight the urge to buy now and think later. A surefire way to beat this is to cement good budgeting habits (or stick to that spending plan) and relish financial success. Once you feel the gratification that comes with meeting your financial goals, the desire to buy will diminish drastically.

The need to maintain appearances can often feel out of our control – and it’s not always a case of keeping up with the Joneses. Sure, there are times when you may wish you had a certain type of wardrobe, house, or car. But there are times when this need is not trivial – for example when it comes to your work wardrobe. So if you’re feeling pressure to maintain appearances, here’s what to do: evaluate your reasons, find out what resources are available to help, and take your time in making any purchases – making sure they make sense for your budget/spending plan as much as they may make sense in your life.

Do you feel ashamed to tell people you have debt? Or, do you think it’s pointless – either because they might not understand or because they wouldn’t be able to help you anyway? If so, then this could cause you to miss out on a valuable resource to paying off debt – support! Telling people you trust can help in many ways: by opening the doors of moral support from your loved ones and by allowing them to show you ways to beat debt that you may never have thought of. While admitting to debt and asking for help is one of the hardest steps you can take, it’s one that will benefit you greatly!

pay off debt

Keep your eye on the light at the end of the tunnel…

The most important thing you should remember when reviewing this list is that having one or more of these mental barriers is okay. None of us are perfect. In fact, here at ReadyForZero, we have our own barriers to fight and some of us even have our own debt to pay off! That’s just one of the reasons why we understand these barriers so well.

Now that you’ve discovered the obstacles preventing you from paying off debt, let’s talk about them. We’ll never eliminate debt as a society until we get rid of the stigma attached to it. There’s no reason to fight this battle alone! Your thoughts could help others in the same way that other people’s experiences can help you. So please share your mental barriers in the comments below and let’s continue the discussion on how to beat them!

Image credit for second image: knorre

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  • Bill Myers

    This post is perfect, it says those questions that flash through an individual’s mind when it comes to budgeting. I was happy that you compared it to tangible things such as dish washing.

    I have always thought of budgeting the same way I think of changing one’s eating habits. If you crash budget and take a drastic change, you’re more like to fall back into your old ways. Budgeting should be adopted into everyday things, and slowly but surely it will become part of your nature.

    • Shannon_ReadyForZero

      Thanks so much Bill :). And I like the way you say that budgeting should be adopted into everyday things so it will slowly become a part of your nature. I totally agree. Once I was able to do this in my own life, I found that I stopped stressing about budgeting – or even thinking about it much. It just became a natural thing and felt more like a tool to help than a burden to carry.

  • Mike@WeOnlyDoThisOnce

    Great way to stress that these barriers are indeed “mental” – and are surmountable regardless of how dire one’s financial situation seems. Great post!

    • Shannon_ReadyForZero

      Thanks Mike!