5 Reasons You’ll Never Get Out of Debt

If you can’t break free of these five fatal flaws, you’ll likely be drowning in credit card debt until the day you die.

OK, Money Talks News readers: I’d like to have a heart-to-heart here.

Christmas is fast approaching, and that means money is going to start flying out of your pocket at breakneck speed.

It doesn’t matter how much we talk about the spirit of the season being what really counts. The reality is the holidays mean paying for presents, parties and extra food. If you are already struggling under a mountain of debt, it only gets worse.

It may be tempting to think you’ll charge one last holiday and buckle down in January, but that is the mindset that keeps you in debt.

Trust me. I may be debt-free and have an emergency fund now, but I could tell you about the Christmas we searched for a tree farm that took checks because there was no money in the bank and the credit cards were maxed out.

What changed? It wasn’t our income, that’s for sure. It was our mindset. Unless you change yours, here are five reasons you’ll never get out of debt.

1. You don’t have a budget or track spending

Some people are number geeks and could spend all day slicing and dicing their budget numbers. You know who you are.

For everyone else, budgets can be boring, restricting, dumb … pick your favorite adjective.

However, if you don’t know where your money is going or even how much you make monthly, you’ll never get out of debt. Every time you open your bank account, it will be a crapshoot whether there is money there.

Tracking your expenses used to entail pencils, spreadsheets and agony. Now you can simply use a service like that provided by our partner, PowerWallet, to do everything for you effortlessly and free. No more excuses.

2. You shop for fun

Once spending money becomes a form of recreation, you can probably kiss your savings goodbye. Unless you have a large amount of disposable income, chances are you can’t afford to spend indiscriminately.

People who shop for fun spend on a whim. They see something they want, and they buy it with no thought to whether they need it or can afford it. If you pass your time wandering aimlessly at the mall or surfing retailers online, don’t be surprised if your savings account balance hovers around the single digits while your credit card balance climbs to its ceiling.

From our Solutions Center: Help with credit card debt

3. You surround yourself with the wrong people

Likewise, you will never get ahead if you are running with a crowd that is constantly trying to “one up” one another. Keeping up with the Joneses is not good for your pocketbook.

I don’t want you to ditch good friends, but I do think it’s smart to consider whether you need to spend time with casual acquaintances who are more interested in keeping up appearances than in keeping up your friendship.

Instead, look for like-minded people who appreciate you for who you are even if you can’t afford to be dining at that swanky new restaurant every week.

4. You have an ‘as soon as …’ mentality

This was one of my downfalls: I always had an excuse for why I couldn’t get my money under control.

  • As soon as the holidays are done, I’ll write out a budget.
  • As soon as I get a better-paying job, I’ll start paying down debt.
  • As soon as I finish buying the last of the Disney movies for the kids, I’ll stop spending.

The timing will never be perfect. Smart money management is like dieting and exercise: You will always find a reason to put it off. Waiting for the stars to align is a surefire way to remain in debt indefinitely.

5. You have a character flaw

Let’s get right down to it: You may be in debt and stay in debt because you are simply too lazy, weak or self-indulgent.


Remember, I’ve been there. I’m not judging; I’m looking in the mirror. We want to think our debt is the result of forces outside ourselves — the hospital stay, the lousy economy, the housing market. However, at the end of the day, we need to take responsibility for our own actions.

I am not talking about people living in poverty, and I am not talking about those who experienced something catastrophic, such as a total disability, that pushed them over the edge.

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  • matt wilkinson

    Maryalene LaPonsie, You’ve hit the nail on the head! You’d better prepare for the hate mail and angry excuses!!

  • Bill

    Darn tootin.

  • grandmaguest

    EXACYTLY!!!! You are right on target.

  • jo

    This article is absolutely right about most causes of debt. However, I’m one of those people who are trying, hard, to get out of credit card and medical debts which were worsened by personal catastrophies. In my case, I was laid off in 2009, couldn’t find a professional job again for years, and then suffered through serious illnesses. I admit I’ve had some bad money management habits in the past, but I am doing all I can to change them now. Unfortunately, at least one of my family members acts as if my financial situation is all my fault and is a major personal failing.

  • Doug Bedell

    Thanks for the article about a problem we have right now. We got into debt with monumental bills, $35000.00, but we stayed in debt because of not stopping spending. Still have most of the debt but am working on it hard.. I will keep trying but not sure I will live long enough to accomplish it, I am 78, but I will know I tried hard. Thanks for reminding me who I can blame for the non medical debt and who can fix it.

  • Georgia Wessling

    Took us 15+ years to get out from under $28-32k in cc debt. We each worked a full time job and I worked away from home and worked 4-5 part time jobs as well. By my retirement date, we were cc debt free. Owed a small car loan and another very small loan at the bank. My first 457 pull out went to pay those off and we were FREE!!!!!! You must try to visualize being absolutely free from all encumbrances. It is exhilarating.

  • Lorilu

    A friend has been wrestling with credit card debt for many years, because her husband (a compulsive spender) puts all his expenditures on credit card, but then pays just the minimum each month. It is amazing how much the credit card companies will let a person rack up this way–amounts equal to what he earns in a year. But because he keeps making the minimum payments (which are now huge), they keep his cards alive. You would think at some point the creditors would realize that he has exceeded his ability to pay.

    • Patrick Seitz

      I don’t think the creditors are worried about that. If he ever stops paying, they’ll sell the debt to a collection agency for less than he owes but more than he charged (with all the interest he’s been accumulating) so they still get a return either way.

      • Lorilu

        You make a good point. Then he will be at the mercy of the debt collectors, and that is not a good thing.

        • http://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/political_reading_room/ disqus_3BrONUAJno

          One can never be at the mercy of a debt collector who has no compulsory collection tools, the most important one, of which, is one’s FICO score. I have never known what mine is, nor do I want or need to.

          • Lorilu

            Have you any idea how debt collectors work? They harass people incessantly, regardless of the lack of “compulsory collection tools.” Your FICO score will be ruined because it will be reported to credit bureaus that your account is in collection, and it will cost you more for most things you do–from borrowing money for car loans, mortgages, etc., to paying for car insurance. In many states, car insurers charge people with bad credit (bad FICO scores) more for their car insurance.

            In my book, that is being at the mercy of debt collectors.

          • http://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/political_reading_room/ disqus_3BrONUAJno

            Knowing well how debt collectors operate, I am in a position to ignore them, having no debts, let alone any in collection. I do not know what my FICO score is or has ever been, nor does it matter to me, since I do not use or have any credit accounts. I pay for my auto insurance by the year, not something any insurance company concerned about my 40 year clear driving record would be likely to attribute to my also clear credit record.

    • bethaliz6894

      In all fairness, it is not the credit cards job to babysit the debt people make. You have to be over 18 in order to get a credit card on your own. At that point, you are an adult and you need to take responsibility for yourself. It isn’t the credit cards fault you don’t stop spending when you get to the point you can no longer pay the monthly bill.

      • Lorilu

        I agree that people are responsible for their own actions, and should suffer the consequences. However, while it may not be the credit card companies’ fault that you don’t stop spending, but when people have run their balances up to more than they earn in a year, you would think the card companies would shut off their credit. It’s well known that the companies review your credit standing frequently, checking to see your outstanding balances on all your credit lines. They know when people are way overextended.

        When someone’s balances are completely out of whack with their income, and they’re only making minimum payments on all of them, then people shouldn’t be extended even more credit. That’s not what happens–they just raise your credit limit, and raise your interest rate.

        • Karin Schuster

          i have a cc with nfcu. when i get close to my $600 limit the acct is frozen until a pymnt is made.

  • Vince Ryder

    This article nails it. The only thing I can think of to add is to expand point #4 to “Replace the “as soon as” mentality with an actual plan to eliminate debt/create wealth that you begin TODAY.”

  • http://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/political_reading_room/ disqus_3BrONUAJno

    This misses what I think is the number one cause of endless debt: the purchase of things that are unneeded.
    I have lived in a van (sometimes down by a river) since the mid 80’s, never had a credit card (aside from the store and oil cards that were gone before I moved into the first van), or had any continuing debt, since I got rid of my messy wife, who had made a pile of unused craft materials in her room in our mobile home which were never used for what she’d bought them for. I judge my prosperity not by my gross income, but by my net savings.

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