We hear it over and over: “Debt is bad! Don’t get into debt!” But while we know this, many of us don’t listen. I don’t know why. Even I knew better and lead myself down a path of financial ruin. (Thankfully, I’ve recovered and won’t allow it to happen again)
The thing is, I fell for the lies and actually believed the hype. I just did what I thought was right based upon what I was reading and had been told by others in my situation. The sad truth is that I was just lying to myself.
There is no way to sugar coat it—debt is bad. So why then, do we all continue to believe the myths and tell ourselves lies? Perhaps it’s because we just don’t even know they are lies. Here are some of the fibs I told myself back when I was in debt — and hopefully I can help you realize them too.
1. I need debt to have a good credit score.
You may think you can’t get a mortgage or vehicle loan without a great credit score, but that is not true. Many lenders will approve you, especially if you have little or no credit card debt. (You can see how your debts are impacting your credit scores for free on Credit.com.)
It’s been years since we’ve been out of debt. We cut up our credit cards and since then had a mortgage and one auto loan (which we paid off in just four months). And you know what? My credit is better than before! I’m in the 800 club now, and proud of it. But I didn’t need a credit card to get there — or the credit card debt to build that score.
2. Everyone has some debt.
Nope, not everyone. Many have none at all. Some don’t even have a mortgage payment. Just like I tell my kids, “If everyone was jumping off of a bridge, would you jump too?” Of course not. But that was how we saw it — having debt was normal.
3. I am not good with money.
Sorry, but that is just not a good excuse. The internet has hundreds of thousands of resources available to help you learn about money. If you don’t know how to set up a budget, you can research online. If you are confused about how to set up a plan to get out of debt, there are also online resources that can help. The information is quite literally at our fingertips, you just have to find it.
4. I deserve to spend my money.
I agree with you on this one, however, you need to spend your own money, not money you don’t have. If you don’t have money in the bank to buy something, be wary of using a credit card. It might make you happy in the moment, however, how will you feel when you’re still paying for that expensive dinner six months from now? Chances are it won’t be worth it when you look at it that way.
5. An emergency put us in debt.
Sometimes medical emergencies come up; there are times when you lose your job and have to get food on the table. Those are emergencies, things you really did not anticipate. But saying you had to go into debt to pay taxes is not an emergency, it’s just poor planning. It’s important to have a real emergency fund and plan for things you know are coming up, like taxes, and those you don’t, like the furnace going out.
6. It was a great deal.
This can be a Catch-22 for so many. Yes, we all love a deal. However, is it a deal if you are spending money on something you wouldn’t normally? This is all too common with people who start using coupons. They see all these little papers with savings and want to use them. The sad truth is many couponers actually spend more money in the beginning than they realize because they’re trying to use every coupon. However, if they’re buying things they normally wouldn’t put on their shopping list, they’re spending just to “save” money.
Just because you see a good deal or something on clearance doesn’t mean there’s a green light to buy it. Don’t spend just because; spend with purpose.
7. I don’t have that much debt.
Whether you owe $50 or $50,000, you have to take the steps to eliminate your debt and change how you think. (You can use this lifetime cost of debt calculator to see how much your debt can really cost you.)
8. I just need to make more money.
If you’re living beyond your means, how will more money help? Chances are you will just live further beyond what you can afford. More money won’t guarantee not having debt. Just look at stars who’ve had to declare bankruptcy and now have no money, despite making millions. Just because you have more does not mean you know how to manage it. Gain control of your money now, no matter how much you are making. Only then will a pay increase help you pay off your debts.
9. I will start my debt plan next month.
Why are you waiting? It sounds like a diet: People often say they’ll start on Monday, then come up with an excuse to put it off another week. Before you know it, six months have gone by and six more pounds have appeared on your waistline. Start today, don’t put it off. The sooner you start, the sooner you’ll be able to shout out loud, “I’m debt-free!”
10. It’s impossible to be debt-free.
I used to feel the same way. We were a single-income family with two young kids, living paycheck to paycheck. But we talked to friends in the same situation and gained their support. And together we celebrated the little victories. The key was reminding ourselves that anything was possible. It took 27 months, but that $37,000 in debt was gone before we knew it. And that was the best feeling in the world.
Stop telling yourself lies. Only when you believe the truth about debt will you be able to work towards becoming debt-free.
This story is an Op/Ed contribution to Credit.com and does not necessarily represent the views of the company or its partners.