Financial Literacy Month: Dealing With Debt That’s Out Of Control

Originally Published Apr. 24, 2024.

If you’re like most people, you probably have debt. From student loan debt to credit card and mortgage debt, it’s the weight on your shoulders that won’t seem to lighten. But how do you know when debt is spiraling out of control? When is it time to get help?

Debtor’s Anonymous, an organization that helps consumers struggling with debt, lists the following signs that you might have a serious problem with debt.

Being unclear about your financial situation. Not knowing account balances, monthly expenses, loan interest rates, fees, fines, or contractual obligations.

Frequently “borrowing” items such as books, pens, or small amounts of money from friends and others, and failing to return them.

Poor saving habits: Not planning for taxes, retirement, or other non-recurring but predictable items, and then feeling surprised when they come due. Having a “live for today, don’t worry about tomorrow atitude.

Compulsive shopping: Being unable to pass up a “good deal. Taking impulsive purchases, leaving price tags on clothes so they can be returned, and not using items that you’ve purchased.

Difficulty meeting basic financial or personal obligations and/or an inordinate sense of accomplishment when such obligations are met.

A different feeling when buying things on credit than when paying in cash, a feeling of being accepted or grown up.

Living in chaos and drama around money: Using one credit card to pay another, bouncing checks, and always having a financial crisis to contend with.

A tendency to live on the edge: Living paycheck to paycheck, taking risks with health and car insurance coverage, writing checks hoping money will appear to cover them.

Unwarranted inhibition and embarrassment in what should be a normal discussion of money.

Overworking or underearning: Working extra hours to earn money to pay creditors, using time inefficiently, taking jobs below your skill and education level.

Denying your basic needs in order to pay your creditors.

Hoping that someone will take care of you so that you won’t get into serious financial trouble or hoping that there will be someone you can turn to.

If any of these describe you, there are solutions:

1. Join a debt support group. A debt support is self-help based and consists of members who have a common goal of eliminating debt. These groups provide a safe place to talk about their problems.

2. Create a spending plan. If the word “budget scares you, just call it another name. Develop a plan that will help you take control of your spending.