4 Mental Roadblocks That Prevent You From Paying Off Debt

by Allison Martin · 3 comments

Debt is one of the easiest traps to fall into and it can seem like it’s practically impossible to get out of. The formula to paying off debt is relatively simple; spend less than you earn. The reality isn’t easy to apply to your life though. After all, it’s difficult to create new habits and change your mindset about money.

I’ve been there. I’ve had many days of non-stop anxiety and sleepless nights because I worry whether I’ll have enough to cover my expenses. But I made it through the tough financial times and conquered my debt, so I know you can do the same. You just have to find out what’s really hindering your progress and most of the time, it’s usually a mental roadblock.

Success with money (or lack thereof) usually comes to down to one of these phrases.

1. “It’s no big deal.”

Do you just pay the minimum amount due on your credit card bill each month and go about your daily life? This is easy to do when you have ton of other things going on that seem more important, but ignoring your debt balances only makes the problem worse.

The truth is, debt is a big deal and it’s costing you a ton of money each month. To illustrate, let’s say you carry a credit card balance of $6,000 with an interest rate of 19.9% and minimum payment of $240. You will ultimately spend 149 months and $10,096.95 to get out of this hole. I’m almost certain you can think of a better way to use all the cash you’ll end up paying in interest.

Stop telling yourself that debt is not a big deal. It’s holding you back financial freedom, building wealth, and having a secure future.

2. “I’m a failure.”

Maybe you’ve tried to set up a spending plan that enabled you to pay debt and save simultaneously but you failed miserably. In the meantime, your debt mountain just keeps getting bigger and bigger. Every time something comes up, you resort to the credit cards out of sheer desperation. As a result, you’ve thrown in the towel and decided to live with it.

Sound familiar? There’s hope for your situation yet, and it starts with replacing those negative thoughts with positive ones.

Mahatma Gandhi said it best:

Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny.

It’s possible to achieve financial freedom, but it requires discipline, patience and determination. You’re not a failure when it comes to paying off debt. Maybe you’ve failed in the past, but that’s far from being a failure in life.

3. “I work hard, so I spend my money however I want.”

Simply put, this entitlement mentality is a recipe for disaster. It’s OK to reward yourself for all the hard work you do, but it must be done so in moderation.

Are you living to work or working to live? If you’re doing the latter, kudos to you. But the tables will eventually turn if you don’t get to the root of problem, whether it’s psychological or an obsession with material things.

This is easier said than done, but even if you stumble upon a windfall and get out of debt, you’ll likely fall right back into the same trap if you fail to get your spending under control. Do small things to treat yourself, but don’t allow yourself to spend money on anything you want.

4. “Image is everything.”

Stop “keeping up with the Joneses” because they’re broke! Seriously. We all want more money, but there’s no need to place your finances in dire straits to impress others by portraying something that isn’t true. This mental roadblock is a bit shallow to say the least.

You have to lay in bed each restless night thinking about how far off the deep end you’ve gone; those you’re trying to impress will be sound asleep.

Overcoming Mental Roadblocks About Debt

By delaying the payment process, you’re robbing yourself of money that could otherwise be contributed to a retirement fund and benefit from the power of compounding interest. Getting out of debt takes time, but if you hang in there, your efforts won’t be in vain.

Most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask if you need help. Even having someone watch over you without saying anything will speed up your process, as accountability is paramount if you’ve encountered difficulty in the past staying on track with your debt-management plan.

Which mental phrase have you told yourself? What’s another roadblock we can add to the list?

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  • Brent says:

    Another roadblock is – “it’s not a problem, I’ll just make more money.” This is a common one for entrepreneurs and people who are self-employed who consistently see the potential of their income, but only realize that potential in fits and starts. This mindset results in putting off creating a plan to pay down the debt within your current financial constraints as opposed to the constraints you think you should have or could have at some point in the not-too-distant future.

    A variation on the “failure” roadblock you’ve already mentioned is comparing yourself to other people. The more you prove to yourself that you have failed by looking at the lives of others who appear to be successful with money, the less power you have to actually do anything about the situation. We can never see our own pathway to success if we are constantly using the success of others to diminish the success and wins that we have had.

  • DealForALiving says:

    This is a really strong article, and I think your third point is the best. That’s exactly how I feel sometimes! I work so hard that if I want to buy myself a latte or treat myself to something good for dinner, then I should…

    But then I realize that if I do that too often, I can’t roll up that money into a debt snowball and dig myself out more quickly.

  • Kayla @ Everything Finance says:

    You make several great points here. I don’t want to be one of those who is living paycheck to paycheck and be stuck in my high paying but unsatisfying career. We need to make getting out of debt a priority!

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