When you’re deep in debt, you can find yourself feeling guilty, sad, or downright hopeless. Whether it’s a few hundred dollars or a few thousand, feeling like you’re not in control of your finances can weigh on you to the point of inaction. But spending your evenings face-down on the couch doesn’t help you get out of debt — it just seems to magnify the problem.
Reddit user ohmygoshhhhhhh recently asked about this issue in r/personalfinance. After being out of work for several months, the user was in $US4,100 ($5,843) in credit card debt, and creeping ever-closer to their $US4,500 ($6,413) credit limit. While they’re back at work and feeling more financially stable, “My once great credit has slipped to 643 and I’m wondering how other people cope mentally with that burden,” they said. “I just can’t get it off my mind, it’s all I think about.”
There were plenty of suggestions for battling that guilt, many of them from people who had paid off large debts themselves. If you’re someone who’s struggling to see the light at the end of the debt tunnel, consider these tactics for avoiding guilt and staying motivated.
Write out a plan
“Take a breath and make a plan for paying the card off, not just an estimation on when you’ll see that balance at zero,” said SixFootEwok.
“It helps for me to see it written down,” said lyghtcat. “It puts my mind at ease. I also will go back and look at it if my guilt/anxiety starts creeping back up.”
“When you start to get anxious, remind yourself that you have a plan, you are in control of the plan and your finances,” said Softmachine2019. “You’re out of the worst of it.”
Use your guilt as a motivator
“Every time you feel guilty about the debt, act on it! Cut your expenses even further, or find a side gig to bring in a little extra income,” said Varathein. “Don’t let the guilt paralyse you. Burn it as fuel to drive you on your way to freedom from debt.”
If you can think of your obstacles as opportunities, as we’ve mentioned before, you can start to see the flip side of your guilt. Yes, you feel bad about your debt. But you can take steps to alleviate that debt and move beyond it, however slowly your circumstances require.
Don’t worry about your credit score too much
Remember that your credit score is just a number—it doesn’t determine your own personal worth. Your credit score “Is simply a measure of your relationship with debt,” reminded TheGuardian118.
“Your credit score will rebound,” said ArdenSix. “Assuming you don’t have late payments dragging it down but rather just high credit card utilisation, your credit will bounce back.”
While your credit score does depend in small part on the length of your history, it depends more on your actions today. If you’re paying on time and making a dent in your debt (which reduces your credit utilisation over time), your score will start to climb.
Mark your progress
“My wife and I have a poster hanging up in our dining room, said TheGuardian118. “Every month once we make a payment, we colour in the appropriate number of boxes. It’s helpful more than you realise to visualise the end of the road.”
Marking your progress can help you see how far you’ve come during what can be a long journey. “It took a couple years of just grinding at the debt,” said thelaineybelle, who had $US14,000 ($19,951) in credit card and utility debt several years ago. “It ended up being an emotionally productive time and it came to an end.”
Working overtime and skipping holidays may feel crappy, but every time you look at your progress, you’ll get a little jolt of satisfaction that you’re doing the best you can to right your financial ship.