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Friday 14th June 2024

The lies we tell ourselves about debt

Shoestring Jane discusses common misconceptions about debt and offers guidance on changing one’s attitude towards money.

woman in debt


There was a time that I lived with constant, low-level debt. I was expert at burying my head in the sand and making excuses about my situation.

However, the nagging anxiety in the pit of my stomach whenever I thought about my finances told the true story. 

The lies we tell ourselves about debt are many and varied. Changing your debt story can seem too high a mountain to climb but changing your attitude towards money will help you take the first steps.

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You can start by recognising the excuses you make about debt and challenging them. Here are some common lies we tell ourselves about debt.

1. I’m just no good with money

Sadly, not many of us start out good with money. Personal finance isn’t taught at school, and often our families don’t set the best example.

However, using the excuse that you are just bad with money to allow yourself to live in debt is a poor explanation. It’s not difficult to learn the basics and there are lots of online resources.

You don’t have to be a finance expert, you simply have to put in a bit of effort to understand how your decisions about money will impact you.

I suggest reading some Dave Ramsey books to get you started; The Total Money Makeover is a great place to kick off your financial education. Also, read websites such as the Government-backed Money Helper.

2. Debt is normal

I am just about old enough to remember a time when debt wasn’t considered normal. In fact, my grandparents’ generation would have found being in debt shameful. 

Debt may be common, but it’s not normal. Many people manage to live within their means by saying no to themselves, not buying things they can’t afford and not attempting to keep up with the Joneses.

You can create a different picture of money, where you write a budget, carefully consider all of your purchases and save for things rather than buying them on credit.

3. I deserve a treat 

It’s a common scenario. You have had a hard week at work or the kids are playing up; you deserve a treat.

Be it a takeaway, a night out, a new pair of shoes or a week’s holiday in Mauritius, if you can’t afford it, it’s not a treat and will ultimately bring you more stress and anxiety in the longer term.

Instead of spending money, focus on the things that give you value without costing much, if anything. Maybe your treat can be a hot bath, a yoga session, a games night with friends, or a long walk in the countryside.

4. It’s going to be impossible to pay back my debts

It can feel overwhelming to face your debt. If you owe large amounts of money, paying it back can feel too high a mountain to climb. 

However, know that you aren’t alone and that many people successfully resolve their debt situation. There is help available and a debt advisor can guide you through the mire. Your situation isn’t hopeless.

Useful organisations to contact for debt advice are Citizen’s Advice, National Debtline and StepChange.

5. Frugality means deprivation

Some people equate frugality with meanness or with deprivation. But being frugal doesn’t mean living a joyless existence.

Rather, it means being intentional with your spending, finding joy in the things that money can’t buy, and valuing financial independence. 

Getting control of your debt will certainly mean making changes to your lifestyle, but embracing frugality will help you reach your financial goals.

My book Extreme Frugality: Save Money Like Your Grandma offers inspiration for the reluctant frugalist.

6. I don’t earn enough to avoid debt

If you don’t earn enough, then it’s vitally important not to add to your burden by taking on more debt that you will struggle to repay.

If getting a better paid job or a pay increase is not an option, there are ways to earn extra money. I took in foreign language students over the holidays, had a full-time lodger, ran an eBay reselling business on the side and taught yoga.

There are always side hustle options, so use your time and talents. Check out this post for more ideas on lucrative ways to earn extra money.

Final thoughts

If any of these sound like money lies that you tell yourself, then recognising them is the first step towards changing your money mindset.

You need to be honest about your debts, both to yourself and to those around you who will be impacted. 

For example, your partner needs to understand your financial situation and come onboard with your plan to deal with your debts. Your children have to learn to understand that sometimes you have to say no to them because money is tight.

Dealing with debt requires work and commitment, but the rewards will be worth the effort and ultimately allow you to reach your financial goals.

Photo Credits: Unsplash

Shoestring Jane

Mouthy Blogger

Shoestring Jane is a full-time self-employed mum of three daughters. Her frugal partner in crime is handyman extraordinaire, Mr Shoestring. They are constantly on the look out for ways to save and make extra money. Read more on her blog, Shoestring Cottage.

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