8 Reasons You Can’t Get Out of Debt. Learn To Avoid These Common Financial Pitfalls
If you find that you are steadily sinking into the dark abyss of endless debt, there is probably a reason. No one swipes your credit card, signs your name at the bottom of loan applications or borrows money without your consent, so it’s time to look inward for the reasons you can’t get out of debt.
According to Wendy Nesbit, who counsels consumers on debt management skills on a regular basis, there are eight basic reasons for the continuation of the debt cycle.
1. Failing to align income with expenses.
No one likes to see a reduction in income, but it does happen. Maybe your spouse has left his or her job to take care of your kids, so your family is now living off one income, or maybe pay cuts have become a constant with your employer. Whatever the case, you have to adjust your expenses to align with your income if you want to stay out of debt.
Canceling premium cable channels, purchasing off-brand products at the grocery store, trading in for a less expensive vehicle and moving into a less expensive house can all reduce your monthly expenses. “You can’t live outside your means and expect to stay debt-free,” says Nesbit. “But that’s what lots of people seem to think.”
2. Getting a divorce.
If you want to see how quickly you can fall into the depths of debt, get divorced. Between the division of assets, the payment of court fees and the purchase of your attorney’s time, you might not have two nickels to rub together. Divorce is one of the leading causes of debt, and it can take years to recover.
Of course, this is one of the reasons you can’t get out of debt that can’t be avoided if you and your spouse just don’t want to be together anymore. However, you can mitigate the damage by working things out amongst yourselves rather than hiring high-priced lawyers to fight for your right to the antique coffee mugs.
3. Failing to maintain a budget.
If you don’t know where your money is going, you won’t be able to get out of debt. Guaranteed. The purchase of a budget is to decide how much you should spend on certain items, then to compare those projections against what you actually do spend. After a month or two of budgeting, you should be able to accurately predict your expenses—unless you don’t consider your budget at all.
Americans are natural spenders, but we can quench that urge by thinking of our budget at all times. Do you really need a new stereo system for your car? Is there money in the budget to eat out again? This doesn’t mean that you should feel guilty about every little indulgence, but you have to have self control if you want to get out of debt.
4. Thinking you’ll have money tomorrow.
Some of us live under the perpetual delusion that a better job offer is just around the corner or we’ll pick the winning numbers next week. If you spend according to what you might have in the bank next week or next month, you’re going to stay in debt. Instead, live within your means as they exist right now, and experience delayed gratification if your predictions happen to come true.
5. You can’t stop gambling.
Whether you plan a trip to Atlantic City twice a month or can’t resist the scratch-off cards in line at the supermarket, gambling can be a formidable Achilles’ Heel. Gambling is highly addictive, and if you’re like most gamblers, the house usually wins. So save your gambling trips for a once-a-year excursion or a special treat when you have a surplus of cash.
Furthermore, if you think you can’t get out of debt because you’re addicted to gambling, seek help immediately. There are Anonymous programs for gamblers as well as individual counseling that can help you overcome the urge to gamble your cares away.
6. Using credit cards for medical expenses.
If you’ve gotten into the habit of swiping plastic at the doctor’s office, you might be having trouble with debt. This is especially true if you lack medical insurance or if you have lapses in your coverage. You want to pay your bills on time, but you wind up paying several hundred dollars more in interest.
In some cases (though not all), it can actually be cheaper to purchase private medical insurance coverage than to try to cover your doctors visits with plastic. Check out some of the private insurance policies available on the Internet or talk to your doctor about options.
7. Failing to open a savings account.
When you have a savings account in addition to checking accounts, credit cards and other types of banking services, you’ll be more likely to actually save money. Opening that account usually only takes about $50—less with some banks—and you’ll be glad you did. If you have at least four or five months of living expenses saved, you won’t have to rely on credit to make ends meet.
8. Failing to communicate.
One of the most common reasons you can’t get out of debt is due to lack of communication within your family. If you and your spouse (and kids, if applicable) don’t talk about what you buy and how you spend money, you’re likely to fall more quickly into debt. Make sure you talk to one another about your spending practices so that no surprises come on your monthly bills.