It is estimated 8.3 million people in the UK are unable to pay back their debt and yet there is still a world of shame around admitting we may be one of them.
This debt shame can lead us to hide and isolate ourselves in our fears as we struggle to bear what can start to feel like an overwhelming burden which ultimately impacts our relationships, our mental and physical health and our quality of life.
If this is hitting close to home, here are some powerful steps to take back your health, your sanity and your financial future.
Understand how you got there
Our slide into debt may have been a slow boil or a rapid scorch as we went in for a big purchase. But however fast or slow it happened if we look back there may have been some obvious triggers or catalysts that precipitated it.
These are the common ones.
Not understanding what debt meant
For many of us our first encounter with debt started before we were even earning a regular salary. We may have been shopping and at checkout heard about the 40 % discount we could get if we signed up for a store card. And abracadabra, there was our first slide into debt.
At no point did anyone ever ask if we could repay what we were adding to these cards. In fact they seemed to believe we could, seeing as they kept on offering us more and more credit.
And as the ultimate cherry on top no one ever explained that if we didn’t repay the balance in full at the end of every month we would be charged an eye watering amount of interest.
Trying to keep up with the Jones
It is natural for those in a materialistic society to be driven to acquire what their peers have. We all strive to be better and do better and our measure for that is generally those we perceive as having the lives we want.
And given the availability of easy credit we can quickly satisfy our aspirations and buy the material marks of success.
Trying to buy status and acceptance
We all want to fit in with the tribe. In fact it is a human drive for self preservation to be part of a herd.
And we equate this fitting in to attaining the same status as everyone in the herd, we may believe we need certain material trappings to gain access, credibility, worthiness and acceptance.
Our desire for this status can activate a debt fuelled spending cycle.
Our circle of friends might be into expensive dinners, theatres and concerts. This steps up to the luxury holidays and excursions as their careers evolve culminating in the expensive destination weddings, christenings, milestone birthdays and so on.
And how can we possibly miss out or say no to any of these things that seem so important to them and are important to us seeing as we want to fit in and keep them liking us.
It’s hard to admit your earnings may not have kept up with theirs or that you just cannot afford such a high roller life style and overwhelmed with your own pride and desire to please, your credit card starts to look like a bottomless black hole with you smack bang in the middle of it trying to dig yourself out.
Forgive yourself for what brought you there
Beating yourself up about debt is one way to deal with It and if this is your way had this helped you resolve the problem?
I suspect not.
In fact I would suggest this is keeping you stuck.
How about giving yourself a break and forgiving yourself for the situation.
This is not justifying anything. This is acknowledging we all do the best we can at a point in time. We all don’t know what we don’t know until we do.
And now you know.
Accept the lessons you have learnt and take your new knowledge and use it to change your financial situation for the better.
Take back control
Know your numbers
Set a date to go through your debts and get clear on what you owe. This means establishing a process to do it setting a deadline and sticking with it.
Set a debt destructor plan
The next step to reclaim your debt free life is setting up a repayment plan. There are many methods, such as repaying the smallest debt first to get the momentum going as you work your way through to the largest debt. Or starting with the one bearing the highest interest rate to save future interest..
Find the one that makes sense for you.
Talk about it
The final step is getting support. This means telling people what is going on with your finances and what the plan is.
The telling part is the first stage of letting go of the negative debt stigma and loosening the chains of secrecy that kept your debt a living, breathing monster with a death grip on you.
Enlist your nearest and dearest who are trustworthy and up to the task of providing the proper support structure and accountability to help you through this.
Reach out to formal support structures, such as Step Change if the debt is feeling overwhelming and totally outside of your control.
The biggest step to taking back your money power is deciding you want to. The next is taking action to do so.