Ashamed of your debt? Me, too. Here’s why.

A few days ago, fellow EOD writer Travis talked about being ashamed of his debt. I could totally relate to his post because when I was in debt, I felt exactly the same way. But as I read and reread Travis’s post, I started asking myself “why was I ashamed?” Although I couldn’t really come up with one good specific reason, I was able to come up with a few possibilities:

  • Debt meant I couldn’t control myself. I am completely guilty of making impulse purchase after impulse purchase. I had a good friend who I used to hang out with all the time. Before we would go out, we made sure to stop by the mall to pick up new outfits. Even though I had brought clothes with me to her house, they never seemed as great as what I would find in the store. It was so easy to pull out that credit card and buy stuff I didn’t need. And I couldn’t stop myself from doing it.
  • Debt meant I couldn’t meet my basic needs. When my husband was working part-time while in graduate school, my salary of $27K/year had to cover all of our expenses. Looking back, it should have been enough to do that but we had no idea how to budget and we were still living like we were both working full-time. So many times we had to purchase groceries and toiletries on credit simply because there wasn’t enough cash left over to do so.
  • Debt meant I couldn’t manage my money. The two reasons listed above should be some indication that I got into debt because I had no idea what I was doing with my money. I had no idea how to budget, save, or do any of the other important things that you’re supposed to do with money. So I went into debt simply because I didn’t know what I was doing. And for the record, buying a house and a car in the same year is never, ever a good idea.
  • Debt meant I wasn’t making enough money. Again, when I look back at what my salary was when I incurred most of my debt, it should have been enough. But I constantly blamed my need to make credit card purchases on stuff I needed and wanted on the fact that I wasn’t making enough money. I think this mostly had to do with my insecurities, particularly when I compared my salary to that of my grad school classmates (and some family members). I come from a place where salary is very important and the fact that I wasn’t living up to expectations prodded me to try and compensate by using credit.
  • Debt meant I was just like everyone else. For those who know me well, they know that I kind of march to my own drum. I pride myself on the fact that I’m not like most people. However, when I looked at the fact that I had debt, it meant I was just like everyone else I knew. Debt is so commonplace among the people I love and care about, and it’s just accepted that we all have it. The fact that I was carrying my own debt didn’t make me stand out; it made me blend in. This basically went against everything I believe in.

We all have our own reasons for being ashamed of our debt (if, in fact, we are ashamed of it).  But whatever your reason may be, there’s absolutely no reason you can’t overcome it. Especially if you take what you perceive as something negative and turn it into something positive.

Your debt doesn’t have to be the end of you. Sometimes, it can be the beginning. And that? Is nothing to be ashamed of.

About Jana

10 Responses to “Ashamed of your debt? Me, too. Here’s why.”

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  1. AverageJoe says:

    Wait… YOU march to your own drum? Shock. The big thing about debt for me was the fact that it made me feel stupid….like I should be able to get out of this, but it isn’t working.

    • Jana says:

      I know, I know. It does come as quite a shock that I do things my own way. Who would have guessed?

      I totally agree with your sentiment. It made me feel stupid, too. But for me it was more like, I’m an educated person…how did I screw this up so badly?

  2. Jerri Lyn says:

    I’ve been in debt twice.

    The first time, I was ashamed because I couldn’t control my spending and was embarrassed that I spent so much money on stupid stuff instead of saving it.

    The second time I went into debt I wasn’t ashamed at all. People say that a mortgage is “good” debt. Some people say that student loans are “good” debt (I am not one of those.) I’m going to add another “good” debt – walking out on your abusive spouse or live-in significant other. Had I not left with only the clothes on my back and my car I would have killed myself (and tried once already.) I had no job and no place to live. As a result, I racked up $15,000 worth of debt, $10,750 of which I consider “honor-bound” debt; money owed to friends and family for letting me stay with them. They aren’t asking me for the money back, but I feel I owe it to them anyway. No, I’m not ashamed of this round of debt.

    • Jana says:

      Good for you for getting out of that situation! And no, there is no reason to be ashamed of that kind of debt. Ever. In fact, you should be proud of it.

  3. Nice, thanks for sharing this! I too have felt a lot of shame from debt, mostly stemming from the fact that I consider myself to be super practical. But similar to you, it started with my first job not being enough to pay the bills. Combine that with student loans and you have a less than ideal financial picture. Now I’ve learned some valuable lessons and know that as much as debt stinks, it caused me to think a lot more about how I manage my finances. Because of that, I know I’ll have a much stronger financial future than I probably would have otherwise.

    • Jana says:

      That’s pretty much how I look at it, too. I can’t erase what’s done. I can only learn from it and vow to never, ever let it happen again.

  4. Team EOD says:

    Great perspective, Jana! People equate excessive debt with personal failure – and nobody wants to admit personal failure. Thus people wait too long to do something about it, or ask for help – which just makes things worse!

    • Jana says:

      I definitely equate debt with failure only I know it was totally my fault. It took me a while to get there but I know now that no one made me use my credit cards or spend outside of my income. I did that. Except for the part that I married into. That’s not totally my fault. But that’s a different story…

  5. Jerry says:

    Facing the facts of your debt is insurance that you won’t repeat the same mistakes. Not living in reality leads to staying enslaved in debt.

  6. Kelsey says:

    I think sometimes I was holding onto my debt because it make me feel normal.

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