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5 Ways To Overcome The Shame Of Debt

Credit card debt is a huge issue in the United States. The average household has $15,675 in credit card debt according to a survey conducted by NerdWallet. Credit card debt holds people back from their financial goals and what they want to accomplish in life. And, there is also a lot of shame associated with having too much credit card debt.

According to surveys of Credit Simple readers, 45% say that they are worried about their debt all the time. Worrying about your debt limits what you can do. It paralyzes people with fear and creates a sense of hopelessness. They don’t know where to turn or what to do next.

But, it doesn’t have to be that way. You can take back control of your finances and ultimately take back control over your life by letting go of the shame of credit card debt.

Getting over the shame is not easy. It takes a lot of work and resilience. But, most importantly, you have to want to end the cycle of debt and get back your life.

How to Overcome the Shame of Debt

Here are five ways that you can overcome the shame of debt and take back control over your life and finances.

Own Up To Your Debt

Like an alcoholic attending an AA meeting, you have to admit that you have a problem. That’s the first step. You have to recognize that you have a problem with debt.

Admit your debt problem to yourself, and then tell one other person about your debts. Telling others about your debts will make it real, and it will lift a burden of keeping it secret. It’s freeing. You’ll be surprised by how many other people are struggling with the same issue as soon as you admit your problem to others.

It’s hard to talk openly about our finances. It’s something that many of us are subconsciously trained to avoid from an early age. Our parents have taught us that we shouldn’t talk about finances, politics, sex, or religion in public.

But, now is the time to get it off of your chest. Find a friend that you can confide in. Or, sit down with your spouse to admit that you have a problem with debt. Admitting that you have a problem is the first step to getting over the shame you feel about your debt.

Understand Why You Continue Adding to Your Debt

Now that you have admitted to having a problem, you need to dig deeper into the shame of your debt. You have to look at why you are continuing to add to your debts.

Are you addicted to spending? Do you spend money as a coping mechanism for some other underlying issue?

Like most things, you have to understand your “why” to get to the heart of the matter. It will get to the root of your spending problem, which will help you ease the burden of shame and then know how to tackle the issue.

Seek Help to Conquer Your Debt

Like most people, you can’t go it alone. You can’t conquer your debt and get over the shame of it by yourself. And, that’s okay.

You should seek help. But, where do you turn? That’s one reason many of us read blogs and look to the internet for help to answer our questions. The internet is a wealth of great resources to help you find education and learn about ways to overcome the same of having debt.

You can also turn to a credit counselor for advice on helping you tackle your debt and get over your shame. A reputable credit counselor can help you learn how to manage your money, help you set up a budget, and offer you more education or workshops on tackling your debt.

Legitimate credit counselors are certified and trained to help you with consumer credit issues, debt reduction, and money management skills. They can help you to look at your entire financial health and situation and also develop a personalized plan to get you on the right track.

You just want to make sure that it’s a legitimate credit counseling. There are many less than reputable firms that can take advantage of you though. You will want to thoroughly research any credit counselor that you chose to do business with before you pay for their services.

A credit counselor may also help you set up a debt management plan. If you establish a debt management plan, you will deposit money each month with the credit counseling organization, who often negotiates lower interest rates and repayment options with your creditors on your behalf. You pay them one monthly payment, and then the credit counseling service pays your creditors for you according to a payment schedule they set up with your creditors.

You should check with your creditors to ensure that they offer and accepted the reduced interest rates and balances that your credit counseling organization told you. You can also contact your creditors yourself to try and reduce your interest rates and balances instead of paying a credit counseling service to represent you.

Stop Spending and Adding to Your Debt

To get over the shame of debt, you have to stop the cycle of spending. Now that you know the reason why you spend money, have talked to people, and admitted you have a problem, you have to stop adding to your debt.

Many people find that they continue to spend money and add to their debt because they are not following a budget. Your family needs to set and follow a written budget each and every month.

You may also find it helpful to cut up your credit cards to stop spending. Others have been successful by freezing their credit cards in a block of ice. You’ll think twice before spending money and adding to your debt if you have to wait hours for a block of ice to melt before you can get to your credit cards.

Make a Plan to Pay Off Your Debt

The last hurdle to getting over the shame of debt is to pay it all off. Using a debt snowball is one of the best ways to pay off your debt. Dave Ramsey made using a debt snowball popular and describes it in detail in his best-selling personal finance book, The Total Money Makeover.

With a debt snowball, you list all of your debts and begin tackling them one by one starting with your smallest amount of debt first. You use all of your disposable income after you tighten your budget to pay off that debt. And, then you roll those payments into the next debt as you pay each one off. This is of course while you pay the minimum required payments on all of your other debt at the same time.

It has a snowball effect on your debt as you increase your payments moving from one debt to the next after paying them off. Unlike other plans, a debt snowball plan has you pay the smallest debts off first instead of the ones with the highest interest rates.

Paying off your smallest debts has a psychological effect. You see a small win, and it quickly builds momentum as you begin to snowball the payments from the previous debts and tackle larger debts with higher interest rates.

You add the amount you were paying on that first debt and roll it into the next debt on your list in addition to the minimum monthly payment you were already making. You’ll then have more money available to pay off each subsequent debt.

You can end the cycle of shame over your debt. But, it will take work to regain control over your finances. The shame of credit card debt doesn’t have to overtake you. You can overcome the shame of debt with these tips slowly but surely.

How have you taken back control over your finances after having a mountain of debt? Did you use the snowball method to pay off your debt? Did you find an accountability partner?

About the author

Hank Coleman

Hank Coleman is the publisher or the popular personal finance blog, Money Q&A. He’s also a freelance journalist specializing in retirement planning, investing, and personal finance. You can also find him on Twitter @MoneyQandA.


  • Your articles are always so insightful and to the point. My wife and I have been trying to manage debt our whole lives. In other words, we have been living beyond our means for years. However, our house mortgage will be paid off in the next 3 years, we are both still working but looking forward to retirement. I’m not endorsing that it’s okay to have credit card debt but if you have it, have a plan to pay it off.

  • Excellent topic. Shame and debt. I do not see much written on the power of shame to inhibit progress. Thanks for your thoughts.

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