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How to Overcome Shame and Guilt When You’re in Debt

It’s completely normal to feel overwhelmed and confused about debt, but incurring more debt when you’re already in a tight financial spot doesn’t have to be shameful. Here is how to lose the guilt and take control over your debt.

Stop the debt cycle

Unfortunately, many South Africans can relate to the dreadful feeling of shame and hopelessness that comes with excessive debt. While there’s nothing wrong with having some debt, a deep sense of embarrassment and guilt over spiralling debt is not healthy.

Debt shame is counterproductive and often leads to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. Beating yourself up doesn’t work. What works is having an action plan to limit the debt hole; this means no new debt balances and no extra credit lines.

Rethink budgeting and overspending

When you feel bad about piling debt, you may think you’re less likely to overspend, yet the opposite often happens. Treating yourself or your loved ones on special occasions (like this month’s Women’s Day) can make you feel more ashamed for diving deeper into the debt pool.  New credit-funded expenses can become a guilt-ridden experience. Guilt may keep you from acknowledging the severity of your debt problem and thus taking action.

Overspending and indebtedness are generally seen as bad money management, but they are, in fact, behavioural issues that can be rectified with a new budget plan and lots of patience. Bottom line: You can’t change your past behaviour and write off outstanding debts, but you can acknowledge the problem and commit to paying off current debt faster.

Understand various types of debt

Knowledge is power. It may sound cliche, but educating yourself on different types of debt, for example, the difference between secured debt (low interest) and unsecured debt (high interest), is an excellent start to better debt management and less guilt.

Knowing your current debt profile, credit score, and credit balances instead of ignoring or shying away from the truth puts you back in control and on the road to financial recovery. Only by understanding debt you can make an informed decision about planning and prioritising debt elimination, step by step.

Talk about debt with your family

Getting rid of the shame is not only about understanding various types of debt and actively taking steps to eliminate the worst types of debt. Talking about your debt problems with your family can unburden the feelings of shame, guilt and loneliness, and receive some measure of support in tackling the debt snowball.

It’s important to realise that you are not alone in dealing with debt, especially if it concerns the family’s financial future and wellbeing. It also makes the next phase of reducing various types of debt more manageable. If you need a boost in self-discipline and motivation, a family member or friend can act as an accountability partner and oversee the monthly progress in your debt repayments.

Get help through debt counselling

When you apply for a loan or credit, you commit to a debt repayment plan and the initial terms for the duration of the loan. However, you may not be able to sustain the monthly repayments due to unfortunate life circumstances, e.g. losing your entire income or part of your salary. There is the added stress and guilt of not being able to make repayments and lose your assets.

Acknowledge when you need specialised help to discuss your debt problem and find ways to resume the repayments. Talking with a financial advisor or debt counsellor removes the debt stigma, shame and guilt. Remember, you are not alone in seeking debt help, and it’s very possible to get rid of the worst types of debt.

Need help with paying off debt? ezDebt counsellors assist with the repayment management of various types of debt. Consult an ezDebt counsellor today.

Our professional debt advisers can help you stay on track with debt repayments through quick and affordable debt counselling. All our debt counsellors are registered with the National Credit Regulator (NCR). Get in touch at www.ezdebt.co.za.

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