Do you lie awake at night worrying about how you’ll pay off all the credit card debt you’ve acquired? Maybe you’re plagued by a stack of medical bills that continue to arrive in the mail. Or perhaps you took out a personal loan to consolidate debt and then ran up even more debt.
Whatever the cause of your high debt and always being broke, debt shame can hold you back from honestly assessing what you owe and taking steps to pay off debt and feel better about yourself.
Here are six steps to take on debt shame and replace it with a better outlook.
1. Face the truth
The first step to tackling debt shame is facing the truth by assessing your debt situation. When you have a lot of credit card debt, it’s easy to just make payments and avoid looking at the full balance and interest you’re paying each month because it’s so depressing. But you can’t make progress on paying off debt if you don’t know what you’re up against.
Tally up your debt balances and interest rates and come up with a debt payoff plan. When you’re focused on paying off your debts one by one, you’re doing something productive to better your life. That’s something to be proud of, and eventually, the satisfaction of accomplishment will nudge debt shame out of your life.
2. Review your credit report
Order a free copy of your credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com to get an overall picture of your credit history and current status of your accounts. Check for errors or late payment accounts that may lower your credit score. If you find errors, contact the credit reporting agency that prepared the report.
If you’ve been carrying around debt shame for a poor payment history, time is on your side when it comes to raising your credit score. After seven years (or seven to ten years for bankruptcy), negative payment information automatically drops from your credit report. By making all payments on time, you’ll feel better about yourself while building a solid credit history.
3. Enlist a debt payoff buddy
You’re not the only one burdened by guilt and debt shame. Nearly half (49 percent) of people surveyed for a debt survey from Ascent said they felt “completely at fault” for their debt situation. Chances are, one of your friends or coworkers also struggles financially from too much debt.
Form a pact with a friend to each lower your debt amount in 2022. That way, you can be accountable while encouraging and celebrating both small and big debt payoff achievements.
4. Meet with a credit counselor
No matter how much you owe, you’re far from the worst-case scenario out there. Credit counselors have seen it all and can help you put together a budget and a debt payoff plan that can significantly reduce your debt in 2022.
By meeting with a credit counselor at a nonprofit credit counseling agency for free or a small fee, you’re taking a positive step in overcoming debt shame and paying off debt.
5. Listen to personal finance podcasts
Do you slink around feeling like you owe too much debt to ever pay it off? Listen to personal finance radio shows and podcasts to hear about others who owed two or three times as much and paid it all off. Plus, the host will have plenty of good advice on how to pay off debt faster.
Do an online search and peruse streaming apps like Spotify for podcasts that can inspire and motivate you. That way, you’ll feel a sense of solidarity with others in similar situations who are also working to pay off debt and kick debt shame to the curb.
6. Learn from past mistakes
If there’s one thing you can take away from racking up more debt than you can afford, it’s wisdom for the future. Once you spend months or even years paying off debt, you don’t want to ever end up mired in debt shame again.
Create a budget and do your best to stick to it. Once your credit card gets to a zero balance, try to pay off the balance on each month’s statement. Open an emergency savings account and commit to adding to it every month so you don’t have to pay for emergencies with a credit card.
Before you know it, debt shame will be in the past, replaced by a sense of accomplishment and financial security.
Find out: 8 Budgeting Mistakes to Avoid