Although you may be familiar with all of the signs you have a debt problem, you may not feel ready to take action. In my case, I saw the signs for years, but couldn't seem to climb out of the debt hole I had created. I used credit cards to pay other credit card bills, rewarded myself with shopping binges and racked up plenty of overdraft fees. A popular saying that helped me put my situation in perspective was, "You can't get out of debt by debting." If you are unsure whether or not your finances are in trouble, read on to see if you can identify with some of the signs you have a debt problem.
One of the telltale signs you have a debt problem is avoidance. I avoided my phone, letters from bill collectors and anything else that reminded me of my dire financial situation. Unfortunately, if you avoid these things for too long, they catch up with you. For me, avoidance of my financial situation caused me to wake up one morning to find that my car had been repossessed in the middle of the night. This was a huge wake-up call that I needed to get a grip on my finances.
With a serious debt problem, it is common to live in a fog where your finances are concerned. For years, I was always afraid to check my bank account balances online and didn't really know my credit card balances, much less the interest rates I was paying. It's a tough situation to change because your fear of the truth causes you to become vague about your account balances. However, this vagueness is actually what causes the fear. Since turning my financial situation around, I make it a practice to check my bank balances at least once a day because vagueness is a slippery slope for me.
3. Bouncing Checks
If I could recover all the bounced-check fees I paid over the course of ten years before I turned my finances around, I could probably take a big vacation or buy a new car. Even though my household had a fairly decent income, I was broke all the time because of all my overdraft charges. Incurring bounced-check fees is the biggest waste of money because you have absolutely nothing to show for it. Constantly overdrawing your checking account is a huge red flag that you have a debt problem. Imagine all the extra money you'd have if you could just eliminate overdraft charges from your life.
4. Money Drama
If you frequently think about money, worry about paying bills and stress-out about buying necessities like groceries and gas, you probably have a debt problem. When I was buried in debt, I lived in a constant state of anxiety where money was concerned. Do you regularly worry about whether or not a check will clear? Have you ever raced to the bank to make a deposit before someone tried to cash a check you wrote? This is money drama!
5. Wishful Thinking
We all indulge in wishful thinking at one time or another, but when it comes to a serious debt problem, wishful thinking happens frequently. The kind of wishful thinking I'm talking about happens when you use your debit card at the grocery store checkout, hoping beyond hope it will go through. Or how about when you pay a bill by check, knowing there isn't enough money in your checking account to cover it, but hoping the money will somehow materialize before the check is cashed? These are just two examples of the countless ways we debtors use wishful thinking to get by. If you experience this on a regular basis, you likely have a debt problem.
6. Spending Money to Soothe
I have been guilty of this time and time again, and it is a common behavior with people in debt. Because of the amount of stress I was under, I often spent money to make myself feel better, temporarily. I sometimes took chartered flights to Atlantic City because I thought I deserved a break from the stress. This only made my situation worse because I would always end up spending the mortgage money, or other much-needed bill money, on slot machines and roulette. I usually came home feeling more depressed than I was before the trip. I also spent money on shopping trips I couldn't afford, just to soothe my anxiety for a brief moment.
7. Disconnection Notices
Oh, how I hated those pesky disconnection notices I regularly received from the cable company and other utility companies. I usually managed to pay these companies just enough to avoid a service interruption, but I was never able to actually pay my entire balance. If you often receive these ominous-looking envelopes in your mailbox, you probably have a debt problem. Plus, disconnection notices may cause you to bounce checks and experience all sorts of money drama, resulting in a spending spree to feel better. Do you see how all of these signs of a debt problem work together?
There are plenty of other signs pointing to a debt problem, but these are the top 7 that most debtors experience. If you can relate to any of them, it might be time to take a step back and look at your situation. What are some other signs or symptoms you've experienced because of a debt problem?