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Why We Get Into Debt

Mar 19, 2008
According to the latest statistics:

*One third of us have nothing left in our bank accounts at the end of the month *Approximately 4.8 million people spend more than they earn every month *A further 9 million just about break even when they get their next paycheque

Millions are in the grip of a 'spendemic' - building up debts on overdrafts and credit cards, according to a report published recently by the price comparison website Uswitch.com.

So here is a list of the Top 9 Reasons we get into Debt:

1. Trying to Keep up With the Jolies

...or what's been dubbed 'The Hello Factor'- desperately trying to keep up with the whims and vagaries of show business fashion. Millions of people are being driven towards debt because they're trying to keep up with celebrity covergirls.

2. And speaking of Covergirls...

A quarter of people with debt problems confessed to spending money on sex or pornography. This was recently highlighted in a report from the UK Insolvency Helpline. (I find it staggering that they even admitted it!)The sex industry now lies in third place behind drug & alcohol abuse and shopping addiction as the most common reasons for getting into debt.

3. Small Indulgences

I understand we all need a treat occasionally. But we've become increasingly demanding about being self-indulgent. A latte used to be a treat. Now it's a must-have, and the second one becomes the treat. The choice of small indulgences is overwhelming. Whether it's super-premium ice-creams, designer-label chocolates, exotic candles, trips to Victoria's Secret, flowers from a boutique store. It's all about 'affordable' luxuries. They cost a little more, but hey, they make you feel that much better. And anyway, you know you're worth it...

Add them up, and even though you know you're worth it, it's sinking you faster than you might like to admit.

4. Larger Indulgences

One leads to another... The smaller indulgences pave the way for the larger expenses. The thinking is, "Well, if I can afford that small luxury, I'm sure I can afford this one..." And 'this one' might only be a slightly-more-expensive-than-normal meal out. But it sets a standard. And an anticipation. For some people it's the rush of power as they hand over their credit card; for others, it's a sense of autonomy.

5. It's Not Real Money

Don't scoff at this one. Lots of people do not correlate money they spend using a credit card, as 'real money'. It's somehow more like Monopoly money, or it manages to slip down a crack in their reality consciousness. Sound extraordinary? Not according to Harvard scientists. Would you feel the same if you were handing over a wad of cash or a credit card? Thought not.

6. Ignorance

Ignorance of what debt is, how it works and who really benefits from debt. Getting excited because they just raised your credit limit is ignorance. Thinking, "Oh, you mean it's only that much per month?" is ignorance. Heading back into the store to pick up some more bargains, "Because you get an extra 10% off today," is ignorance. And thanking the store clerk for telling you is just silly!

7. Wish-Listing

Once upon a time, certain things went onto a wish-list, and stayed there until you could afford it. Or you went without. Not anymore. Nowadays, shopping fulfils two purposes: 1.) Sating the current hunger (briefly) by purchasing whatever it is that best quells the pangs; and 2.) Adding to the hunger for next time, by seeing more things that need to be purchased.

Which is kind of a shame, because no sooner are you home with your trophies, than you're already contemplating what it is you don't have...

8. Not Taking Responsibility

And I mean not taking responsibility for your emotions. Hey, wake up. Advertisers don't care about awards for their ads. They care about results. Which means you! Did they make you buy? If so, how often? That's all they care about. So get used to the games they're playing with you. See if you can't resist the marketing efforts of retailers and manufacturers. Play their game on your terms. Practise self-discipline.

Instead of listening to the voice that screams in your ear, "I gotta have that!" Learn to listen to the smaller, quieter voice that says, "I don't think I need that..." Indulgence is like a drug. Once you allow it to control you, you're in trouble... and usually in debt. Stuff is just stuff. Whether it makes your life any better is entirely debatable.

9. I Mean Really, Who Gives a Rat's Ass?

It's a matter of scale. For some people they simply can't reconcile their level of debt with the enormity of national and global events.

"C'mon. The US is several trillion in debt. Another top CEO just shafted his employees, yet walks away with a couple of million. You got global warming on one hand. Sky-rocketing oil prices on the other... Does it really matter that I'm a few grand in debt? Hey, I might even go shopping just to make myself feel better. I mean what are you gonna do, sue me? So sue me already - I'm past caring."
About the Author
If, however, you're not past caring, and you'd like to do something brave, heroic and decidedly cool about your debt, then check out what we're doing at the DebtFreePlaybook site or the DebtFreePlaybook Blog
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