Do You Suffer from Debt Guilt?

Some of the links in this post are from our sponsors. Read our disclosure to see how we make money.

debt guilt

Debt guilt: it’s that feeling you get sometimes when you’re just plain down about the amount of debt you have. I know the feeling well. In fact, I think about my debt at least once a day. Maybe that’s excessive but it’s the truth. It weighs on me, and there seems to be no quick end in sight.

Even though I’m out of all credit card debt, I still look at my student loan debt and think about how I overdid it. I think about how I had a fully paid for tuition and stipend to graduate school but I took out funds on top of it. It really is one of the worst money decisions I’ve ever made (see that? Debt guilt!)

When it comes to my husband’s six figure student loans, I don’t really feel the same way. For some reason I’m okay with his because he’s going to be utilizing his education every day at work. Plus we only took what we needed and nothing more so it’s an entirely different situation.

I know I’m not alone so if you have this guilty feeling about your debt, here are some ways to deal with it. Or at least, here are some ways I’m trying to deal with my own sense of debt fatigue.

Let me know in the comment section if you’re in the same boat!

1. Realize You Can’t Go Back


What’s done is done. None of us can go back and undo the decisions we made. Our debt fate is sealed. Our “number” is there. The only thing we can do is move forward, pay down more than the minimum when we can, and keep on keeping on.

I am trying to make an effort to not think about my debt so much and just do the best I can with repayment.

2. Realize your debt guilt is Just a Feeling


Guilt, like any other feeling, can be fleeting if we let it. When you’re feeling down or guilty about your debt, recognize it, take it in, and then go ahead and push it out.

If we let the guilt consume us too much, it can start to control our lives and make things so much worse than they already are. Like the previous tip, just realize you can’t do anything about it except work to pay it off.

3. Remember Why You Have Debt


A good way to counteract guilt is to remind yourself why you have the debt. If you have mortgage debt then maybe it’s because you were trying to put a roof over your family’s head. If you have consumer debt maybe it’s because you were young and inexperienced.

I’m not saying you should give excuses (because I really hate excuses) but I am saying it’s important to remember the “why” so that you don’t repeat the mistake again.

Overall, I think debt guilt is a normal part of the process when it comes to finally realizing something has to be done about your finances. It’s good and it’s bad because it’s not a fun feeling but it sure does make you face the facts and do something to change your situation.


Do you have debt guilt? (Come on; it can’t be just me.) How do you deal with debt fatigue? What keeps you going when it comes to knocking down your debt?


The following two tabs change content below.
Catherine Alford is the go to personal finance expert for parents who want to better their finances and take on a more active financial role in their families.


  • Autumn @ The Barefoot Budgeter says:

    Of course I have debt guilt! Most of my guilt comes from not paying it off sooner though – not necessarily incurring the debt. On the really bad days I just remind myself that it’s only temporary and there is a solid plan in place to get rid of it once and for all.

  • moneystepper says:

    Cat – I think that debt guilt is not a bad thing at all. By thinking about your debt several times a day, you will make sure it remains a priority and be out of debt as soon as possible.

    As long as it doesn’t lead to any serious depression, I think that this “guilt” may be a good thing.

  • Laurie @thefrugalfarmer says:

    Awesome post, Cat, and you’re so right. I used to struggle LOTS with debt guilt, but then I realized how incredibly pointless it was, and how much more productive it is to focus on the fact that we are now getting OUT of debt. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Travis @DebtChronicles says:

    Guilt is good for one thing….as a motivator to push you to take action and be BETTER. Other than that, it’s wasted energy. Get up off your arse, pull up your big boy (or girl) pants and FIX IT. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Al | Saving the Crumbs says:

    Assuming a person doesn’t fall into depression over their debt, I think it’s the emotion that really drives debt repayment efforts and not so much the math. I like how Dave Ramsey describes it as “gazelle intensity”. I think the sense of urgency can be a good thing. Another way to think of it, is just dream a little about what life would be like when the debts are all gone!

  • The Phroogal Jason says:

    It was the feeling I was attached to something that had no physical form that made me start plugging away at debt. The emotions is such a big part of the motivation to pay or stay in that situation.

  • Aldo @ Million Dollar Ninja says:

    Debt guilt is what’s keeping working hard to pay it off and from accumulating more debt. There’s nobody to blame for my debt but me; and there’s nobody that is going to pay off my debt but me.

    I think debt guilt is good because it prevents you from going deeper into debt – if you don’t want to have that feeling of guilt anymore.

  • Kim@Eyesonthedollar says:

    I’ve had it and still do sometimes, never over investment property debt but about our home. We are not house poor by any means but if we’d picked a smaller house, it might be paid off by now. However when I think about someday having teenagers all over my house, it maybe seems too small!

  • Pauline says:

    A little guilt is good as a way to remain accountable and not do it again. Too much guilt won’t change a thing so there is no point in beating yourself up.

  • Kara says:

    It’s interesting how you feel differently about your student loan debt vs. your hubs, because I feel that way about my debt. I don’t mind my mortgage debt at all, but my student loan debt gives me a stomach ache! And, it’s far lower than our mortgage.
    You’re definitely not alone!

  • Erin @ Journey to Saving says:

    I feel that way about my student loans at times, but like you said, I realize there’s nothing I can do about it now except get rid of it! I also try and look on the bright side, because I don’t think I’d be in the same spot as I am today if it hadn’t been for my student loans. I don’t think I would have ever started blogging!

  • dojo says:

    To be honest I never really obsessed too much about it. Yes, it was debt, yes, I had to pay it in 4 years. Did my stuff and it’s gone ๐Ÿ˜€

  • Victoria @thefrugaltrial says:

    I have bad debt fatigue at the moment, especially tonight having just checked my bank account and realised I forgot about an expense and have ยฃ100 less than anticipated ๐Ÿ™ It will be payday soon. That cheers me up, a fresh slate.

  • M@PennyThots says:

    I have a lot of debt guilt relating to my student loans. When I got the “overage” money sent back to me, I always spent some of it rather than just putting it all towards my loan. Looking back, I just want to scream, ‘What were you thinking?!?!’

  • Shannon @ Financially Blonde says:

    I see clients with debt guilt all the time and like anything, it’s in the past and you just have to let it go. Sometimes dealing with the guilt actually prevents you from dealing with the debt which is worse. Once you let go of the guilt, you can focus on the real issues at hand.

  • Prudence Debtfree says:

    When I feel guilt about debt, it’s usually when we can’t provide something important for our children which I think we should be a able to provide – that we COULD provide if we weren’t in debt. It’s a feeling that doesn’t come too often – because we’re able to cover all modest expenses while paying off debt, and modest expenses generally cover “needs” pretty well. But it’s great to be able to cover the cost of a high value “want” now and then too, and I feel badly when we can’t do that for our daughters at the same time as paying down the debt. When this happens, I try to focus on the day that we’ll be there – debt-free and able to spoil our kids on occasion. And I remind myself that what we’re doing now will make that day come faster.

  • catherine says:

    Every day!! I hate it ๐Ÿ™ I’m trying to get better at not letting it bother me but it does.

  • Amy says:

    I think about our debt several times a day, maybe because I blog about it! ๐Ÿ™‚

    I agree with previous comments that thinking about it keeps it a priority, which is a good thing. But it’s also important to remember that there are (much) more important things in life, too.

  • Syed says:

    Debt can certainly produce guilt but I guess just like how there is “good” or “bad” debt there can be good or bad guilt. Good guilt is a motivating factor to get rid of that dent as quickly as possible, while bad guilt just has you feeling down about it without taking action. Sounds like you have the good kind of guilt ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Kate @ Money Propeller says:

    Everything you’ve done in your past was already done. You don’t need to feel bad for your mistakes, just take that as a lesson instead.

  • Tennille F. says:

    I don’t think that I have debt guilt, but I instead of debt determination. I am determined that we are going to get out of sooner than latter. I am also determined that once we are out of debt, we are never getting back into it. :o)

  • Myles Money says:

    Like with everything you consider to have been a mistake, I think there’s little point in beating yourself up about it after the event. You need to understand it of course, in order to make sure it doesn’t happen again, but once that’s done you need to forgive yourself and move on. You can’t live with constant guilt. And anyway, you’re facing the problem and dealing with it… rather than feeling guilty for getting into debt, congratulate yourself for working hard to get out of debt.

  • Michelle says:

    I think it is pretty common to have debt guilt. I certainly do, and I try not to stew on it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *