Three Dont’s That Will Get You Into Debt

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A little over a year and a half ago, my husband and I decided that we had to take control of our money. Our spending had spiraled out of control and landed us in a world of financial hurt. I am feeling reflective today and can’t help but realize how much our financial habits and priorities have changed since we decided to begin our journey of getting out of debt about 18 months ago. If you’re working your way out of debt or taking the first steps of your debt payoff journey, a lesson from my past might help you along your way.

Specifically, I remember that three money mindsets we used to have were the catalyst for our huge debt problem. They seemed like “little things” at the time, but they added up to big financial trouble. If you are anything like we were, these money mindsets might be destroying your financial life.

#1 – Don’t Keep Receipts or Track Your Spending 


If you’re not in a habit of tracking your spending, it can be easy to justify/deny/forget about where much of your money is going. When we first started tracking our spending in January of 2013, we decided to go back and analyze our 2012 spending so that we had a clear picture of what got us into trouble in the first place.

It turned out that although we “thought” we were being responsible with our money, we were truly spending much more than we figured in areas like groceries, entertainment, gas money and clothing. We were stunned after reviewing our 2012 expenditures to see that we spent nearly double of what we “assumed” we were spending in those areas.

Now that we’re tracking every dime we spend, we have a spreadsheet that we can review whenever we want that keeps us honest about where our money is going, and encourages us to continue making changes that will better our family’s financial situation.

#2 – Don’t Choose the Right Role Models


When we were in denial about our debt situation, we often justified our spending by saying “Well, so-and-so spends much more on going out to eat than we do, so we’re okay.” and other similar lines that helped us to continue to turn a blind eye to major money mistakes.

If you find that you’re regularly telling yourself that you’re “not as bad as them” in terms of spending and money management, it’s time to get some new role models. Look for mentors who have similar or lower incomes than you but are debt free and building wealth.

Can’t find any real life mentors? There are hundreds of personal finance bloggers who’ve bravely shared their stories of overcoming mountains of debt and moved onto building wealth. Use them as your role models and start expecting better things from yourself regarding your money situation.

#3 – Don’t Accurately Assess the Dangers of Debt


“Everyone has debt”, “We don’t have as much debt as so-and-so”, “We can make the minimum payments just fine, so it’s okay.” These lines and others like them caused us to be in denial so long that we were up to our necks in hot water before we chose to face up to the magnitude of our debt situation.

Don’t let that happen to you. Start educating yourself and facing reality about the clear and present danger that your debt brings to your life, and make a plan today to kick that debt to the curb.

It can seem overwhelming to change money mindsets you’ve held for so long, but breaking free of the negative money mindsets that plague your finances is both freeing and refreshing.


What money mindsets do you hold or have you held that were drowning your finances in debt? Who are your financial role models? 



Photo courtesy of: Mikko Saari


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Laurie is a wife, mother to 4, and homesteader who blogs about personal finance, self-sufficiency and life in general over at The Frugal Farmer. Part witty, part introspective and part silly, her goal in blogging is to help others find their way to financial freedom, and to a simpler, more peaceful life.


  • Myles Money says:

    Great points! I think one really easy way to get into debt is to pay by credit card. It’s much easier to dissociate from the idea that you’re actually ‘spending’ money when you’re just waving a plastic card around, especially when all you have to do is make the minimum payment at the end of each month. You can essentially just keep deferring payments until it’s too late and the debt is out of hand.

    • Laurie says:

      So true, Myles!! Paying in cash really helps us to see that our money is indeed going out the window, for better or for worse. Great tip – thanks for sharing!

  • Yes, we’re real numbers people too. We live off spreadsheets, formulas, and calculations. And seeing how the numbers work out for our advantage or disadvantage help keep us as far away from debt as possible.

  • Amy says:

    Great points! I didn’t track our spending before last month, and it’s been a huge eye-opener how things add up!

    Also, I would add not to underestimate the impact of interest, especially on credit cards. it’s so much harder for us to make a dent in our debt, now that the interest charges are so high…

    • Laurie says:

      Amy – that’s an awesome point. When we started tracking our interest payments, about three months into our journey, it gave us lots of extra motivation for getting out of debt.

  • Oh yes, not keeping track of your spending will get you into debt for sure. I thought I was good at keeping track in my head, but I quickly found out that I wasn’t that good after all. Now I write everything down and have been able to save a lot of money without really changing much of my lifestyle.

  • Dave LaLonde says:

    Nice! I agree, it’s so easy to completely lose track of your budgeting in just one guilty pleasure purchase.

    • Laurie says:

      Ain’t it, though, Dave? This is why, at least for us, spend tracking has been highly vital to our success. We definitely spend less knowing that we’ve got to write down our expenditures and look those numbers in the face each week.

  • I’ve done all those things. When you count the people you know, most of them are probably in debt. Doctors might even be some of the worst. Even if you make lots of money if you spend more than you earn, it’s still debt.

  • Cielbelle says:

    Tracking my spending has been a huge help! It keeps me accountable. I do save receipts, but up til now I still do not know how or what to do with them – they pile up and I throw them away. *sigh* I usually keep track of everything from my checking account – yes, I am one of those people who do not keep cash and pay for gum using the debit card =/

    • Laurie says:

      We just use an Excel spreadsheet to mark everything down, dividing expenses by category. It’s a great way to have a one-shot look at monthly/yearly expenditures.

  • Laurie says:

    LOL, yep, that’s the way it is, and yes, we just need to keep on plugging along. We have found that, the longer you keep up the journey, the easier it is to be frugal.

  • Pfft, and people look at me weird when I tell them I save all of my receipts! I knew I wasn’t crazy!

    I used to make big purchases when I knew I’d have some extra money coming in. But of course there are always delays and complications. I’d find myself stuck with a credit card payment and no money to pay it with! Lesson learned!

  • dojo says:

    “we earn enough’ ,this is another dangerous zone you can get into. Being a high-earner doesn’t mean you can also do well financially wise. Many people who save or invest nicely actually do it from smaller incomes.

  • I think the third point is the most important. Though the first is important too. A lot of people think debt is normal and that they will always be in it but there is so much more you could do with your money!

    • Laurie says:

      Exactly!!! We were terribly guilt of that before our own personal revelation. It’s SO much more fun to be getting out of debt and having a plan for financial freedom.

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