How to Get Sick of Debt (and Why That’s Important)

Print Friendly

A person will continue down a path of destructive behavior until the pain of continuing exceeds the pain of changing.

Bill Perkins

An important thing you can do to deal with your debt is to get uncomfortable with your situation.

In the book The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg tells about the disappointing launch to Febreeze.  At first, all the marketing team simply knew was the product wasn’t selling as projected.  But they didn’t know why.  It wasn’t until after visiting the home of a lady that they figured out the problem.  A marketing team from Febreeze went to the home of a woman who had several cats.  The house reaked of various nasty smells.  However, what the group found intriguing was that the woman couldn’t even smell anything.  She’d gotten used to the stench.

There’s a lot of people who are living in a stench of debt, and they can’t smell anything.

Here’s the truth about debt: No one, absolutely no one can help you get out of debt until you start to smell the stench, and it starts to make you sick.

As long as your debt is ‘a reasonable amount’ or ‘your only option’ or ‘unavoidable’ or ‘not so bad’ or any other similar phrase, you won’t get out of debt.


Getting out of debt takes work, and it requires sacrifice.

We only sacrifice for things we deeply care about.

I’ve had enough conversations with folks about debt to know which people are ready to get out of debt and which ones are destined to wallow in the stench for more time.

I remember clearly having a conversation with someone who said they wanted to get out of debt, but clearly they weren’t sick of their debt.  I suggested she do less dining out.  I suggested she send the kids with lunches.  I suggested she reduce her phone costs.

The response to each and every suggestion was, “I couldn’t possibly do that.”

The pain of giving up her luxuries was greater than her desire to get out of debt.  Unfortunately, she’ll probably just need to fumble with the stink of debt for a few more years untill she has the motivation to change.

Beware of what people say about debt.

I was visiting with some friends, and for a brief moment, I felt like I was the fool in the group.  They were talking about leveraging their loans and mortgages.  They were talking about the smart ways to use and manipulate their debt.  For a moment, I felt like I was the one left behind because I hadn’t yet figured out how great debt was.  But then I asked myself if I’d trade my financial situation for any of theirs, and the answer was a resounding ‘no’.

We need to be willing to think differently and recognize that debt is making us sick – not healthy.

It’s probably time to look inside and ask yourself: would my situation be better with this debt or without it?  The more you learn to get sick of debt, the more likely you are to finally find your way out of debt.

What helped you realize that the stench of debt was something you needed to address in your life?




  1. says

    When sick, I can tolerate a level of discomfort for a time. I will not go see the doctor until the pain is too great. I think the same is true with debt and personal finance. People will not change their behavior until the financial pain becomes too great. Eventually, over time, they push through their financial pain threshold and that’s when they realize something must be done.

  2. Sheri says

    Thanks for the article. I think this would be good advice if we weren’t in the current economic situation. In the past, my husband and I were trying to get out of debt. We did well reducing our $80,000 down to our currently $20,000. We haven’t pursued finishing off the remaining $20,000 because we are concerned about the economy. If you research and read up on the financial status of America (not mainstream news) they are talking about bubbles (housing which already happened, gold is next and then the dollar) and so our economy will crash and cease to exist as we know it. We are having a hard time justifying the pay off of debt when in a few years the debt might be wiped out altogether because of the economic crash. We are thinking that we are better off paying the minimum on those debts and stocking up on much needed items like food, clothing and medicine which will be astronomical with inflation and hard to come by with an all out crash. As I said we are having a hard time though because we are Christians and we think God would want us to honor our debts. But we are honoring it by paying them. We are not in default at all and pay monthly. We are just not paying it off at a rapid pace. Have you addressed this at all in your articles? I was rambling so I guess I am specifically asking in light of the current economical situation does it really make sense to pay down debts? Shouldn’t we be saving for a 6 month emergency of funds first and stocking up necessities in case those necessities are not available or the funds (american dollar) cease to be valuable? Interested to hear whether you have researched this at all.

  3. JD says

    So very true. A while back I was speaking with my brother that was lamenting his debt load. For every suggestion I made to cut back spending the reply was always the same, “I can’t.” He simply will not make any changes to be debt free. Sad but very typical.

  4. Patrick Goble says

    I love my wife dearly and we both are Christians..and in debt. She recently got a great job that will help us get out of time. I want to pay things off NOW and be free of the stress. She wants to do it slowly over time and make sure we have enough for the kids, vacations, etc.. get the idea? I’m kind of nuts over this. I know I want to be faithful and be a better money manager and she does too, just not at the same speed. Any suggestions?

    • says

      I certainly can’t offer any sort of ‘magic bullet’. I think a long conversation in an environment without any distractions (no phone, TV …) is the best idea. Simply share your vision of what debt free life looks like. Help her to see why you envision live being better (for the family as she seems focused on family issues) without debt. Take time to dream and pray that she’ll catch a glimpse of that dream.

  5. Robyn says

    Wonderful article and great responses. Debt is truly like being bound in chains. I am using a wonderful book to help me get out of debt. The book is called, “Practical Steps to Financial Freedom and Independence: Your Road Map to Exiting the Rat Race and Living Your Dreams” by author Usiere Uko. This book is down to earth and devoid of jargon. I can finally see the light!

  6. says

    Great article. For myself, getting out of debt has been a painful process, but I can only blame myself. I have eliminated everything that I can, and have found numerous ways of cutting back on the things I can’t eliminate. It will be a long process, but I’m motivated to do this!!

  7. desi12 says

    I am so sick of debt. How do I get the rest of the family on board? When I try, I am accused of “gloom and doom”. I guess it’s easy to ignore it when someone else picks up the responsibility for you. I’m to the point where I think I need to let things crash. I just don’t think I will like the consequences. I am going to do one thing though, which is to get a representative payee for my sons disability income so I don’t have to deal with that anymore!

    • says

      In conversations with resistant participants. I’d emphasize talking about how you feel. Say “I’m feeling stressed by the debt. I’m feeling restless. I’m feeling out of control”. Avoid accusatory you statement “You refuse to help with our debt problem. Where there is a healthy loving relationship others ought to be concerned about the concerns of one family member even if they don’t share that concern.
      Perhaps you could suggest a 90 day challenge. Ask we we can try making financial adjustments for a 90 day trial period. That way you’re asking for a smaller commitment.

Leave a Reply

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