The comparison between debt and drug addiction has been made before. In both cases, actions and circumstances conspire to put an individual in a negative situation that’s, to a great extent, out of their control. In either case, it may take tons of effort, help from friends and professionals, and a significant change of mind and motivation to succeed. Also in both cases, the chance of relapse is great.

We’ll leave the drug metaphor behind and talk only about what we came here for: getting out of debt and staying out of debt. People find themselves ensconced by debt for a variety of reasons, not all of which are their fault. No matter what life factors resulted in your debt, however, you’ll have to find a way out on your own. In most cases, no one is going to do this for you.

Much debt help & advice is available in books, seminars, and online. Most of the steps are well known, even among those who are in debt. Practical techniques like the Snowball debt reduction method are tried and true. If you follow this method religiously, you’ll have no other result than a reduction (and eventual elimination) of your debt. But accomplishing this goal requires a deeper change in your mind and heart.

Getting out of debt requires a change of mind. It involves committing to future security at the expense of current pleasure and excitement. Spending money is fun, even and especially when it is not yours. Credit is borrowed money. Once it’s spent, the wealth doesn’t disappear. It must be returned to the lender, with interest, or there will be big problems for you, the borrower.

Some people have debt from legitimate sources (school loans, mortgage, a vehicle they need for a job, hospital bills). However, most of the debt in the United States is consumer debt: money borrowed from a credit card company or other lender to pay for wants, not needs.

If you are stuck in a cycle of buying things you don’t need with money that isn’t yours, you have to break this habit if you want to get out of debt and stay out of debt. Some people will be able to pay off their debt, but unless they have also changed their spending and borrowing habits, the debt will just reform over time.

So learn how to be frugal, to live beneath your means. Become a saver and budgeter. Get a vision for how you can one day build wealth, not just eliminate debt. If you are able to cobble together a new state of mind with regard to your spending, saving, and future security, you will find it much easier not just to pay off your debt but to stay out of debt for good once it is gone.

Being in debt is not always a moral failing, but regardless of how it happened, you’ve got to be serious and committed to make it go away. Learn the skills you need as you pay off your debt, then stick with the plan for the rest of your life.

photo credit: shenamt Self-distortion / world-distortion via photopin (license)