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Getting out of debt isn’t easy, so why would we want to make it harder on ourselves? Believe it or not, we often end up doing just that.

There are numerous little mistakes we all make along the way that, like debt, add up over time and make the journey to becoming debt free that much more difficult. So here are some of the most common mistakes, and how we can best avoid them:

1. We ignore it

“What I can’t see, can’t hurt me” might work in a horror film, but it doesn’t apply to our debts. Even if they can be horrifying. Keeping our debts out of sight and out of mind doesn’t mean they’ll simply disappear.

We need to face up to our debts, and show them who's boss. It won’t be easy at first, but in the long run it means we can calculate just how much we owe, how much we earn, and work out exactly how we’re going to pay off our debts.

2. We only make minimum repayments

Making the minimum repayments on our debts only ever keeps our heads above water. To truly make progress towards living a debt-free life, we should find as many ways to save money as we can so that we’re not just making minimum payments, but exceeding them.

Remember, the quicker we pay off our debts, the less we’ll pay in the long run in added extras like fees, charges and interest.

3. We address our debt, but not the reason we have it

Dealing with a problem doesn’t always solve the issue that lead to it. Cleaning up a puddle of water, for example, won’t fix the leaking tap that caused it.

Our debts are just like that leaky tap. Simply paying them off won’t be enough if we don’t also address the reason why we ended up in debt in the first place.

Maybe we spend money as a pick-me-up on a bad day? Maybe it’s a sale we literally can’t resist? Maybe the idea of walking out of the store without having bought something incites anxiety or panic? Without addressing the real problem, we could end up getting caught in an awful debt cycle.

These are all signs that point to an unhealthy relationship with money, which will still be there long after the debt is gone. It’s only by addressing these issues that we can get out – and stay out – of debt.

4. We haven’t made it our priority

We all have excuses for not doing things. “I’m too tired to exercise!”, we might say on a rainy day, or “I have work to do tonight!” when we really don’t want to attend that work function. We also have just as many – if not more – excuses for the way we treat money.

“I’ll start saving if…”

“I’ll start paying my debts when…”

We can find many reasons to put off paying down our debts or addressing our financial problems, but all the excuses in the world won’t help us achieve our ultimate end goal: living debt free. If we’re not honest with ourselves about our money and our spending habits, we could end up with more debt, not less.

5. We haven’t made it our specific goal

We have a habit of approaching debt in the same way we approach losing weight. That is, we sabotage ourselves before we’ve begun by setting vague goals that are heavy on aspiration but light on detail.

“I want to lose weight!” is as motivating as “I want to pay off my debts!”, in that they’re both vague, open-ended statements that leave us too much wiggle room to back out when things get tough.

We have to be wary of going too far in the other direction, too. We can’t expect to pay off our debts in the blink of an eye, just like we can’t go from couch potato to Olympic athlete in a week.

Instead, we should set financial goals – long term or short term, small or large – that give us something to work towards, but are achievable enough that they offer daily motivation. Without a goal to work towards? The journey is that much more difficult.

6. We don’t have a weekly budget

It’s difficult to get out of debt if we’re adding as much to the total – if not more – with new expenses. To pay off debt, we should be bringing in more money (income) than we put out (expenses) each week.

A budget is the best way to make sure we do this. With a budget, we can identify which expenses have to stay, which can go, and where we can save money that we can put towards paying off our debts.

Maybe it’s a lapsed Netflix subscription, or a mobile plan with extras we don’t need? Whatever it is, a budget helps us examine our expenses more closely, cut down on additional extras and pay off our debts that much quicker.

Need help making a budget or with making ends meet? Making a budget is easy with our budgeting tool!

7. We’re still doing it alone

Asking for help isn’t always easy, but pushing through those nerves is one of the most effective ways to help you work through your debts. This could be free advice found in the guides here at Sorted, in a consultation with an expert, or asking friends or family for a helping hand.

Robert Kramers is a content marketer at NZCU Baywide. 

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