Tired of having your credit card denied on a little piece of toast and a latte at a coffee shop? Or coming this close to dumpster-diving in the alleyway out back due to having nothing good in the fridge (maybe that last one was just me)? Well, the good news is that a ton of us are tired of that. The debt fatigue crisis amongst millennials, in fact, has reached such ungodly levels — and touched such a large percentage of us — that we are completely ignoring our debts and spending recklessly. Many are just spending away, saying that essentially, they just don’t care anymore. They even have a term for this phenomenon: It’s called “debt fatigue.”
So, how does this Debt Fatigue thing work, exactly?
It usually happens after reading a whole lot of depressing Russian literature. Just kidding. But after a debtor, in the hole bigtime, reaches a certain level of debt, they might start thinking that repayment is a futile goal, and then their spending becomes more, and not less, reckless. One of the most drastic effects of debt fatigue is overspending, in fact. One can compare it to the hysteria phenomenon associated with overexposure to the frigid weather on a mountain top: People have been seen to “think” that they are overheating, tear off all of their clothing, and promptly freeze to death. They are cold. So they make themselves colder. Only in this case, a touch of desperation is the culprit: The debtor feels that they have no hope.
It is sort of like depression
When one is in the throes of a great depression, it is like being consumed by a huge, dark hole. Not only because life feels miserable and dark, but also because they cannot see outside of it. They can’t see that there is light directly outside of that hole because depression gives you tunnel-vision, makes you forget the good times, and can even make you forget the whole concept of hope. So too with debt fatigue. If you are feeling like giving up on your goal of being debt-free, don’t despair. It happens to the best of us. Sometimes just knowing that you aren’t alone with your debt can be a great comfort and be the impetus you need not to self-sabotage. Because that’s really what we’re dealing with here: torpedoing your finances by overspending or ceasing with payments completely. Sometimes both!
Talk yourself down
Now that you have recognized the key components of this whole debt-fatigue situation: Namely, that you are not alone in it and there is no reason for despairing, you can acknowledge that is not futile. After telling yourself this (maybe in the mirror three times with eyes closed and in the fetal position…) It is time to act as if you believe it. And if you don’t, then fake it until you make it (which, absurd as it sounds, has real psychiatric-backing for being effective). Start paying off little parts of your debt one at a time, become more frugal not less, and take courage.
Some ways to fight debt and debt fatigue
Pay according to interest rate: Pay off your debts according to the highest interest rate — the highest, you pay first. Then when you pay off that debt, you take that payment and move to the next highest, and so forth.
The Dave Ramsey Method: List your debts smallest to largest, then pay off the minimum payments on the debts, attacking the smallest one with any extra money you have lying around. Then when you pay off the first one, you take that payment and move to the next big fella and attack that one. Psychologically, this one is satisfying, and sort of works with how humans think.
Debt Chunking: Debt Chunking is when you slash and cut your debt up into smaller chunks, and focus on paying those off. The way you do it is by taking your debt — call it, a car, for example — and break it up into specific chunks. You can also incorporate the Ramsey small-to-large methodology here, if you want. Or equal chunks. Whatever you feel is most motivating for you, really. You just make minimum payments until you reach your specific chunk. Then you take that chunk and pay down the debt.
Over and over and over. Until you’ve paid off one large debt. Then you slash and cut and altogether chunk-ify another large debt into more manageable, bite-sized pieces! Sometimes, when you work out, you break your overall workout into manageable segments. Mentally, it is pleasing, and it feels less rigorous this way. The same psychology is present here.
You’re in debt. It isn’t good. But it isn’t dire either. As long as you keep to the core truths — you are not alone, you can survive this, and you don’t need to throw in the towel and self-sabotage — you will be fine. Once you remember this, you can start with some of these strategies for actively decreasing, not increasing, your debt. And eventually, like a fog of depression, your fog of debt fatigue will pass.
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