Recognizing and Avoiding Debt Triggers

Debt triggers are character traits or behavior patterns that make us more inclined to spend money that we probably should not spend. Everyone has debt triggers, but they can be different for different people. Because excessive spending only worsens our debt situation, it is critically important that you learn to recognize and then effectively manage your specific debt triggers. In this article, I will discuss several of the most common debt triggers.

1. No budget or spending plan
Not having a budget or a spending plan is probably the most common and the most dangerous debt trigger there is, especially for people who already have debt issues. When you have no guidelines for how much money you can afford to spend for various purposes each month, you will often spend more than you realize on low priority or unnecessary expenses. Consequently, you may later find that you are lacking the funds needed to pay one or more of your important bills or expenses. Doing this kind of unplanned and undisciplined spending on a regular basis will almost certainly lead you into deeper and deeper debt trouble.

2. Emotional or impulse buying
The tendency to buy things on emotion or on spur-of-the-moment impulse is another common debt trigger. Some people will often buy something to eat, drink, or wear mainly because they may feel depressed, stressed, or just unhappy, and buying something seems to make them feel better. Other people will make significant purchases on impulse, without seriously considering how the purchases might impact their short-term or long-term financial condition. Many times the item is not something that they were planning to buy, but when they see the item (or see it advertised somewhere), they impulsively decide to buy it. Over a period of months, the total cost of these emotional and/or impulse purchases can really add up.

3. Buying with credit cards
Although credit cards are very convenient and useful financial tools, they can also be huge debt triggers for those who think their cards provide extra money that they can spend whenever they want. Too many people seem to forget that when they use a credit card to buy something, they are in essence borrowing money from the card issuer, and that money will have to be paid back. Furthermore, because the interest rates on credit cards are typically pretty high, carrying large balances on multiple cards can very quickly become a crushing debt burden that could take 5-10 years to pay off while costing you hundreds (if not thousands) of extra dollars in interest payments. If you think that credit cards might be one of your debt triggers, you would be wise to avoid using them, opting instead to pay with cash whenever possible.

4. Social influences
Believe it or not, but certain friends and family members can also act as debt triggers sometimes. For example, if you hang out a lot with friends or family who regularly spend money in undisciplined ways, you may unwittingly find yourself increasingly inclined to do the same. Similarly, if you associate frequently with individuals who are better off financially than you are, you may sometimes feel some unconscious pressure to spend more money than you should so as not to appear poor or cheap in their eyes. Trying to live beyond your means is an almost surefire way to end up with serious debt trouble. The fact that the spending habits of others can subtly influence your own spending doesn’t mean that you have to completely disassociate yourself from friends and family members, but it does suggest that it would be to your benefit to include among your friends and close acquaintances a number of people who consistently model sound management of their personal finances and who would be likely to encourage and support you in your efforts to do the same.

The debt triggers discussed in this article are four of the most common ones, but there are many others. To determine your specific debt triggers, you will need to do some critical self-reflection to identity those things which most often seem to lead you into spending more money than you know you should. If you want to get a handle on your debt situation, you must learn to manage your debt triggers.

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