8 Common Reasons People Don’t Pay Off Debt

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At some point, we’ve all probably had some experience of debt. I’m not talking Mortgages, but more consumer debt i.e. credit cards, loans etc. Unfortunately for many of us, debt has become the norm. We plod along blindly paying a monthly direct debit, without ever giving too much thought as to how long we’ll be paying it for, and why we’re happy to continue to do so. Some familiar? There are a multitude of reasons people don’t pay off debt. But there are also many more reasons why you should pay off debt.

Today I thought I’d dig into the most common reasons people don’t pay off debt. This is from personal experience and that of family and friends too. We’ve all been there, or know someone who is/was in debt. Sometimes we don’t even recognise it, because it is so ‘normal’. But I encourage you to look at your finances and if you feel like any of these points hit home, then sit down and make a plan of attack.

Reasons People Don’t Pay Off Debt

They Are Impatient

As a society, we no longer have any patience when it comes to getting what we want. Everything is easy. Online shopping, one day delivery. Car adverts that tell you that you can drive away in a new car in less than an hour. The examples are endless. Everything is at our fingertips. Can’t afford it? No problem! We can probably get it on it credit.

Unfortunately this convenient lifestyle means that it’s easier than ever to get into debt. Why pay now when you can pay later?

Even PayPal are in on the act. Have you noticed when you go to check out on eBay that even they are offering you credit terms? It’s so easy to get sucked into the credit cycle.

It’s made us completely unthrifty by nature. If our washing machine breaks down it’s easier to whack a new one on the credit card and get it delivered the next day.

How to tackle:

The first thing to do is stop thinking of debt and credit as a source of income. It is not. Remember the golden rule – if you can’t pay cash, you can’t afford it.

It might take a while to get into the mindset, but you really need to stop reaching for credit every time you want something new.

Cash flowing might not be the easiest option at the time, but it’s the better choice in the long run.

I’ll give you an example of my own – back in March we needed our boiler to be completely ripped out and a new one installed in another room. We were quoted £3000. We were offered credit as a method of payment. Instead I challenged myself to ‘side hustle’ the money – and in under a month I had made over half the money. We took the other half from savings. Though it was very tight getting the money together, the boiler is paid off in full. If I’d taken out credit we would be paying £50 a month for the next several years.

They Simply Don’t Realise

When you’re so used to paying out these monthly amounts it simply doesn’t occur to you that you’re in debt. It’s easy to only think of debt as being bad when you struggle to make your monthly payments, have overdue notices through your door and when the lenders come knocking. But the reality is that even if you’re making your minimums, you’re still in debt.

How to tackle:

Not convinced that you need to make paying off your debt a priority? Just take a look at the interest you’re being charged. At one point when I was paying off the minimum on my credit card I was incurring £60+ a month in interest and paying next to nothing off the capital. It would’ve taken me 28+years to pay it off if I continued to just make minimum payments!

See the example above – this is how much it would cost you and how long it would to take to pay off a credit card debt of £3,000 by just paying the minimum amount. Obviously credit cards rates/minimum payment terms differ with providers.

Play around with this tool – Minimum Repayment Calculator – and see how long it’ll take to pay off your debt. It might just prompt you into action!

They Don’t Know Where to Start

So you’ve decided that you want to pay off your debt, but you just don’t know where to start. In my opinion, taking the decision to tackle your debt is the hardest part so well done! I’m not saying it’ll be an easy journey, but I promise it will be worth it! You might not know where to start, but knowing that you want to as opposed to burying your head in the sand is a step in the right direction.

How to tackle:

Write it all down. You can’t make a plan of action until you’re clear about where you stand. Get all your paperwork together, log in to online accounts. Write it all down.

The balance owed, the interest rate, the minimum payments etc. Don’t panic when you see the total balance. Know that from here on out, this figure will be going down.

Once you have a list you can make a plan of attack. There are various methods of debt repayment which I won’t go into detail about in this post, but choose which works best for you.

You might choose to pay off the smallest balance first to gain a sense of achievement and to motivate you to continue. Or you might decide to tackle the highest interest rate first (this would be my personal choice).

They Think It’s Hard

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.” ― Theodore Roosevelt

If it was easy we’d all be doing it and the credit companies would be out of business! It will be hard.  There’s no denying that. But it’ll also be so worth it.

Think of the accomplishment you’ll feel when you’re debt free and in control of your life.

How to tackle:

Make small changes at first. Stop spending on credit. Make a budget. Work out if you can increase your minimum payments. Think about ways you can make extra money to put towards your debt payments. Don’t go in all guns blazing and cancel all your subscriptions and vow to live off beans on toast for the next two years. Deprivation is not part of the journey. Depriving yourself will only increase your likelihood of falling off the wagon, or failing completely.

You might also enjoy…Easy Ways to Help Pay Off Debt Fast!

They Think It’s Affordable

Just because you can ‘afford’ the minimum payment, doesn’t mean you can afford it. Did the Minimum Repayment Calculator not show you just how unsustainable debt is? Just because you can afford to foot £300 a month in debt repayment, do you really want to do that for the foreseeable future? What would that money back in your pocket each month look like to you?

How to tackle:

Think about paying that money into your savings instead of into debt. If you paid £300 a month into a savings account for the next 28 years, what would that look like? Without even considering the interest you could earn in that time period, that amount could buy my house outright! Stop lining the pockets of credit card execs and line your own!

They Think Debt is ‘Normal’

I really hate this reason, but the fact is it’s the reality for society in general. Debt has become so normalised. We don’t even notice that we’re constantly bombarded with adverts trying to lure us into more debt. People see credit as the go to solution.

My car is fully paid for but I’ve been having trouble with it recently, whenever I share my car woes with friends or colleagues you can guarantee what the reply will be. “Why don’t you just get a new one? You can get some really good finance deals…”. Just DON’T even get me started on this.

I’m quite happy to talk freely about money and my views on debt, even if the majority of people don’t agree with my way of thinking. But as soon as you see debt for what it really is, rather than the ‘norm’ you can really take control of your life and edge closer to the dream of financial freedom.

How to tackle:

Stop normalising debt. Whenever someone makes comments like these to me, I will point blank tell them that I don’t want to take on any debt. Try to change your mindset. Go against the grain, instead of being ‘normal’. be different! Aim for debt freedom and celebrate the flexibility it gives you when you get there.

They Don’t Want to Make Sacrifices

Some people feel that they deserve to maintain the lifestyle they’re living and giving up debt would mean giving up the nicer things in life. Well, here’s a home truth for you – if you’re in debt you can’t afford your current lifestyle and until you make sacrifices you never will.

How to tackle:

Again, this is a mindset thing. If you think you deserve nice things and your credit card is the only way to get them then it’s going to be a tough cycle to break. You need to think bigger in terms of your goals. Instead of seeing a nice new pair of shoes and whacking it on credit card, think about the freedom that no debt payments, and even a paid off mortgage could give you in the future.

There’s a quote that I see shared around Instagram now and again that goes like this:

“Don’t try to keep up with the Joneses… they’re broke”.

We see these snapshots into people’s lives through social media – the holidays, cars and gadgets. But remember social media is a highlight reel. Those people probably can’t afford to cashflow these things either.

They Feel Unsupported

You’ve decided to start your debt free journey, but all you’re getting is resistance from the rest of the household. The kids want fun trips out, your partner doesn’t want to give up the takeaways. And your friends can’t understand why you’ve said no to the umpteenth invite out.

It can be hard when you feel like you’re in it on your own. But don’t give up.

How to tackle:

Lead by example, don’t force your new frugal lifestyle on people but don’t be afraid to stand your ground either. If you can’t afford it, explain that and don’t feel ashamed to say so.

Challenge yourself to be more frugal and save more money – it’s catching I promise!

When I started KatieSaves I was afraid to share it ‘in real life’ because I didn’t think my friends would ‘get it’. Now though, I regularly have conversations with friends and family about making and saving money. I have people message me for advice and I have people share their frugal wins with me!

Keep doing you, it’ll catch on!


Everyday I see more and more new accounts pop up on Instagram documenting their decision to start getting debt free. Why not decide to be one of them too? You don’t have to declare it to the world (if you don’t want to – though the support in the #debtfreecommunity is amazing). But you can definitely decide to make positive financial changes and get those debts paid off quicker!

Reasons people don't pay off debt

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Hi! I'm Katie

I started Katie Saves while on Maternity Leave to document our adjustment to living on less. Now back in work - I blog about all things money with a little life organisation thrown in for good measure. Join me!