The Get Out of Debt Roller Coaster of Emotions

Hang on, this one could get bumpy!  In a recent post on how to get out of credit card debt I mentioned near the end of the article that one of the most important steps to getting out was getting angry.

I know, I know, we are not supposed to talk about anger these days, unless we are discussing ways to suppress it, manage it, or a diffuse it.  But let’s be honest; anger is a perfectly natural human emotion.  And when trying to get out of debt, anger can be an important ally.  In fact, getting out of debt involves a range of emotions, and how well you handle these emotions will likely determine your success.

Climbing the Mountain of Debt

When I was in college and racking up debts to cover tuition, books, and the three-times-a-week pizza diet it never occured to me that one day I would be stuck with payments for all this mess.  Continuing the roller coaster analogy, it was sort of like climbing that first hill not knowing what to expect on the other side.  Sure, it is a fun ride on the way up, and we usually get prepared for the freefall with hands in the air anxiously awaiting the drop from the top.  But, there is an element of fear there as well.  At least there was for me.

Fear of the unknown is one of the greatest fears we have to face. There were many periods during my time of accumulating debt where I took the same position on finances as ostriches do–with my head buried in the sand.  At times I thought simply ignoring the balance line on credit card bills, or the student loan statements, would be a sufficient way to avoid financial stress.  It created more.

When Debt Throws You for a Loop

Sooner or later everyone working to become debt free experiences some type of emergency. They usually happen within a day or two of scheduling your next debt payment.  The transmission dies, the hot water heater leaks, or you hear talk of layoff at work.  It is inevitable.  It is almost as if God is testing your conviction!  The easy path is to get discouraged, wipe out your emergency fund and give up on paying anything more than the minimums for a while.  The best response is to get fired up!

Imagine how much easier it would be to handle life’s emergencies if you weren’t saddled with debt.  Imagine how it must feel to have no debt, $10,000 in emergency savings, and a comfortable cushion in your checking account.  It has been said that money in the bank is the softest pillow, and I believe it because for years I suffered insomnia over of money worries.  When you finally get fed up enough you will no longer allow these blips to throw you off track.  You take the hit, you roll with it, build back up your emergency fund and then get back to working the debt snowball.

Glancing Back at the Track

When the ride is over and you exit the car take a moment to look back on what you went through.  If your reaction is the same as mine you will vow never to get back on that ride again.  The twists and turns were nearly too much.  The excitement I felt climbing the mountain quickly evaporated with each gut-wrenching freefall.  No, from now on I’ll stick to the tea cups.  You have to be debt free to ride, and other than a little dizziness, the side effects are much less painful.


  1. I think the point on emotions is insightful and can be applied to many things (job, family, money, etc.). I especially think that if you want to do anything well in life, then an emotional investment is as necessary as a time investment!

  2. Taking control of your personal finances is definitely a roller coaster. I started confident that I knew what to do with my money. As I learned more, I felt nervous if I was going to make the right decision.

    As you make decisions, good and bad, you try to learn from them. Great post!

  3. The credit card companies (and other debt businesses) don’t deserve anybody’s anger. Let them all rot. Don’t give them the respect of showing fear. Years from now, historians will look at them (and mortgage companies etc.) as loan sharks who tricked America into believing they had to charge their way to paradise.

    I’ve gotten into and out of debt twice. The first time I was ‘angry’ and worried about it constantly and paid it off quickly. But, right after I paid it off, I got back into debt quickly. The second time I got in debt, I left it on the back burner as one of my life’s least important priorities, paid it off slowly but methodically, and never worried about it. It took a little bit longer than the first time, but I got out of debt and have stayed out.

  4. I share the view that experiencing a bit of anger is a natural part of the process. There’s something emotional within us that causes us to overspend. If we want to overcome that on a long-term basis, we need to have a new something to do battle with it. We need a don’t-spend emotion as strong as the do-spend emotion. And that usually evidences itself with a bit of anger at the earlier wastefulness and lost opportunities that resulted from it.

    I also agree that we don’t want to rein in feelings of anger over time. Anger is indeed a natural emotion. It is also one that has a bad reputation for a good reason. So you need to take that anger at lost opportunities and transform it into something more positive (perhaps a relentless desire to take note of new opportunities). But you do need to permit yourself to feel a bit of anger for a time.


  5. We’re not supposed to get angry? That’s such bulls**t. The problem is that many people incorrectly associate violence with anger. Unfortunately, violent actions can take place when one is angry but that doesn’t mean that the anger is a bad thing. Anger is what gets us to change the circumstances around us. What about that piece of carpet or door jam you trip over all the time? When do you fix it? When you trip over it and get many shades of angry over it. When do you leave a crummy job for a better one? When you’re all happy and satisfied? H-E-double-hockey-sticks NO! It’s when you’re fed up, frustrated and ANGRY. Anger is a great catalyst in life — just maintain your limits and many good things can come from it.