7 Lies People in Debt Tell Themselves


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Got debt? Despite what the credit card companies would have you believe, debt does not have to be a way of life. If any of these seven lies sound familiar, it might be time to start rethinking the way you look at your finances.

This is a guest post from Cherie Lowe of Queen of Free

When she was just a toddler, my oldest daughter shoplifted from a local craft store. I didn’t discover her offense until we arrived home and I was taking off her coat. Inside her teeny fur lined pocket was a small “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” button with the price tag still on it. Immediately, my brain fast-forwarded to weekend visitations, orange jumpsuits, and phone conversations taking place between a plexiglass wall. This was surely the beginning of the end. A life of crime, just launching, for my sweet pig-tailed verbose redheaded darling, oh the agony!


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In a brilliant flash of first-time parenting, I packed her back into the car and together we rehearsed what she would tell the clerk when she returned the button. I reminded her over and over again that she could not take items that were not her own. I walked hand-in-hand to the counter and bravely she repeated:

 “I’m sworry. I twook this and it was not mine. Will you please forgive me?”

Lies are never healthy, at any age, especially these 7 Lies People in Debt Tell Themselves.

 The caring employee began to gush over my daughter, reassuring her that it was OK. Then the middle aged woman turned to me and asked a question I will never forget.

 “She’s so adorable! Can I give her a sucker?”

 NO. She stole from you. You want to reinforce that behavior? Listen lady, this little Jesse James wannabe will bleed you dry if you give her candy for robbing you blind. This time it’s novelty flair, next time it’s one of those $80 fancy figurines.

 Maybe we both went a little overboard? But the sweet woman behind the counter and I bought into lies. I immediately assumed that a two-year-old could understand the weight of her transgression and that a small infraction would lead to a life of law breaking. After all, as a thirteen year old, she doesn’t even remember this experience. The much more graceful clerk dismissed the action and wanted to reward wrongdoing. Just like that, the lies we told ourselves led our extremes to different destinations, neither healthy.

During our journey of paying off over $127K – a story you can read in my book Slaying the Debt Dragon: How One Family Conquered Their Money Monster and Found An Inspired Happily Ever After – we encountered and battled many lies about debt. After dismantling each with simple truth, we were able to find a place of financial freedom.

One of the 7 Lies People in Debt Tell Themselves: Everyone has debt.

 1. Everyone Has Debt

 This lie is often trotted out when we want to excuse a new purchase. Herd mentality is nothing new. I used this very defense more than once when I wanted my mom to buy something for me in high school. “But moooooommmm, everyone has one!” However, there are plenty of people who have no debt at all, not even a car payment or a mortgage. Debt does not have to be a constant reality from birth to death. Everyone does not have debt.

2. We Won’t Ever Have Any Fun

 I’ll admit that this wasn’t my most noble lie during the process of paying off debt. However, I had a great fear of not being able to provide magical memories for our children, spend quality time with my husband, or invest in friendships because we did not have any extra cash. Of course, I discovered that all of the above does not require money. Relationships are built on intentionality, not entertainment. Along the way, I also learned that I truly value simple pleasures in life. Living to the fullest does not equate to dollars and cents. You can pay off debt and still have fun.

 3. I’m Not That Good With Money

Friends, if you know how to log onto the Internet and read an article, that mistrust isn’t working for you anymore. You are more than smart enough to handle your debt situation. Will it take time and a willingness to pay attention to detail? Of course. Will you have to be dedicated to the process? Certainly. I often quip, “Paying off debt is not complicated. It’s just not easy.” While there are many methods to tackle your money monster, the basic principle is to spend less than you make, potentially take on more work, and put the difference toward your debt. Stop lying to yourself. You ARE good with money.

Another one of the 7 Lies People in Debt Tell Themselves: My children shouldn't have to suffer for my mistakes.

4. My Children Shouldn’t Have to Suffer for My Mistakes

Closely related to the “We won’t have any fun” myth, this lie often paralyzes us from making the choices necessary to get out of debt. Can I be straight with you? Your children probably will suffer as a result of your financial mistakes. Sure, you might be able to swing a trip to Disney on a credit card now; however, your kids will end up paying for your care in your old age when you haven’t saved for retirement or taking out massive loans themselves for college.

But here’s the good news–your sons and daughters will not have to wear potato sacks to school and if you budget carefully, you can still pay for lessons or sports leagues. But you can’t say yes to every trip, expense, or extra. After you pay off debt, you’ll be able to spend more on your children. But maybe, just maybe, the process will help you learn what is most necessary and what you can do without. Yes, your children might have to suffer for your money mistakes, but choosing not to manage your resources well could further increase that suffering.

5. I Need to Build Good Credit

Building credit is only necessary if you plan on borrowing money again. If you have no need to borrow, you will have no need for credit. Even still, a reputable lender will work with you if you prove you are debt free, sharing your full financial picture. We have been out of debt for nearly three years and our credit scores are great. On top of that, no one has asked us what those scores even are. Credit is not as important as you’ve been taught or the lenders would like you to think.

Lie number 6 of the 7 Lies People in Debt Tell Themselves: Credit cards are necessary for online shopping and traveling.

 6. Credit Cards Are Necessary for Online Shopping & Traveling

The last time our family had a credit card, LOST was the most popular show on TV. Since then, we’ve traveled, purchased items online, and made our daily transactions with a debit card backed by MasterCard. That means we have the protections against fraud, but the money comes directly out of our checking account. You do not have to have a credit card to make major purchases.

 7. Paying Off Debt Is Impossible

My heart breaks each time someone shares a story of mammoth debt. Typically, no one in their childhood dreams of being stretched thin financially. No one longs to spend the bulk of their income on interest and payments. Many have tried unsuccessfully to pay off debt in the past. They feel overwhelmed, isolated, and hopeless. Lean in close and don’t miss this.

Paying off debt is not impossible.

I know you might be incredibly discouraged and not know where to begin. I know your heart is heavy. You’ve read the books, listened to the podcasts, and exasperated yourself to the point of exhaustion. All of the right thinking in the world, all of the best budget forms, all of the top notch strategies – none of these will do you any good unless you have Hope. You must begin to believe that your dragons can. be. beaten. before you embark on your epic quest. True, you might need a new approach. You may even need practical tools. But most of all, you need to stop believing the lie that it will never happen for you. Paying off debt is possible. I’m living proof.

Become deaf to the lies that you have told yourself. Quit listening to the lies that are marketed to you. Throw off the chains of debt. Be free.

Got debt? Despite what the credit card companies would have you believe, debt does not have to be a way of life. If any of these seven lies sound familiar, it might be time to start rethinking the way you look at your finances.


Cherie Lowe AKA Queen of Free, author of Slaying the Debt Dragon, with this guest post: 7 Lies People in Debt Tell Themselves!Cherie Lowe is an author, speaker and hope bringer. Her book Slaying the Debt Dragon details her family’s quest to eliminate over $127K in debt in just under four years. As her alter ego the Queen of Free, Cherie provides offbeat money saving tips and debt slaying inspiration on a daily basis.



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Which of these lies have you told yourself about debt?

Got debt? Despite what the credit card companies would have you believe, debt does not have to be a way of life. If any of these seven lies sound familiar, it might be time to start rethinking the way you look at your finances.


  1. March 6 at 09:18AM

    Wonderful post and so many great points! Also the Bible admonishes us, “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loves another has fulfilled the law.” Romans 13:8. I also believe biblically, if someone is a Christian, they need to do everything they can to pay back their debt instead of declaring bankruptcy, which so many people do so easily. I give my reasons here if anyone is interested! If a Christian says there is NO possible way to pay off their debt, they must remember that they can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens them! He owns everything!

  2. March 6 at 01:11PM

    I love articles like these and while I agree with most points there is one point that I have to disagree with: #5, about not needing credit. The author states “if you have no need to borrow, then you have no need for credit.” Unfortunately in today’s world this just simply isn’t true. If you want to buy a house without borrowing, what do you have to do in the mean time? You have to RENT a home from a landlord. I personally have had landlords ask for my consent to check my credit score in order to be eligible to rent from them. They informed me that if I did not consent, had no credit score, or a low credit score that would mean I wouldn’t get the place. I’ve also had employers look into my credit score before giving me a job as part of a routine background check. Unfortunately credit and the scores associated with it are just a part of today’s world. If you want to build a good credit score without going into debt (which yes, can be done-mine is over 700 and steadily approaching 800) you should treat credit cards like cash. One good way is to have ONE card that you only use to purchase your groceries. You still stick to the budget you have for groceries(and if you don’t have a budget for groceries I strongly recommend getting one), but instead of laying down cold hard cash for them you charge them on your credit card. Then when the bill comes at the end of the month, you pay it off entirely to a zero balance. That way you have a good reputation of paying on time, your balance to available credit ratio is high which improves your credit score, and you will never incur interest by paying it off on time every month. Bonus! if you get a card that does cash back, like american express and discover both do, you can actually GET PAID to do shopping you would have done anyway. In fact one of the posts on this week’s thrifty thursday mentioned getting almost 300 dollars back from a credit card’s cash back program. That sounds like a win-win to me!

    • March 9 at 08:25AM

      That is such a good idea! I will have to remember this when my daughter needs to start building credit! 🙂

    • March 10 at 09:37AM

      Lizz, that’s how I was taught to do it in high school and it has always worked for us. My teachers would say, “If you don’t have the cash to pay for it NOW, then you can’t afford it. But if you do, put it on the card and then pay it immediately.” Credit DOES matter. Because if something happens and you do have to borrow, your credit may not always determine whether or not you get the loan, but it WILL determine your interest rate.

      And you’re right–my husband and I recently moved to Atlanta and what we’ve discovered about cities is that credit score absolutely matters. Our landlord had to check it, his employer checked it as part of the background check. I used to work in HR for multiple manufacturing companies and we checked for credit scores, as well. Because debt collectors WILL call and harass your boss if they can’t get hold of you (and they range from being aggressive to being verbally abusive. The only time I have ever been screamed at while at work was by *someone else’s* debt collector). It was such a pain for us to deal with them that a poor credit score would make us think twice about hiring someone.

    • Carrie
      March 11 at 07:56PM

      I 100% agree! I have had EVERY renter ask for a credit report as well as a few of my jobs. I live in Santa Barbara CA where most people in my age range (20-25) can’t buy a home until much later (30’s-40’s) Credit and Good Credit at that is a must. Because rentals are scarce they often go to the person with better credit. I am currently paying down, my debt, and canceling cards once they’re paid off, but I’m keeping one open and using it like cash. Only my utilities bills (small amount monthly) are put on there and its paid off immediately. .

  3. March 6 at 02:05PM

    I am definitely struggling with all of this right now! My goal this year is to focus on paying down/off our debts and AHHHH!! It’s hard! I’m trying to do the “cash envelope” thing without actually taking out the cash. I’ve done really well with just keeping the categories and budgets separately online. It just gets hard when we want something and don’t know what to do. Yes, I want to pay off debt, but at the same time my husband and I both work hard and feel like we should “treat” ourselves sometimes. We do give each other an allowance, but then there are the rare occurrences where it’s easy to say “Oh, it’s not like we do this all the time.”, but those still add up too. For example, went to a hockey game last weekend with my husband’s family. The tickets were $40 and food was $23. It was our first hockey game in almost two years (and my son’s first hockey game, ever). Sure it was only $63, but that’s $63 I wasn’t planning on spending. =\

    • Sarah
      March 15 at 03:19AM

      Sounds like you don’t have a proper budget then. If you did then you would already have some fun money worked in and wouldn’t have to feel guilty for spending it. Re-examine your budget.

  4. Being deaf to the lies you tell yourself is psychologically impossible, and although I understand the sentiment behind the statement, the statement in an of itself is unhelpful for the following reasons: debtors tell those lies in order to justify their behavior. You first have to have an understanding that you’ve been lying to yourself and then want to step out of the lie and fix the real issue at hand which is the lie is just a justification for allowing yourself to get into debt. If you don’t realize this or want to stop your debt incurring ways, you’ll just keep lying to yourself and believing the lie. The real transformation will come when you area able to examine the lie and then make a commitment to stop lying to yourself and start tackling your debt.

  5. Another lie I also often struggle with is “You will never again be able to splurge on anything!”. Yes, relationships do not necessitate money, but a disney trip with the family or coffee outing with a friend would be nice occasionally. In combating this mentality I have found that a lot of it comes down to the fact that I don’t want to plan and save for these extras. Yes, they are often possible, if I’m willing to put forth the time and effort to achieve them. Maybe not to the extreme I want, but then it goes back to being thankful for what I have. Thanks for a good read!

  6. Joy
    March 8 at 01:09PM

    Great article. It’s not easy boy it is possible. My husband and I have been debt free for over 3 years! It feels great.

  7. March 9 at 10:03AM

    Myth number 3 really got me when I was young. My family has a long history of “not good with money.” I educated myself–I read finance books and articles and found some of the classic savers (Your Money or Your Life, etc.). The book though that helped me understand how our world financial systems work in terms I could truly understand was call “Girls Just Wanna Have Funds.” There is a website now with the title as well. Learning about finances just isn’t done in the classroom (in most states) and so we ladies (and families) need to educate ourselves and get “good with money.” Thank you for sharing!

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  9. March 12 at 07:25AM

    I agree with the lies people tell themselves, but I also have to disagree with #5 and #6. When you have absolutely no credit, you can’t have good credit. Eventually over time, you will have no credit score. It’s true that some lenders will look at non-traditional credit, such as paying your cable and phone bills on time, but why not keep one credit card that you can pay the balance in full every month. You don’t have to be in debt if you have a credit card. And that leads to #6, using a debit card online. To me, that’s a big NO-NO. It’s true that the purchase will come straight out of your checking account, but if that debit card number gets stolen, all your money is at risk. I prefer using that 1 credit card that you kept for credit and using it like a debit card. That way if the number is stolen, it doesn’t affect your daily life. Also, credit cards offer rewards and benefits that a debit card doesn’t. You don’t have to agree with me, but by saying you don’t need credit or that you should use your debit card for everything, you are also sending the wrong message to people who are seeking your help.

  10. March 12 at 12:02PM

    Number 7 is the big one, isn’t it? I can’t tell you how many people that I’ve met that believe that debt is just a normal occurrence, and that to try to “swim against the current” is impossible. This was even the case in my own life. I thought that people just had mortgages. No one under the age of 60 owns their house free and clear, and it must be because it’s impossible to do, right? I’m so glad that our family had a lightbulb moment and realized that with a little hard word we COULD pay off our debt.

  11. For us, it’s all about the kids. I want them to have a great childhood and with just three years left before one heads to college, I’m ready to have some fun! With so many things pulling at your budget, it can be difficult. Daycations have been where it’s at for us the last few years but I’m hoping for another road trip adventure soon!

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  13. Tracy
    March 16 at 02:33AM

    There is another issue with using your debit card on vacations, especially to book hotel rooms. If you call and use your debit card to hold a hotel room, the hotel will block off the ENTIRE cost of your stay, in essence you will be paying for your room in full before you even arrive. This is not a problem if you have the vacation money in that account, but if you are booking more than the rooms YOUR family needs, adding an extra room for Grandma and Grandpa perhaps, you could find yourself short on other budgeted items. They do something similar to credit cards, but you aren’t actually responsible for the held amount until it’s actually charged to your account.

    Also, some countries don’t allow you to use a debit card, not a Debit/VISA or Debit/MC but straight debit card, to book hotel rooms. In Canada we can’t reserve a hotel room without a credit card, and using the combination debit/credit cards is hit and miss, some companies accept them, some don’t. FYI – Canadians use electronic banking more than any other country in the world, and our electronic banking is far more secure than the US.

    All you need is a low limit card, $500-$1000, to put those holds on rooms and can pay with your debit card when you arrive.

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  18. April 8 at 01:57AM

    This is exactly what my dad taught me about money, though it CAN seem almost impossible to live completely debt-free (no car or house payment.) However, credit card interest, rent-to-own, store financing, etc are totally out of the question in our house. And it is so true that the best gift you can give your kids is graduating college with no student debt!! I’ll never stop being grateful for my parents planning (to cover what scholarships didn’t.)

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  20. Koffee
    October 17 at 10:48PM

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  22. c
    April 22 at 12:56AM

    yea this works if you make above the poverty line, for those of us that wait on the rest of you none of these ‘solutions’ would ever work. I make roughly around 20,000 – 23,000 a year, that’s 2000 -3000 below the poverty line I have a student debt of over 32,000 if there are no price increases, emergencies, interest, everyone eats crap food and if no one out grows or wears out anything I could pay it in about 8- 10 years, but lets face it, prices are going up, things do wear out and emergencies always happen. Thus it will actually take me the next 20-30 years to pay off this debt… tell me again how easy this will be to get debt free before I die?

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