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Understanding the Psychology of Debt

Debt preys on the mind in more ways than one. When it comes to spending money, some of us are savers and some of us are spenders. It further boils down to those who are impulse shoppers all the time and those of us who are frugal (at least most of the time) but tend to have an impulse buy here or there. The truth is, there is a lot of psychology behind debt. Debt can trigger guilt, depression, and a feeling of hopelessness. Debt can instill fear and anxiety to the point that we avoid it at all costs.

Todd Mark, vice president of education at Consumer Credit Counseling Services of Greater Dallas (CCCS of Greater Dallas), teaches a class on the psychology of debt. He enlightens folks about the different things to consider – things that might be impacting their spending habits. He then suggests proactive tips on how people can prioritize their values and their financial goals to better understand their spending habits. This in turn can help to prevent or break the debt cycle.

When it comes to the psychology of debt, some of the things Todd Mark asks his students to consider may seem second nature. He reviews emotional spending – that bad-day, feel-better kind of shopping we are all known to consider, including emotional highs and lows as well as holiday spending. Another key topic is using credit cards effectively by paying bills on time. This can be invaluable to building good credit. Some other topics that play into the debt psychology include donations, compulsive and impulsive spending, the spending styles of couples, and your short term needs vs. your long term goals.

The next time you worry about debt and what should be or what could be, keep these important points in mind. You may be able to positively impact your own debt situation or further strengthen yourself from ever falling into debt in the first place.

Todd Mark is vice president of education at Consumer Credit Counseling Services of Greater Dallas (CCCS of Greater Dallas). For more information please see

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