If You Don’t Change Your Mentality, You Will Never Be Debt Free

Debt and MentalityI think it is time for a bit of honesty here.  I have been writing on Debt Roundup since 2012.  While I have not been around for a long time, I have seen my fair share.  I have the luxury of getting comments and questions from many different people.  Some people are stuck under massive amounts of debt, while others are thriving and growing their wealth.  I like the diversity and I think it adds to this community.  One thing that I have done on DR is be completely honest with you.  I stirred the pot when I wrote about love and money, as well as when I put up my latest purchase with a loan.  It pissed off some and encouraged others.  I am OK with that because I was honest with you.  Now, I am going to be even more honest.

Don’t Expect Much If You Don’t Change

I want to talk about getting out of debt in this post.  It is a journey that many are currently going through or have been through before (myself included).  Debt is a very simple concept when we break it down.  You spend more than you make.  You output more than you input.  No matter how you slice it, debt is easy to understand.  If it is such an easy concept, then why are so many of us in debt?  What is causing us to spend like hungry hyenas?  I think it all comes down to one simple thing.  Your mentality!

Each person handles their finances in a different way.  That is understandable. We are all different and we do different things.  For that reason, we all get into debt for different reasons.  Some of us spend like crazy on our credit cards, others borrow in order to fund their future earnings, and some get into trouble with health issues.  No matter the reason, the approach you take with regards to your finances all comes down to your mentality.

Getting Out of Debt

I have talked with so many people that desperately want to get out of debt.  I completely understand why.  When I realized that it would take around 40 years to pay off my debt, it lite a fire under my ass.  There was no way I was going to be paying on my consumer debt for over 40 years.  No thanks, not for me!

I consider getting out of debt a two fold process. You not only have to pay off your current debts, but you also have to figure out why you got into debt. You have to look at your mentality and change it.  There is no other answer.

Change Your Mentality = SUCCESS!

Don’t Change Your Mentality = FAILURE!

I have seen many people work so damn hard to get out of debt, only to slip back in because they didn’t change their mentality.  They didn’t address the root cause of their debt addiction.  For me, I was a spender. I didn’t pay attention to how much I was spending.  As long as I could cover my minimum payments, then I thought I was OK.  I never knew what I was doing.  I didn’t focus on saving any money because I was too busy enjoying my life and spending like there was no tomorrow.  I was trying to keep up with the Kardashians Joneses.  I wanted the image that spending money brought.  I wanted people to talk about all of the things that I had.  I thought I was cool.  Damn, was I wrong!

Flipping from Spender to Saver

I was an all out spender before I started my debt repayment journey.  I admit it and I have told everyone that before. I had a spending problem, but I also had a saving problem. I didn’t save any of my money. I bought cool gadgets, a Jetski, and all of this other crap.  I also funded my business on credit cards.  I made mistakes, but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t right the wrongs.

When I started paying off my debt, I wanted to learn how to save.  Many will argue about saving while paying off debt, but it wasn’t an argument for me.  The only one that I had was how much should I save.  That is why I came up with my debt/saving allocation method which I still advocate to many to this day.  The reason why I wanted to do both was because I needed to learn how to save.  I needed to understand that feeling that you get when you see your bank account growing.  I needed to get the warm and fuzzy feeling when I saved money and take that feeling away when I spent money. I needed to flip my mentality from a spender to a saver.

It took 4 long years to pay off my debt. I could have paid it off sooner, but I was focusing on saving and paying down my debt.   I don’t care what you say about my method. It worked for me!  I chose something that worked with my situation and how I wanted to reach my end goal.  It might not be the way you paid down debt or are currently doing so, but it still worked.  I am here today with a large amount in savings and my net worth on the rise.  I am where I am supposed to be.  The only way I got to this point was because I changed my mentality.

So, if you are in debt and working hard to pay it off, then make sure you understand what your goal is.  Why did you get into debt in the first place?  What are you going to do when you get out?  Have you changed your mentality about how you handle your money?

Your mentality is extremely important in your debt repayment process, but also in how you live your life afterwards.  Make sure you understand it and change it!

What do you think about this concept?  Were you able to change your mentality when it came to your finances?

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Grayson Bell

Grayson Bell

I'm a business owner, blogger, father, and husband. I used credit cards too much and found myself in over $75,000 in debt ($50,000 in just credit cards). I paid it off, started this blog, and my financial life has changed. I now talk about fighting debt and growing wealth here. I run a WordPress maintenance and support company, along with another blog. It is Empowered Shopper, which helps people get information about products they want to buy. You can also check out Eyes on the Dollar, which is a great blog that I co-own.


  1. Lori
    January 22, 2014 at 7:26 am — Reply

    Thanks for this important reminder! I’ve been able to change other bad habits by changing my mentality and need to remember to apply it to my debt reduction plan. I too was disgusted when I realized how long it would take to pay off debt if I only made the minimum payments. Debt reduction is a new concept to me so I appreciate all the advice I’m reading.

    • January 23, 2014 at 12:32 pm — Reply

      I wish you the best of luck during your repayment journey Lori.

  2. January 22, 2014 at 8:43 am — Reply

    Your argument for saving while paying off debt is probably the best one I’ve heard so far. It makes sense to start developing a savings habit asap so that when you are out of debt you don’t simply spend the money. Definitely sounds like a good plan to me.

    • January 23, 2014 at 12:32 pm — Reply

      Thanks DC. I try to provide valuable advice, but still back it up with substance.

  3. January 22, 2014 at 9:24 am — Reply

    Great words Grayson! It takes a dynamic shift in thinking but also methodology in living day to day. People that want to get out of debt but don’t make drastic changes in their daily life don’t really want it that much.

    • January 23, 2014 at 12:33 pm — Reply

      You are right Brian. It really does take a dynamic shift. I am glad that I was able to get it done.

  4. January 22, 2014 at 9:28 am — Reply

    I completely agree about the mentality change. Unless you change, non of your bad habits will change. Switching from a spending mindset to a saving one is like losing 50 pounds, but if you are willing to put in the work and effort, you will look awesome afterward.

    • January 23, 2014 at 12:33 pm — Reply

      Thanks Shannon. Yes, it does take a lot of work, but you will come out the other side a much better person.

  5. January 22, 2014 at 9:36 am — Reply

    Good point, Grayson. Much like dieting, if you don’t make a “lifestyle change,” your finances probably won’t change for good. You have to completely change your habits and the way you think about money.

    • January 23, 2014 at 12:34 pm — Reply

      It really is like dieting. If you just diet just to lose weight, but don’t make a habit change, then you will be right back where you started.

  6. January 22, 2014 at 10:13 am — Reply

    I think mentality is one of the more important aspects of paying off debt. Like you said, many people fall back to their old ways after becoming debt free because they didn’t address what got them there in the first place. There’s a lot of introspection that goes along with the journey and you can’t really afford to be in denial about it.

    • January 23, 2014 at 12:34 pm — Reply

      I agree. Many don’t think about changing their mentality about their money. Unfortunately, that is the main thing that needs to happen.

  7. January 22, 2014 at 11:26 am — Reply

    I couldn’t agree more. In order to stay out of credit card debt there were some habits and things I had to change. It wasn’t easy – heck it’s never easy to change a habit – but so worth it!

    • January 23, 2014 at 12:35 pm — Reply

      I truly never is easy to change a habit, especially a bad one.

  8. January 22, 2014 at 11:26 am — Reply

    I think you have to know the “why” of why you spent money you didn’t have for sure. Otherwise it’s a very slippery slope of going back into debt. I even struggle with the mentality part still and I don’t have debt. But sometimes I still spend a little mindlessly. Fortunately I get it in check very quickly, but it goes to show you that old habits die hard.

    • January 23, 2014 at 12:36 pm — Reply

      Understanding and changing the “why” is so important. You probably have to go many levels deep into the question in order to truly answer it and make the change.

  9. January 22, 2014 at 12:48 pm — Reply

    Very good. And timely. Because I don’t know if you’ve been looking, but it’s been 5 years since the last recession bottom in 2009. Why is that significant? Economic cycles have always run 7-10 years, bottom to bottom (chart available if anyone wants to check). The downturn usually happens 2 years before the bottom.

    That means the downturn usually happens 5-8 years after the previous bottom. The previous bottom was 2009. When is 5 years from then?

    In a recession, you can cut most of your expenses, but you can’t cut you payments. Now is the time to seriously get serious about getting rid of them…

    • January 23, 2014 at 12:36 pm — Reply

      Interesting William. I have not thought about that, but glad I made the change when the recession just started happening. It will give me a better footing for any other downturns.

  10. January 22, 2014 at 1:36 pm — Reply

    We got out of debt a few times and then ran it back up again because we didn’t figure out why it happened in the first place. It would be like if eating something that made you sick, taking medicine to get better, then eating the same thing all over again. If you don’t know what causes your problem, it’s hard to avoid. It isn’t fun to find out all the bad things about yourself or realize what you’ve been doing might be the totally wrong thing, but you have to if you ever want to get out of debt once and for all.

    • January 23, 2014 at 12:37 pm — Reply

      Glad to hear that you figured it out the second time. It does take a lot of work and attention, but that shouldn’t stop anyone.

  11. January 22, 2014 at 1:49 pm — Reply

    It is far from easy, but working hard to earn extra money is really worth it when my husband and I are able to pay off our debt faster. It’s about the mentality, like you say. 🙂

    • January 23, 2014 at 12:38 pm — Reply

      Earning more money is a great way to change your mentality, but that doesn’t address any spending problems that got you into debt. That is a mentality change for making money, you also have to address the other part of the equation.

  12. January 22, 2014 at 2:32 pm — Reply

    Completely agree. “Addressing the root cause of your debt addiction” is key regarding debt and so many other aspects of life. I did change my mentality when I got out of debt many years ago but not enough. I was able to become more of a saver but I still had things to work on. I feel that I’m really getting it now.

    • January 23, 2014 at 12:39 pm — Reply

      Thanks Raquel. Glad to hear that you are getting it now. It is going to be a process and no one can switch overnight.

  13. January 22, 2014 at 7:03 pm — Reply

    Thanks so much for this, Grayson. We too have changed our mentality. We had to. We had to get to the point where we couldn’t stand the sight of the debt anymore. Now we are there. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t days where the debt makes us feel as if we’re drowning, but we take comfort in the fact that we’re never going back there again, and that we are committed to staying the course, because of the fact that we’ve figured out what got us into debt in the first place and changed those mindsets to ones that are more beneficial to our family than having “stuff” is.

    • January 23, 2014 at 12:39 pm — Reply

      I know you have changed yours Laurie. You are a mad debt killer over there, but you understand the other factors. Keep up the good work.

  14. January 22, 2014 at 7:19 pm — Reply

    Great minds! We actually talked about this on the podcast this week….having a growth mindset vs. a fixed mindset. You can believe that you’re going to be the same tomorrow or you can believe that you create yourself every day.

    Powerful thought!

    • January 23, 2014 at 12:40 pm — Reply

      Very powerful thought. Thanks for sharing that. And yes, great minds do think alike!

  15. January 22, 2014 at 8:58 pm — Reply

    I agree with you on that one Grayson. I also think that in order to get out of debt a person should change his mentality first. It all goes down to how you think and how will you respond to the challenges that life throws at you, right?

    • January 23, 2014 at 12:40 pm — Reply

      It is important to understand why you got into debt, so you don’t rack up more debt while you are trying to pay off other debt.

  16. January 23, 2014 at 11:19 am — Reply

    I know this one first hand…we had to make BIG changes to get out of debt. if we hadn’t done so…we would never be in the position we are now – just weeks away from 109K of credit card debt being gone!

    • January 23, 2014 at 12:41 pm — Reply

      That is a huge accomplishment Travis. You certainly have changed your mindset and now you see the light at the end of the tunnel.

  17. January 23, 2014 at 12:29 pm — Reply

    Some people roll their eyes when you mention attitude adjustments being key to success. I think it’s those people who continue to struggle.

    • January 23, 2014 at 12:41 pm — Reply

      You are correct on that one. Those are the same people that struggle if they go on a diet.

  18. January 23, 2014 at 2:30 pm — Reply

    It is so difficult for people because so many things that we “purchase” are purchased via a financing option. It is fascinating to look at the history of credit since the credit card was created in the 50′. We went from a nation of save before you buy, to buy it now-pay later. It has taken more than a year for me to be consistent in the way that I approach paying for stuff. I now make sure that I have cash first. Because I am still digging out of the hole of debt. Thanks Grayson for a great post!

    • January 23, 2014 at 4:02 pm — Reply

      I agree that it is difficult. I worked for four years trying to change my mentality and I got there. It take a lot of time and energy, but the end result is sweet.

  19. Girl Meets Debt
    January 23, 2014 at 5:32 pm — Reply

    Paying off debt really is 90% mentality and 10% numbers. Or something like that. I’ve addressed the problem of why I got into debt in the first place and while I will never be a frugalist, minimalist extraordinaire, I know I will never purchase anything I can’t afford ever again.

    P.S. “I was trying to keep up with the Kardashians Joneses. ” – my favorite line in the post! 😉

    • January 23, 2014 at 7:57 pm — Reply

      I know you have figured it out. Even if you didn’t, I am sure J would make sure you knew! I tried to keep it fresh with the Kardashian reference. Glad you enjoyed it 🙂

  20. January 23, 2014 at 11:13 pm — Reply

    Great post. All of my debt was student loan debt. Although I don’t regret the degrees I do wish I’d financed them differently and hadn’t gotten myself in so much debt. I’ve always hated and avoided debt, but my mentality about student loan debt has definitely changed. At the time I didn’t think that student loans were “that bad” now I’m actively warning others to avoid student loan debt.

    • January 27, 2014 at 10:07 am — Reply

      I think you still had a mentality change there and that is good. Student loans are really predatory if you think about it. Most people think they are good, but there are too many cases where they are just not good.

  21. January 24, 2014 at 12:04 am — Reply

    Great post Grayson. You can’t solve your debt problems with the same thinking that created it. As has been said, getting off a life of debt is like going on a diet. You need to smash the old habits and replace them with new, healthier choices. Great reminder!

    • January 24, 2014 at 12:08 pm — Reply

      Thank you Jack. You are correct. Getting out of debt is just like a diet. You have to change your lifestyle before you can really lose weight or get out of debt.

  22. January 25, 2014 at 2:07 pm — Reply

    Love this post, Grayson! We are on the same wavelength. I have something somewhat similar scheduled for Monday. You hit the nail on the head though. I find when people decide to get out of debt, they immediately and understandably start working on paying it off. Sometimes they are successful; sometimes they are not. And they biggest obstacle to their success isn’t the amount of their debt, it’s a lack of commitment to changing bad habits and behaviors. It’s a long road and many people bail at the first speed bump. And then some make it across the finish line to all go back to old habits because they thought they were “cured” but they still had the same beliefs and habits that got them into trouble in the first place. Thank you for sharing your story!

    • January 27, 2014 at 10:09 am — Reply

      You are right on there Shannon. You have to fight debt on two fronts. The actual money and your mindset. It is truly a tough road, but when you get to the end, then you can grow other parts of your life and focus on other things besides debt.

  23. January 25, 2014 at 2:27 pm — Reply

    Great article, Grayson! I got into debt because I wanted to go to school. It’s hard because I thought going to school would get me further in life and it would be easy to pay back my loans, but not so. When I graduated with my M.A. I was paralyzed in my thinking. I literally felt overwhelmed with my debt. Now I’ve changed my mentality, focused on the reality of the situation and am making it work. I still have 3-4 years to go as well. I have a very small savings and I think I might slow down the process to kick that back up. I am also trying really hard to make more money!

    • January 27, 2014 at 10:10 am — Reply

      I wish you the best of luck on the rest of your journey. Your story about student loan debt is all too familiar with so many. Keep on making that extra money as well!

  24. January 31, 2014 at 7:15 pm — Reply

    I couldn’t agree more, Grayson. Saving and investing is so important even when you have debt. You need an emergency savings to prevent yourself from digging a deeper financial hole if an unexpected expense arises. Time in the market, dollar cost averaging and compounding interest are the keys to making your money grow. If you would’ve spent four years focusing only on debt, you would’ve missed those benefits. Congrats!

  25. Rachel
    November 9, 2014 at 5:57 am — Reply

    This article says one must change his/her mentality, but doesn’t say HOW or WHAT precisely to change.
    Also as an aside, why are all these comments in January, 2014. Didn’t anyone read this article after January except me??

    • November 9, 2014 at 9:04 am — Reply

      Hey Rachel. Thank you for taking the time to comment. Yes, this article is just about telling people they need to change. I can’t tell you how to do it. I don’t know what your mentality is about money. There are over 600 articles on the site which may help you change mentality, but I can’t put them all in one place. One in particular is about the scarcity mindset. You can read about it at

      With regards to the comments, most readers don’t actually take the time to comment on a post. While they read it (this post is actually quite popular), they don’t comment. This post came out in January and people commented then, but tend not to do it again.

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