[Molly’s Money] How To: Deal With Debt Worry

April 4, 2013·


We are back for another edition of Molly’s Money. If you’re new here, Molly’s Money is a personal finance series where I talk about debt, debt issues, getting out of debt, etc., and also where I answer your finance questions to the best of my ability!

I received this question from a reader yesterday and it’s one that I get all the time, so I thought it would be perfect for a post!

Hi Molly,

I am in A LOT of debt and I cringe every time I think about it. I accrued my debt because it was “good debt” and my entire family encouraged it – student loans. I took out student loans for undergrad and grad school and I have upwards of $90,000 in debt. I recently found Dave Ramsey and I have read his book and plan on using the debt snowball, but I was wondering if you could help me with my worries surrounding paying off my debt and having other things to worry about paying for – such as a wedding, honeymoon, house, car… I find myself not only worried about paying off my debt, but how I will pay for my wedding and honeymoon…

For reference, I am graduating this May from my masters program in Social Work and I have not found a job yet.


Dear R,

This is something that EVERY single person that is in ANY amount of debt worries about. And that’s what it is: it’s debt worry. Worry whether or not you can pay a bill, whether or not you’ll be able to ever get out of debt, worry about how you’ll “do it all,” etc.

First thing’s first.

And, as a side note, this is just a notice to, basically everyone: there is no such thing as “good debt.” Debt is debt is debt is debt. Sure, some debts are easier to tackle than others. But in the end you are the borrower and the borrower will always be slave to the lender (no matter who the lender is) and you don’t ever want to be a slave.

But back to the topic at hand: debt worry.

First: know that you can and you WILL get out of debt. I know it seems like a lot now, but if you put your mind to it, you won’t be in debt forever. Remember that you didn’t get into debt overnight and you won’t get OUT of debt overnight, but you will get out of it. It can be done. It’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but know it is there.

Second: have a plan. If you’re doing the debt snowball etc., have a written out plan with achievable goals. Make it realistic. It is SO important to have this plan written out and done in a way that you can track your progress, make adjustments where necessary, AND reward yourself when you hit milestones! (READ: go out to a nice dinner when you hit a milestone!) By having a plan, you are able to actually see that there is end in sight (SEE THE FIRST POINT).

Third: keep looking for a job, but don’t let the search for the “relevant” job or “dream” job stop you from getting a “meantime” job. This is often really hard to swallow, especially for someone with a masters degree. When I was getting out of debt, I took up to FOUR jobs at a time to earn extra income. I waited tables, I ran food, I did freelance work, I worked retail, I worked. I worked. I worked. You CAN get a job now and before you graduate – get one at a restaurant, or retail store, or SOMETHING that gives you paycheck while you look for something more permanent or relevant to your degrees. Income is necessary (I don’t think I need to emphasize that any more than I have).

Fourth: when you’re getting out of debt, that’s not necessarily the best time to buy a car or a house. I mean, if you need a car, get a clunker – now is NOT the time to get a brand new car and accrue a car payment. Buying a car and buying a house can wait.

Fifth: the wedding and the honeymoon CAN be done while you’re getting out of debt, but you HAVE to have a strategy. I was in the process of getting out of debt while my husband and I were saving for our wedding and honeymoon. We had a plan and we committed to it. We looked at our monthly income, we figured out how much needed to go to debt, and then we split the “excess” up into two sets of savings: “wedding savings” and “life savings savings.” We didn’t have a $40,000 wedding. We did A LOT of things ourselves. We bought our honeymoon package through a Living Social escape deal. We saved a TON of money that way. Also, talk through ALL of this with your husband-to-be. You are BOTH in this together (and the debt will become BOTH of yours once you are married… so you need to be on the same page).

The key to all of it is: patience. patience. patience. And TRUST ME, I know how hard that is because it’s so hard. But know that you’re NOT alone and it can be done. There is no perfect solution, but the right attitude and the right plan can make ALL the difference.

I hope that helps! Let me know if you have ANY other questions. And trust me R, YOU CAN DO IT!

What other advice would you offer R? Are any of you in a similar situation?