Debt is all too easy to accumulate and difficult to eliminate. The strain of debt can be financially and emotionally paralyzing. Obligations hinder progress toward financial security and often cause stress which leads to an overwhelming sense of hopelessness.

Whether debt results from adverse situations or unwise choices, many people feel guilt or shame about their situation. Guilt is remorse over behaviors, such as feeling sorry about overspending on junk food. Guilt can be helpful if utilized to avoid repeating missteps that lead to debt. Shame, however, is a negative feeling about oneself. It is self-blame, leading one to feel worthless, stupid, or hopeless. Shame makes it challenging to feel capable of positive change and often fuels the cycle of self-sabotaging habits that need to be discarded.

In rebuilding a financial foundation, assess the current situation and understand that debt is an issue worth addressing. Next, accept responsibility for the debt even if the circumstances that created the debt were uncontrollable. Realize that debt is quite common: neighbors, celebrities, and governments are facing money troubles all over. Formulate a plan to become debt-free as soon as possible. Here are a few ideas:

1. Take charge — stop charging.
Make a budget and set financial goals that include debt elimination with a financial planner or app. Make every financial decision in light of those goals: does that expenditure help toward financial stability? Is it for a legitimate need or a whim? Begin paying for purchases with cash or a debit card instead of a credit card. Pay off consumer debt now.

2. Simplify — scale down.
This step requires humility: it may be necessary to downsize cars and houses or sell extra clothes and “toys.” In doing so, the reduced stress of simple living will override any embarrassment from scaling back. For encouragement, reflect on acquaintances who have embraced a frugal lifestyle, or think of famous literary characters such as Molly Weasley, Jack Reacher, Silas Marner or Katniss Everdeen as models to emulate.

3. Choose wise friends — support each other.
Achieving financial stability and freedom calls for determined focus. Having close associates who will support this goal will make the process easier. Wise friends will not take advantage of each other or persuade each other to make additional money choices in conflict with set goals. Their understanding, advice, and experience will make the path smoother as they share their financial victories.

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