Signs your debt is out of control

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Do you find yourself worrying and wondering, “is my debt out of control?” Credit has become an essential part of American life, but at the individual level, it can be all too easy to fall into a spiral of debt. If your debt is out of control, it will show. If the symptoms on this list feel familiar, don’t panic, there are tools to help with getting debt under control.

10 signs your debt is out of control

1. You struggle to keep up with minimum payments

Not making the minimum payments on a debt is not only a sign that your debt has grown larger than your resources can handle, but it will also spiral that debt. When minimum payments aren’t made, you still owe the money but other fees are usually added as well. Your credit rating will also take a hit when you miss your minimum payments, and this can make getting out of debt even harder.

2. Your debt grows every month

If you’re gaining debt faster than you can pay it off, stop using credit immediately. Even if you stop as soon as you realize what’s happening, you may need to seek financial help and advice for paying off what you’ve racked up. The sad truth is that debt will always be able to grow faster than it shrinks if we let it. If we could afford to pay it off right away, most of us wouldn’t take out the loan in the first place. Using this knowledge means pacing your debt acquisition so that payments don’t exceed what you’re able to spend on them.

3. You’re not saving any money

If all of your money is going towards necessities and debt payments, then it’s time to focus on paying on those debts and clearing up your finances. This will likely require creating a strict budget for your money. Even having a small amount of money saved can make a massive difference in your long-term financial stability. If a costly emergency arises and you can pay out-of-pocket to deal with it, then that’s another debt that you’ve avoided taking.

4. Your credit score is suffering

One of the factors that alleviate the negatives of debt is that paying off debt builds up your credit score. If your debts are causing your credit score to sink instead, then it’s time to take immediate action. The lower your credit score sinks the higher your interest rates will rise. Since this dip in credit often accompanies being unable to pay what you currently owe, you can see why it’s such a bad situation when that gets out of control.

5. Debt collectors are calling

Once debt collectors start calling, things are getting dangerous for your finances. If your debt is sent to a collection agency, the odds are good that your credit rating is going to take a dip and that late fees have been added onto what you owe. Always aim to make at least the minimum payments on your debts to avoid this situation.

6. You’re living paycheck to paycheck

When every paycheck disappears nearly as fast as it arrives, you can feel that you’re walking on thin ice. Any emergency at all in this situation is likely to throw you into more debt that you can’t afford. Double down on paying off what you currently owe. Consider using one of the popular debt-repayment strategies. Once you pay off the debt, rework your budget so that you can allocate the money that was going towards payments towards your savings account instead. This can keep you from ending up in this situation again, further down the line.

7. You’re hiding your debt

If you find yourself hiding your debt—whether from your spouse, your family or yourself—it’s time to come up with a strategy for getting out of this uncomfortable situation. If your plan for dealing with debt revolves around denial, then your debt problem will only grow. It can be difficult, but it’s essential that you sit down with some paper and your documents and make a comprehensive list of what you owe, both in total and monthly. Once you’ve begun to face the debt and put it through some organization, the intimidation of it lessens and you can start paying it off strategically and efficiently.

8. You’re losing sleep over finances

Sleep is the cornerstone of a functional human. Once you start losing that because of your debt, it will make everything harder. Not only will your debt seem more daunting to deal with, but daily life may feel lackluster and tedious. This can spiral into a dark place. At this point, it can be wise to employ the aid of both a financial advisor and a therapist. Of course, when you aren’t sleeping because of financial anxiety, it can feel hard to justify adding any new expenses. In that case, your next best bet is to research debt-repayment strategies and do whatever it takes to gain a sense of empowerment over your debts so that you can start sleeping properly again.

9. You have to borrow money to keep up with living costs

If your debt has grown so large that it’s taking most of your income to cover it, then your situation is dire. Taking out more credit to cover living expenses and necessities will only add more debt, and if your debt is already taking all of your income, then you can’t afford to add anything to it. If forbearance options exist for any of your debt, it might be wise to pursue those and focus on paying off your other debts as quickly as possible. The sooner you lighten the debt load, the quicker you can start living off your income again.

10. Your credit cards are maxed out

Credit cards can spiral out of control quickly. Ideally, you should be paying your credit card down completely each month. In reality, that isn’t always feasible, but it serves as a good baseline for how to keep your credit card from reaching or exceeding its limit. If it does exceed the limit, your bank may increase your interest rate or tack on other fees. If your credit cards are at or near their limits, budget to make your monthly payments as large as you can until you get the card paid off.

How to get help for out-of-control debt

If you’re wondering how to get debt under control, there are numerous methods and resources to help you regain your financial stability. When looking to establish debt control, these suggestions can be a great place to start.

Minimalist budget

Make a budget that covers the necessities and then puts everything else towards paying off your debt. The more money you can save by budgeting, the quicker you can pay off your debt. If you go outside of your budget while trying to pay off debt, you are setting yourself up for trouble. Stick to your budget and only spend what you must, everything else goes towards paying off the debt.

Strategic repayment

Use one of the many debt-repayment strategies to pay off your debt in a way that will be most effective for you and your situation. Numerous strategies exist, each with their own strengths.

Debt consolidation

Some debts can be consolidated into a single, monthly payment. A debt consolidation loan can help with keeping track of what you owe, but it can also lead to a lower interest rate, depending on the circumstances. Use a debt consolidation guide to help.

The bottom line

Debt can spiral out of control faster than many of us realize, but there are strategies, options, and experts to help with these situations. So, next time you’re thinking, “my debt is out of control,” check the list and if the symptoms fit, utilize some of the debt control tools. If your debt has gotten out of control, don’t let it overwhelm you, act. It won’t go away on its own, but with the right help and approach, you can get out of the debt spiral.

Written by
Joshua Cox-Steib
Joshua Cox-Steib has two years of experience in writing for insurance domains such as,,,, and more. His work has also been featured on such sites as and His insurance writing career has spanned across multiple product lines, with a primary focus on auto insurance, life insurance, and home insurance.