Published in: Credit Cards | Sept. 6, 2019

5 Ways Debt Can Stop You From Living Your Best Life

By:  Lyle Daly

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Everyone wants to live their best life, but you can’t do it when you're in debt.

Debt is a part of life for many Americans. We borrow money to attend school, to buy a car, and to purchase a home. If we want to buy something at the store but don’t have the money, we put it on our credit card or get a financing plan.

Even though taking on debt is normal, this practice can have serious long-term consequences. When we researched the connection between debt and happiness, we asked respondents with debt how it impacted them. The results showed that debt can prevent you from living the life of your dreams in several ways.


Man in suit carrying boulder labeled DEBT to edge of cloudy precipice.

Image source: Getty Images

1. It keeps you from treating yourself

Everyone wants to treat themselves from time to time and splurge on a luxury that makes them happy. That might be a vacation, a new TV, or something different.

It’s nice to be able to reward yourself for your hard work, and when you think of your best life, you probably imagine yourself being able to do this every now and then without worrying.

This is much harder to do when you have debt, as most or all of your money is tied up in debt payments. Even if you have some extra cash one month, you might feel guilty about using it for anything but paying down what you owe.

That was the case for 59% of our respondents, who said that their debt impacted their ability to treat themselves occasionally.

2. You’re unable to live your desired lifestyle

59% of respondents also said that their debt prevented them from living their desired lifestyles.

Most of us have some sort of ideal lifestyle we’d love to have. Some people dream of leading a jetsetter life where they get to travel frequently in first class to exotic destinations. Others would like to have a large home and to be able to provide everything their kids could ever want.

Whatever your desired lifestyle is, odds are that money is the barrier keeping you from it. Paying off debt is another obstacle in the way of having the life you want.

3. It’s harder to pursue your interests

It’s important to have things you’re passionate about. After all, you don’t want your entire life to revolve around your work.

Unfortunately, debt can cut into the time and money you have to pursue your passions and interests, as was the case with 53% of our respondents. 45% also mentioned that debt stopped them from participating in hobbies.

If your debt is taking up all your attention, you can start to feel like every day follows the same pattern: work, pay bills, sleep, and repeat.

4. You can’t be as generous as you’d like

As it turns out, "It’s better to give than to receive" isn’t just a corny phrase to tell kids at Christmas. The University of Zurich found that even a small amount of generosity makes people happier and that generous people tend to be happier overall than those who only act in their own self-interest.

Unfortunately, people in debt have a hard time giving to others even if they want to. 53% of those in our research told us that debt had affected their ability to donate to important causes. And 50% said it prevented them from being generous with their friends or family.

5. You don’t have money to hang out with friends

Your best life probably includes some sort of social life, and that can be difficult when money’s tight. There are ways to go out with your friends even if you're strapped for cash. But it's especially tough if you have no discretionary income.

While most people who have debt are still able to participate in activities with their friends, 39% reported that debt made it more difficult.

Pay off debt and make your best life a reality

Debt isn’t always a bad thing. In some cases, taking on debt can even help you achieve your best life. Student loans can help you get an education, which could lead to the job you want. A mortgage could get you the home of your dreams with a low interest rate.

However, having too much debt or carrying around the wrong type of debt (like credit card debt), is a huge impediment. In either case, pay down those debts as quickly as possible so they don’t keep holding you back.

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