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That big “Total Balance” line on your credit card statement may not be the only price you pay when drowning in debt. In a recent Harris Poll, nearly 60% of Americans with debt said it has negatively affecting their lives.

Consumer debt is about so much more than just money; it can lead to emotional, psychological, and even physical issues. Lying awake at night worried about your finances is, at best, restlessness and could be diagnosed as insomnia. Other physical symptoms can include headaches, muscle pain, even chest pain. Constant worry can lead to depression, lack of motivation or focus, and psychological withdrawal from family and friends.

Have you ever heard the phrase “keeping up with the Joneses?” For better or worse, society associates having money or material things with being successful. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with accumulating possessions, that “keeping up” feeling can easily turn to feelings of shame — embarrassed that you don’t make enough money or can’t balance your income and expenditures effecitively.

Debt triggers stress and reduces your resilience in a variety of ways. Ever hear your phone ring and fear it’s a debt collector on the other end? Ever worried that you’re drowning in debt and will never get out from under it? Ever worry about losing your job or that an unexpected expense such as replacing the water heater, or your car could financially ruin you

Events like these trigger your fight or flight response, a physiological reaction to a perceived threat to your basic survival. In the course of human evolution, this fight or flight response has helped hunters from being eaten by a predator in the wild and convinced pedestrians to turn away from a traveling down a dark alley. 

Research shows the more you’re stressed the more you’re inclined to make bad decisions. That can mean poor food choices, avoiding exercise, even loading up more debt in a futile effort to feel better. The stress you feel when the bill comes due or when you step on the scale can erase all the positive feelings brought on by splurging. These poor choices can compound anxiety and put you at risk of doing irreparable harm to your body or your relationships.

While the adage “money can’t buy happiness” is true, it’s also true that managing your money better can make for a better life. When you get out of debt, you have more flexibility to have and do the things you most want. You’re better able to set aside savings, allowing you to handle financial emergencies and plan for a big purchase or memorable experience. You have more income to contribute to a retirement plan, providing security for the future. You can answer your phone and open your mailbox without fear. As famed author and financial advisor Suze Orman says, “A big part of financial freedom is having your heart and mind free from worry about the what-ifs of life.”

How do you achieve that worry-free life and a debt-free future? Knowing your options and opportunities to get rid of debt will put you on the path toward achieving your goal of becoming debt free.

Start by reigning in your spending. Create a budget and stick to it. Consider all of your financial responsibilities, not just big-ticket items like rent and utilities but other things that you’ll need on a regular basis like prescriptions and haircuts. Consider what you can scale back on, particularly dining out and expensive cable TV packages. And be sure to include regular savings for an emergency fund or to cover unexpected expenses such as a car repair.

The first few months of planning and sticking to a budget are the most challenging, but once you understand what to do you can often reduce the amount of time you spend on it, and in turn, reduce the amount of time you spend worrying about money. Your budget will give you the feeling of control that you need to have over your finances. Start with just one months’ worth of expenses and then go from there, tracking spending and cutting back in different areas each month until you find the perfect balance. 

You also have to work on you, building better financial habits, keeping yourself healthy, and looking out for your long-term security. While now may not be the best time to buy a gym membership, you can take a walk or go for a run through your neighborhood or a park to get some exercise. Packing your lunch at least a few days each week not only saves money, it’s a great way to make sure you’re eating healthy foods.

Most directly, you want to do everything you can to get rid of credit card debt. You might find it helpful to pursue debt counseling from someone like Vantage Acceptance. Our experts work with you to determine how best to retire debt.

One possibility is a personal loan for debt consolidation, which rolls multiple debts into a single, lower payment. Say you have five credit accounts. Rather than making the minimum payment to each of them, your loan pays off all of those debts and creates one single debt. Not only are you left with just one monthly payment, you’ve saved potentially thousands of dollars in interest payments and late charges.

Another possibility is working with one of our experienced counselors on a debt management plan. Leveraging our years-long relationships with multiple credit companies, we’re able to negotiate a debt settlement on your behalf. This enables you to reduce the total balance you owe — again saving you hundreds or thousands of dollars — and make one monthly payment which Vantage Acceptance then passes on to your creditors. In most cases, working with us and sticking to your repayment plan can lead to debt free living in as little as 18 months! 

Ready for more good news? Living debt free means more than no longer having debt. 

Debt resolution affects the same emotional and physical responses as being in a debt crisis, quite literally turning negatives into positives. That begins from the moment you determine whether a debt consolidation loan or debt settlement is right for you. Your body will actually feel the effects of taking a positive step. That boost to your self-esteem is just the beginning. Maintaining your commitment to debt resolution and watching that big balance dwindle will give you a sense of resolve and satisfaction.

Psychologist Carole Stovall tells Fox Business, “When people pay off debt, they’re going to say, ‘My stomach feels better, my heart feels better.’”

Contact Vantage Acceptance at (800) 725-0214 to learn more about what options are available to get you on a healthy – and happy – financial path.

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