When It Comes to Debt, Just Keep Swimming

Getting out from under debt might feel like a Tolkienesque quest story: endlessly fumbling through constant stress and incomprehensible language, with no end in sight. There are ways through to the other side, even if that seems impossible before it actually happens. You can find any number of plans for getting yourself to debt zero: Make it fun. Get your employer to do it. Snowball it. Find forgiveness programs.

None of those are the entire story, though. Whether you're dealing with student loans, credit cards, or any other kind of debt, it's not hard to lose sight of the big picture. At times like these, a beloved kid's movie could offer the best advice: Just keep swimming.

It's the easiest thing in the world to shut down and try to hide from financial reality. But when you're dealing with debt, which only compounds the more you put it off, staying actively engaged with the process will help a lot more than it hurts. Your first priority should be paying down the debt. Research has shown that we don't always think our future selves have anything to do with us today, which makes it easier to put that future self in a tough spot later. But you're the person who will deal with those issues, so charge into it.

While you're managing your debt, make sure that's not all you're managing financially. Though it seems hard when so much of your income is going into this black hole, you do still need to save for emergencies and plan for your future. It stinks that you have this extra burden to deal with — but with the right help and planning, future you can be just fine.