what is debt explained in simple words

Understanding of Debt: What It Is, Debt Types, Pros & Cons

Since you're new, you want to know why "debt" is so popular. Fear not—we've got you covered. Money due to a bank, credit card company, friend, or relative is referred to as debt. You promised to pay back the money you borrowed, typically with interest. Not all debt is terrible. It can help you pay for a house or education when utilized wisely. The key is to borrow what you can afford and have a payback plan.

Key Highlights

  • Debt may help you financially if you follow the rules and pay on time. If misused, it may become a burden. You have the option!
  • Mortgages offer lower interest rates than credit cards, making them easier to repay. 
  • Late payments or early repayment may result in penalties.

What Is Debt? A Basic Definition 

What you owe is money. Taking out a loan results in debt. You assume responsibility for the loan repayment, typically with interest. While responsibly managed debt may be beneficial, excessive debt can also be harmful. The secret is to keep a balanced attitude and use debt wisely. You can attain financial independence by devising a strategy to settle debts promptly with high-interest rates.

A Simple Example to Explain Debt

Consider wanting to purchase a $1000 laptop but being unable to afford it. The corporation is giving you a hefty $1,000 credit by charging it to your credit card. On your credit card, there is a $1000 debt that is liable to interest. You have a $1000 debt.

Your credit card statement will reflect the debt amount every month until you pay it off. Your interest rate will increase if you delay repayment. You'll be OK with the credit card issuer if you pay the minimum each month.

How Does Debt Work? The Mechanics Explained

Now, how precisely does debt operate? Debt involves borrowing money with interest and returning it over time.

Interest rate

The amount extra you have to pay to borrow the money is determined by the interest rate. You will owe more interest the higher the rate. The rate of interest will change according to the type of loan. For instance, mortgage rates are usually lower than credit card ones.

Terms of repayment

Repayment terms specify when you have to give the money back and if it should be paid back in full or in instalments. Higher interest rates are associated with longer periods, although overall payments are reduced. Shorter periods result in larger payments but also save interest. 


Certain responsibilities, like mortgages and vehicle loans, come with extra costs, such as application and origination fees. Penalties for missing or late credit card payments are common. Before signing off on the loan, a thorough understanding of all related costs is paramount.


The creditor may foreclose on any real estate and seize an automobile if you don't make payments on your mortgage or vehicle loan. Additionally, your credit score may suffer if you use your unsecured cards to pay invoices late.

The Main Types of Debt to Know About

The three most common types of debt are:

Credit Cards

Credit card loans allow you to repay the loan in interest. People prefer using credit cards because they are convenient and secure and offer benefits. However, interest costs might add up rapidly if you don't pay the sum each month. Minimum payments might lead to debt.


Mortgages can finance the purchase of a principal house. Mortgages enable customers to pay the full price of an asset in small amounts over time together with interest; they usually have a duration of anywhere between fifteen and thirty years. 

Student Loans

Student loans help with education but need repayment after graduation or withdrawal. It takes 10-25 years to pay back most student debts. Typically, student loans have higher interest than mortgages but lower rates relative to credit cards.

Other loans include peer-to-peer, lending group (business), car and personal. Borrow money if you need it and have a realistic repayment plan to avoid debt. The virtue of patience and diligence can help you achieve financial freedom from debt.

The pros and cons of debt

Responsible debt usage is an effective financial instrument that brings benefits. But it also has some drawbacks that you should know.

Pros of Debt

1. Capital Availability. 

Taking on debt means you can have access to large amounts of money that are usually not immediately within your reach, like purchasing a house or car and paying for school.

2. Taxes can allow some interest payments to be written off.

The interest that you pay on certain debts, for example, student loans and mortgages, may lower your taxes.

3. Develops Credit.

Credit utilization and prompt payment are what make a good payment history, as well as an excellent credit rating over time. This will likely let you obtain future loans with lower interest rates.

Cons of Debt

1. An interest charge. 

Debt costs money through interest payments. Your repayment will surpass your withdrawal. Interest rates may drastically increase the cost of major purchases over time.

2. Monthly payments. 

Debt payments on a monthly basis drain your assets alongside cash flow. Delay or failure to make payments can damage your credit and lead you to penalties.

3. The risk of default.

Over-borrowing may prevent you from repaying the debt in case your income changes or interest rates increase. When debt payment is postponed, it causes credit loss and penalty, resulting in bankruptcy.

4. Reduced flexibility. 

Debt limits your options since monthly payments need a part of your income. This may affect your ability to invest and make other important life decisions.

How to Pay Off Debt Fast? 

You need first to figure out your debt before you start repaying. Faster debt elimination means less interest and faster financial independence. There are several strategies to pay off debt quickly:


A budget helps you track income and spending to pay off debt each month. Try to cut dining out and entertainment costs. Use the additional cash for debt payments.

Pay off High-Interest Debts First

Since most of your monthly payments are allocated to interest charges, it is recommended that you pay off the debts with the highest rates first. As credit card interest rates often stand the highest, its debt should then be cleared off.

Pay Every Two Weeks

If at all feasible, pay biweekly rather than monthly. Instead of making 12 whole payments throughout the year, you now make 26 partial payments. Your principal balance is immediately reduced by those additional payments. You'll save money on interest and pay off the loan more quickly.

Make a Higher Payment Than the Minimum

If you choose to pay the minimum amount each month, a significant portion goes towards interest. Pay the highest amount possible; even an extra $50 or $100 can change things. The faster you repay the credit, the more you will save from the minimum.

Get Extra Money

You can supplement your monthly debt payments via a part-time job or side hustle that will provide extra funds. In your spare time, you can run a ride-hailing service or do freelancing jobs such as market research studies, website testing and online surveys. From the debt-repayment standpoint, every dollar counts.

How much debt is OK?

Normally, your credit card debt, mortgage, auto loan, student loans and other debts should have monthly payments of no more than 36% of the earnings. Focus on paying your high-interest bills if the debt ratio exceeds 36%. You'll attain greater financial independence and security with less debt you have.

Final Words

It is helpful to know debt—what it means, how it works, and what are its strengths and weaknesses as well as the ways of paying for them. It allows you to decide whether it's better to buy or borrow money. If you get indebted, you can tell how quickly the debt will be repaid. Debt can also be effective only if utilized the right way. However, high-interest debts can be oppressive. You are armed with power and knowledge for the best decision.


What exactly is debt?

You owe money to someone else when you have debt. Put differently, it involves taking out a loan from a friend or group that owns a bank and paying it back gradually.

How does debt work?

Debt is borrowed money. The principal amount, interest rate, and payback period will be listed in an agreement, similar to a loan contract. Interest rates raise borrowing costs. Legally, you must repay the debt as promised. If you don't, the lender may sue and damage your credit.

Is all debt bad?

No, not all debt is bad. Some debts, such as a mortgage to buy a house or a student loan for education, are good because the investment usually turns into a profit. High-interest debt like credit cards should be paid off quickly because the balance might increase rapidly. Try to borrow just what you can afford to repay and consider whether the purpose for borrowing will provide more value or revenue than the interest paid

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Olivia Johnson 19 Jun, 2023


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