Applying for a loan isn’t an easy decision to make. Knowing that you’re in debt and that you need to make more debt in order to pay off your debt is something that many of us struggle with.

I recently found myself in this position and while I’m still feeling ambivalent about the choice I made, this is what I’ve learnt:

The bank is not your enemy

Unless you can’t pay off your loan, of course.

I know it’s easy to view an institution you’re indebted to as your jailer, but they are there to provide this service to people who need it. Not all banks are equal, so my advice to you would be to shop around a little and not to settle for the first offer.

Oh, and don’t be scared to ask questions, no matter how obvious it may seem. The more clarity you get about the terms of your loan, the better it is for you in the long run.

Take into account the interest you’ll be paying on your loan and if you find the time frame within which you need to pay the loan back unmanageable, don’t hesitate to ask for other options.

A sympathetic ear goes a long way into combating shame

Having someone who is sympathetic to your problems goes a long way into setting people at ease.

People who apply for loans often feel nervous, awkward and embarrassed so anything to make us feel at ease goes a long way into making the experience helpful and painless.

I was fortunate that the woman who helped me was very patient with me and willing to explain everything in layman’s terms. She even worked out how much I’d need to pay for me to still be comfortable enough with what’s left after the loan amount has been deducted.

That made the process so much more bearable and went a long way in relieving the embarrassment I felt at having to take out a loan.

If you’re nice to the person helping you, chances are they’ll be the most helpful person you can find

On the flipside, don’t be a jerk.

Being in a difficult financial position is frustrating and very stressful, but that doesn’t mean you should treat the consultant helping you with abrasiveness because of the pressure you’re under.

And that is especially true when you don’t get the results that you’re hoping for. Unfortunately businesses – especially financial institutions - do protect their own interests so you won’t always like the answers or the loan terms they’re prepared to offer you, so take into account that they’re just doing their jobs.

Also, politeness goes a long way to establishing a rapport with the consultant helping you. You’re more likely to get someone to go out of their way to help you find the best solution and terms for your loan with a polite demeanour than an aggravated and aggressive stance.

You’re only one of many people they have to help for the day so bear that in mind.

READ MORE: 5 things you should stop wasting your money on

It’s okay to admit that you suck at understanding jargon relating to financial applications

Financial consultants are there to help you. If you don’t understand something, say so. I’m not afraid to tell someone to explain something to me in the simplest of terms.

If it helps me to know the ins and outs of the loan in the simplest of terms, then my pride is not going to get in the way of me understanding everything I need to without having to come back and ask again.

Remember, your money will be deducted at the end of every month, so make sure you know how much you’re paying and what those costs entail.

You’re not the only one in financial trouble

This is the one thing I had to remind myself when I went to the bank. Knowing that there are others that are in similar situations is comforting because it reminds you that it’s not necessarily bad spending habits that force you to ask for a loan, and that the current economic climate affects us all.

Do I wish this on anyone? Of course not, but it sure minimises the feeling that I’m walking straight into a financial guillotine waiting to kill my potential recovery from debt.

Never go to the bank on the 1st of a month

Because everyone goes to the bank on the first.

EVERYONE.

So unless you enjoy sitting and waiting, avoid, avoid, avoid!

Getting the approval is a relief, but will also leave you feeling ambivalent

I’m not going to lie. It is a huge burden off your shoulders when the money for your loan is paid into your bank account. I’m at ease knowing I can pay for medical procedures my medical aid wouldn’t otherwise cover (I sometimes really wonder why we have medical aid when they cover so little), and help settle some debts.

However, I can’t help but feel that I’ve escaped one prison, only to end up in another, albeit more luxurious one.

Have you taken out personal loans? Have they helped or made things worse? Share your stories with us and we could feature it in a future article (you may choose to remain anonymous).