The ads seem to call out to you: “money today!” flashes in big, red letters, and you’re tempted to click on the web ad, visit the location, or call the number listed. Payday loans are increasingly common in this age of debt, and many people fall into the trap of using them without even thinking about it properly or knowing what they are. Make no mistake — payday loans should be avoided.

Payday loans are small sums of money that are loaned to you for a short time – from a week to a month, typically. The interest rates are high because it’s almost impossible to be denied for a payday loan. Most payday lenders don’t check your credit score and simply lend you the small amount of money… but their threats or actions if you fail to repay the loans are a hassle, at the very least.

Rather than being a convenient way out of debt like they’re touted as, payday loans will harm your finances greatly in most situations. Even in places where the interest rates on payday loans are limited, when you do the math, they can still be exorbitant. Sometimes, you’re paying almost half again the payday loan in interest simply to get that small amount of money for a short amount of time. It’s a very predatory industry for the most part, and some states and regions have outlawed the practice. Unfortunately, lenders still find loopholes in the law by partnering with payday lenders out of the region who aren’t under the jurisdiction of the law in the place where payday loans are illegal.

Many people who use payday loans don’t just do so once. Instead, they do so many times, visiting the same lenders over and over again because they can’t get out of the cycle they’re trapped into. Worse yet, if you ever find yourself unable to repay the loan, it can be extended (for a convenient and huge fee, of course) or multiplied. Late fees on payday loans are one of the ways many payday lenders make up for the loans they don’t get back. Plus, many lenders will show up at your school or workplace to embarrass you into repayment, or even call the police to report you for not repaying your debts.

There are alternatives to taking out expensive, predatory payday loans. Instead, the first step you take should be to budget with what you have. If you don’t have a budget already, you need to make one. Start with the amount of money you have and make on a regular basis, if you have a steady income. Then, calculate your regular and necessary expenses: rent first, then utilities, then food, and then any other expenses. Starting with what you have and deducting your necessary expenses will leave you with a certain amount – this is what you have available for everything else. Many budgeting methods are available – the envelope method, the “traditional” method, and so on, so if you have an irregular income or can’t keep up with a regular budget without forgetting about it, there are other options.

Cut down your expenses, look at taking on a part-time job or working online (if you know what you’re doing – never spend money on any online job methods until you’ve already made money online), and look at getting a loan from a friend or family member if you will repay it.

Payday loans are predatory, and lead to a vicious cycle of debt that should be avoided if at all possible.