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Anyone who's trying to pay down credit-card debt wants to be debt-free as soon as possible. Yet while racing to the finish line may save money in interest, some quick debt-repayment scenarios may actually hurt consumers in the long run, experts warn.

"When you're in debt, you just want to have it paid off so badly, and you can't wait until you sign that last check," says April Dykman, who writes about her ordeal paying off $27,000 in credit-card debt and car loans on GetRichSlowly.org. Paying off debt is like dieting, and crash diets don't work, Dykman adds. "If you're going from spendthrift to tightwad overnight, that's asking for failure."

But what's fast for one person may be the right pace for another, so here are some signs that you might want to slow your debt repayment process down:

1. You haven't planned for emergencies

With so many banks offering less than 1 percent in interest on savings accounts, some people say it's a better investment to use all their money to knock off more expensive credit-card debt than save money for a rainy day. While you may get out of debt faster using that approach, you'll be reaching for your credit card again the next time your car breaks down. "Life's not going to wait for you to get your credit cards paid off before something happens," says Marcia Brixey, the author of "The Money Therapist: A Woman's Guide to Creating a Healthy Financial Life."

While you may not want $20,000 sitting in a savings account while you have $10,000 in credit-card debt, use some of your money to create a "baby emergency fund," Dykman says. Having $500 or $1,000 socked away will take care of minor emergencies, so your debt-repayment plan can stay on track.

2. You're neglecting key areas of your life

While it's smart to scale back on certain areas of your budget to put more money toward paying down debt, some people either cut certain categories altogether or create unrealistic spending plans that lead to problems in other areas of their life.

"A realistic spending plan has your house payment, utilities, transportation needs, food needs and some clothing needs," says Mary Gresham, a clinical psychologist in Atlanta who specializes in money behavior. Not only that, but it incorporates socializing, which allows you to maintain important relationships. "It doesn't have to be excessive," Gresham says. "It could just be enough money to rent a movie and have a friend over."

Some areas you may not want to scale back on at all while paying off debt include health insurance and retirement accounts, particularly a 401k plan that offers a company match. Though you may pay your cards off faster by halting those 401k contributions, "you're robbing your future," Dykman says.

3. You're feeling deprived or easily agitated

While a key to effective money management is separating your needs from your wants, some people decide that their needs are the only things they'll spend money on until they get their debt under control. "It may work for a while, but at some point you're going to say, 'enough of this' and go out on a spending spree and spend way more money than you would if you hadn't been depriving yourself," Brixey says. Even while cutting back, leave a little money for small treats to keep life fun.