The issue of how and why gamblers end up in debt has received comparatively little attention in the literature. Data from the 2007 Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey (APMS) revealed that although problem gamblers were more likely than non-problem gamblers to have forms of financial debt, just under two-thirds of problem gamblers (62%) reported having no debt. Using a qualitative approach, this study aimed to explore the issue from the perspective of gamblers themselves through interviews with 27 purposively sampled gamblers drawn from participants who took part in the APMS and the British Gambling Prevalence Survey 2010. Analysis, using the Framework method, suggested the existence of four kinds of gamblers categorized by their approach to gambling spending and their approach to their general spending: ‘controlled gamblers’, ‘uncontrolled gamblers’, ‘uncontrolled spenders’ and ‘chaotic spenders’. Also proposed on the basis of these data is an ecological model which aims to capture the different levels of personal and environmental factors that influenced people's financial decisions, including cognitive factors, control and compulsion, normative spending, resource and financial management, and the credit environment. The implications for practice are also discussed.