But taking on credit card debt that isn’t immediately paid off is risky and makes it nearly impossible for you to build savings.
To help you save more and tackle your debt, CNBC rounded up six things to give up starting today.
Thanks to exorbitant interest — the typical credit card charges 16.4 percent — not paying off your balance in full each month can end up costing a fortune in the long run . and keep you in the red.
Get in the habit of making payments in full. The easiest way to do that is to make it automatic. Simply arrange to transfer the full amount of money you owe from your checking account to your credit card company every month.
Choosing where to live, what to wear and what gadgets to buy based on what your friends do often means spending more money than you have.
To avoid the temptation of trying to live up to your friends’ standards, dial back your use of social media, advises Derek Sall, who paid off $116,000 worth of debt before age 30.
“The best tip I can give is just live your own life,” he tells CNBC. “The best way to just live simply and be content is just to turn it all off and hardly pay attention to it at all. Because that’s what gets people in the most trouble. They see ‘Oh, my friend went on this great vacation, and I wish we could do that!'”
“I would recommend seriously looking at the story you tell yourself about your debt,” says Amanda Page, who paid off her $48,500 in student loans in less than a year.
Ignoring your debt — whether it be student loans or credit card debt — or telling yourself you have it under control when you don’t, will only prolong the process. And the longer you wait to tackle it, the more interest you’ll owe.
“For a long time, I resented my undergraduate debt and felt like it wasn’t mine to pay,” says Page. “Once I re-framed the story, took responsibility for my role in accumulating it and told myself that I was capable of eliminating it, then my life opened up.”
“My biggest [savings tip] I learned from my parents,” says Scott Alan Turner, who paid off more than $70,000 in loans and became a millionaire by 35. “My dad worked for the town his whole life. He packed a lunch every day and brought it to work. In our small-town upbringing, we didn’t have restaurants and we didn’t go out to eat all the time.”
Turner carried that habit into to his own life: In the 10 years he spent working a corporate job, he only bought lunch out a handful of times. Instead, he cooked large batches of food on Sunday to eat throughout the week.
If you’re serious about becoming debt free, you might have to put other priorities on hold, such as investing or buying a home.
Take David and Meg Cahill, who paid off $18,000 worth of student loans in 54 days. During that time, the couple decided to focus exclusively on eliminating their debt.
They stopped investing, other than their required pension contributions, and took a large chunk out of their emergency fund to make the final payment, Cahill tells CNBC: “Around day 45, we realized that our emergency fund was out of balance with what we really needed. We decided to make a big push and raid our emergency fund, and that gave us the final little boost we needed.”
They did leave one month’s worth of living expenses in the fund, and now that they’re debt free, “we’re working on building it back up to six months’ worth again,” Cahill says.
If you’re deep in debt, consider ditching your plastic all together and going cash only. This doesn’t have to be a long-term strategy, but it will help you to save big relatively quickly.
Simply withdraw a predetermined amount of cash for the week and commit to spending only that amount. It’ll force you to stay on budget. Plus, using cash rather than credit cards will give you a better idea of just how much money you’re spending. You may be surprised by how quickly your cash can disappear.