UNITED STATES—Are you drowning in debt? Living paycheck to paycheck and not certain what you’ll do to keep your head afloat. Trust me, we’ve all been in that dark place, but I’m here to help. Debt is something we all have to endure in our lives. This is not to say that everyone will always live in debt, I’m noting that as long as you’re a living human being, you will always have bills to pay so it’s best to be accustomed to that idea right now. Bills are part of our daily, weekly, monthly and yearly lives. Plan head so that you’re not stressing later.

Yes, it is easier said than done; trust me because you can save all the money in the world, but you never quite know when an unexpected expense, medical emergency or situation will arise that puts you in a bind. I’ve had this happen to me more times than I can count, and I will acknowledge it frustrates me to death when I look back on things.

For starters, I seem to be the Bank of America when it comes to my family. Everyone thinks I have this load of money in my account and anytime they’re hurting for a few dollars, I’m the first person they contact. I remember when my brother got into some legal trouble, or my sister needed help paying for her college tuition I was the person who came to the rescue.

In doing so, it placed me in debt, which took years for me to climb out of. I’m all about loaning people money, but I seriously hate when people don’t consider or even attempt to pay back the money they borrowed from you. When I loaned my brother that money, I never expected to see it back because it went nearly a year before he even brought up the situation. So when he unexpectedly stopped by my house to pay me back I was shocked. Was I happy yes, but at the same time the damage had been done!

I utilized my credit card to help him out and in that process the interest grew significantly. I wish people would consider those things. If you place someone in a bind, be willing to do a bit extra to ensure that you show the person you appreciate what they did.

Something that I have learned that is a massive tool to knocking out debt is keeping your RECEIPTS! You got to know what you’re spending, where you’re spending it and why you’re spending it. I mean this summer alone I spent nearly $1200 on miscellaneous items. After going through the receipts, I realized about $600 of that was justified, but the other $600 could have been sitting in my bank account or went towards paying off my student loans or some other debt that I was hoping to eliminate.

Debt is accumulated by not paying attention to what you spend or spending unnecessarily when you don’t have to. Just because you have money doesn’t mean you have to spend every ounce of it. What you save today will be something that can be used for tomorrow and later down the line. One of the biggest mistakes many of us make is not realizing that when we get a lump sum of money, it might be smarter to stash some of those funds instead of making a big purchase unless you absolutely have to do so.

Taking that brief moment to ‘think’ before acting can place one in a situation to climb out of debt much sooner than later. Once that credit card (which tends to be the biggest debt) most of us face is paid off, then put it out of sight, out of mind. If you don’t have it in your possession you will not be tempted to utilize it. When it comes to paying that mortgage towards the house or a vehicle that you have load up on payments or stash extra payments you can make in advance so that you’re not struggling last minute to come up with funds that you may not have. While one cannot say debt just falls into their laps, for many of us we do tend to put ourselves in those situations that we shouldn’t have.

This happens a lot for college students who get that first credit card and just go chaotic without even considering what is actually being spent and on what. Once you eliminate debt, make it a goal not to take on anymore unnecessary debt. My sister has totally proven to me that if someone with a ton of debt can pay off all her credit cards and have no debt by doubling up on payment, there is no excuse for the rest of us.