Not mine, of course... we've been debt-free (thanks, in huge part, to Ace's parents' generosity when they passed away) for over 5 years. The biggest reason we're still okay is that we haven't changed our spending habits -- with the exception of the money spent to remodel, the money paid out to get debt-free, and the investments we've made. Here's the thing: I watch Suze Orman every Saturday night. Over the years, we've gotten smarter with our money & our financial choices... and it kills me that so many people we know have not.
So, for your consumption, this is a partial list of Suze's general rules:
1. Live below your means, but within your needs. No longer is it okay to "live within your means"... that leaves nothing for your future. Make sure your needs are met, but do so without spending every dime you have. Cut coupons, shop sales & off-season (except for food -- that should be local & in-season whenever possible), make your own mocha/coffee/chai tea, take advantage of online deals and consignment shops, use RedBox or at least go to a matinee (no one NEEDS to see a movie at full-price)!
This also applies to the use of credit. I know many who get into trouble; not due to the use of credit cards, but due to their inability to pay it back in a timely manner. I don't view credit cards as inherently "bad". Without properly using some type of credit in life, you're going to have a very difficult time buying things like a house or a car later in life. Did you know that your household bills are part of your credit history? Did you know that employers can, and do, check your credit rating before they will hire you? I don't teach my daughter that having credit is a bad thing; I teach her to use it properly. If you must borrow, make sure you have money in the bank to pay your bill (preferably in full) when the bill comes (places like Target will give you 5% off your purchases, plus donate 10% of what you spend to your school of choices... then you can go right over to the counter & pay off what you just put onto your card --- everyone, except the bank that runs Target's credit department, wins).
2. You need a minimum of eight months worth of your expenses (although she's been recommending a year's worth lately). This should be a no-brainer; figure out what you spend every month, average it over the course of a year, figure out eight month's (minimum) worth. I know saving money when you're strapped is tough... but I'm sure you can find an extra $10, $20, or even $100 every month to put into a savings account. Shop around, too; credit unions offer higher interest rates than standard banks... and (at least at our CU) once you get to a certain dollar amount (our CU starts at $10,000), you can switch to a "High Yield Savings", which is still instant access, but an even higher interest rate.
3. Invest for your future(s)... Suze's number one thing right now is ROTH IRAs. Currently, you can contribute up to $5500 per person per year ($6500, if you're over 50y) into a Roth, and you can withdraw all of it (up to the amount of your contribution) tax-free; the interest you earned on it can be withdrawn tax-free at the age of 59 1/2y.
4. People First, Then Money, Then Things. A lot of people get confused with this one. This doesn't mean take care of others at the cost of your own security. It means taking care of YOUR *needs*, then the *needs* of your family. Your WANTS do not override your family's NEEDS, but if you don't take care of yourself, you cannot properly take care of others. It means paying your obligations (like child support -- yes, MG, I'm talking to you) before buying fun toys (like the latest iPhone). It does *not* mean you are obligated to pay for your child's college, but it does mean that if you can, you should help.
A few more things:
A recent rule is that if you have an adult child living at home, (s)he NEEDS to have a job and (s)he NEEDS to be financially contributing to the household. I, personally, will waive this *IF* and only *IF* they are a full-time student, and already contributing with a good attitude, good grades, and helping with chores/etc around the house. However, for a lot of people, it's creating more of a financial strain... I also think, while in college, adult children living at home need to put money into a saving's account, because when they do move out, they will have costs associated with this.
She also says BOTH PARTIES (you and your significant other) must work together. In a lot of households, one person is "responsible" for paying all the bills... that's not fair, nor is it right. That has huge potential to cause an overabundance of stress to the one who pays all the bills, and a sense of "not my problem" to the one who doesn't. Money problems, disagreements, etc are the NUMBER ONE reason for divorce. And, even if you don't agree, you HAVE to work together. What kind of marriage do you have if you can't work together with your spouse/significant other, to come up with a way to pay bills that works for ALL of you?
She also says you need a will, a trust, a household budget (she even has a formula for how much each person should be contributing), and more. I highly suggest watching her show (with your spouse/SO), checking out her website, and getting on track with your money NOW! Something that may be helpful to you is this section; she has tools you can use to figure out your expenses, debt elimination, and more.
I know it's overwhelming. I get it. But, the earlier you start getting on track, the less stress your life will have.