Money

A man who paid off $116,000 by 30 shares his No. 1 savings tip

By the time he turned 30, Derek Sall had paid off more than $100,000 worth of debt.

Sall, who chronicles his financial journey on his blog, Life and My Finances, first realized he needed to take his debt seriously when he and his then-wife realized they were starting out their post-college lives already underwater. They resolved to get out of debt as quickly as possible and paid off $20,000 in 14 months.

When the couple divorced a few years later, Sall found himself in debt again. Because he wanted to keep the house, he owed his ex $21,000, plus the $60,000 left on the mortgage. Again, Sall buckled down and paid off everything within a few years. He became debt-free just shy of his 30th birthday.

His ability to pay off his debt wasn't made possible by a high-profile job or a windfall. Rather, he focused on earning as much, and spending as little, as possible.

Derek Sall after paying off his mortgage.
Derek Sall
Derek Sall after paying off his mortgage.

For the now-31-year-old, the key to saving money started with shifting his mindset and realizing that he didn't need to keep up with the Joneses.

Practically speaking, that translated to avoiding social media and refusing to compare his situation to anyone else's.

"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!'"

That's easier said than done, thanks to the constant influx of filtered content and targeted ads on Facebook, Instagram, television and all over the Internet. To combat the drive to buy everything marketed to him, Sall focuses on how full his life is without new and often superfluous items.

Derek Sall and his wife, Liz.
Derek Sall
Derek Sall and his wife, Liz.

"It's easier for me now, just realizing how much fun I'm having without having all that stuff," he says. "I don't call myself a minimalist, but I realized that the more and more stuff you have, it almost makes you less happy."

In this, he's employing a strategy also embraced by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, who downsized and now lives in an Airsteam trailer, and self-made millionaire James Altucher, who downsized and now lives out of Airbnbs.

Another trick Sall employed while paying off his debt was simply leaving his wallet behind when he went into the mall.

"I knew I'd see something that I'd want, and I'd probably buy it on the spot," he says. "If I wanted it badly enough, I would have had to walk outside, go to the car, grab my wallet, walk back inside and buy it. And I never did."

Sall found that, more often than not, by taking a step back to evaluate, he'd realize he never really needed the thing in the first place.

Don't miss: How one man paid off $116,000 in 7 years to be debt-free by 30