30-year-old Christian makes a good salary: After taxes, he takes home around $3,500 a month. But even though he shares a three-bedroom apartment, contributing $1,300 toward rent and utilities, he can't quite make ends meet — because he's gotten in the habit of spending $1,100 a month on takeout food and more on subway cards and Uber rides, bar tabs, dates and so on.
Unfortunately, a Seamless addiction is only one of his problems.
Christian, who for these purposes is going only by his first name, is the subject of CNBC Make It's new digital series "Saved," starring CNBC anchor Dom Chu and comedian Carly Ann Filbin. He owes $93,000 in student loans, and a third of that is just a payment penalty he received for defaulting. His credit score is a low 540.
Ideally, he wants to move out on his own in the next few years, but right now he's stuck, because a good-to-excellent credit score is key when it comes to unlocking real estate in the Big Apple.
Christian is not alone. Lots of 30-somethings often find themselves wishing they had been smarter about money in their twenties.
Here are four money mistakes to avoid in order to set yourself up for financial success in the future.
This one can seem easy in theory, but it's harder in practice. Credit cards often come with sign-on deals that feel too good to pass up. An offer of zero percent APR for the first year, a card that promises thousands of airline miles or thinking of credit as "free money" could all entice you to overspend.
If you're just now getting a credit card, don't try to kick off your financial journey with something flashy that offers lots of rewards. Start small and prove you can handle the responsibility first. Putting yourself on shaky financial ground could be a decision you regret for years to come.
Buying lunch, ordering dinner and going out to happy hour multiple times a week can make a big dent in your savings account. If you live in a city like New York where the restaurants are plentiful and the apartment kitchens are tiny, it's tempting to give in to the convenience of round-the-clock takeout.
But Christian — who spends $40 a day on food every single day — could be saving $6,000 a year if he just made a handful of his weekly meals at home. That's more than the total savings of 81 percent of Americans.
Christian mentioned a few times while filming "Saved" that the reason he hadn't started paying off his student loans was that he found the process of figuring out how to budget too daunting.
While some folks find avoiding tasks to be anxiety-inducing, Christian is someone who feels the opposite. Ignoring his debt helped him keep it far from the top of his mind. But it didn't make the issues disappear.
Making small, stressful chores like opening your mail or scheduling auto-payments part of your daily routine will help keep you from getting lost under a pile of financial troubles.
Christian was slapped with a jaw-dropping $30,000 fee for defaulting on his student loans too many times. He knew there was a way to get that fee waived, but he was also simultaneously trying to move through the process of consolidating his debt.
Unfortunately, a lack of communication, planning, and knowledge of the process meant that the debt consolidator absorbed all of his debt before the $30,000 was removed from his account. Now he has to pay it off. That's a really expensive mistake you don't want to make, and one Christian might have been able to avoid with a little more attention to detail.