Money

5 things to give up if you want to be debt-free

Debt is easy to rack up — but hard to pay off.

That's why it's no surprise that Americans surpassed $1 trillion in credit card debt last year, the highest level since the Great Recession.

However, if you're willing to buckle down, becoming debt-free, and doing it quickly, isn't an impossible goal. You just have to make some sacrifices.

If you're ready to eliminate debt once and for all, here are five things you'll have to give up, according to real people who have paid off thousands.

Going out to eat

Even eating out a few times a week can add up quickly. So the more food you can prepare at home in advance, the better off you'll be in terms of your food budget and your bottom line.

"My biggest [savings tip] I learned from my parents," says Scott Alan Turner, who paid off more than $70,000 in loans to become 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; we might have gone out to eat once every couple of months. I carried that over into my own life."

Though he worked a corporate job for more than 10 years, Turner only bought lunch out a handful of times. Instead, he prepared large batches of food on Sunday to eat throughout the week.

Obsessively checking social media

Derek Sall, who paid off $116,000 worth of debt before his 30th birthday, says his best advice for buckling down and paying off loans is to avoid checking up on what everyone else is doing — it only leads to the temptation to spend.

"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.

Denial

"I would recommend seriously looking at the story you tell yourself about your debt," says Amanda Page, a University of Alabama graduate who paid off her $48,500 in student loans in less than a year.

Pretending to have your debt under control when you don't will only prolong the process and cost you more in interest.

"For a long time, I resented my undergraduate debt and felt like it wasn't mine to pay. Once I reframed 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," she says. To pay off student loans quickly, "you have to earn more and reduce expenses — doing only one won't move the dial."

Other financial goals

If you're serious about eliminating debt, it means putting other priorities, such as investing or buying a house, on the back burner.

When David and Meg Cahill wanted to pay off $18,000 worth of student loans in 54 days, they decided to focus exclusively on eliminating their debt, which meant making bigger sacrifices than skipping Starbucks and canceling a gym membership.

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."

A job you hate

You can only do so much trimming of your grocery bill and cutting down on extraneous spending. To start making more progress and building more wealth, you should also think about the other side of the equation: increasing your income.

For Turner, transitioning out of a corporate job he wasn't passionate about and becoming an entrepreneur made all the difference. Turner's path won't be the right one for everyone, but think about out how you can tweak your job situation so you can increase your income, whether it's through starting a side business, working toward a promotion or transitioning to a new career altogether.

Don't miss: How one man dug himself out of $70,000 worth of debt to become a millionaire at 35