Become Debt-Free

Give up these 5 things if you want to become debt-free in 2020, experts say

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Even though debt is a major cause of stress for Americans, they're not quite ready to give up certain aspects of their daily lives in order to become debt-free.

Over half (52%) say they wouldn't give up their cell phone, 49% say they wouldn't give up owning a car and 34% wouldn't abstain from dining out, according to a recent survey by Tally, which asked more than 2,000 U.S. adults (1,500 of whom currently have financial debt) which products or services they would be unwilling to sacrifice for one year in order to be relieved of their debt.

Tally also found that 30% would want to keep their streaming services and 28% would refuse to give up vacations for 12 months, even if it meant having 100% of their debt paid off.

But if becoming debt-free tops your list of priorities, you might need to get serious about what you would be willing to give up in order to reach your goal. "People need to think 'long game,'" Douglas Boneparth, president and founder of Bone Fide Wealth, tells CNBC Make It. "This is a marathon that's won through discipline and consistency."

Below, check out five expenses experts say may be worth cutting in order to pay off your bills and eliminate your debt in 2020.

1. Eating out constantly

Although 34% of Americans say they wouldn't sacrifice meals out in order to become debt-free, experts say they should reconsider — dining out can add up quickly.

If you spend $10 on breakfast and $15 on lunch, that's $125 per week. By the end of the year, that's over $6,000 spent eating out. "If you were to brown bag your lunch and cut down your spending by half, that would be a total of $3,000 saved annually," says Ryan Marshall, a certified financial planner at Ela Financial Group.

For those who dine out for dinner and on weekends as well, "the problem only becomes worse," Marshall says.

2. Monthly subscriptions

When it comes to saving money, a good place to start is by reviewing how many monthly subscriptions you have going at a time.

"Everyone talks about subscriptions, but it's true. When was the last time you looked at recurring expenses?" says Priya Malani, founder and CEO of Stash Wealth.

Services, such as gym memberships, cable TV and online streaming subscriptions, can add up quickly. While a few dollars here and there might not seem like a lot, you'll feel the weight of that money's absence by year's end. A standard Netflix subscription costs $12.99 per month, which adds up to more than $150 over 12 months.

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Additionally, you may be paying for recurring monthly subscriptions that you no longer use. In a piece for the Wall Street Journal, journalist Joanna Stern detailed how she paid $15 a month for three years for an electronic fax service she used just twice.

"That's $240," she writes. "For the same amount, I could have bought 20 rolls of fax paper or 10 real working fax machines."

If cancelling your subscriptions altogether feels too drastic, you can also seek out more affordable alternatives to your current memberships. Sharing a Netflix account with friends or getting daily or monthly passes to your gym, rather than signing up for a year-long contract, could help relieve you financially.

3. Buying in bulk

Buying household items in bulk is another area where many think they're saving, but a lot of times aren't.

That's because people who shop in bulk are often buying more than they need in order to earn savings. "That short-term savings that you think is beneficial isn't always," Malani says. "Instead of buying the 12-pack of batteries for $25 when you need just two AA batteries, buy the 2-pack that costs $5 and put the other $20 toward your debt. It's a mindset thing."

Rather than buying everything in large quantities, think about the amount you actually need of a given product first. If you're hosting a large gathering, it's probably fine to go ahead and buy the 500-pack of party plates. But should you run across a 20-pack of avocados for just $3.99 at your local warehouse-style grocer, it doesn't mean you need to buy the whole bag only for half of it to spoil once you bring it home.

4. Name brand products

While it may be tempting to purchase all name brand products, switching from premium to generic when shopping for food, medications, office supplies, cosmetics and more is another way to save money little by little. In fact, buying generic could save you more than $1,500 annually, Mic reports.

Since earning a few dollars or cents here and there by shopping off-brand products can be easy to miss when reviewing your finances, Malani recommends keeping track of how much you've saved over time. Otherwise, "it's likely you won't feel the change means anything and might revert back to those name brands," Malani says.

5. Spending for the sake of social media

The world of social media is filled with people posting about their fancy new home or exclusive tropical vacation. And as a result, Americans feel pressure to spend in order to keep up.

In fact, 90% of millennials who responded to a 2018 survey from Allianz say that social media "creates a tendency for them to compare their own wealth or lifestyle to that of their peers," CNBC reports.

It's essential to know your goals — your real goals — not the ones dictated by society or your peer.
Samuel Deane
Financial planner at Deane Financial Partners, Inc.

This can be a problem for people who participate in social media while trying to get out of debt, says Samuel Deane, a financial planner at Deane Financial Partners, Inc.

"I often see people with debt spending on luxury cars, vacations and exclusive experiences either for instant gratification or to impress people on social media," Deane says.

To avoid falling victim to peer pressure and any potential overspending that can result from scrolling through social media, "it's essential to know your goals — your real goals — not the ones dictated by society or your peers," Deane explains. Know them and stick to them.

Where to sacrifice and where to spend

However, remember that you don't need to sacrifice everything for the sake of paying off your debt.

In order to determine where it makes the most sense for you to cut back, you should first "figure out what matters to you and then prioritize and plan for it," Malani says.

"If you feel better or healthier buying organic, go for it," Malani explains. "This isn't about sacrificing everywhere, it's just about sacrificing in a few select areas."

"If you feel better or healthier buying organic, go for it. This isn't about sacrificing everywhere, it's just about sacrificing in a few select areas."
Priya Malani
Founder & CEO of Stash Wealth

One way to see where you might be overspending is to track your expenses for a month. Over the course of 30 days, write down everything you earn and spend. At the end of that period, review your financial activity and if there are any expenses that feel unnecessary, start there.

"Having an understanding of where you spend your money first will help you understand where you can cut and what you are willing to cut," Boneparth says.

Don't miss: To retire at 65, millennials will need to save nearly half of their paycheck

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