There are millions of Americans struggling with debt and chances are it didn't happen suddenly. In spite of what some tell you, you can't make it go away quickly either. The good news is, in most cases, you can reduce your debt. But, it's going to take some lifestyle changes and a long-term plan.Here are five things  from MSN Money that will help you get started on your way to a debt-free lifestyle. The formula is simple, but to be honest, following it is difficult but worth it.

1. Have a goal and a deadline to reach it. Start with an overall goal and then figure out how to reach it in a certain amount of time. Divide the main goal into smaller goals that allow you to figure out how much you have to pay off every month to reach the main goal. Take that amount and work it into your monthly budget.

2. Be realistic and honest. The goals have to be something you can actually do. Maybe you want to pay off all your debts in two years, but if the monthly amount strains your your budget too much, you'll end up giving up. Set goals you can consistently meet every month even if it means taking longer to pay off your debt.

3. Spend time with people who spend money wisely. If you're around people who are frivolous with their money, you're more likely to be frivolous too.

4. Keep track of all your expenses. This starts with the monthly budget but also includes everything you spend money on. Tracking every dollar will help you discover how much money you waste. Eliminate the wasteful spending and you'll have more money to pay off your debt.

5. Take on one balance at a time. Some experts say pay off the debt with the highest interest first, while others say pay the lowest balance first. No matter what method you use, when one bill is paid off, take that money and start paying extra on the next bill.

The solution to getting out of and staying out of debt is really simple, just spend less than you make. The reality is much more difficult. But with time and commitment you can make it happen.

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