debt free is doable, we started with students loans, multiple mortgages and car loans, medical bills and credit cards, and we are there, and even, hosanna, building up retirement funds. We buy 3-4 year old cars with cash, our only debt is the current mortgage which is part of a living trust and there is a good sound financial reason for the arrangment which I won’t bore you with, but it could be paid off tomorrow if it became advantageous to do so.
We buy very little, never pay next month for things consumed today, which is what you do when you eat, drink, drive and entertain on credit. We have low interest credit cards paid off each month which offers convenience, cash back on gas, and complete budget tracking of all expenses, as all bills are there including utilities and mtge. We know to the dime how much cash we have on hand, what our expenses are, and what they are going to be next month.
We are extremely selective with gift giving, making sure each gift is worthwhile and what the recipient wants and will use, by the simple expedient of just asking them (or their parents). We don’t try to purchase our grandchildren’s affection with gifts and entertainment, we spend the time with them building the relationship.
We have classic clothing in a selected range of complementary colors and fabrics, buy good to wear well, especially shoes, andd buy only what we need as replacements. We take care of clothing, household items, cars, furniture, and what we do buy. Preventive maintenance is a huge investment with a huge payoff, neglected by many people.
We give a larger than average tithe to parish, diocese, charities through planned giving arrangements which result in a far larger proportion of our donation actually getting to the charity and at the same time reducing our taxes. We got professional help with this, as it is also the cornerstone of our estate planning. Giving this way means the charities will have about double what they would if we just gave cash over a period of time in the normal way. Tithing comes first always has since the first month of our marriage.
We both consciously try to avoid attachment to material possessions, but what we do need we buy good quality and maintain, and recycle, never just trash worn out things. We are at the age where we have moved beyond impulse and emotional buying, which is what kids tempt you to do (just think of your last vacation).
I realize I did not answer OPs question: never buy on credit anything which is consumed before the bill comes, or which does not appreciate in value. An education is an appreciating asset, but exhaust every conceivable avenue of financial aid before you get a student loan.