America has until August 2 to decide whether to raise its debt ceiling, which is currently at US$14.3 trillion. While Canadians won’t be hitting those numbers anytime soon, a BMO survey says that one-third of us are living at or beyond our means.

Here are five common-sense tips to help you avoid hitting your own personal debt ceilings.

Spend less than you make
This is the key to staying out of debt. It’s a simple concept, but often difficult to execute. Live below your means and save the rest.

Curb credit card debt
Switch to a low-rate card and  pay it down as quickly as possible.

Invest to save
Open a TFSA or a high-interest savings account and start an emergency fund. ING and Ally are two good options–they have interest rates up to 2%.

Pay off your mortgage.
Mortgage is debt too. Increase your monthly payments and cut your amortization by five years to save thousands of dollars in interest.

Have a plan B
Stuff happens.  You could get sick, lose your job or have your car stolen. You need to plan for these worst-case scenarios.