A big reason why the current debt crisis is more of a problem in the United States than in any other developed country is that we’ve changed how our society operates around materialism. We no longer require the same things for survival as our ancestors did; we now have easy access to food and water, modern power sources, and air conditioning.

In light of this new reality, many Americans have fallen prey to debt that they may not be able to pay back, pushing many into bankruptcy. Fortunately, there are still plenty of ways for you, or someone close to you who’s facing financial hardship can escape from it — so long as you’re willing to learn from others’ mistakes instead of repeating them for yourself.

Avoid living beyond your means. This may sound obvious, but many Americans don’t realize that when you take on too much debt — whether for a big mortgage, credit cards, or other non-essential items — you’re more likely to be unable to pay it back. All it takes is one large payment to wipe out whatever money you have left, so be sure not to do this.

Keep in mind that this goes for any debt as well; avoid borrowing big money when you can’t be sure how long your job will last. For example, your car might have a loan worth more than it’s worth, so be sure to check if that’s the case — and don’t buy anything new until you do.

Stop making excuses. Many people have learned to not only blame their situation on others but to expect things to change for the better; when this doesn’t happen, they’re more likely to feel frustrated and give up trying to get out of debt. While blame is sometimes an unavoidable part of life, you can’t allow yourself or your family members to get stuck in this cycle without doing anything about it — or else you might find yourself going downhill fast as you make no progress toward coming up with a plan or fresh start.