To pay for the American Dream, you've got to wake up from the debt nightmare

TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - If you find yourself living paycheck to paycheck, you're certainly not alone. A CareerBuilder survey shows 78 percent of Americans are in the same boat.

So, how can you get out of the financial treadmill? You're going to want some tips to help your dollar go the extra mile.

The fact is, by nature, we love nice things. Homes, dinner out. Vacations. Clothes. It adds up. And you may have trouble paying those bills.

If you have goals of achieving whatever your version is of the American Dream, you're going to need to find a sustainable way to pay for it.

Kim Reyes loves a clean home. She's been renting over a year, but her goal is to buy a house in the next six months. She's finding that to be a homeowner, like all of us, she needs to clean up her finances. This can be easier said than done.

"They say pay yourself, but it's kinda hard when you've got more bills to pay. They just keep coming and won't stop," Reyes said.

Reyes joined a program called Northwest Ohio Homeownership Development Agency or NOHDA. Teresa Litz of NOHDA teaches classes on financial literacy that help people buy a home, avoid bankruptcy and foreclosure, or just stop living paycheck to paycheck.

Litz says you should start a "spending plan," which is what she calls a budget. Keep track of the bills, and if you have leftover money, pay yourself. Think of putting half in the savings and with the other half, go to dinner or a movie.

"You want to have savings so you don't have to. you wanna have money one check to the next. You don't want to be in a danger zone," Litz said. "When I do the spending plan I don't cut everything. We don't just live to pay bills and work. That's why we call it a 'spending plan.' Budget sounds so restrictive. I don't ever like that word. I try to teach 'em a healthy balance. You can spend a little, save a little and pay your bills."

So Reyes is a step closer to owning her own home. She's paying bills on time, cutting her expenses and saving. It's not easy, but it's working.

"I had to cut back on a lot of things I wanted for my enjoyment (like) going out to eat. Things like that you just have to sacrifice," Reyes said. "You want to get your credit in line to pay and budget your bills. Yeah, I had to stop a lot for myself."

Living paycheck to paycheck? It's stressful. We all need to do ourselves a favor -- by spending less to live better.

NOHDA has really helped new homeowners. In the last year about 80 percent in the program are doing just fine paying their bills compared to 62 percent nationally. If you want more information on NOHDA, visit its website here.