NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Consumer debt is at a substantial $11.7 trillion, up 3.3% on a year-to-year basis, according to Nerdwallet.com.

Here's some more Nerdwallet factoids pointing to a nation with some high monthly bills to pay:

  • Average credit card debt: $15,611
  • Average mortgage debt: $155,192
  • Average student loan debt: $32,264

But millions of Americans seem to have a built-in excuse for too much debt and not enough cash in the bank: "We're too broke to save any money."

That's the sentiment of 37% of Americans in a study by GoBankingRates.com, and about 77% say they expect "obstacles" when trying to stash more cash away for future use.

Maybe savers just need to get back to basics.

"Most Americans want to be better at saving money — they just don't know how to do that," says Casey Bond, GoBankingRates' managing editor. "Especially for those who think they don't make enough money to save, setting aside some funds each month, no matter how important, can seem impossible."

"That's the kind of mental block that can derail your resolution, though," he says. "Everyone can save at least 1%, as long as they budget carefully, spend intentionally and take advantage of financial tools." 

Even though insufficient income is the biggest challenge for Americans looking to save, building an emergency fund is the No. 1 priority for consumers, the study says. The means to that end differ, though. Men want to save for a new car more than women, and women want to save for a future financial emergency, GoBankingRates reports. Not surprisingly, younger Americans say their savings priority is a new home, while baby boomers are saving primarily for retirement and home renovations.

Yet when "insufficient income" (36.7%) and "unemployment" (10.8%) make up almost half the reasons adults aren't saving enough, that's a big problem.

— By Brian O'Connell for MainStreet