To start, what does becoming financially independent mean to you? For some, it may mean being debt free, not having to rely on parents for monetary help or feeling secure about the future. For me, it’s all three. While our definitions of financially independence may differ, we can all develop the below habits to achieve it.
1. Budget. Previously I wrote about how to create and live within a budget. If you don’t have a budget already or don’t know how much you spend each month I recommend you read it. Knowing how much you’d like to spend versus how much you actually spend is critical to becoming financially independent. Without it even a millionaire could go broke.
2. Live within your means. Living within your means is more than just budgeting, it means recognizing that you cannot, and should not, buy everything you want. Depending on the item, we can all have gourmet taste on a spoon budget. The trick is to make sure we don’t act on it. Yup, that means we may not be able to buy that new dress at the mall, get a pedicure every week or afford our dream house right away. Some people do of course but without the big paycheck to back it up, they’re just gambling with their future.
3. Reduce and avoid debt. Due to compounding interest, getting rid of debt is more important than saving. Make that your priority and do whatever you can to be free of it. How? By making tough choices and cutting expenses elsewhere to put towards it. Many people think “debt” is like a dirty closet in your house you can just shut the door to and forget about. It’s not. It must be addressed, tackled if you will. You should not continue spending as if you have no debt. Make the tough choices today so it doesn’t grow out-of-control in the future. And while you’re tackling debt you’ve already accrued, don’t add more unnecessary debt to the table! (Think new cars, loans for expenses you should save up for instead, credit cards).
4. Do it on your own! Maybe you have no debt, but that’s only because you still share a bank account or credit card with mom or dad. While it’s great to have giving parents (I know mine often buy me way more than they should!) be respectful and don’t abuse their generosity. Not only are they not your personal bank, but you may be missing out on learning how to be fiscally responsible for yourself. Show them and yourself that you can do it!
5. Look for ways to save. Ah this is the fun part! At least for me. It’s extraordinary how much money you can save by looking for sales, using coupons and not tempting yourself with fake “deals” (I’m looking at you Groupon). There are plenty of ways to save if you start looking. One of my favorite tricks is to use grocery store cards that you can add coupons to right from your phone, or receive personalized deals on items you frequently buy. Get one and become a smart shopper.
6. Create an Emergency fund. What’s an emergency fund? It’s money saved up for any unexpected costs that may arise where you need money fast, for instance a sudden medical bill or lost job. Experts say you should have between three and six months put away for it and you can get there by putting around 10 percent away each month.
7. Invest. This is the one habit I have yet to cultivate. While I have money invested I rely on my dad and an advisor to help me figure out what to do with it! Learning how to invest and take control of my money is on my to-do list though and when I learn a little more about it, I’ll come back and tell you how!
What are other habits you’ve developed to achieve financial independence?
Share in the comments below!