There is a lot of attention placed on gaining financial freedom in today’s capitalistic world. In my journeys, I have found the following steps to be helpful along the way:
1) Remove physical clutter from your life. I have noticed, as you have more things they seem to attract even more, and you find yourself spending ever growing amounts of money on useless items, or worse yet cleaning/storage items to take care of your useless items. Think of the friend/family member you have with most beautifully decorated house, and then how few items they actually have in your house.
2) As you get rid of the physical clutter, you will remove mental clutter also. You may find that your thoughts aren’t as jumbled as they were, which might well help you get an edge at your job and maybe land you the promotion you’re hoping for.
3) Save! You have heard this many times already, I’m sure… but it has been suggested many times over by many people to me that when you DO start trying to save, open your savings account at a bank totally separate from the bank you pay your bills with, and DON’T accept an ATM card for the account either. This is especially helpful if your savings account is actually at a high-interest earning online bank; you’ll have next to no way of accessing that money, but can have the deposit to go into the account withdrawn automatically from your checking account without you having to think about it.
4) Learn to budget. I have found that many of the people I know (including myself!) have been or are in financial trouble because we overestimate our earnings or underestimate our expenses. Record a chart of your expense estimates versus your earning estimates (remember to guess low on your earnings, and high on your bills!) and see where you can “trim the fat” to make your budget work for you instead of against you.
5) Realize that luxuries are just that – luxuries. Things like a house and food are required to exist; satellite TV and a fancy new car are luxuries that can be set aside until a future time when there is more money to spare. We need to learn to set our priorities and stick to them, to keep from revisiting a path we’ve already walked down.
6) However, at the same time you should be strict with yourself in your choices and budget, but don’t forget to set a little aside each month for yourself. I’ve found out the hard way, forgetting this step can hurt you way more than you think. Everyone needs a break from frugality; it helps us put things into perspective, and reminds us that we are important. As the saying goes, if there was no bad times you’d never realize how special the good times really are.
7) Care for your own Environment. Caring for the environment means different things to different people; but it can be an advantage to you. Be creative with food and don’t let it waste. Allow yourself to make an extra trip to the store every week for fresh produce, if that will help you eat better AND not let it ruin sitting in the fridge. Reuse things, but be smart about it – there’s no sense in keeping ten old butter tubs if you’re only going to use two of them. Grow a garden – indoor or out. It will make your house smell good, your food taste great, and your friends beg to come over and check our your pretty flowers! Oh, and save you money on your grocery bills, of course.
8) Learn about different kinds of investing. In all honesty, I’m not the most knowledgable person in this category – but I know many people who lead very contented lives from the bits of extra they get from their investments.
9) Check with your employer about any investing programs they might have or get in the future, and find out how to qualify. 401k’s, profit sharing, and more – there are many ways that you might discover that your employer can help you get set up for your financially stable future (and many times your employer may match your contributions up to a point as well!).
And most important is #10) Breathe, and remind yourself that in all essence, money is only green paper; your real family and friends don’t care how much or little you spend on your “stuff”, and neither should you. If there’s food on the table, a roof over your family’s head, and everybody can get to school or work in the morning… you’re doing a great job already.