What is financial freedom? Some people associate financial freedom with the ability to stop living paycheck to paycheck. For others, it’s all about having enough money in the bank to do what they want (when they want). Financial freedom means something different to everyone; once you understand your definition of it, you can create a plan to help you reach this goal. It may not be easy. It may not be fun. And it may frustrate you at times. However, if you stick with your plan, you’ll look back and realize that you made a good decision. Here are five tips to guide your path toward financial freedom:
1. Create a budget
Did you know that less than half of Americans use a budget? Are you part of this group? Without a budget, there’s no way of knowing exactly how much money you’re earning and spending each month. It can be a challenge to reach financial freedom in the most efficient manner possible. Fortunately, creating a budget is easier than ever before. If you don’t want to use a pen and paper system, you can opt for one of the many budgeting and personal finance apps designed for consumers like you. You can easily search online and compare apps to find one that best suits your needs, and your device of choice. Creating and following a budget can be an adjustment, but it is usually worth it.
2. Change your spending habits
Not monitoring your spending habits could lead you toward an uncertain financial future. Does this mean you should save every bit of money, never taking time to enjoy yourself? Not necessarily, but what it does mean is that you may want to review your spending habits for a better idea of where you can save.
For example, what do you spend on dining out or ordering in? The average American spends approximately $3,000 on restaurant meals and takeout every year. This works out to $250/month or just about $8/day. Maybe you’re spending too much money on rent. How about your car payment? What about travel and other entertainment expenses?
You get the point. The goal is to identify which expenses might be preventing you from reaching your financial goals. Consider writing down all of your expenses and all of your income from the last few months. You may be surprised at what you find when you take an honest look at the numbers. Then set some parameters to help you live within your means. When you spend less than you earn, it’s easier to make progress towards a fiscally sound future. Set some financial goals and work them into your budget.
3. Add up your debts, then pay them off
In doing the previous exercise, you may notice that high-interest debt is what’s holding you back from reaching financial freedom. Some 80 percent of Americans have at least one of six different types of debt. To make more progress on paying down debt, it can help to not only set the goal of paying off your debt at some point in the future, but of paying off your debt as quickly as possible. Combining all of your balances with a personal loan can help, not only in simplifying the debt payoff process, but also, in some cases, by reducing your interest rates, saving you money today and in the long term.
4. Try earning more, and pay yourself first
An alternative or supplemental strategy to cutting back your spending is increasing your earnings. Take the time to see if additional income streams could reshape the landscape of your financial reality. Increased income may allow for the greater flexibility that characterizes the freedom of choice and options that enable any future dreams.
Further reading: More Ways to Make Extra Money
You’ve probably heard the expression “pay yourself first,” but you may not know exactly what it means. This has nothing to do with how you earn your money, but everything to do with your approach to savings. In short, paying yourself first means prioritizing putting money into your bank and retirement accounts.
Tip: You may want to look at funding your bank and retirement accounts like they’re bills that need to be paid, rather than an optional contribution.
5. Fund your future and dream big
Break down your financial goals into simple numbers and concrete next steps. For example, if you want to go on vacation next year, calculate the total cost, then figure how much money you need to save every month between now and the date of your departure to reach that total. By setting financial goals and breaking each down into a tangible number and next step, the idea of saving $1,000 or $10,000 may be far less daunting.
If you find that you need a helping hand in reaching some of your larger financial targets, a personal loan can serve as a powerful tool in responsibly paying for big-ticket purchases. Whether you need to finance unexpected life emergencies or celebratory life events, personal loans provide an alternative to other high-interest forms of debt. You also shouldn’t be afraid to dream big. It’s okay if you want to retire early, live in Hawaii or bank $1 million. Dreaming big gives you the motivation you need to push forward, day in and day out. Even if you fall short, there’s a good chance you’ll still be happy with where you end up.
A strong strategy, combined with persistence and dedication, should have you making progress in no time.
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