At the ripe old age of 26, I’m proud to announce that I am officially debt free, for the second time in my life. I’m totally counting the 5 days between when my car was totalled just before I bought a replacement and got my first taste of financial freedom. But now I have no car note, no credit card debt, and no student loans, nothing. Only rent, electric, water, internet and fancy avo toast. And I did it all by my damn self. While still growing my fashion blog might I add. That’s right, no inheritance from a wealthy jewel thieving relative or hitting the lotto. Just discipline, budgeting and patience. So today I’m sharing my steps on how I set myself to reach financial freedom and how you can too! And don’t worry you don’t have to give up shopping either, I didn’t!
- Open a savings account and auto-transfer 10% of your income from day one! You kill two birds with one stone on this one. The first bird is building your emergency fund immediately. The second is learning to live below your means, which is key for people who don’t have the ability to pick up a second job.
- Set up your 401k and contribute at minimum how much your company will match. Also from day one, or as soon as they let you. If that’s not an option do your research and open a 401k or 403b then auto-transfer at least 5% of your income. More and more people are unable to afford retirement because they wait to contribute too late in the game. The more you can contribute early on the more your investments will build.
- Set all of your bills, debt payments, etc. on autopay. Seriously, there’s no reason to miss a payment if you have the money in your account. It’s not worth the hit to your credit. But be sure to keep up with how much will be coming out with your statements to avoid being over-drafted.
- Read financial self help books. I forgot who recommended I read David Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover but I owe them everything! That was all the push I needed to get my financial shit in gear. Expand your knowledge on tactics and techniques that have worked for others to better set yourself up for success.
- Track your spending habits. Just like trying to lose weight, you have to know how much you’re spending and what you’re spending it on if you want to improve. Ignorance is not bliss here. The first step to overcoming the problem is admitting it’s there.
6. Decide on your plan of attack: earn more or spend less. If you’ve followed steps one and two you’re already spending less, go you! Unfortunately though none of that is going towards your debt. To pay off your debt you need to look at your expenses and decide if you can spend even less or need to earn more money. If you’re fortunate enough to not have many financial responsibilities, then spending less may be the route for you. Unfortunately this is not the case for many people so finding ways to make more money might be your only option
7. Create a budget and set reasonable goals. Similar to dieting many people set unrealistic expectations of what they’ll be able to do right out of the gate. For me foregoing social activities and shopping weren’t options. I knew I’d still want to shop and hang out with friends so I set up my budget so I could do those things while paying off my debt. If you still want to travel, or shop, etc you can do these things but they do come at the price of not being debt free sooner. Know thyself and plan accordingly, see my video on how to create a budget.
8. Don’t be afraid to barter for a better price on things. For lower internet, for cheaper rent, almost anything. I’ve save $1000s by arguing with Xfinity every time they tried to up my rates and convinced my apartment to give me $100 off my monthly rent for my first year because I knew they were desperate to have someone move in. I also score 90% of my clothes when they go on sale too. Though we are being bred to have the act fast mentality don’t be afraid to walk away from things for a better deal.
9. Have a support group. Having like minded friends with similar goals really helped me to stay on track. We had no-spend weekends, shared financial knowledge and the best deals. Support is key! Even if your friends aren’t on the same path, having pals who try help you to reach your goals makes a huge difference.
10. Be patient. Depending on how aggressively you plan to pursue financial freedom and how much debt you have this could be a long process. Keep reminders about why you started in the first place. Throw yourself milestone parties, clap for every achievement big or small. I know it’s hard, but trust me, it’s worth it!