Today is the Fourth of July, the day our nation celebrates its independence. It’s a day that many Americans take pride in, celebrating it by taking the day off, enjoying a picnic or a party, and setting off fireworks. As a nation, we hold independence as a strong value.
On the other side of that grand national story are all of the individual stories we all can tell of our own lives. Most of us seek independence for ourselves. We want to be able to stand on our own two feet, free from as many bonds as possible.
Financial independence means no strings attached.
It means you don’t have to keep writing a check each month to your mortgage lender or your automobile lender or to the credit card companies. You’re free from all of that because you’re free from debt.
It means you don’t have to be scared of layoffs at your company. If something happens there, you can just look for work elsewhere. You’re free from all of that because you have money in the bank.
It means you don’t have to pay heed to the demands of your parents because you need the money they give you each month. You don’t have to live their lives for them because you don’t need the financial hand they use to guide your life.
It means you don’t have to fear getting the mail. It means you don’t have to lay awake at night with stress. It means you don’t have to put up with workplace politics. It means you don’t have to hate your job.
Financial independence means you are free from all of that.
What do you have to give up to get there? The thing is, it’s really up to you. You just have to start paying attention to how you spend money.
When you look at your grocery receipt a few hours after going to the store, how many of those purchases do you think aren’t necessary?
When you look at the purchases you made when you were out shopping, how many of them were unnecessary and on the spur of the moment?
Is your house lit with inefficient lighting? Do you turn on the air when opening the windows will do? Do you make meals at home as your normal routine? Do you stop for a $5 coffee when you can get one for free at work?
You make little choices like these dozens – maybe even hundreds – of times each day. Turn a critical eye to them. Cut away the ones that really aren’t important to you – which, honestly, is most of them. Don’t cut away the ones that aren’t. If you’re not sure, cut it away, see if you miss it, and if you don, bring it back. Chances are you won’t.
When you see your checking account growing larger, that’s when you know you’re on the path to financial independence. When you see yourself scooping up that extra money in your checking account to make a whopping big payment on a debt, you’re heading a little further down the path. When you’re caught up on every bill and you feel in control, you’re doing even better. When you have all of your debts gone but your mortgage – even better. When your mortgage is gone, too, you’re getting closer. When you have a big fat emergency fund in the bank that would sustain you if you lost your job for a year, you’re pretty much there.
It happens a step at a time, with every little choice you make during your day. Stop spending your valuable money on unimportant stuff and redirect it to something more valuable – your financial independence – your freedom.