Financial Freedom: What It Means to Me (and How to Achieve It)
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A few weeks ago, I had a decision to make.
You see, yesterday’s Super Bowl was played in my home state. As a lifelong Minnesota Vikings fan, I was totally geeked at the possibility of watching my team play for football’s ultimate prize in their home stadium.
I was even willing to pay for the “privilege” of being there.
While I was considering this splurge, the Vikings were just one win away from making it to the big game. Prices for Super Bowl tickets were already in the thousands and would skyrocket even more if the Vikings won.
On the Saturday before the NFC Championship Game, I almost pulled the trigger.
I don’t know if it was the price tag that made me balk or the fact that, as a Vikings fan, I’ve been conditioned to expect the worst. In all honesty, it was probably a little bit of both.
Anyway, I decided not to buy the tickets early.
As fate would have it, holding off turned out to be a good decision. The Vikings were thoroughly trounced by the Eagles, crushing any last-minute impulses I may have had to splurge on the Super Bowl.
But, enough about sports because – as you hopefully realize – we’re here to talk about more than that.
You see, this isn’t about football. This isn’t about showing off. This isn’t about a cathartic release of all the football-induced emotional pain I’ve been holding on to for the last 3 decades of my life. (Well, maybe it is a little bit. Ha!)
In the end, this is about one thing: financial freedom.
Regardless of whether I bought the tickets or not, I had the option to go. I’ve earned the freedom to make that choice, to fulfill a bucket list dream of mine…
… and it wasn’t by accident.
Making the Choice to Pursue Financial Freedom
Over the past 6 or 7 years, we’ve done our best to practice sound money management. We’ve stuck to a budget. We’ve cut our spending. We’ve learned how to take care of the money we already have.
As it stands, all of that work has put us in a position to splurge on the things we really want… and that is truly a wonderful feeling.
Of course, this didn’t just happen over night.
We spent years saying “no” to things on which others would spend without a second thought. “No” to nights out. “No” to special events. “No” to extra parties… and designer clothes… and new cars. No, no, no.
Our friends and family all thought we were cheap-asses, and they were right. But, we had a plan and were willing to sacrifice for a short period of time to make it happen.
Now that we’re debt-free and have built up some savings, we can say “yes.” We have options. We’ve achieved a level of financial freedom that few others will ever experience.
But here’s one of the coolest parts: Now that we’ve learned how to manage our money properly, it’s a skill that we can use for the rest of our lives.
We still carry the money lessons of the past with us, and they guide us in all of our spending decisions today. Because we’ve spent years consistently practicing good money management, we can choose to splurge on the things we really want without worrying too much about the financial consequences.
Above all, we’re still guided by this philosophy: We save on the things that don’t matter so we can spend on the things that do.
To me, that’s what financial freedom is all about.
It’s Not About the Money, Except It Is
“I want to be rich.”
How many times have you heard that one?
How many times have you said it to yourself?
But, what does that really mean?
Becoming rich is a dream many of us share. We tend to believe that having money means we’ll be able to buy whatever we want whenever we want it. Money becomes the answer to all of our dreams.
It is… but it isn’t.
If we look a little deeper, what we really want isn’t the money; it’s the financial freedom that money provides.
Because we’re so focused on becoming rich, we lose sight of what’s important. We end up chasing dollar signs instead of freedom. We work longer and harder to earn more, but we fail to protect the income we already earn. In short, we miss the easy opportunities for financial freedom that are right in front of our face.
We forget to save on the things that don’t matter so we can spend on the things that do.
What Does Financial Freedom Mean to You?
You see, you don’t need millions of dollars to experience the level of financial freedom you want. In most cases, you can achieve greater freedom simply by making better use of the money you already have.
Now, spending thousands of dollars on a football game may not be your cup of tea. It may not be in your budget either. That’s OK.
The great thing about personal finance is that it is “personal.” What is important to one person may not be important to another.
Maybe you’d love to buy a new watch. Perhaps you’d like to go on more vacations. Or, maybe collecting classic cars is your thing. If that’s what you love, more power to you. Start spending less on the things that don’t matter so you’ll have more to spend on the things that do!
By making sound money choices, you can do more of what you love without straining your bank account to do it.
How to Achieve Financial Freedom on Your Own
So, what’s the quickest path to achieving financial freedom? Here are a few pointers to get you started.
- Change your mindset. – Stop focusing on becoming rich. Stop dreaming of hitting the lottery. Start chasing financial freedom by subscribing to solid money habits and making them a priority in your life. Get to the point where you can “live now while saving for later.” Just know that it’s going to take some time to make it happen.
- Take care of your business. – Far too often, we focus on earning extra money but don’t know what to do once we have it. Sticking with our bad habits, we end up spending all the extra money we make. This approach is fundamentally flawed. Instead of focusing all your energy on earning more, take care of your business first. Learn how to create a monthly budget and track your spending. Implement good money habits and take care of the money you already make. You’ll see faster results and carry those skills with you the rest of your life.
- Get out of debt. – In our book Zero Down Your Debt, we discuss how debt is the biggest obstacle standing between you and the life of your dreams. Debt is the enemy of income, making it difficult to build wealth while draining your bank account dry. In short, debt is a dream killer. Make the decision to get out of debt as quickly as possible. Try using the Debt Snowball or Debt Avalanche method to get started.
- Hustle. – Once you have a solid monthly plan in place, think about how you can earn extra money to boost your results. Starting a side hustle can help you get out of debt faster and really add some beef into your long-term savings goals.
- Have patience. – This is going to take time, so be patient. By making just a few sacrifices now, soon you’ll be able to live a life that few of your friends and family will be able to live later. Even if it takes a few years to destroy your debt, that’s a small price to pay for achieving the sense of financial freedom you’ll have for the rest of your life. You can do this.
Final Thoughts on Financial Freedom
Implementing good financial habits and making solid money decisions is one of the biggest keys to getting what you really want. Sure, making extra money helps, but only if you’ve acquired the money management skills that will help you put those extra dollars to good use.
Luckily, people at almost any income level can grab their own slice of freedom. With a foundation of solid financial habits in place, things begin to take off. Little money miracles begin to build on each other, and – before you know it – you can experience more freedom than you ever thought possible.
Like I said before, this isn’t about some silly football game. It’s not even about money, really. It’s about financial freedom and having choices.
Money is just a tool that helps us get there.
In the end, it doesn’t really matter whether I bought the Super Bowl tickets or not. What matters is that I had the option to buy them if I wanted… and that’s a feeling of freedom that I hope you get to experience some day.
Honestly, I think you can. Everything you really want can be yours simply by taking care of the money you already have.
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“Start spending less on the things that don’t matter so you’ll have more to spend on the things that do!” This is literally my mantra right now! I’m pursuing some things in my life (working part time but also rekindling my love of a not-so-cheap hobby) that are requiring me to live by this. AND I’ve finally realized that in order to make this work, I need to do some hustling as well! It’s not as though I’m cutting all spending and activities, I’m just cutting gout some things to make room for others! Thanks for the great article!
Thanks for reading!
Very rightly said. It is important that you have a plan for your money. Budgeting every month and keeping track of your money will help you achieve financial freedom. Be sure to have both short and long terms goals in mind. Don’t forget to have money set aside for emergencies too!
For sure! Emergency funds are super important to staying on track.