Below is a guest post from Alana Downer, a personal finance blogger from Down Under. Alana might also be found sharing her knowledge about other topics including technology and travel.
Financial independence feels like a dream everyone strives to achieve. I got sick of longing for it and decided to commit myself to doing something about it. The first few years were really hard, but I knew what I was working towards. By toughing it out then, I knew it wouldn’t be so tough now. I would be able to put it behind me.
I cut costs a lot
I didn’t realize how much I was spending on coffee shop trips or the occasional drink at the bar. By purchasing my own gourmet coffee maker and creating my own small bar at home, I was spending substantially less. Instead of picking up a small package of toilet paper on the way home from work, I bulk ordered it to save a little bit on each roll. The bulk buying, especially when coupons were available, cut a significant portion of my living costs.
I was smarter with my savings
I thought a high yield savings account was the only way to go. I needed one, and I’m glad I have it, but I needed something more. I learned to trade and started investing some of the money I would ordinarily be saving. Since there’s some risk involved with investments, the returns become a lot higher than allowing your money to just sit there. I took some safe and calculated risks and the returns I started seeing were more than quadruple what I would have gotten by putting the money away and leaving it alone.
I got rid of my debts
You need a good credit history to do almost anything. I wanted to be able to purchase a property at reasonable rates, and when you have a lot of debt, interest rates on property loans become outrageous. Before I bought anything new that wasn’t absolutely essential (like toiletries and groceries), I started paying off old debts. Some of them I was able to negotiate down, and that allowed me to clean up my financial history a lot quicker than I expected.
I changed my hobbies
Going out to eat and going to the movies costs a lot of money. It’s important to socialize with your friends and family, but it gets expensive fairly quickly. I opted for renting movies at home and stuck to frozen pizza, rather than delivery. Turns out, I was actually having more fun in a comfortable environment where everyone could take their shoes off and didn’t have to worry too much about being well behaved. It also cut my entertainment budget in half, allowing me to responsibly use or save the remainder.
I keep my savings blind
If you asked me how much money is in my savings account, I wouldn’t be able to answer you. I only add – I don’t take. I treat my savings account like a black hole. I put money into it, and I never see it again. I only go to it in the event of a major emergency (like an unexpected car repair or a trip to the doctor for a nasty cold), and even then, I only go for it if there isn’t enough in my checking account to cover the balance. Learning to be blind to my savings keeps me from making impulsive purchases or financial decisions that I wouldn’t make if I didn’t have the money available.
While maintaining financial independence does require some upkeep, things are far better than they were before. I’m glad I was a little hard on myself to set up the future I wanted.