Below is a modified reprint of my Credit Union's blog, "Reaching Your Financial Destinations."
The 4th of July is coming up....a time to celebrate our freedoms. One of the basic freedoms that we all aspire to is financial independence. Like our other freedoms, financial freedom does not come easily or without sacrifice.
Many people, especially since the downturn in the economy, struggle to live paycheck to paycheck. Many have lost jobs and have been unable to find work. If you are fortunate enough to be working, I challenge you to take charge of your finances and begin building a solid financial future.
Your first step in achieving financial freedom is to assess how you are spending your money and create a budget that you can live with. There are many free online tools to help you with budgeting. My Credit Union has two of these tools (Money Desktop and BudgetSmart) and free, unlimited financial counseling to help you with that.
Be brutally honest with yourself when deciding if you need to spend money. When you buy a car, do you really need to spend $30,000 to get the car of your dreams? Or could you get by spending $16,000 for a viable mode of transportation? Do you need to eat fast food, or can you pack a lunch?
Are there cheaper ways to get what you need -- discounts on cell phone packages or less expensive electricity providers? Have you gotten new insurance quotes lately? It pays to shop around every couple of years to make sure you're still getting the best deal.
Find ways to cut costs and begin saving that money. The easiest way to save is by automating the process. If you deduct a certain amount from your paycheck each week, and automatically put it into a savings account, chances are you will barely miss the cash.
Keep your credit score up...it will cost you less in the long run. Better credit ratings get you better interest rates when you need to borrow. Better credit ratings will save you money on other things, like insurance. Better credit ratings may even help you get a better job! Businesses are more willing to trust you if you show you can manage your finances and maintain good credit. If your credit score is not as high as it could be, take advantage of free financial counseling. They can give you concrete steps to take to improve your score.
Start an IRA or put the maximum into a company-sponsored 401K, especially if they are matching your deductions.
In short, come up with a plan that will serve as a roadmap to your financial freedom. Celebrate this Independence Day by making a commitment to your own financial independence.