Ah, financial freedom! I believe that there is not a single person in the world who does not have this as one of their life goals. Being economically self-sufficient is one of the quickest ways to happiness.
I know “money doesn’t buy happiness”, but debt almost assuredly buys sleepless nights, mental breakdowns, and physical illness.
However, even if you have regular income it might be hard for you to stay out of debt, simply because making it from one paycheck to another is a mission that involves everyday puzzle-solving and navigating a labyrinth of impulse buys, small expenses here and there (which you think are necessary), and basically surviving. To stay on top of it, I will use a metaphor to help me explain.
Imagine if you will, a sieve. It’s a simple vessel with a bunch of little holes that let the water go through. The holes are little but there are so many that the water flows almost freely.
The sieve in question is the labyrinth I’ve mentioned and the water is the amount of money you have each month. Now, the point of the sieve is to let the water through but the rate at which it flows can be regulated by plugging some of the holes.
That’s exactly what I will try to show you– how to plug those little holes that keep draining your money away each day.
Take a strict list to the grocery store
The impulse buys are basically the worst enemy of financial freedom. While I will not advise you to never humor yourself (as I myself am not above it), doing this on a daily basis (or whenever you go to the grocery store) can seriously harm your budget.
I have this problem, too. Whenever I go to the supermarket I want to buy something from each aisle even though I’ve only come in to buy the essentials. However, I’ve started making a list before going (instead of just remembering what I need) by assessing what I really need.
I’ve had to practice self-restraint so I don’t buy that box of Oreos I really don’t need that day. Once I’m out of the supermarket I completely forget about those Oreos. For the sake of my own sanity I put a box on the list every now and then.
Also, everyone knows that you should not go hungry when grocery shopping. It only increases the impulse buys.
Take care of your teeth
When mentioning small ways to help save big this one always comes to my mind. I can only say it in retrospect because I’ve made the mistake of not looking after my teeth when I was a kid, and have had to pay dearly for it.
We all know how expensive dentists can be. I’ve experienced it recently when I’ve had to go and have my whole lower jaw fixed, tooth by tooth.
Several visits to the dentist later and I’ve realized that I’ve paid over $10,000 already, and there are still some upper-jaw teeth to fix. The dentist explained to me that this situation could’ve been avoided by taking daily care of my teeth (which I refused to do when I was young).
Brushing after every meal, removing stuck pieces of food, and getting regular check-ups (which are not expensive) can help you prevent that big expenditure later on. I’m not saying that you will never have to fix your teeth, but fixing them while the problems are small will certainly cost less than having to redo them all from scratch.
Invite your friends over to your place
Humans have to socialize. It is rare for people to go on for months or years without seeing another person. We simply have to meet up with friends, as without them life can get pretty boring. This means we have to go out for drinks, a meal, or a cup of coffee.
What we don’t realize- or we do, we just wish to ignore it- is that having a drink in a club costs at least twice as much as having it at home. Getting a beer can cost upwards to $6, while a visit to the supermarket will have you pay $3 for that same beer. (These are not actual prices. It’s just simplified to make a point.)
Next time you want to meet with your friends, why not invite them over for a home-cooked meal and a pair of bruskies? You’ll still socialize but it will not be an expensive endeavor as going to a pub or a restaurant. This does not mean that you should never go out, but think of every night out as one more hole in the sieve. It’s better to plug some of them than none at all.
Walk more (or use your car less)
Having a car has become less of a social status symbol and more of a necessity in the 21st century. We take a car to take out the trash or go to a grocery store just around the corner. Each time we start a car we spend gasoline. Although oil prices have been dropping at an alarming rate for the past two years, gasoline is still expensive- just not as much as before.
Having lived abroad for a year without a car I’ve realized that I don’t really need it as much. I was able to walk everywhere. The places that were more than half-an-hour’s walk were reachable by bike. Both walking and cycling are powered by two things– your legs. Your legs are not burning expensive fuel. They are burning body fat. All you need is to eat something. Aside from saving money you will be able to enjoy the scenery.
(Note: This paragraph does not count if you are a Venezuelan. The Venezuelan government subsidizes gas prices for the locals and makes it extremely cheap to drive a car.)
Save on your mobile phone service
Mobile phones have, like cars, become a part of our everyday life. It is great to be able to reach someone, no matter where he or she is, and to be reached. However, providers charge us for whatever they can think of and then there’s the cost of a new phone every now and then (when your old one breaks).
Saving the money on your phone can include anything from not talking as much over shopping around for deals and not getting a phone with your contract. Actually, the last one is one of the best ways to plug a hole (and this one is actually not so small). Getting a SIM-only contract can reduce monthly fees up to 50% (depending on the provider).
Also look for loyalty deals and do not be afraid to threaten to leave for another company, if the current one is not giving you something better. There are also numerous other ways to save money on your mobile phone service but for the sake of brevity I am only mentioning a few.
Saving a small amount each month will amount to something tangible after a period of time. Your financial well-being largely depends on your everyday decisions. Even those that seem like not much of a harm can make a difference at the end of the month.
You do not have to be completely frugal when it comes to spending, but a bit of self-restraint goes a long way. Get informed and don’t just take everything for granted. Chances are you’ll be on your way to financial freedom and no debts without even realizing it’s working.