In my view, “Financial Freedom” is not only about having no debts, but also about having the lowest outgoings and the least contractual commitments.
Considering my historic spending habits, I feel somewhat of a hypocrite trying to suggest you take tips on managing your finances from me, but I really have come on leaps and pounds (pun intended); I’ve got myself into the rather enviable position of being able to quit my job to go travel the world, leaving little or no commitments behind in the UK.
12-18months ago I started to realise that life maybe wasn’t going the way I wanted it to, but I wasn’t entirely sure where I wanted it to go. I decided I wanted to rid myself of the financial burdens of modern life. When I was thinking about my career direction, or perhaps move abroad, maybe trying to set up my own business; it was always too easy to dismiss those dreams simply because “I can’t afford to be on a lower salary”, “I’ve still got two years left paying for my car”, “I need to pay off my credit cards”, “it’s too risky, what if I can’t afford all my outgoings”.
So I decided I needed to rid myself of all my financial commitments, I wanted to be in total control of my money.
Here’s how you can do it too:
1) The CULL
Create a spreadsheet (I love Excel), make a list…. just write ALL your outgoings and their details down, the best way is to download a few months of bank statements from your online banking into excel and sort the list – and I mean everything, even if it’s only £1 per month.
Now categorise each line:
The KEEP: Some things will be out of your control e.g. Council Tax. But there will be plenty that you simply can’t change right now because you’re tied in – “keep” them for now and make a note to review when the contract ends.
The REDUCE: Can you really justify paying £100 per month for the top SKY TV package when all your watch is Netflix – perhaps a more basic package would do? Even your internet deal is likely giving you way too many downloads than you need.
The SWITCH: Gas/Electricity, Insurance, Internet are typical culprits here. It takes two minutes to check using Uswitch.com – just do it!
The CULL: That £2.99 for the dishwasher extended warranty. Perhaps your Spotify Premium free trial lapsed and now you’re paying £9.99 per month? When did you last go to your £40 per month gym? Get rid!
No lie when I say that the above simple steps saved me over £100 per month. It’s simple, just review EVERYTHING that you’re paying out and keep on top of it from that day forward.
2) The NOT-SO-SMARTPHONE
These days, smartphones are as much of a fashion accessory as they are a modern day necessity. It doesn’t seem very “smart” to me to be paying £60 per month for the latest phone when for a good few years now the latest models have just been slight tweaks on the previous version.
When your phone contract is next up for renewal, just keep the phone and move to a 30 day sim only deal. I currently pay £10 per month for unlimited calls, texts and 5gb Data (if you think this isn’t enough; you just need to be more shameless in asking for the Wifi code wherever you go). My phone might be 3 years old now, but it’s “free” because I own it and people still comment on the quality of my photos.
Added bonus: if you decide (like me) you want to travel or go abroad; you’ve already sorted one thing, because all those minutes/data on that £60 per month contract aren’t going to be much use abroad, but you’ll still be expected to pay all of your 24 month contract. Once you’re sim only, you can just buy a pay as you go sim when you’re abroad – sorted.
3) The CAR FOR THE FUTURE
I’m not talking about to talk of flying cars, but cars are widely accepted as the biggest financial commitment after buying a house and I want to talk about giving yourself the financial breathing space at the moment in order to make better decisions for your future.
I am car mad; I admire top end cars alot, know all the latest models, facts and figures, yet I’ve always resisted the temptations of paying circa £350 per month for a top of the range *insert name of german brand*.
My dad always said that managing your money isn’t about being able to afford something or not, but about being able to justify it. Maybe that stuck with me more than I thought…
Two roles ago, I was getting the train/bus into central Leeds for work and decided that it seemed unjustified to pay £350 per month just for a few appearances at my local M&S Simply Food 😉 . In that role I always told myself “I’ll get a fancy car with my next pay rise/ job”. But when the next pay rise came about, my new company was only a 1.5 mile drive from home. Three miles a day didn’t seem to justify such a huge commitment either.
So I stuck for 5 years with what has affectionately become known as “The DisAstra”. But boy am I proud of her. Such a little trooper. But most of all I’m proud of myself for not getting wrapped up in the show-off-ish-ness of having a fancy car; that extra money per month has contributed to renovating my house, travelling the world and just generally banking great experiences that will mean so much more to me in the future. I don’t think i’d be going travelling the world now if I still have 24 months left of a huge car payment. It undoubtedly would have limited my options.
4) The DEBT COLLECTOR
Be your own debt collector, I say! But stay strict.
First things first… forget about Mortgage and Student Loans I say! Why? View your mortgage as a weird savings account, as you’re slowly paying it off you own more of your house – like a big piggy bank. Student loans…. one of the cheapest and simplest loans you’ll ever receive and just ticks away in the background, being paid off through your employer.
The debts you want to “CULL” to get that freedom feeling are the credit cards, store cards and loans. Get your head round them. Line them up at gun point if it makes you feel better. Figure out everything you’ve got.
Making use of interest free balance transfer cards is your guiding light here. It’s easier than 1,2,3. Get the longest balance transfer you can get (30+ months exist these days). Transfer everything onto the new card. Divide the new balance by the interest free period. e.g. £1200 divided by 12months interest free = £100 per month. Set up a standing order via your bank for £100 to pay off the card (you can do this by calling your credit card co. and asking for their bank details). Chop the new AND old cards up. Make yourself a gin and tonic, sit back and wait 12 months to see the fruit of your efforts.
Organise your remaining debts by interest rate. Zero interest deals (e.g. furniture) should be your lowest priority to pay off, but don’t forget about them. High interest rates – try and get these onto an interest free credit card. As you slowly whittle your debts down you’ll get a real sense of achievement and slowly you’ll get to the point where you can even pay off the “buy now pay laters” and the “interest free’s” and be completely debt free.
5) The FREEDOM FACTOR
As you work through steps 1-4, you should start to free up more money per month. It’s important to assign that money correctly if you want to achieve financial freedom. e.g. I initially saved over £100 per month from step 1 alone. Rather than squandering this money (or even saving it), I started assigning money to the next debt “down the list”. When your phone comes up for renewal and you decide to go sim-only, that £40+ you’re saving per month can go towards paying off your “interest free” sofa even faster, for example.
Rather than enjoying the money you’ve “saved”, if you’re used to paying that much out, then just keep paying it out but make it work for you and pay other debts off faster. Things will quickly start to accelerate.
The ultimate goal is to have only income and outgoings with no debt. And those outgoings should be completely under the thumb – you know exactly what and when is going out each month. The feeling of getting there is uplifting. I can (and I am) going anywhere in the world now. The only UK financial commitments I’m going to have is a mortgage and home insurance and the rent alone will easily cover those for me while i’m away, sorted!
I haven’t written this post to sound like some condescending dooshbag, but simply to share with people what I have done to slowly but surely get myself in a position where I can truly consider all the opportunities that life has to offer me. I hope you find it useful in some way. Knowing you owe nobody anything is like taking a big breath of fresh country air…..
Do you think you could benefit from aiming for financial freedom?
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