You see it over and over again. Someone posts on Instagram they’ve paid of debt, saved a down payment for a house, went on a dream vacation or purchased their dream car. Some make it look easy while others talk about how it can be a real struggle.  I used to think I’d never get a handle on my finances.  How was I going to reach my financial goals with the money I made? Although I made a good salary, I  couldn’t figure out how to get a handle of my spending until I CREATED and STUCK to my budget.

Getting your finances in order can seem daunting and overwhelming, but it’s possible.  Once I started following the tips below, it became easier to create and stick to my budget.  I was able to bring those habits into my marriage which has allowed us to save a nice emergency fund.  It’s helpful to know that ANYONE can change their financial future. You only need the right starting steps.  It’s much more than creating a budget.  It’s about changing your mindset as well as your actions.  Check out how I was able to become a successful budgeter and how you can too.

They Embrace the Process

Before hopping on the debt freedom bandwagon, it’s important to change your mindset.  So many people think creating a financial plan is going to keep them from living the life they want. On the contrary, creating a plan for your money is what you need to live life on your terms.  Having the right money mindset is the first step in your journey. 

Defining your relationship with money is important.  Begin asking yourself the hard questions.

  1. Do I feel anxiety when I log into my bank account?
  2. Does my childhood have anything to do with how I handle money?
  3. Do you want money to buy material things or do you want money to create a legacy?
  4. Do I define my success by the things I have or don’t have?
  5. Is my self-esteem defined by the amount of money I have in the bank?
  6. Do I live in regret after every major purchase?
  7. Define your Why do you want to become debt free?

These are just a few questions you should ask yourself when you begin your journey to financial freedom. Create a vision board to help you see what your life would look like if you develop disciplined habits with your money. Decide what you want. Break it down into monthly, quarterly, or yearly goals.  Use Pinterest or poster board to create a visual picture of your future. I have my vision board saved on my computer’s home screen right now. It keeps my mind focused on my end goal.

They Create a Budget

Creating a budget seems so simple, but you’d be surprised at how many people want to be financially secure but refuse to see they can’t have a solid financial future without creating a budget.  Writing out your budget will change your life.  Seeing everything on paper will help you determine where you are spending too little or too much in each category.  Navigating personal finances without a budget is financial suicide.  Although it isn’t the most enjoyable task, it is necessary to have a well-planned budget to create a financially secure future.

They Carefully Plan Their Spending

If you plan to be financially responsible, you must control your spending. Making a Target run for toilet paper should not end in a buggy full of items because they were on clearance.  We are all guilty of this.  Just because it’s on sale doesn’t mean you are saving money.  Tracking your expenses will allow you to stay within your limits and help you plan your future budgets.  Track your expenses for 30-60 days to see where your money goes and decide where you need to add and can cut back to make sure your budget will work.

They Set Realistic Financial Goals

Setting goals is an important aspect of life.   Crushing debt is a fantastic plan but if you are making $25,000 per year, don’t expect to pay off $100,000 in one year.  When it comes to your financial journey setting realistic goals will allow you to keep going when the journey gets tough- and it will get tough- so setting manageable goals is a must.  If you set unrealistic goals, you are setting yourself up for failure which will cause you to give up and go deeper in debt. My advice is to start small and then increase your momentum.

They Build an Emergency Fund

I know everyone says you should only have $1000 in your savings account, but I’m sorry, I don’t feel comfortable with that. My husband and I have built up a nice cushion and I will never apologize for that, especially now that I’m on maternity leave (more on that later).  An emergency fund allows you to breathe easier when your battery goes out; you break a limb, the refrigerator goes out, etc.  If you can’t save $100 a week or month, start with $25. It may sound small, but a little goes a long a way.  Over time, you will start to see your cushion grow. Once you start seeing those numbers increase, you won’t want to touch that money. Now, how good would that feeling be?

They Create a Debt Payoff Plan

Everyone who wants financial freedom will work to pay off debt. Period. Why would you want to make payments for the rest of your life?  I know I don’t want to be on that boat. Create a plan that works for you! I know so many financial bloggers who say you should follow the snowball method, but it may not work for you at the moment.

If you are having a hard time making your minimum payments, there’s no way you can throw extra money at one bill.  If this happens, getting caught up on your bills to avoid late fees should be your priority. If you’re still having a hard time, call your creditors to work out a plan.  Many have hardship programs to help you get caught up.  If you remain by behind, you are wasting money on late payments and added interest.  Once you are current, then you can create a debt payment plan that works for YOU and YOUR family.

They Add Additional Sources of Income

If you still can’t make your bills with a budget and current income, consider taking on a side hustle that will help you meet your end goal. An extra $500 or $1000 will go a long way. Consider Uber or Lyft, selling items on eBay or whatever you need to do that will help increase your income.  Additional income will speed up your debt pay off plan and give you peace of mind knowing you will end the paycheck to paycheck cycle.

They Find Accountability Partners

Having a community to support your financial goals is a surefire way to reach your goals.  You don’t have to give them a play by play of your income or total debt amount, but you can let them in on your goals.  Tell your friends you are on a journey and not to invite you to certain outings if it’s going to hinder you.  Make a plan to find free things to do to enjoy the weekend. If you have a friend who’s on the same journey as you are, schedule monthly support meetings where you discuss your budgets or plans, where you are now and where you want to be next month, quarter and the end of the year.  Supportive friends will understand why you turned down that last minute invite to that new restaurant.

They Reward Their Progress.

Once you begin to see progress, its ok to treat yourself, it doesn’t mean you should buy that $100.00 pair of shoes; it means a small splurge from time to time.  For me, it would be to a museum or new book or an extra visit to the salon.  Rewarding yourself will help you keep going. Check out free offers in your area or Groupon for low-cost activities.  I love my local library because they offer free museum passes to the best museums in our city which leaves room for me to try a new restaurant with the money I would have used for my entrance fee. Be creative, just don’t go crazy.

I know you’re busy but taking time to go through these steps will help you in the long run. Think of how you’ll feel once you’ve paid off your last student loan, purchased your first home, went to Santorini, Greece (my dream) or purchased your car in cash? Make these changes won’t be easy, but as you make progress, the weight of debt will feel lighter and lighter because you will have created a plan to secure a stable financial future for you and your family.