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how to achieve financial freedom

The July 31 Day Financial Independence Challenge!

In this article I am going to share tips and steps for how to achieve financial freedom. Learn 31 simple ways that you can work toward your financial independence this Fourth of July!

What is your financial freedom worth? To me, it is worth a lot! I hate the fear that comes with being a slave to debt (and I have been there!). I want control of my money; I don’t want to have to give all my money to the bank and the credit card company and the car loan company. I (eventually) want the financial freedom to work when and where and how much I want (or not at all, if I want)!

I want the freedom to spend my days volunteering in my community or spending time with my family or serving in my church or pursuing other worthwhile goals. I want the freedom to travel and to see the world. What do you want the financial freedom to do? 

With the 31 Day Financial Independence Challenge, you can take measurable steps toward building up an emergency fund, catching up on bills, pay offing debt, starting to budget effectively, or reaching other financial goals! With these 31 genius money tips you will be able to take small steps each day to work toward achieving your financial freedom!

Join the July 31 Day Financial Independence Challenge today! Read on to learn the challenges for each day.

 

Tip: Save the image above to Pinterest so that you can easily refer to this article on the 31 Day Financial Challenge later! (And share it with others!)

 

 

31 Simple Steps for How to Achieve Financial Freedom 

With the July 31 Day Financial Independence Challenge, you can take a solid step each day to move you toward your own financial freedom! Sign up to receive the free Financial Independence Challenge calendar! Start your path to financial freedom today!

 

Day 1. Discover your financial why.

Understanding your financial why is crucial to achieving financial freedom.

I’m starting with this point because in some ways it is the most important. Without a huge why, there’s a good chance you’ll quit before you reach your financial goals.

There’s a reason that most people (yes, unfortunately, most people—most adults in the U.S., at least) are overweight and in debt. And it’s because eating ice cream is easier than working out, and spending money is easier than having the discipline to save it and learning how to properly invest it. But a strong why can change all of that.

Take the time today to figure out your why. Why is it worth it to spend less than you earn?Why is it worth it to save money? Why is it worth it to invest? Why is it worth it to have an emergency fund and to get out of debt?  Why is it worth it to save for retirement? Why is it worth it to save to help pay for your kids’ college?

Discover your financial values and your financial priorities, and then set goals and plans that align with your why and your financial values.

Day 1 Challenge: For this first day of your financial independence challenge, identify one financial why that will propel you toward your goals.

 

Day 2. Recognize the power of being content.

One of the main secrets to building wealth and being financially successful is to be content with what you already have. Of course there are other important factors, but if you can’t be content with what you have and if you always feel a driving need for more gadgets, more toys, more stuff—better stuff—then you’re going to struggle at winning financially.

And simple math is the culprit. As much as virtually all of us would like to have all the money in the world to both buy the things we want and do the things we really should do for our financial stability and success, the truth is that most of us simply don’t have the money for both.

While we may live in one of the wealthiest—and the wealthiest, in many respects—eras of the world, we also have no limit to the sheer number of things we can spend our money on. It can be mind blowing and soul numbing at times.

Advertisers do all they can to make us give up all of our hard-earned money—and then some—by spending more than we make and going into debt. But if you want to be wealthy, if you want to be financially independent when you’re older, then contentment is one of the most important factors, and in some respects may be the most important factor for attaining success.

That is because no matter how much money you earn, if you don’t save and invest a substantial amount of it, you’re likely to always be broke. You will always be living paycheck to paycheck, never getting ahead in this financial game we all get to play. To learn about (honestly) differentiating needs versus wants, read this article.

The Apostle Paul taught, “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances” (Philippians 4:11). That is one of my favorite scriptures because of the simple and beautiful principle it teaches: “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”

Now, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be ambitious at all or that you don’t need to continually strive to make your situation better. It just means that while you work to make your situation even better, be happy with what you have.

And especially when it comes to money and the stuff that it buys, be careful that you don’t get into the downward spiral of never quite being happy or fulfilled because things could always be a little better, your home a little bigger, your car a little nicer, your clothes a little trendier, and so on.

Day 2 Challenge: For your day 2 financial independence challenge, commit to being content with what you already have, no matter your financial situation.

 

Day 3. Create (or reevaluate) your spending plan.

I truly believe that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Most Americans (60 percent) don’t budget. And most Americans (more than 60 percent) also live paycheck to paycheck. Is there a correlation? I think so.

A budget, or spending plan, is basically a list of monthly goals for your money. It is where you decide what you want to spend for each area of your finances. If you are living paycheck to paycheck, you might want to estimate a little high for the different budget categories right at the beginning, just to give yourself a little wiggle room. (I’ll share the best ways to find more money in your budget below). As you create your first budget and then work to tweak it, don’t shoot for perfection and don’t be too hard on yourself.

It will take a few months for you to get most of the kinks worked out and for you to start really budgeting effectively. But when you do, chances are that you will feel like you got a raise, even before you start adjusting your budget in order to spend less and save more. Find tips and steps for creating your first budget here. You can also learn how to stick to a budget here.

Want help getting started with budgeting? Sign up to receive my free spending tracker and starter budget forms below!

 

Day 3 Challenge: For your day 3 financial challenge, take your first steps to creating a monthly spending plan. Or review your current budget to see what adjustments you could make to better reach your financial goals.

 

Day 4. Commit to creating a starter emergency fund, and take a small step toward that goal.

Another crucial point related to how to achieve financial freedom is to have a financial buffer between you and Mr. Murphy. To do so, you need to begin to build a small emergency fund.

If you do not already have an emergency fund, I recommend building up a starter emergency fund of at least $1,000 as quickly as possible by taking on extra work, selling stuff around the house, reducing your spending on things like food and entertainment, or (ideally) all of the above.

At first you may feel like you can put only $50 or $100 a month toward your emergency fund, but increase this as quickly as you can. Try to have $1,000 (or $500 if you make a household income of less than $20,000 a year) saved within a couple of months. If you feel more comfortable with a little more of a safety net, then you can increase that to up to one month’s worth of expenses.

And then work to save a fully funded emergency fund once you are out of consumer debt. Learn here how to build a three- to six-month emergency fund.

Day 4 Challenge:  Figure out how much you can realistically allocate in your budget to begin to save a starter emergency fund of at least $1,000. Set up automatic transfers (even if you set them to start next month or in a couple of months) to begin funding your starter emergency fund.

 

Day 5. Make a commitment to get out of debt.

One of my favorite financial gurus often says that it is impossible to dig yourself out of a hole when you keep filling it. And it is impossible to build wealth when you continually give all of your money to the auto loan company, the furniture store, the credit card company, and the mortgage company.

That is why a crucial part of achieving financial freedom is to get (and stay!) out of debt. To get out of debt as quickly as possible, I recommend using either the debt avalanche method or the debt snowball method.

You will save some money on interest if you use the avalanche method, but for most people, I would recommend the snowball method, or else a combination of the two, where you begin with the snowball method and then switch to the avalanche method once your commitment level to getting out of debt is rock solid.

The snowball method is the one we used, and I feel that it works best in most cases because it keeps your motivation high because you have more frequent debt payoff wins. Read this article to learn more about how to get (and stay) out of debt.

Day 5 Challenge: For your day 5 challenge, dig into your finances (even if it might be scary; you can do it!) to figure out exactly how much debt you have. Then decide whether you would prefer the debt snowball method or the debt avalanche method, and decide which debt you will pay off first. Set a goal to get it paid off within a specific amount of time. (Then work on paying off your other debts, as well.)

 

Day 6: Review your recent spending, and see where you can make cuts.

Review all of your recent purchases and expenses to see where you can reduce your spending.

By examining your debit card or credit card transactions online and your recent receipts (especially when you used cash), you will likely see areas that you can quickly cut. Many of those might be in the areas I will discuss below.

(Note: If you don’t currently keep your receipts, consider doing so! Just stuff them in a large manila envelope or binder, at least, so you will have them to review later as needed.)

Day 6 Challenge: For your day 6 challenge, review your bank statements or transactions online and your receipts, and list places where you can spend less money.

 

Day 7. Consider how you could cut entertainment expenses.

Now, specifically take a look at your entertainment spending.

When I talk about ways that people can spend less money, the first place that I suggest that they look is at their entertainment spending. Consider whether you could save money in any of the following areas:

  • Your cable or satellite bill.
  • Your internet bill.
  • Your cell phone bill.
  • Going to the movies.
  • Going to music concerts.
  • Going to sports events.
  • Video gaming.
  • Purchasing electronic devices.
  • Paying subscriptions to magazines and paid TV services (Netflix, Sling, and so on—again, videos from the library are free!).
  • Paying for memberships to the gym, rec center, museums, aquariums, or zoos, and the like.
  • Participating in recreational activities like skiing, bowling, miniature golf, playing arcades, and so on.
  • Christmas shopping.
  • Going on vacations.
  • Your personal monthly spending money (some people call it fun money or blow money).

Find even more ideas for how to save money on entertainment.

And don’t worry! Just because you are looking to save money in order to reach your financial freedom doesn’t mean that you can’t have a great time! Check out this article with 90+ fun, free activities you can do without spending any money!

Day 7 Challenge: For your day 7 financial independence challenge, look at your entertainment spending, and see if you can make spending cuts in at least 3 areas.

 

Check out these related articles:

12 Best Tips to Save Money on Entertainment
91 Fun, Free Activities to Do during a No-Spend Challenge!
151 Easy Ways to Save Money: Your Ultimate Guide to Saving Money!
5 Super Simple Steps to Save $1,000 for a Debt-Free Christmas
11 Ways to Save Big on Your Christmas Shopping
4 Powerful Principles of Gratitude to Change Your Financial Life
Contentment: 9 Powerful Principles That Will Help You Save More Money and Reach Financial Success

 

Day 8. Find ways to save money on eating out.

Another one of the easiest ways to save money is to spend less money eating out. The best way to save money on eating out is to eat out less!

To start saving money eating out, take small steps from where you currently are. So, for example, if you eat out most days (or even every day) for lunch at work, start bringing a lunch from home. Keep things simple, especially at first. Bring leftovers you can easily reheat in the break room microwave. Bring a sandwich or simple salad.

Similarly, if you eat out every week as a family, cut back to eating out once a month or every other week. And go to less expensive restaurants when you do eat out.

You can also save money eating out by finding deals online, eating appetizers or smaller meals, save half of your meals for lunch the next day, share an entrée with another person, order water instead of a drink, skip dessert, and more!

There are lots of other ways that you can save money eating out, as well. Find more ideas to save  money when eating out here.

Day 8 Challenge: For your day 8 financial independence challenge, make a goal to spend less money eating out. This might mean brown bagging your lunches at work most days, going out to eat less as a family, going to less expensive restaurants, or all of the above.

 

Day 9. Make a simple meal plan.

One of the best ways that you can save money on food in addition to reducing how much you spend eating out is to make a weekly or even monthly meal plan. Find out how to plan a month’s worth of meals in less than an hour!

As with many things in life, one of the most powerful things you can do to save money on groceries is to start with a solid plan.

Get this awesome free weekly meal planning worksheet (sign up just below) to get organized and plan your week’s or month’s worth of meals! The meal planner comes with awesome meal planning tips that will help you save a ton of money (and time!) on your grocery shopping!

 

 

Day 9 Challenge: For this challenge, create a simple meal plan (the free meal planner above makes this a snap!) for at least a week to help you save time and money!

 

Day 10. Find other ways to slash your grocery budget.

As I mention above, you can save a ton of money by reducing your grocery budget. I talk quite a bit on my blog about finding ways to save money on groceries, and the reason is that there are so many ways to do it, and food is such a big part of most families’ budgets. Read this article to learn more than 70  ideas to save money on groceries (without having to use coupons!)

Some of the biggest ways that you can save money are by doing the following things.

Shop with a grocery list.

Another way that you can save money on groceries is to shop with a grocery list. This tip goes right along with making a plan.  In fact, my free weekly meal planner (that you can get by signing up with the form just above) includes a shopping list as part of it.

Once you have created your meal plan, use it to create your shopping list for the week (or two weeks) by seeing what grocery items you need (what you are out of or low on) and adding those items to your shopping list.

Be sure to look in your fridge, freezer, cupboards, and pantry and to consult this week’s grocery store ads while you create your grocery shopping list!

Use a price comparison cheat sheet!  

One of the things that saves us a lot of money on groceries throughout the year is to comparison shop. I comparison shop on virtually everything, so of course I am going to comparison shop on one of our biggest yearly expenses! And you should, too!

Use this awesome, super handy grocery price comparison cheat sheet to help you spot great deals and pass over grocery items that are overpriced.

Eat the food you already have on hand.

Another thing that can help you save money fast is to eat the food you already have in your house in order to slash your grocery spending. Most of us have enough food in our houses that we could go for a significant amount of time, if we had to, without buying any food.

So clear out your fridge, cupboards, freezer, and pantry. There’s a good chance you have a week’s worth or more of food in your home (many people have more than a month’s worth of food on hand in their house, which is a great thing in case some kind of emergency happens and you need it!), and using that food up periodically is a good idea to make sure nothing goes bad.

But, also, if you do find food items that have expired, don’t automatically toss them out. The expiration or best by/use by dates are just guidelines, and you can eat most things months past the best by date without any noticeable loss of quality.

 

Cut down on sweets, snacks, juice, beer, and so on.

You can save a ton of money by just sticking to the main food groups. Eat fewer packaged and overly processed foods. Focus on your whole wheat grains, vegetables, fruits, and inexpensive lean meats and proteins. (And both your wallet and your waistline will thank you!) To help you save money fast, leave the rest of the junk (food) on the grocery store shelf.

Plan to have a few meatless meals each week.

Meat is one of the most expensive foods you can buy, so by eating more meatless meals you can save a lot of money. Consider going meatless for a few dinner meals a week, or even plan a whole week or two week’s worth of meatless meals if you want to save money even faster.

Buy only items that are in season.

To save money on produce, buy fruits and vegetables that are in season.

Buy grocery items that are on sale.

Check the week’s grocery ads, and then plan what you buy for that week’s meals around that.

Eat unconventional and smaller meals.

If you really want to save money on groceries, then plan really simple meals like egg omelets, fried eggs with toast, grilled cheese sandwiches, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, fried eggs with rice, cereal with milk, pancakes or waffles, chicken with rice, spaghetti, macaroni and cheese, ramen noodles with vegetables, pasta alfredo, tacos, bean and cheese burritos, and so on.

Want more ideas for how to save money on your grocery shopping? Read this article for more than 70 suggestions for how to slash your grocery bill without needing to use coupons!

Day 10 Challenge: For your day 10 financial challenge, list at least 5 ways that you can immediately cut your spending the next time you go grocery shopping.

 

 

Day 11. Brainstorm ways that you could spend less money on transportation.

Another solid step toward your financial independence is to spend less money on transportation-related expenses.

 Here are some easy ways that you can save money on your transportation costs:

  • Drive the speed limit. 😊
  • Drive less by carpooling, biking or walking, taking public transportation, telecommuting, combining errands, and more.
  • Use apps like GasBuddy to save money when purchasing fuel.
  • Shop around to make sure you are getting the best deal on auto insurance.
  • Wash your car yourself rather than spending money at the car wash.
  • See if you can get rid of your car payment(s). (Could you get by with one car? We were a one-car family for years. Or could you buy a less expensive car and sell your more expensive car with payments?)
  • Find ways to save money on car maintenance and repairs by looking for a reliable and trustworthy but less expensive mechanic. Also save money on auto parts by shopping at places like online parts store RockAuto. (They truly have amazing prices!)

And save in other ways on your transportation costs with more than 30 ideas for how to save on transportation costs.

Day 11 Challenge: For your day 11 financial independence challenge, figure out at least one way that you will save money on your transportation costs.

 

Day 12. Save money on housing-related expenses.

For most families, housing is their largest expense. Fortunately, there are a lot of things that you can do to save money on housing, even if you own your home and so your mortgage is fixed.

To save money on housing expenses, look at these ideas:

  • Consider refinancing your home if interest rates have dropped significantly. (But don’t lengthen the term of your loan! Keep it the same or, even better, shorten it! :))
  • Talk to your insurance agent and find ways to lower your homeowners or renters insurance.
  • Save money on alarm monitoring. Check out SimpliSafe; you can get inexpensive (but awesome) alarm monitoring through them for just $15 a month!
  • Rent a cheaper place.
  • Consider moving in with family or friends.
  • Get a roommate (or roommates).
  • Rent out your spare bedrooms on sites like Airbnb and Booking.com. If you are able to do this, you could earn well over the cost of your monthly mortgage or rent payment. And you can meet some amazing people in the process.

For even more ideas for saving money on housing costs, read this article with 30+ simple ways to save money on housing and related expenses.

Day 12 Challenge: For your day 12 financial freedom challenge, write down at least one way that you will save money on housing-related expenses.

 

 

Day 13. Find ways to save money on your utilities.

You can also save money by cutting your utilities costs.

 To reduce your utility bill so that you can save money fast, try these free and easy tips:

  • Turn down (to 62 degrees or lower, if you can) and turn up your AC (to 78 degrees or higher, if you can).
  • Wash all of your clothes in cold water. Washing machines are so powerful these days they will still get your clothes clean even with cold water.
  • Hang your clothes out to dry.
  • Use your dishwasher less. Wait till it is full to run it, and consider using your dish drain and washing the dishes by hand.
  • Turn off lights, TVs, computers, radios, nightlights, and so on when they are not in use.
  • Unplug appliances and electronics when they are not in use.
  • Open your curtains during the day to let in the sun to warm up your house during the winter or keep them closed to keep out the sun to help keep it from heating up too much during the summer.

Read this article for more ideas on how to save money on utilities during the summer and this article for ideas on how to save money on utilities during the winter.

Day 13 Challenge: For this challenge, find at least 3 ways that you can reduce your energy bill this month. 

Day 14. Find ways to save money on clothing, shoes, and accessories.

Another thing you can do to save money is to not spend so much on clothing and shoes.

My favorite tip for saving money on clothing if you have kiddos is to set up a clothing co-op of sorts. If you have children, see if you can swap children’s clothes with your nieces and nephews or with children from your neighborhood or church.

My sisters and I share clothes for our kiddos, and it is an awesome way to save money (and help out the environment just a little)! Plus, I just love seeing my nieces and nephews in clothes that my kiddos wore! It brings back such fun memories!

You can also save a bunch of money on clothes by shopping the sales (such as the after-season sales) and by shopping at discount clothing stores, thrift stores and second-hand stores, garage and yard sales, websites like eBay and Craigslist, and more!

Want even more ideas? Check out this article with 13 must-know ideas to help you save money on your clothes buying.

 Day 14 Challenge: For your day 14 challenge, write down at least one way that you will commit to spending less money on clothes, shoes, or accessories.

 

Check out these related articles:

How to Get (and Stay) out of Debt!
17 Must-Know Tips to Rock Your Budget
13 Top Tips to Help You Stick to Your Budget
16 Best Tips to Help You Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck
15 Top Tips to Help You Finally Stop Overspending
31 Budget-Friendly Easy and Cheap Dinner Recipes for under $5
42 Cheap and Easy Budget-Friendly Meals for under $5
73 Easy Ways to Save Money on Groceries without Coupons!
151 Easy Ways to Save Money: Your Ultimate Guide to Saving Money!

 

Day 15. Find ways to make more money.

Though this article focuses on ways to spend less money in order to achieve financial freedom, finding ways to make extra money can be even more effective to help you reach your financial goals.

The reason is simple: there is only so much that you can realistically do to save money (though there is a lot, for sure!), but your potential to earn more money is virtually limitless!

There are more ways to make money today than there have ever been before, and many of these you can do from the comfort of your own home after you get back from work. Some of my favorite ways to make more money are below.

  • Work overtime. If you have the opportunity to do so, working overtime is a great way to help you to save money quickly.
  • Ask for a raise or promotion. If it’s been a few years since you received a significant raise and you’ve been an exceptional employee at work, make a list of your contributions and your accomplishments, and schedule a meeting with your boss to request a raise or a promotion. Focus on ways that you’ve earned the company money or saved them money. If you learn that a raise or promotion isn’t going to happen right away, ask what specific steps you can take in the next year or two to make it a reality. Read this article for more information on how to seek a raise or promotion.
  • Do freelance work. If you work in a field that lends itself to doing freelance work, take advantage of that opportunity to earn extra income to help you save money fast! I have been doing freelance writing and editing since before I graduated from college with my English degree and editing minor, and doing freelance work has not only helped me gain experience in other areas besides what I do for my full-time job but has also at times (when I wanted to give the time to it) brought in significant additional income.
  • Do coaching or consulting. Similarly, if you have job experience or a skill that lends itself to coaching or consulting, put that skill to use! Popular areas for consulting include human resource (HR) consultant, public relations (PR) consultant, marketing consultant, business management consultant, and accounting consultant. Popular areas for coaching include financial coaching, job coaching, personal fitness coaching, and leadership coaching. Look for opportunities on indeed.com or your favorite job website.
  • Get a (second) job. If one spouse is available to get a second job in the evenings or on Saturday, for example, then this is another great potential way to earn additional income. And if you are a one-income family, or if one of you works only part-time, you might want to consider reentering the workforce or going full-time temporarily in order to save money more quickly.
  • Earn passive income. Some options for earning passive income are to create a product you have someone sell, write a book, create a money-making podcast or vlog, develop an online course, or participate in affiliate marketing. Read this article to learn more ideas for earning passive income.
  • Sell stuff on eBay or Amazon. If you have a good eye for a bargain, you can buy items at thrift stores or garage sales and sell them for a profit on eBay, Amazon, Craigslist, or your local online classifieds.
  • Sell your clothes to consignment shops. If you’re like most people, you probably have more clothes than you need. So use them to bring in some quick cash!
  • Have a garage sale. Declutter and earn money, all at the same time!

Check out this article to learn more about increasing your income!

Day 15 Challenge: Find at least one way that you can work toward increasing your income starting this week. Write down your goal, and put it where you will be reminded of it often.

 

Day 16. Look at possible side hustles.

If you would rather earn money without working another regular job or working freelance or doing consulting or coaching related to your full-time job, there are a lot of things you can do to earn a little extra income with an unrelated side hustle.

Some ideas include starting your own small business where you turn a hobby into a money-maker, walking dogs, babysitting, being a virtual assistant, or driving for Uber or Lyft.

Another idea for an awesome side hustle is to start a money-making blog. The potential for significant income is one of the reasons that I started this blog. If you love helping people and enjoy writing, being a blogger might be a great fit for you. In addition to great income potential (check out these amazing income reports of bloggers who make $10,000 to $100,000 or more per month!), there are many other benefits of being a blogger, such as being able to be your own boss and work on your own schedule. Learn how to start a blog for less than $5 a month.

Discover how to start a side hustle and find out about many side hustles that you can explore.

 Day 16 Challenge: For this financial challenge, come up with at least one side hustle that you would enjoy doing in your spare time to bring in a little extra cash.

 

Are you ready to start making more money? Sign up below to participate in the free 10-day Earn More Money, Change Your Life challenge and learn actionable steps you can start taking today to really increase your income!

Day 17. List stuff to sell on your local online classifieds or with Craigslist.

Many of us (myself included :-\) have more stuff than we know what to do with. So why not sell some of that stuff, declutter your life a little, and have a little more money in your pocket? Here are some ideas of things you might sell on your local online classifieds or through Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace:

  • Clothing and shoes
  • Electronics
  • Furniture
  • Computer and cell phone equipment and accessories
  • Appliances
  • Game consoles and video games
  • Outgrown baby and kids’ clothes, toys, and gear
  • Unused pet supplies and gently used paraphernalia

Day 17 Challenge: Find at least one thing you can sell through your local classifieds, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or a similar app.

18. Plan to do a no-spend challenge.

I love no-spend challenges because they are an excellent way to save money fast! We have done a few no-spend challenges now in our family, and they have been great. You can learn all about how to do a no-spend challenge here.

If you have never done a no-spend challenge, give it a try! A no-spend challenge is where you go for a week, two weeks, or even a month or more either without spending money or without spending money on anything besides the bare essentials. 

Or you could do a no-spend challenge in just a particular category, if you have a particular area where you could fairly easily save a bunch of money because you spend a lot in that category, such as clothing, eating outor entertainment.

To save the most money quickly, do a complete no-spend challenge. You could start with a one-week no-spend challenge the first time, and then do two weeks, and then go for a whole month. Or if you really want to turbocharge your savings and short-circuit your spending habits, you could go all in and start with a one-month no-spend challenge. 

Learn more about how to do a no-spend challenge here. And learn about many of the benefits of doing a no-spend challenge here.

Day 18 Challenge: For your day 18 financial challenge, commit to do either a no-spend challenge in a specific budget category or a complete no-spend challenge, and plan to do it for at least a week. Plan to do your no-spend challenge within the next month or two. (This would be a great way to start your finances with a bang after the summer, for example.)

 

Day 19. Automate your money and your savings.

Automating your finances is another great step that you can take toward achieving financial freedom. I am also a huge fan of automating your money. Automating your money is an easy and painless way to ensure that you are sending your money where you want it to go.

Automating your money can help you to save money fast by allowing you to send money directly to savings accounts, credit card companies, car loan companies, and more. This will help you save up money quickly and pay off debt quickly. Automating your money can help you to easily save up for a purchase, pay off a debt, pay for an expense, and more.

You can (and should! :)), as soon as you can, automate your finances to save more money, pay your bills, pay off debt, save for retirement, save for large purchases, fund your children’s college educational savings accounts, and ultimately find financial freedom.

Learn all about how to automate your money here.

Day 19 Challenge: Automate at least one area of your money (by tonight if you can, or at least by this weekend).

 

 

Day 20. Sign up for a free rebate service such as Ebates or Ibotta.

With rebate services such as Ebates and Ibotta, you can earn money by shopping for things and at places where you would shop anyway. With Ebates, you generally buy items through their website to save up to 40 percent on purchases. It is primarily an online service.

Ibotta, on the other hand, is an app you use primarily after you make purchases at brick-and-mortar stores. Because of this, you can actually sign up for and use both apps to save on purchases (like I do!). Sign up for a free Ebates account here, and sign up for a free Ibotta account here. You can literally sign up for both in just seconds and let the savings start stacking up.

With rebate services such as Ebates and Ibotta, you can earn money by shopping for things and at places where you would shop anyway. With Ebates, you generally buy items through their website to save up to 40 percent on purchases. It is primarily an online service. Ibotta, on the other hand, is an app you use primarily after you make purchases at brick-and-mortar stores.

Because of this, you can actually sign up for and use both apps to save on purchases! Sign up for a free Ebates account here, and sign up for a free Ibotta account here. You can literally sign up for both in just seconds and let the savings start stacking up.

Day 20 Challenge: Sign up for a money-saving app like Ebates or Ibotta.

 

Day 21. Check out a personal finance book (or books) from the library. And then read it.

As one of my favorite financial experts, Dave Ramsey, says, leaders are readers. I work full-time as a professional editor, so I literally read all day long, and I’ve been a bookworm for as long as I can remember. One time, when I had a long commute to work, I even started reading all of the personal finance books that our library had, from A to Z. I made it more than halfway through the alphabet before something else eventually caught my interest and I started reading other things, but it was a lot of fun and a great experience to read all of the differing perspective on money. Some of my favorite personal finance books are these:

The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. Possibly my favorite personal finance book, this is the best one I have read as far as laying out a simple plan that you can follow to save, get out of debt, and invest to build wealth.

The Automatic Millionaire by David Bach. This book explains the benefits of automating your finances so that you can set up systems to help you win with your money. By automating your finances you can save and invest in order to build wealth and retire in style. Set it and (almost!) forget it!

Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki. Though I don’t believe in all of the principles that the author follows (such as being highly leveraged [using a lot of debt] to build wealth), I definitely do believe in his entrepreneurial spirit and the importance he places on gaining financial literacy.

Love Your Life, Not Theirs by Rachel Cruze. This book emphasizes that if we always focus on what we don’t have and on comparing ourselves to others, then we will always be unhappy and broke. Rachel teaches the importance of getting out of debt in order to avoid the worry and stress of living paycheck to paycheck and teaches sound financial principles such as living on a budget and saving for the future that bring joy and build a solid financial foundation.

Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez. This book takes a different approach from most of the personal finance books out there. It emphasizes discovering your values and then aligning your life to follow those values. It also shares the intriguing idea of looking at everything you buy in terms of number of hours worked, and it suggests considering whether the things you buy are really worth the number of hours of life energy spent to pay for them. The authors suggest the idea of potentially working less, and living more.

Day 21 Challenge: Put at least one personal finance book from the library on hold tonight, and then check it out and read it.

 

Day 22. Read another one of my articles here on this personal finance blog. 🙂

This is a shameless plug here. But if you’re interested in learning how to earn more, spend less, save more, and invest more, then you’ve come to the right place—this blog is for you! Some of my favorite blog articles are listed below.

Day 22 Challenge: Read at least one additional blog article this evening to help you learn more about personal finance and reach your awesome financial goals.

 

Day 23. Pay a little extra money toward your credit card debt, car loan, or home loan.

Become debt free is a wonderful step to take toward achieving financial freedom! If you have debt, work to pay it off as quickly as possible. Take a few minutes to look at your budget right now (if you don’t have one yet, download a simple one above that you can start using today!), and find areas where you can save money in order to start paying down your debt.

The more debt you can pay off as quickly as possible the better, but for now if all you have is a little room in your budget to start making small extra payments, that extra principal toward your debt will really add up over time. For more information on how to stop relying on credit cards and pay off your credit debt, read this article. And read these articles for more information on paying off your car loan or paying off your home loan (become mortgage debt free! woo hoo!).

Day 23 Challenge: For this challenge to help you achieve financial freedom, choose at least one debt you have, and transfer money or set up an extra or larger than usual payment to pay a little extra toward that debt.

Day 24. Donate to charity or do an act of service or act of kindness.

Even though this may actually cost you a little money or time rather than saving it (unless you choose to use your charitable donation as a tax deduction—double win!), I believe there is a strong correlation between being a generous giver and managing your money well in order to build wealth. I feel that any money we give or time we give will be returned to us, and then added upon.

Day 24 Challenge: Find at least one person that you can serve, or sign up to volunteer with one of your favorite nonprofit organizations.

 

Day 25. Sign up for term life insurance.

This, too, costs money in the short-term, but in the long-term it will save your family from likely financial disaster if you ever need the insurance protection if you or your spouse passes on.

If you are a parent of dependent children, then you need life insurance. To find good term life insurance agencies, check out Zander Insurance, a firm that will shop around among the different insurance companies to find you the best price for your life insurance. It’s the company we used to get our own life insurance.

 Day 25 Challenge: Especially if you have children, get a free term life insurance quote from Zander Insurance or another insurance broker or agency, and begin the process to get term life insurance for you and your spouse.

Day 26. Cut up your credit cards and close the accounts, and get a rewards debit card, instead.

Getting out of credit card debt is an important part of how to achieve financial freedom. I know credit cards may feel like nearly a necessity for many people in our society, but you really don’t need them. And if you have credit card debt (if you don’t pay off your credit card bill every month), you’re really much better off without them. If you love the rewards that you get from your credit card, try these reward debit cards, instead:

The PayPal Debit MasterCard is the rewards debit card that I have had and used for years now. It earns you 1 percent cash back on all signature-based purchases (where you don’t use a PIN). Opening an account with PayPal is free, and another advantage that I really like is that you can link your PayPal card to various checking accounts and transfer the money from whichever account you want into your PayPal account to cover your purchases. There are no minimum balances (in fact, you don’t have to keep any money in your PayPal account at all; it will just pull the funds from whichever account you have set up as your default backup account) and no fees.

Discover Bank has a checking account that pays 1 percent cash back on debit card purchases. There are no monthly fees or minimum account balance requirements.

American Express Serve cash back debit card offers 1 percent cash back for every $1 you spend with your prepaid debit card. There is no cap on the amount of cash back you can earn.

The SunTrust Delta SkyMiles World debit card offers 1 mile for every $1 you spend on PIN point-of-sale transactions and 2 miles for every $1 you spend on direct purchases from Delta.

The Key Bank rewards debit card offers one reward point for every $6 you spend on qualifying purchases, and there is no cap on the amount of points you can earn.

Though there aren’t nearly as many debit card rewards programs as there used to be, they still exist, and if you love the rewards but have trouble managing your spending with credit cards (that is, you carry a balance on your credit card), then they’re a great alternative.

Read this article for information about additional rewards debit cards available.

For information about how to stop relying on credit cards, read this article.

Day 26 Challenge: If you have credit card debt, cut up your credit cards (be sure to still pay them off!), and sign up for a rewards debit card, instead.

  

Day 27. Download a personal finance app to help you manage your money.

There are several great personal finance apps that are worth checking out. Here are a few:

Mint. We used Mint for years to get a good idea of our overall financial situation because it allows you to link all of your bank accounts and shows you how much you spent overall and your individual and overall bank balances. It is a good, free budgeting tool. It also does link to your investment accounts, but Personal Capital is much stronger in this area. And so now that we are investing more in nonretirement accounts (for one thing, we’re working on our 100 percent down payment for our next house! :D), we’ve switched to using Personal Capital. However, if you’re focused primarily on budgeting and monitoring your overall bank balances and you want a good, free app to do that, then this is a good choice.

EveryDollar. Created by Dave Ramsey and team, this is another popular budgeting app. EveryDollar is a zero-based budgeting tool, which means that it requires that you designate all of the money you earn into the various budget categories you create, without having any money left over (which is what you should do when you budget, by the way, so that there’s no leftover slush money that just sort of evaporates into thin air). There are both free and paid versions of this app (the paid version integrates with your checking account and categorizes your spending automatically).

You Need a Budget (YNAB). Another popular budgeting tool, one benefit of You Need a Budget is that it notifies you if you don’t follow the budget you created and helps you to adjust in other categories to keep your overall budget balanced. Like EveryDollar, it is a zero-based budgeting tool. It’s designed to help you stop living paycheck to paycheck by encouraging you to work toward spending last month’s paycheck rather than this month’s (so cool; a $1,000 buffer in your checking account can also help accomplish the same thing). The app is easy to use and is a good tool for those new to budgeting. It is available for desktop and mobile devices. You can also sign up for online classes to help you start to budget effectively. As of 2018, it costs $6.99 per month.

PayPal. PayPal is a great tool that allows you to request payments from others as well as pay others. If you use it to pay or receive money from friends or family, there are no fees. Otherwise, there is a small fee for each transaction. You can also get a PayPal debit card to use to make purchases. One benefit of PayPal is that if you use it for your business, you can connect a rewards debit card to your account that pays 1 percent cash back. I’ve had their rewards debit card for years, and I love the guilt-free rewards (since I don’t like credit cards).

Venmo. Popular among millennials, the app Venmo was purchased by PayPal and is another app that lets you pay people and share payments among family and friends.

Acorns. Acorns is an easy-to-use investment app that automatically invests your spare change (by rounding up to the nearest dollar after purchases), a one-time contribution, or a recurring amount you designate in a wide range of diversified stocks and bonds.

Personal Capital. If you want to be able to track your financial progress—such as your debt repayment, your progress toward a financial goal, and the growth of your retirement and other investment portfolios—then you should sign up for a great free app called Personal Capital. It’s fun (for nerds like me) to be able to see all of that financial information together in one place in order to easily see our overall financial picture and be able to look back over time to see how our savings and investment accounts have grown. This is (at least so far) my favorite personal finance app. Sign up here to open your free account today.

Day 27 Challenge: Download at least one personal finance app that will help you better manage your money.

 

Day 28. Open some high-yield savings accounts and set up automatic transfers.

If you don’t already have a high-yield savings account, I recommend opening a checking account and savings accounts with Capital One 360 or a similar online bank. Yes, that’s right—savings accounts, multiple. We opened our accounts with them back when they were ING Direct, and though I was pretty sad when they were bought by Capital One, I have to say that the couple of times that I’ve needed to have something resolved (both were minor user errors on my part), their customer service was great. We’ve never had a problem with them.

And the fact that you can super easily open multiple savings accounts to save for things like vehicle purchases, vehicle maintenance, house maintenance, auto insurance payments, life insurance payments, Christmas, other gift giving, vacations, and so much more is just awesome. These funds to save for various larger expenses are sometimes called sinking funds, and they are an important part of getting and staying out of debt and building wealth.

If you don’t have an emergency fund, start building your initial, starter emergency fund now before saving for larger purchases you will eventually need. So with the money from your first paycheck (if you get paid twice a month, for example), set up automatic transfers with your bank to transfer $150, for instance, directly into your emergency fund savings account.

After you have a fully funded EF, you should open various other savings accounts (see the list above) and set up regular automatic transfers to transfer a certain amount of money each paycheck into the various accounts.

Day 28 Challenge: If you don’t already have high-yield savings accounts, open a savings account at an online or other bank or credit union with good interest rates. And then open several more savings accounts (at the same bank, linked together). Then start to fund the various savings accounts so that they can serve as sinking funds you can use to pay cash for expenses like vehicle maintenance and repairs, vehicle purchases, home maintenance, vacations, Christmas shopping and gift giving, and more.

 

Day 29. Set a retirement goal.

Investing regularly for retirement is a wonderful way to work toward achieving financial freedom.

And to have an awesome retirement, you need to plan for it! Most people have never taken the time to consider how much they should have for retirement. But you are not most people! (Not anymore, anyway! :)) So take a little time today and figure out how much you should have saved by the time you retire.

In order to determine how much you should have saved for retirement (and the awesome thing is, it’s probably less money than you think you will need), first do this: Determine what you feel like your annual salary will need to be to provide a comfortable living. As you consider this number, keep these things in mind:

  • You should plan to not have any consumer debt during retirement. That means no car payments, RV payments, credit card debt, and so on.
  • You should also have your mortgage paid off long before you retire (don’t plan on having to make a mortgage payment during retirement).
  • You should have a good-sized emergency fund so that financial difficulties do not completely derail what might be a fairly fixed income. (And you should plan to have one because having a three- to six-month emergency fund is just a good idea for everyone because life happens.)

If you have around 20 years left till you hope to retire, an approach you might take to get a rough idea of your needed retirement savings could be to take the amount of your current monthly expenses (if you anticipate that they will stay about the same, adjusted for inflation), multiply that amount by 12, and then double that number.

So if your monthly expenses are $5,000, you would multiply that by 12, which is $60,000, and then double that to $120,000. Then multiply that number by 10 to 12, and that would be the rough amount that you could aim to have in your retirement accounts. So, for our example, that would be $1.2 to about $1.5 million.

In calculating these numbers, we are going to assume that you will keep your retirement money in good growth stock mutual funds throughout retirement so that they can average about a 10 percent return (really over the long-term they can average higher than that, but 10 percent is a nice round number). So as long as you keep your money in the stock market in good mutual funds with good, long track records, you can earn on average about $120,000 a year in our hypothetical situation.

And you would never even really have to touch the principal in your retirement accounts (so you would always keep the original $1.2), so you could have it as money you could draw on for occasional fun splurges or to slightly increase the amount you draw out each year to keep up with inflation.

If you have about 30 years till retirement, you could use the same formula, but multiply your monthly expenses by 12 and then multiply that number by 2.5 to 3. So if you predict you would need $50,000 to pay for your expenses each year, you could multiply that number by say 2.75, and that would be about $137,500 a year you would need in retirement. And you could then multiply that number by 12 (to give yourself a little more cushion), and so you would need about $1.65 million in your retirement account.

Another great option to try to determine how much you should save is to use an online retirement calculator. Especially if you have longer than 30 years till retirement, try an online retirement calculator found by Googling “how much should I save for retirement.”

When you’re willing to keep your money in the stock market during the span of your retirement, the risk over the long-term really is quite low, but you’re able to maintain your nest egg (principal) and not deplete it.

 Note: These are my rough estimated calculatioins, but I am not a retirement planner or investing professional! Please do your own research with an investing professional! 🙂

Day 29 Challenge: Do your best to calculate how much you  should have saved for retirement. And then figure out, by calculating backwards, how much you should be saving each month to reach that goal.

 

Day 30. Begin contributing to your company 401(k) or other retirement plan or increase your contribution to at least 10 percent (and preferably 15 percent).

If you are wanting to do something that will have amazing results for your future, start regularly contributing to your company 401(k) or other retirement plan, or increase your contributions to at least 10 percent (if you can manage 15 percent, increase it to that). Because of the awesome power of compound interest, you’re relatively small efforts now can have huge dividends in the future (literally!).

And because most employers also contribute to their employees’ retirement plans by matching a portion of what employees save, the results are even better (often twice as good—when the company matches dollar for dollar!).

Let’s say, for example, that you make $40,000 a year, or about $3,333 a month, and that you contribute 10 percent of your income and receive a 3 percent match on your contributions from your employer. So you would invest $333 a month into your Roth 401(k) (because you would pay taxes now before you invest but all future earnings are tax free!), and your employer would invest $100.

If you did that from age 25 to age 60, because you decided to retire a little early, and you earned a reasonable 10 percent average annual return, you would have $1,549,066 in your retirement account. Even with inflation and $1.5 million not being what it used to be, I think you could get by on that. 🙂

Day 30 Challenge: For your day 30 financial freedom challenge, make a solid plan to begin investing in your company retirement plan if you have not done so yet. Once you are out of nonmortgage debt, start investing at least 10 percent of your income toward retirement as soon as you are able, and 15 percent is even better for an awesome retirement. 🙂

Even if you can contribute only 1 percent or only $100 a month, start there, and then slowly increase your contributions over time. (We started by contributing 2 percent to retirement way back when, and we felt that we were doing great! :))

 

Are you ready to learn more about investing and start seriously saving for your retirement? Do you want to change your financial life? Do you want to be able to invest like you need to to save for the retirement you dream of? Do you want to be able to travel extensively, pursue hobbies passionately, and give generously? Are you ready to build wealth and work toward financial freedom? My new, free Invest Your Money, Change Your Life 5-day challenge will show you how. Sign up below!

 

Day 31. Open and begin to fund an IRA or Roth IRA.

If you are already contributing in your Roth or traditional 401(k) up to the maximum amount that your company will match (say, for example, that they will match your contribution up to 5 percent of your income), then the next best thing you can do after you contribute that 5 percent to your Roth 401(k) may be to contribute the rest of the money you designate for retirement savings into a Roth IRA. (Unless you are a very high income earner and think you will be in a lower tax bracket in retirement than you are now, in which case you may want to invest in a regular, or traditional, IRA).

Save enough more in your Roth IRA that you are saving at least 10 percent of your income toward retirement, and if possible, contribute 15 percent of your income toward retirement.

Ready to start investing in a Roth or traditional IRA but not sure where to start? Get the Roth IRA cheat sheet to get simple step-by-step instructions for how to open a Roth (or traditional) IRA in about 10 minutes!

 

The reason to invest the remaining amount of your money for retirement in a Roth IRA rather than contributing everything in your company 401(k) is that when you contribute to an IRA, you have a much wider array of options to choose from as far as the mutual funds available to you to invest in.

Where most company 401(k) plans probably have at most 20 mutual funds that you can choose from (my company 401(k) doesn’t even have that many), with a brokerage firm such as Schwab (where we do our Roth IRA investing as well as the bulk of our nonretirement investing) you have literally thousands of mutual funds that you can choose to invest in.

That means that the rate of return for the mutual funds you can invest in through an IRA could likely be higher than those offered by your company retirement plan. When choosing your funds to invest in, choose funds that have a good track record—that have performed well for at least the last 5 to 10 years (and longer is even better). I recommend dividing your contributions equally between large cap, mid cap, small cap, and international mutual fund investment accounts.

If you want to know how we choose the investment accounts that we are personally invested in for our Roth IRA, fill out the information below, and I’m happy to send you the information. (There are no strings attached, and I don’t make any commission or anything if you follow this information; it’s just the kind of information that I really wish I would have known before we started investing for retirement more than 15 years ago.)

For more information about the differences between a traditional IRA and a Roth IRA, read this article.

Day 31 Challenge: If you are currently contributing at least up to the employer match in your comparny retirement plan, strongly consider opening a Roth (or traditional) IRA so that you will have more investing options for retirement. If you are not yet contributing up to the company match, work steadily toward that goal, and make a plan to open a Roth (or traditional) IRA once you can contribute more than the company match to your 401(k) or similar plan .

 

Conclusion

The information above really will help you know how to achieve financial freedom—if you follow it. 🙂 In as little as 30 minutes each day for a month, you can do so many things that could help you to earn more, spend less, save more, and invest more money—the possibilities are endless! You can start to change your financial future today—right now—by making small steps to work toward financial security and to build wealth over time.

Join the new Families for Financial Freedom community Facebook group to receive encouragement and ideas for how to manage your money and reach your financial goals and dreams.

 

What are your best tips for how to achieve financial freedom? What steps are you taking now to reach that awesome goal? Leave a comment below and let me know—I would love to know your ideas!

 

Invitation to Share

Was there something in this article that inspired you to change something about your money? Are there ideas or tips that you feel could help a family member or friend or people in general? Would you please take a minute to share this article via email or social media? I would love your help to share these principles of financial well-being with others. Thank you!

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