Full disclosure: I’m not quite at the place of financial freedom yet.
But… before you close this tab, hear me out…
Two years ago, I was the most broke I had ever been. I had less than $1,000 to my name and no consistent income.
Then, thanks to my partner, I began studying finances and wealth, and what I learned totally blew my mind.
I realized my current financial situation was due to a combination of bad habits, a lack of financial knowledge, and a severely limiting mindset that was blocking me from being economically comfortable, let alone financially free.
Over the last two years, I’ve read countless books and listened to numerous podcasts and interviews to understand how wealthy people think and act.
From these lessons, I’ve taken myself from a place of money-related anxiety and poverty thinking to one of security and abundance, where I finally see a clear path to becoming financially free.
If you’re also seeking that path, here are seven things you must stop doing right now…
1) Living for the moment
I spent my 20s backpacking the world, living for the moment, and being spontaneous.
Whenever people would bring up subjects like savings and retirement, I would respond, “I’ll worry about that when I’m older.”
While I’m so grateful and blessed for the wonderful experiences I had, when I reached my 30s, I started to pay the price for my ‘living for the moment’ mindset.
Now, I’m not saying living for the moment is bad.
One thing I’ve learned is how important it is to balance focusing on the present with planning for the future. And trust me, as a yoga teacher, it’s hard to admit that!
But the truth is, when building worth, you MUST think about the future and stop prioritizing short-term pleasure over long-term gain.
What does this mean?
- Instead of buying things you don’t really need, put that money into a savings account.
- Instead of purchasing coffee from that expensive coffee shop every day, make your own at home.
- Instead of going out on payday weekend, use that money to invest.
Now, I’m not saying you have to give up EVERY enjoyment in your life.
But if you are serious about gaining financial freedom, sit down and think, “What can I sacrifice today to benefit my future?”
Now let’s discuss another way you shouldn’t live…
2) Living beyond your means
I see so many people trying to “keep up with the Joneses.” They see someone on Instagram buy a flashy new car or jet off on an exotic holiday, so they want to do the same.
Because of two things:
- They seek external validation rather than validating themselves
- They care what others think of them
It all comes down to self-image. If you have low self-esteem, you will rely on others to make you feel worthy.
By trying to impress.
You want to make others think you’re leading such an incredible life. You want others to be jealous. You want to appear successful.
So, to do this, you end up living beyond your means.
You can’t afford to eat in fancy restaurants, stay in 5-star hotels, or fly business class.
But it makes you look successful to others, so you do it anyway, even if it means you’re broke one week after payday.
Spending more than you earn will only lead you to one place – destination debt.
3) Ignoring your debt
Unfortunately, nowadays, so many people have debt. Whether due to a hefty mortgage, never-ending student loans, or overspending on credit cards, the latest statistics show that 77% of Americans are in debt.
Having debt doesn’t mean you will never be financially free, but ignoring it does.
Yes, there is a right and wrong way to deal with debt, and hiding the problem is the worst thing you can do.
If you’re unaware of how much debt you have or you lack a clear plan to pay it off, you’ll struggle to get out of it, let alone be financially free.
Of course, understanding how much money you can put towards monthly debt repayments is extremely difficult if you’re guilty of the following thing…
4) Not budgeting
When you get your paycheck each month, the first thing you should do is divide the money into the following categories:
- Debt repayments
- Savings/emergency fund
- Disposable income
Disposable income is what you have left after all the other things on the list. This is your money for shopping, hobbies, travel, going out, etc.
However, when you don’t budget, you’ll likely overspend on non-essentials, leaving little to no money for savings and investments. You may even struggle with rent or debt repayments if your overspending is high.
To avoid this and begin your journey to financial freedom, create a budget. Allocate a certain amount to all the categories above.
Then, with what you have left (your disposable income), allocate this into further subcategories, such as:
You don’t have to hire a financial planner to do this; you can create a budget with the humble Excel spreadsheet or try out one of the many budgeting apps – I like to use Mint.
This all-in-one app lets you create a budget, link your accounts, credit cards, and investments, and track your spending.
Tracking your spending is essential to ensure you stay within your budget and stick to your money goals.
Yes, budgeting and tracking is not fun or glamorous, but it’s one of the key habits that all financially free people have!
5) Not having an emergency fund
An emergency fund is the number one thing EVERY person should have.
Many people think, “I have so much debt to pay off; I’ll worry about savings later.”
However, according to Bruce McClary, senior vice president of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, building an emergency fund should be step 1 as it will prevent you from going deeper into debt.
He recommends building an emergency fund that contains at least three months of your usual take-home salary. Plus, avoid using this fund to pay off your debts, as you could end up accumulating more should an emergency arise and your fund is empty.
Likewise, building an emergency fund is something you should do before investing. If you don’t, you could lose money by pulling out your investments at the worst possible time in the stock market.
6) Exchanging time for money
Besides reducing spending and increasing saving, there are other shifts you need to make to ensure financial freedom is within reach.
One of these is the way you earn money.
If you’re currently exchanging your time for money, i.e., working a job with an hourly/daily/monthly wage, you’ll struggle to progress your wealth.
There are several ways you can earn more money. If you’re an employee, you could ask for a pay raise; if you’re a freelancer, you can increase your rates.
But there are many ways to increase your earnings beyond exchanging time for money, such as:
- Building a source of passive income
- Charging clients for the job instead of by the hour
- Starting a side hustle
- Renting out your property
Going back to time for money, it is also possible to “create” more time (and thus, earn more money) by outsourcing unnecessary tasks both in business and personal life.
There are some fantastic books that can give you more ideas and how-to explanations on this, such as ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad‘ and ‘The 4-Hour Workweek‘.
Investing your time into learning about finances will not only help you earn more, but it will also help you stop doing the following thing…
7) Being stuck in a scarcity mindset
Until two years ago, I had never heard of a scarcity mindset, let alone know I had one.
So, if you’ve never heard this term, don’t fret!
In short, a scarcity mindset is a deep-set (often subconscious) belief that money, resources, and wealth, among other things, are limited.
Scarcity mindset beliefs include:
- The only way you can make money is by working for a corporation
- You will never earn more than a certain amount
- You’ll never have over a specific figure in your bank account
Two years ago, I had all three of these beliefs, which all related to the same thing…
Not believing I could be wealthy.
Scarcity mindsets can come from various things, such as:
- History of family poverty
- Absorbing the money beliefs of those around you
- Past failures around finances
If you think you have a scarcity mindset, fear not, as it’s totally possible to transform it into a mindset of abundance.
According to Stephen Covey, who wrote the incredible book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” (which I highly recommend), an abundance mindset is when you believe there is enough money, resources, and time to achieve your goals and dreams.
However, doing so takes time and involves several techniques to uncover and reframe your limiting beliefs, such as:
- Practicing gratitude
- Using positive affirmations
- Cultivating mindfulness to catch and change negative thought patterns
While we’re not taught this stuff in school, it’s never too late to learn how to manage and make money work for you.
By practicing the tips in this article and checking out the resources mentioned, you’ll soon be on your way to a financially free life!