Personal finance doesn’t need to be complicated, but it seems as though there’s an endless amount of information to wade through when you have money questions.
Let’s cut through the noise and focus on three basic money rules you need to follow if you want to significantly move the needle and achieve financial freedom. Note that these money saving tips are simple, but that doesn’t mean they’re easy to implement. Financial success comes from taking small, consistent actions over a long time. And who knows: After a time, you may be finally able to afford that dream home for sale in Charleston, SC. Here’s what you need to do.
Rule 1: Live below your means
If you’re not spending more than you make, you might feel you’re doing a good job with your finances. But living within your means isn’t enough. You need to learn to live below your means so you can create as big a buffer as possible between what you earn each month and what you spend.
Besides necessary expenses such as your mortgage payment, take a hard look at your spending and evaluate if there are any costs you can cut. And don’t be afraid to negotiate for better deals with service providers that you can’t drop entirely, such as insurance or utility companies.
Spending money isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but you want to ensure your expenses are in line with your values. That means you’re using your money for what’s important to you. Take action by aligning your spending with your values and keep your expenses as low as possible.
Rule 2: Earn more money
There’s a limit to how much you can save. Theoretically, there’s no limit on what you can earn. This is the money rule you really need to focus on to build wealth — and unfortunately, it’s easier said than done.
Earning more money is a powerful way to make a significant impact on your finances. It makes it easier to fund various goals and take care of multiple priorities at once. This rule is easier to follow if you’re willing to be proactive.
There are numerous ways you can think about earning more:
- Earn and ask for a raise in your current job.
- Negotiate for higher pay when you start a new job.
- Create a side hustle or side business, or try freelancing on the side of your full-time job.
- Start your own business.
Get creative, look for new solutions, and don’t be afraid to experiment. Can you monetize a hobby or pick up extra hours at work? Can you learn to negotiate and increase the number on your paycheck? Can you put the skills you already have to work for you by taking on some freelance gigs or part-time work?
The tricky part of earning more money is sticking to rule #1 once you do so. Don’t fall victim to lifestyle inflation, which happens when your spending increases with your income. Stay the course and put that extra money toward rule #3.
Rule 3: Invest wisely
Once you have enough money left over each month to save, via cutting expenses and earning more, you need to put those savings to work for you. And that means investing wisely. Investing your money allows you to earn compounding returns over time, which is the most powerful thing the average person can do to grow their wealth.
Personally, I like to invest in index funds in my Roth IRA with Vanguard. I set up an automatic contribution that pulls money from my checking account and deposits it into my Roth IRA each month — and I do this no matter what, because I don’t want to try to time the market, and I think dollar cost averaging is the best strategy for me. But don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for professional help. Look for a fee-only financial adviser; the best places to find one are with NAPFA or XY Planning Network.
As to how much you should invest? After establishing an emergency fund or cash reserves (that should be at least three months’ worth of earnings) and funding other cash savings goals, aim to invest at least 20% of your income. Many rules of thumb provide lower numbers, but 20% is the minimum for those who want to get serious about changing their financial situations.
Twenty percent may sound like too much. But remember money rule #2! Investing more becomes exponentially easier as you increase your income.
If you can live below your means, steadily increase your earnings, and invest wisely over time, you’ll reach financial freedom. Stick to these three pieces of financial advice and dedicate yourself to the process. Your reward will be a nice nest egg and the ability to live the life you want on your terms.