Gaining financial independence is a long process, and everyone begins the process at different points in his/her life. For some, becoming financially independent begins in high school with a part-time job. For others, financial independence comes with college graduation and their first professional job.
Regardless of when you start to become financially independent, I cannot stress enough how long it takes to become fully independent from your parents or guardians, and honestly, there are a multitude of ways to reach financial independence. It is an ever-changing process and one that makes us completely self-reliant. At some point in our lives, gaining financial independence is a must to grow into self-sufficient individuals.
Though I am still in the process of learning to budget and manage my finances, I can assert that these are the steps that have helped me become a (completely) financially independent adult.
Secure a full-time, permanent job. Obviously, with a job comes an earned income and yearly salary. This will allow you to have a consistent paycheck, so you can plan for monthly expenses and budget for savings. A salary rarely varies in the amount you are paid, which easily contributes to your monthly financial management.
Sign up for one or two credit cards because they will help boost your credit score. I would recommend having one credit card for spending on necessities like gas and groceries and another one for leisurely spending. Be warned – before you sign up for credit cards, read the outlined provisions carefully and see that there is a reasonable interest rate. Also, limit yourself to no more than two credit cards to ensure that you will be able to make monthly payments on time and not push yourself into debt.
Open a savings account with a bank near you. A savings account accrues a small monthly interest earning, so the amount saved in your account increases over a prolonged period of time. I highly suggest putting at least 15-20% of your paycheck into your savings account so you can begin saving money for the future. Personally, I use my savings account to save up a three-month emergency fund and for big life events like a wedding and retirement. Once I transfer money into my savings, I almost never take it out (unless, of course, it is for special circumstances).
Organize your monthly bills, including listing out all the necessities you will need to pay per month. First, figure out how much you of your paycheck you will spend on rent, utilities and groceries, and then see how much you have leftover. Allocate half of what you have leftover toward savings and the rest towards leisurely use. It is best to know what bills you are required to pay each month so that you can pay in complete amounts and avoid debt. Also, paying in full each month guarantees you will not have to pay interest.
Budget your income and expenses so you can take control of your finances. And yes, that means your spending habits will have to change. Once you know how much spending money you have, you will have to figure out what you can afford to spend it on. I think this is the most difficult step for me because I have re-evaluated my splurges and spending habits (for the better!) over the last few years. Though difficult to adapt, this step allows you to realize your “wants" versus your “needs" and better understand budgeting.
Find a side hustle. Having it be related to your hobbies and passions will not only expand your knowledge and creativity, but will also make you a small profit. Side hustles can bring in a smaller additional income each month from you selling your products or offering your services at a freelance status. That small income can easily contribute toward your spending cash or savings. Side hustles are also stress-relievers from your day job and allow you to further explore your curiosities about a topic or craft.
Keep receipts for everything. I have learned that one of the best ways to manage money is to keep receipts because they can help you calculate how much you have saved over time. Receipts can also provide you with cash back opportunities; for instance, Ibotta is a mobile application that deposits money back into your bank account by simply scanning in a receipt. I use Ibotta to earn cash back on items I purchase monthly.
I have learned that financial independence takes time, patience, and dedication. These steps do not necessarily apply to everyone because everyone achieves financial independence in different ways. However, these steps are what have helped me through the process of managing my finances, which can be a new and scary concept for young adults.