By Nikki Ducas

Woman with Piggy Bank

 

With all the uncertainty going on in the world with COVID-19, the one thing I feel I can reasonably control is my money. I’ve followed these five tips for most of my adult life, and let me just say the financial freedom that comes with keeping my family’s finances in check has been so rewarding.

Do Keep a Budget. 

Use your budget to track your daily, weekly and monthly spending, and to put it to work toward your financial goals. When I was younger I used a paper ledger, then an Excel spreadsheet, and now I use an online budgeting tool like Mint. Budgeting has allowed my family to pay cash for an extra vacation without having to put it on a credit card. 

Do Live Within Your Means. 

Don’t live a lifestyle you can’t afford. Better yet, live beneath your means and beware of “Lifestyle Creep.” This is when your living expenses rise to nearly your income. Use your cushion money to set up an emergency fund, save for a big ticket purchase or pay down debt.

Do Watch What You Spend on Big Ticket Items.

Ask yourself: Do you really need a bigger house, a brand-new car or that 80-inch TV? I have never been one to keep up with the Joneses, and this has reaped financial success. The biggest payoff for me is that we have a 2005 beater for a second car. While it would nice to have a shiny new car, it’s even nicer not having that car payment.  

Do Have an Emergency Fund.

For life’s little emergencies, start by saving $1,000, and then save three months of your family’s living expenses. I remember using our emergency fund three days before Christmas 2012 for a new heat pump. It was a relief to have the cash and not have the extra debt around the holidays.

Do Invest for the Long Run.

I am a jack of all trades, so naturally I dabbled in the stock market, started my own business and have side hustles. All these investments of time and money are ultimately for our financial future so my husband can retire and our children can go to college without being sacked with student loans. 

By following these simple steps and maintaining our wealth, we have achieved financial freedom. With a wait-and-see attitude about purchases and being able to prioritize how we spend our money, we are able to do meaningful things with our extra money. For my husband and I, having the same financial goals definitely takes some of the stressors off of daily family life—another freedom!