The 10 Commandments of Reaching Financial Freedom

Financial freedom means different things to different people. For some, the ultimate freedom is having enough money saved to retire early and pursue long-delayed interests. For others, it's simply reaching a point where debt no longer controls their lives. No matter how you define it, achieving financial freedom (or at least, "freer-dom") takes intention. Here are the 10 commandments for getting there.

1. Have a plan and stick to it

Like any other goal, reaching financial freedom takes solid planning. Set realistic short-term and long-term goals. Do you want to pay off your credit cards within six months? Have a solid emergency fund by this time next year? Save enough for a down payment on a home within five years? Get specific and track your progress.

2. Embrace satisfaction

Let's be clear on one thing, folks: The goal of every marketer and advertiser is to disrupt. Why? Because people who are satisfied with who they are and what they have don't spend much money. Ignore the Joneses. Don't let relentless and heavy-handed commercials shake up your world. Embrace the idea of enough.

3. Know where every dollar comes from — and where it goes

If you don't understand exactly how much money you bring home and how you spend it, your budget will never be more than a best guess. These two pieces of information form the foundation of effective budgeting. Together, they can help you find ways to reduce spending, increase savings, and totally reinvent the way you manage money.

4. Drastically reduce expenses

Find ways to tactically reduce your monthly expenses so you can pay off debt faster and build savings. Can you switch to a more economical cellphone plan? Cut the cable cord? Cancel a few memberships and subscriptions? (See also: 7 Unnecessary Household Expenses You Can Cut Today)

5. Aggressively pay off consumer debt

In a world of easy credit, debt can quickly become a way of life. But remember, those who reach financial freedom tend to favor earning interest over paying interest. Attack your credit card debt with dogged determination. Once it's history, apply that same level of energy toward saving. (See also: The Fastest Way to Pay Off $10,000 in Credit Card Debt)

6. Find ways to increase your income

Speaking of paying off debt, supplement your regular income by getting a part-time job, starting a small at-home business, or finding a roommate. Even a modest amount of additional cash directed at high-interest credit card debt can make a big difference over time. Once you're in the black, earmark the money for savings.

7. Live below your means

Living within your means is great, but living below your means is where the magic really happens. Reaching a point where your net income exceeds your expenses creates a financial surplus — the fuel for saving, investing, and wealth-building.

8. Pay yourself first

Saving can't be an afterthought. By paying yourself first, you remove the element of choice that often makes socking away cash low-priority. Instead, saving and investing becomes similar to a bill you have to pay month in and month out — and that consistency is a mighty wealth-building tool. (See also: 7 Reasons You Really Need to Pay Yourself First)

9. Never spend money you don't have

Why would you pay someone a fee so you can spend money you haven't earned yet? The overuse and abuse of consumer credit siphons billions from household incomes every year. Avoid interest and late fees by never charging more than you can easily pay off at the end of every billing cycle.

10. Track your progress, make adjustments, learn

Working toward financial freedom is a process. No doubt you'll slip up every now and then (I still do). Stay focused and learn from your mistakes. Motivate yourself by tracking your progress on a simple spreadsheet and embracing wealth-building apps like YNAB (You Need a Budget), Digit, or Acorns.

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The 10 Commandments of Reaching Financial Freedom

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