One day, you will realize you are approaching an age of independence. You thrive in the new range of freedom that comes with each passing year. More freedom also brings more responsibility. Slowly but surely, the responsibilities are piling up. Within the gradually building pile of duties is the responsibility of finances. Soon, you will need financial stability to maintain your lifestyle.
Gaining financial independence can seem haphazard. You don’t really know where to start, or what you should consider, until someone points those details out. Being self-sufficient is a goal for most people. Actions to help you maintain that status need to be present, especially during life’s surprises. We’ll do a quick run through of tips to help you steady yourself for future financial stability.
Get a Job
In order to have stable finances, you must have finances. Find a source of regular income. You need to be employed before even thinking about finances.
Your regular income could be a stipend or lunch money you receive from a guardian, 9-5 employment, or freelancing. Regular income could also be a small task your friends or family pay you to perform on a regular basis.
A few positions you could try are an on-call receptionist, an independent contractor (photography, writing, music, book-keeping), or helping neighbors (groceries, painting, babysitting, or putting together furniture). For 9-5 employment, you can be part-time or full-time. If you are looking for jobs outside of the 9-5 life, definitely try freelancing. There are plenty of specialties to be compensated for, and the schedules can be flexible.
Freelancing may require digging to find steady income. However, you will find entire websites dedicated to certain specialties. This makes it easier to find people to work with. In addition, don’t be afraid of using your local area as your main source of work.
Budget and Save
Map out the use of your finances, and determine what you will save.
Figure out how much you will spend and how much you will save. You can categorize your funds if you are saving for a specific reason. Whether you are saving for a new phone or a trip to Barcelona, write out the amount dedicated to that cause. Create multiple categories if you like. Record any transaction to check your progress.
Keep track of the amount you need to earn versus what you buy. Start buying practical things regularly. Pay for things you may not typically pay for, like groceries or filling the gas tank (if you have a car). Do everyday things to measure the lifestyle you can maintain on your income. In effect, you’ll get a better idea of what financial independence will require. Testing your financial stability creates a timely, noncommittal way to practice budgeting. Seeing where your finances go helps you recognize indulgences, and decide what you can cut out of your finances. Doing this while financially dependent (semi or completely) gives your budgeting flexibility. Find a budget to match your lifestyle.
As for the rest, save, save, save! Be sure to save at least a portion of your money. Extra funds are like the extra change in a piggy bank. You never know when you will need the extra funds. The amount you save can be used for parking tickets or a last-minute vacation! Having those finances available adds to your stability. It is always better to save a few dollars in your account. Just in case.
FINAL TIP FOR TODAY!
BUILD YOUR CREDIT
Maybe no one has mentioned this to you yet, but you need credit. In the future, when you would like to make more “grown-up” purchases, people will check your credit. Take out a loan? Credit check. Purchase a phone plan? Credit check. Even some employers check credit scores of potential employees.
Building credit means that a consistent history of payments to a company exists under your name. A lack of history results in you needing a cosigner, or being denied. A case like this leaves you dependent and short on options.
Consider building credit during your first or second year out of high school, or when you have steady income you can use to invest in another expense. (Here’s where budgeting comes in handy!) Don’t wait too long before building your credit.
Financial stability is built over time. It will not happen overnight. If you still have a chance of being financially dependent, take advantage of that time. If not, take things one step at a time. Don’t be intimidated by the real world—greet it.
Illustrations by Richard Chance