The Single Girl’s Guide to Financial Freedom

Financial freedom. Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Whether you just graduated from college, have dreams of owning your own home in the next 12 months, or just need strategies to live debt-free, we’ve got you covered. With 9 practical tips you can start implementing today, we’re sharing our best financial planning tips to help you create and follow a budget that works. #ad

This is a sponsored post written by me. All opinions are my own.

When I was a junior in high school, my mother came home from work one afternoon to find me lying on my bed crying. My then-boyfriend had snubbed me the entire school day, and despite many attempts to talk to him, he just wouldn’t tell me what was wrong. And while he called shortly after school to tell me he’d made a mistake and ask for my forgiveness, I was so upset with how he had treated me – and over the moon with relief he was no longer mad at me – that I told him I needed some time to myself to sort through my feelings.

I had promised I’d call after supper that night, but after I relayed the story to my mother, she promptly unplugged my phone and removed it from my bedroom, and she forbid me to speak to him until the following morning at school.

It was one of the only times she stood her ground with me, and no matter how much I begged, she simply wouldn’t allow me to have my phone back.

‘I want you to learn not to allow people to treat you that way,’ she said to me.

I was mortified.

But you know what?

That night has had a profound impact on my life.

It taught me the importance of standing up for myself when someone is treating me unfairly, and it gave me the courage to walk away from a dead-end relationship and embrace life as a single woman when all of my friends were getting married and having kids a few years later.

I eventually met my Mr. Right shortly before my thirtieth birthday, and while I often wish I’d met him sooner, I think we met at the most perfect time in our lives. Had we met before we’d had a chance to establish ourselves as professionals and create our own financial freedom, I think our dynamic would be very different than it is today. I obviously can’t speak for him, but I can say with 100% certainty that I wouldn’t have had the discipline, or the courage, to put my corporate marketing job on hold after having our daughter to start my own business had I not learned how to fend for myself.

And while many would argue that a lot of my successes are a direct result of my own hard work and perseverance, it was my mother’s dream of raising me to be an independent woman that made the most difference.

I’ll be forever grateful to her.

I know there are other young women out there who are choosing to delay marriage while they find themselves, and want to know the key to financial freedom. A recent article from Northwestern Mutual inspired me to share my best money-managing tips that helped me survive my 20s as a single woman.

I call this The Single Girl’s Guide to Financial Freedom!

1. TRACK YOUR SPENDING. For the next 30 days, write down every single thing you spend money on, right down to the bag of chips you buy on your lunch break and the pizza you order at 2 am after too many vodka sodas with your friends.

2. CUT OUT UNNECESSARY SPENDING. Once you’ve tracked a full month’s worth of spending, identify areas where you can cut back. Make your own coffee rather than splurging on a latte on your way to work each morning, bring your own snacks to the office, and learn how to cook. Your wallet will thank you.

3. SET GOALS. Take the time to write down the things you want to achieve over the next 6-12 months. Maybe you want to go on a vacation, enroll in a course, or take up a new sport. Whatever it is, make a commitment to make it happen!

4. DEVELOP A BUDGET AND STICK TO IT. Once you have an idea of what your expenses look like, where you can cut back, and what your goals are, put together a comprehensive budget. Make sure to include ALL of the things you know you’ll spend money on over the course of a month – dinner out with the girls, a birthday present for your BFF, or a new dress for your company holiday party – and then stick to it.

5. PLAN FOR RETIREMENT. When putting together your budget, make sure to put money aside for retirement. NORTHWESTERN MUTUAL WEALTH MANAGEMENT ADVISOR RICHARD WOO suggests putting aside 10% of your income before making other big purchases like a house. He argues that you can ‘always borrow money for a home in the future, but you can’t borrow money for your retirement. You don’t want to be house rich but everything else poor.’

6. INVEST IN YOURSELF. Take courses, attend seminars, and do whatever else you need to do to make yourself more valuable to your employer or business. New skills typically translate into job advancement and opportunities, which is great for your bottom line.

7. BUY LIFE INSURANCE. While life insurance may seem like a total waste of money when you’re a 20-something who lives paycheck to paycheck, my 8+ year career in insurance marketing taught me the complete opposite. The cost of life insurance increases considerably as you age and your health changes, and since there really are no guarantees in life, do yourself a favor and lock yourself into a life insurance plan at a cheap rate while you still can.

8. ONLY USE CREDIT CARS FOR EMERGENCIES. Annual fees and interest rates on credit cards can significantly take away from your ability to save for things that matter, so unless you’re paying off your full balance each month, try to limit credit card usage to emergencies only. And when you do need to advance funds, choose a line of credit over a credit card wherever possible as the monthly interest fees are often much cheaper.

9. BUY A HOME. About 5 years before my dad died, he sat me down a few days after Christmas and had a frank talk with me. I was in a dead-end relationship at the time, and he wanted better things for me, so he asked if I would consider making a New Year’s resolution to buy my own home within the next 12 months. I initially thought he was crazy – I couldn’t afford to buy my own place! – but after a lot of research, I was able to secure an affordable mortgage and buy a 2-bedroom condo in an up-and-coming area within 6 months. My monthly expenditures didn’t increase by much, and when my husband and I sold the condo a couple of years after we were married, we made a $75K profit, which we used as a down payment on our first home together. Not bad, right?

With more young adults waiting to get married – and carrying the financial burden of school debt and living expenses themselves – learning to secrets behind financial freedom is more important than ever.

For more information on how this growing trend affects finances, and what you can do to set yourself up for financial success, I urge you to check out THIS ARTICLE by Northwestern Mutual. It’s filled with more great tips to help you keep your finances in check, as well as a link to Northwestern Mutual’s free Guide to Money Management download.

If you found our Single Girl’s Guide to Financial Freedom helpful, please share it on Pinterest!

Financial freedom. Sounds wonderful, doesn't it? Whether you just graduated from college, have dreams of owning your own home in the next 12 months, or just need strategies to live debt-free, we've got you covered. With 9 practical tips you can start implementing today, we're sharing our best financial planning tips to help you create and follow a budget that works. #ad

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Northwestern Mutual. The opinions and text are all mine.

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