Stop doing these 3 things today if you want to reach Financial Independence earlier

Financial Independence (FI) is all about small steps and taking deliberate actions to reach your ultimate financial goal. Logical ain’t it? To get to any destination, you need to start moving in the right direction. And to move in the right direction of FI, these are 3 easy things I stopped doing

1. Stop spending money on expensive shit you don’t actually need

I used to upgrade my iPhone every single year, and I loved buying new tech gadgets. Before the Apple Watch was launched, I owned its predecessor the Pebble smartwatch. It was digital and black and white and it buzzed noisily every time i received a message or notification on my phone and it was amazing. I also had a Jawbone bracelet to track my sleep patterns and wake me up silently in the mornings by buzzing according to my personal circadian rhythm. But honestly, I got bored with most of my gadgets after a few months, especially gadgets that needed charging. I could only remember to charge my phone every night after a while. Very soon each gadget started to sit in a corner of my room or drawer and do a great job of collecting dust. See the trend here?

After I set my sights on FI, I prioritised my savings goals above everything else. I could still spoil myself every now and then if I wanted something, but I stopped buying any new gadgets unless I was absolutely sure of using it regularly and productively. If I accidentally bought one on impulse, I would usually come to my senses after a few days and return the item (thanks Amazon).

I encourage you to build and keep exercising this muscle of restraint. Your addiction might be to clothes, bags, shoes, cars, books or even game consoles. Think about how many hours of work you are devoting to each large purchase and ask yourself if its really worth it. The key to achieving FI is a high savings rate, and a few hundred dollars shaved off your monthly expenses can reduce the time to reach your FI goals by years.

2. Stop the monthly subscriptions that don’t add value to your life

The world of tech is shiny and encourages you to sign on for stuff that is inexpensive and feels good. But that monthly bill of $19.99 for Amazon Fresh and $9.99 for Spotify adds up really quickly. Look at your credit card bills, or search your emails for the receipts and invoices you receive monthly. Do you really need that Amazon Prime subscription or Comcast cable plan which you hardly use?

Mobile bills are often the big killer on this list - the rates are often atrocious and network providers upsell way too much into unlimited plans that cost upwards of $80/month. If you are spending most of your time at work, or driving to and fro from work, do you really use more than 5Gb of data a month?

Confront your one-click habits - rank your existing monthly subscriptions by costs and start getting rid of the ones you don’t need. Even if it’s in the middle of your billing cycle, that’s no excuse to procrastinate, write in to get the partial fees reduced or refunded. Stop spending these mindless dollars just because it was too troublesome to cancel the subscription. Subscriptions are like leaky holes in your bucket of savings that cause you to lose money every month and slow down your savings rate.

 
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For me, my mobile phone bill is $240/year for 8Gb LTE by Mint (it was originally 4gb but they increased the limits and kept the prices the same). I share an Amazon Prime subscription ($119/year) with my partner because we order almost all of our necessities online 4-5 times a month and we use Prime movies 2-3 times a month. I do consider Amazon Prime to be quite a luxury though and if they raise the price anymore I am going to cancel it. I don’t have cable TV, or a home line. When at home, I mostly put on music all day long so I do have a Spotify subscription ($9.99/month).

That said, these are the subscriptions I have cancelled or resisted signing up for : Comcast cable, Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Fresh, HBO (only use it whenever there are new seasons of Game of Thrones or Westworld), any news site e.g. WSJ, NYT, Stitchfix. Bonus tip: Whenever I utilise a free trial, I always set a repeated calendar reminders to cancel it before I get charged.

3. Stop paying useless fees

Do an audit of all your credit cards, bank accounts and check if you have been charged annual fees, service fees, late fees at all in the past year. If so, call them up and get it reversed and then think about whether you really need to keep that card and account open. The 50,000 bonus points when you first opened the account might be a good idea, but the $125 annual fees are now creating a big fat leaky hole in your money pot. Kill the fees and plug the holes.

On an ongoing basis, your should also hook up your cards and accounts to a personal finance monitoring app like Mint to get alerts whenever fees are sneaked onto your bills.

Stop procrastinating!
Start plugging the leaky bucket and improve your savings rate. Commit to a date to do 1, 2 and 3 and block time on your calendar to do it.