Steps to Financial Independence: Step 1

Photo: Mt. St. Helen's eruption in 1980.

This article is the first in series explaining the basic steps of reaching the financial summit.  There is a page on this website listing the steps and a slight description of each step.  Other articles in the series: Step 2 , Step 3Step 4 and Step 5.

In the previous article, I talked about the moment that effectively changed my financial life.  It was at that moment that I decided to make a change financially.  If you are struggling with money and want to make a change, then you must make a decision to change your life.

You can’t get out of debt without a change in mindset.  A change mindset is for example when one goes from a spender to a saver.  I was a spender and I didn’t look in the future when I made a lot of my younger purchases.  But from reading The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey* and the blog by Mr. Money Mustache**, my mindset has changed.  I no longer feel like I need something.  I now want to spend less and save more.  This mindset change is the difference between a life of wealth and a life of poverty.

Over-spending and constantly being in debt kept me in poverty, until I made a change.  I am now motivated to spend less.  It is a goal of mine to find ways of not spending money.  This type of mindset will help you get out of debt.  You change your mindset from I got to have this to if I don’t buy this item then I can pay off more debt.  The less money that you spend on random crap, the more money you have to pay on debts.

Dave Ramsey uses a quote to try to change people’s mindsets.  This quote is “Live like no one else, so that later you can live and give like no one else.”  This statement basically focuses on changing people’s mindsets just to get out of debt and build an emergency fund.  He feels that you need to cut expenses way down while you are getting out of debt.  This includes no eating out at restaurants, no movies, no anything until you can make the once in a lifetime change of getting out of debt.

Mr. Money Mustache talks about creating habits or lifestyles changes that last forever.  Once you understand how good it feels to spend less and either save or get out of debt, then you will begin to build habits that will effectively allow you to spend less for the rest of your life and save more.  These lifestyle changes are what it takes to get out of debt.

To make these changes there has to be a shift.  There has to be a moment where you say, “I can’t take this anymore.”  Debt is an anchor holding you future self back.  Once you acknowledge that there is a financial volcano about to burst, then you are about to make this once in a lifetime change.  To make this change you can’t blame the government.  The government didn’t require you to spend lots of money that you didn’t have.  You can’t blame your parents, they didn’t make you go buy random crap.  You can’t blame your boss, they pay you enough.  You did this.  You built up this debt, now you must fix it.  Once you realize that your decisions are the reason that you are in this mess, then you can make a change.

There are examples all over the internet about people making changes and getting out of debt.  You can find them by just searching.  They made these decisions to get out of debt and change their lives and you can too, it just takes motivation, hard work, and intensity.  You have to have a goal that will keep you motivated for the task at hand.  Once you have the goal, then you can attack with intensity.  Intensity is when you go all out and make huge lifestyle changes.  These changes are making your own meals, not eating at a restaurant, biking for errands and work, doing things outside for entertainment that are free, no movies (they cost too much), no concerts, and no Starbucks.  Everybody has their own level of intensity, but the higher your level of intensity, then the faster you knock out that volcano of debt.

Motivation can come from friends, family, internet blogs, and radio shows.  Most of my motivation for this lifestyle change has come from reading good blogs and listening to debt free screams on the Dave Ramsey show.  I hear debt free screams everyday and that motivates me even more.  I read money saving tips or money challenges on blogs and it motivates me to try to complete the challenge.  By completing the challenge, I have essentially started building a new habit and saved myself some money.  Find your own motivation, not everyone can be motivated by radio shows and blog posts.

It takes hard work to make a lifestyle change.  This could be the literal hard work of working more jobs or this could be the hard work of not going out with your friends to save some money to pay off the debt.  Getting out of debt may be hard work, but most hard work is rewarding.  You will be so happy with yourself when you no longer have any payments.  You will be free to save as much money as you want.  This is the true secret to getting out of debt.  You have a freedom and sense of peace.  The hard work is worth it.  If you are looking at a financial volcano about to explode, maybe it’s time to make change.  Your future self will be very thankful.

*You can research more about Dave Ramsey at

**Mr. Money Mustache blogs at

Below are a list of sites that can show you examples of people taking the challenge and getting out of debt.

No More Harvard Debt – This is video of a guy who found a way out of student debt and shows his journey.  You can follow his blog about his journey at

Debt Free Scream – Here is an example of a debt free scream.

Millennial Money Man - This is an article about how this guy paid off his student loans.

There are many more examples!  Go find them and get motivated!