Ask an Expert// 5 Steps to Financial Freedom


Financial freedom is something that most people want, but only a few learn how to master.  While it does take some up-front planning, in the end the payoff is substantial.  Here are five things that can be done to ensure more financial freedom.

  1. MAKE SURE THERE IS MORE MONEY COMING IN THAN GOING OUT. It is amazing how many Americans are still struggling with this basic concept.  Yes, that does mean being more conscientious about assigning every dollar, and dealing with needs first and wants later…but it works!  It is a proven concept that if you ignore, you will never have money to save, which leads to financial bondage rather than financial freedom.


  1. DISTINGUISH BETWEEN WANTS AND NEEDS. How much of your daily and weekly expenditures are purposeful, planned expenses for the basic needs of life?  It is not hard to find plenty of things to spend money on, but do you NEED it?  If you try to rationalize these expenditures (WANTS) as a need, your financial freedom will be a very long way away.


  1. BE PATIENT, FLEXIBLE AND PREPARED FOR EMERGENCIES. If you and your partner are both working, can you try to live on just one income?  The extra money can then be put away for a rainy day.  This cushion will give you flexibility and financial freedom that so many others cannot enjoy when the unexpected happens.  In fact, the best motto to follow here is, “Expect the unexpected.”  Big ticket emergencies hit all of us at one time or another.


  1. EDUCATE YOURSELF ON FINANCIAL MATTERS. The sooner you master the game of money management, the sooner you will enjoy more financial freedom.  Find good, sound sources of financial information.  Read books on financial matters…there are plenty in our local libraries.  Take a class or two – many are offered in the community and often from your local Extension office.


  1. KEEP TIME ON YOUR SIDE. Use both your time and your money wisely over time.  A little bit of money and a little interest in your favor, and a lot of time, can provide you with rich rewards.  A 6 percent interest rate, with $25/month, from age 18 to 65 can mean just over $78,000!  Your contribution?  $14,000.  As difficult as it may seem right now to part with $25/month, the time and consistency do pay off.


This article was written by Teresa Hunsaker, USU Extension family and consumer sciences educator, Weber County

The 52 Week Money Challenge

52 Week Money Challenge 2

There’s something about a three-day weekend that has people itching to get out and go somewhere. However, those long weekend get-a-ways often end up costing a little more than expected. You can help prevent vacation and other budget busters by beginning a simple savings plan!

Start Saving Today

Now is the perfect time to start the 52-week money challenge. Starting on week one, save $1. On week two, save $2. On week three, save $3. On week 20, save $20 and so on until the final week when you’ll put $52 in savings. By the end of 52 weeks, you will have saved more than $1,300 to put toward a summer vacation or other financial goal. Consider these tips to help make it happen.

1. Create a separate savings account. Open a separate savings account for the money you will save with the 52-week money challenge.

2. Involve the entire family. If you have kids at home, bring them together for a family meeting and explain how the 52-week money challenge works. Explain what the money will be used for. This helps everyone have motivation to make the sacrifices necessary to save the money each week.

3. Create a 52-week money challenge chart. Help family members feel they are part of the challenge by creating a chart to track savings each week on either poster board or a piece of paper. Draw lines to make 52 boxes, decorate, hang where the family can see and watch the check marks fill up as you save each week. A variation is to create a chart on a piece of paper by drawing enough lines to make 52 squares. Next, number each square from 1 to 52. As you begin your challenge, there may be some weeks when you may be able to save $30, $40 or $50 a little easier than others. When that happens, put the money in your account and put a check mark or sticker on the square with the corresponding dollar amount.

Other Ways to Save

*Automate 1 percent. Send 1 percent of your income to a separate account. This won’t seem like a huge cut to your income but will add up over time. You can draw on this money as needed to supplement extra costs for long weekend trips or other expenses.

*Use the step-down principle. Envision a staircase with multiple steps. Now think of an area where you could cut your spending (eating out, entertainment, etc.) Decide what you can do to take one step down to spend less in that area and put the money you would have spent into a separate account.

*Take advantage of tax return time. While paying down debt or saving for retirement are key, it’s smart to take a bit of money and reward yourself. You may choose to purchase something you’ve been wanting or put money into your separate account for summer get-a-way expenses.

This article was written by Amanda Christensen.

Amanda is an Extension assistant professor for Utah State University. She has a master’s degree in consumer sciences from USU and is proud to call herself an Aggie! Amanda loves teaching and enabling individuals and families to make smart money decisions.

Baby Steps to Budgeting

Baby Steps to Budgeting

It’s the time of year when we see beautiful spring blossoms and blushing brides. When you’re in the middle of planning a wedding, plans to manage budgets and bank account balances as a new couple aren’t always popular discussion topics.

How to Start Saving

When you read the word “budget” what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? Unrealistic? Stress? Confined? Restricting? But you have to start somewhere, and you have to have the desire to manage your money.
Want to track how much money you spend eating out? How about cutting back on your monthly utility bill? Maybe there is a fun trip you are planning for next summer and you’d like to have a good chunk of money set aside for it. How about a little more Christmas money for that special someone’s gift? Whatever the reason, here are three baby steps to get you started:

1. Automate your savings. This is the KEY to getting off to the right start. Automatically sending a chunk of your paycheck into a savings account is a foolproof way to set money aside. You don’t have to remember a monthly transaction and the money is moving from checking to savings without you touching it—which equals less temptation to spend it.

2. Take out your personal allowance in cash every month. Allowing yourself to spend some of your money every month however you choose is an absolute must! Decide how much each person can spend and stick to it. Take the money, in cash, out of the bank and when it’s gone, it’s gone.

3. Use the PowerPay App. This free app allows you to enter all your debts and see how long it will take to pay them off, with or without power payments. Both spouses can download the app and stay on top of paying down debt together. Don’t have a smart phone? You can also find PowerPay at: www.powerpay.org.

These baby steps for budgeting, whether for wedded bliss or something else, will be helpful moving forward and will get you on the right track.
What tips do you have for newly married couples for managing their finances? I’d love to hear from you!

Also be sure to check out my YouTube channel for weekly videos about financial management—including more tips for newlyweds managing their finances.

Contact Me:
Twitter & Instagram: @FamFinPro
YouTube: Amanda Christensen (FamFinPro)

This article was written by Amanda Christensen.

Amanda is an Extension assistant professor for Utah State University. She has a master’s degree in consumer sciences from USU and is proud to call herself an Aggie! Amanda loves teaching and enabling individuals and families to make smart money decisions.