Financial Freedom

One of my passions is personal finance, not because I’m into numbers or because I love money or luxury (I don’t.), but because controlling your money is the only way to maintain your freedom and independence. As soon as you are beholden to someone for your rent, for your car payment, for whatever… you have given up some measure of your independence. Sure, theoretically you could dumpster dive and live off the grid, but if you enjoy indoor plumbing and fresh meals, you’ll have to compromise and participate in this system to some degree and this means selling your time and energy either directly through a business or indirectly via an employer.

So, to the degree that I hold this viewpoint close to my heart, it kills me to see people struggling under mountains of debt and financial obligations. In other words, in dire straits. I don’t want to paint the credit industry as evil, but I do think we have an obligation to help our fellow man make responsible financial decisions, especially when we see them perched on the edge. It is wrong to knowingly prey upon the ignorant, to award credit to those least able to deal with it. Let’s be honest, the credit industry is in the business of waiting for you to slip up. They don’t make money on people who pay their bills on time. Think about that.

Anyway, J. told me about this good documentary, Maxed Out, and I found it on Google Video in case you wanted to watch it. It made me angry enough to write this, so that’s an endorsement of sorts.

If I could offer any financial advice, it would be this:

  1. Pay off your credit card balance every month, even if it hurts and you have to eat baloney sandwiches every day for several weeks.
  2. Get a high-yield savings account (Like ING Direct) and set an automatic transfer from your checking to your savings account every time you get paid. Eventually, you will build up a cushion. It’s easier than you think.
  3. Never buy things on credit unless you have a lot of money in the bank. Obviously, you will know if you have the discipline to ignore this one, but it’s a good general rule.
  4. Spend time with people who are good with money and avoid people who are bad with money. It sounds harsh, but both good and bad habits are contagious.

Any other tips?


  1. I’ve tried to move into the realm of not using a credit card at all. Every once in a while I’ll use it for a decent-sized purchase and then pay it off right away.

    I’m nearly done being a student (and have been for quite a while) but another tactic is to take out student loans and pay off your other high-interest debt. Not only does this consolidate it into a lower interest account, it is deferred until after you are done.

  2. That’s actually a damn good idea. Hah.

  3. Check out the personal finance site It was a little disconcerting giving up bank login details at first but I was quickly blown away by the site’s slick interface and ability to show exactly where my money was going. I barely log into my online accounts at all now, since mint does such a good job of aggregating access and providing relevant mobile alerts. I even acted on one of mint’s recommendations and now have a >5% interest checking account.

  4. That’s a great tip. I have tried Mint and Wesabe and both have nice features. I would prefer Wesabe due to the tagging, but Mint is nice because it autoconnects to the accounts.