Financial stability is something everyone desires to achieve—this is a phrase we frequently use, and yet many of us have not carefully considered what it means or what it takes to become ‘financially stable.’
While financial stability may mean a lot to different people. To me, and I believe a lot of people, a financially stable person is an individual who makes or have enough money to cover all the bills including important unforeseeable costs without panicking—and also without emptying the savings.
The enviable part of being financially stable is that you worry less about money. It feels amazing when you do not have to constantly be worried about money in life.
A breakdown of financial stability looks like this:
- The person has a regular source of income
- The person is able to take care of all the basic needs or pay all monthly bills including student loans, credit cards, car loans or other personal loans.
- Save 10 – 20% of earned income
- Invest 10 – 20% of your income
- Have some amount of money left on the person for other miscellaneous expenditure
Over the years, I’ve come to realize that a lot of people do not have a problem with earning income (number 1 on the above list). I’ve never had a problem with making a monthly income—either through having a job or being self-employed.
The problem which I once faced and my others are still battling with is being able to meet the requirements of numbers 2 to 5, to be able to become financially stable—which is the start to becoming rich or wealthy.
A lot of people spend more than they earn each month. This is worse than living paycheque to paycheque. I term living ‘pay cheque to pay cheque (PC-to-PC)’ as your income being directly proportional to your expenses. Where there is a pattern of your expenses being more than your income, then that’s worse than living PC-to-PC.
How to Escape PC-to-PC and Become Financially Stable
First of all, you cannot become financially stable if you do not have an income at all. Therefore, if you are reading this without any source of income, then you need to swiftly start by working on being able to make a regular income.
At this stage, I am assuming you have a regular income—which I have already said a lot of people have and yet are not financially stable.
Financially stability dwells within the space of your regular income and your regular expenses.
>INCOME EARNED—-FINANCIAL STABILITY—-EXPENSES<
Let me also mention that, my initial plan to achieving financial stability did not include drastically increasing my income. It would have been easy to say if you currently earn 300 dollars a month and your expenses come up to 600 dollars a month, just find another way to increase your income to 1600 dollars a month and then you will have a surplus of 1000 dollars a month which will suddenly make you financially stable.
The above is difficult on many levels—as time is fixed and if you are currently working 8 or more hours for 300 dollars a month, the probability that you can get a second job to bring in another 1300 dollars a month is almost zero.
Also, increasing your income drastically or in any way is far difficult than the solution I intend to provide below—that is cutting down your expenses, something minimalism can easily motivate and help you achieve.
Cutting Down Your Current Monthly Expenses on the Back of Minimalism
Minimalism is the idea of cutting down to the things which are really essential or important to your happiness and well-being. Both decluttering your mind and things you owned are branches of minimalism.
The concept of minimalism which boldly embodies intentionally living with the things you really need—I mean those that drive your purpose and happiness can easily lead you to become financially stable. On top, this will even make you a happier person. The fewer you have in your life, the better it comes.
“Minimalism is a tool that can assist you in finding freedom. Freedom from fear. Freedom from worry. Freedom from overwhelm. Freedom from guilt. Freedom from depression. Freedom from the trappings of the consumer culture we’ve built our lives around. Real freedom” says The Minimalists.
Many years ago during my financial instability, I was making a good amount of money each month but it was the expenses that were killing me—and always were the fountainhead of my financial headaches.
Like many others, I was spending a lot of my income on things I really didn’t need. These things were not essential to my purpose or happiness. I also realized that my expenses and therefore many of the things I owned were never intentionally, rather accidental—at best automated. I bought a lot of things because they were nice or because I liked them, not because I had a need for them or I really ought to have them.
The most important step to cutting back, motivated by minimalism or any attempt to just become financially stable is to able to vividly distinguish between what you need—and what you want.
- The Need-vs-Want Dichotomy
There is a rigid dichotomy between needs and wants–yet it is often blurred or confused by a lot of people. By silent practices or accidents, many people have merged their needs with their wants, an enterprise which drives modern consumerism and general real unhappiness.
It’s basic knowledge that human beings have an insatiable desire for wants but our needs are not endless. At any point in time, you can draw a small circle around your essential needs—and by this, I mean the things that truly fit your purpose and bring you real happiness at the point in your life.
To map your life on a path to financial stability requires being able to consciously determine what are your essential needs and work towards having them while giving little to no attention to the things which are mere wants.
In the early days of my fight to become financially stable, I realized I was spending chops of money on things I did not really need, and things that I could live without and not be affected in any way by their absence. These were several small expenses but when put together, they became a lot.
I was also paying for things I didn’t even use at all, especially subscriptions/memberships.
And I was paying for brand names which were expensive when there were many alternatives which did the same or were even better in performance than the brand names I was paying for.
By cutting down on such things and focusing on what I needed including a cut back on the unplanned restaurant visits or takeaways, my monthly expenses swiftly fell below my monthly income level.
Once We Solve the Wants and Needs Conundrum
After you’ve become aware of your essential needs and the things which are just your wants, you will need to drastically cut down on everything that falls within the borders of wants, and focus your income on just the important needs.
Even with your needs, some are important and immediate, and others can be satisfied in the future without any real consequence on your happiness and well-being today. In such circumstance, it is prudent to focus your limited income on the immediate and important needs to be able to save as much as possible.
Income is always limited but wants or desires are unlimited. The smart person is able to solve the problem by making sure his needs are truncated to the extent that it is always below his income and his wants always become the opportunity cost.
Why Minimalism is the Perfect Solution
Minimalism teaches you how to obtain happiness and fulfilment or walk towards your purpose with few things, and therefore fewer distractions.
A minimalist cares about the purpose and therefore wouldn’t spend money on things which he has no need for, or on things which are not essential to attaining his purpose.
Even if the idea of minimalism is not appealing to you, I believe taking charge of your finances and being financially stable is something every reasonable person ought to have an interest in. This, therefore means that we have to all consider fine-tuning our expenses against our income—in a way that;
- We will be able to take care of all the basic needs or pay all monthly bills including student loans, credit cards, car loans or other personal loans.
- Save 10 – 20% of earned income
- Invest 10 – 20% of your income
- Have some amount of money left for other miscellaneous expenditure
The trick is, make a list of your important and immediate needs in life and before you spend any money in life, consciously ask yourself this—is this an immediate need or a mere want?
For instance, do you need a phone which can make calls and browse the internet smoothly that will cost about 150 dollars or do you need an iPhone that cost about 1000 dollars? Here, I believe we all need a phone but specifically an iPhone is just a want for many of us.
The truth is, we spend a lot on things which we do not need–things which do not add or bring us close to our true purpose. The less you spend, the more you will have available.