Financial Freedom Mindset

Financial Freedom Mindset – The Catalyst

At the age of 32 and a half (I know, a weird age to reflect on), it hit me.  If I was going to work until the traditional retirement age of 65, I would have to work for as long as I had currently been alive!

Just the thought of that depressed me. My job was enjoyable, but it was not what I wanted to devote the majority of my time and energy to for the next 30+ years.

I wasn’t ready to just up and quit my job, but something had to change – I needed a mindset shift. So after a lot of thought and reflection, I adopted a financial freedom mindset.

The financial freedom mindset is shifting your mindset now so that your life begins to reflect your best life without having to wait until traditional retirement age or being fully financially independent.  

It is similar to what the FIoneers describe as SlowFI.  The two are not exclusive but also not identical.  If you are pursuing SlowFI, then chances are you may have already adopted a financial freedom mindset.

Envisioning Financial Freedom

The first step towards the financial freedom mindset is deciding what your perfect life looks and feels like.  If you have never given any thought to it, now is the time.

Take a minute right now (well, finish reading this paragraph first), and close your eyes.  With your eyes closed, envision the ideal day in your best life. What your life looks like once you’ve hit financial and time freedom.  

What do you see when you close your eyes and imagine your best life and ideal day?  What does your day look like, feel like, or smell like?

Okay, now take a minute to actually close your eyes.

It’s okay if you are not sure what to imagine when you close your eyes.  But if that’s the case, it’s worth spending some time thinking about it.  If you have no idea what your ideal day looks like or what you are working towards, how will you know when you achieve it?  Maybe you already have.

Being as specific as possible when describing your ideal day will help you to achieve it. It can also help to keep you motivated.  Knowing your “why” or the purpose behind what you are doing can help you stay motivated when times get tough.

And the times will get tough.  

The path to financial independence is not an easy one. It can be simple at times but also mentally draining.  It may require changes in behavior, attitudes, and mindset.

That’s where the financial freedom mindset comes in.  It enables you to slowly begin to replicate your ideal day without having to wait until “retirement”

Expense Tracking Workbook opt in graphic

Write It Down

Now that you have taken time to think about your ideal day and best life, it’s time to put pen to paper or fingers to the keyboard.  Record it.  Write a description of your perfect day from when you wake up in the morning to when your head hits the pillow at the end of the night.

The Beginning of a Financial Freedom Mindset?

At one point, when I did this exercise, I envisioned myself traveling the world. Never staying in one place for too long.  I yearned for a vagabond lifestyle.  

My husband and I both have a love for travel. Unfortunately, we soon realized that our jobs weren’t compatible with continuous world travel.  

Sure, we could have become digital nomads or changed jobs.  But we liked our jobs, and they paid to support our travel habit.

Instead of letting this get us down, we figured out how to make it work for us. What if we worked for part of the year and traveled for part of the year?  We both had jobs that enabled us to take a month off at a time. A month of travel every year was enough to scratch our travel itch.

So that’s what we did. 

We worked and saved for most of the year and then planned an epic month-long vacation every year.  Visiting various continents and going on adventures made our friends and family envious.  

We became the people our friends and family lived vicariously through.  None of them imagined ever being able to do what we did.  They thought of us as different. We were the anomaly.

Getting away just the two of us to reconnect and explore was exactly what we didn’t know we needed. One year we opted to travel with family and never took time for just the two of us to get away.  All of our vacation time was spent with other people.  The visiting was very enjoyable but exhausting.

When I went back to work, I didn’t feel re-energized. I didn’t feel like I had had the break that I needed; the mental reset.

Seeking a Feeling

That’s when I realized how integral travel and exploring was for my mental health. I needed time to get away with my husband. To be playful and adventurous without the stress we had in our everyday lives.

I love the feeling of being on vacation. Even though, at times, it can be busy, there is just something about being away on an adventure that just causes my whole body to relax and my mind to be at ease.  

What does this for you? Maybe it’s travel. Maybe it’s creating something. Or it could be carving out time to pursue a passion. 

What is one thing that you do that just causes everything else to melt away?

Whatever it is, the next time you do it, take some time to note your mindset before, during and after. That feeling you get during that’s what I call the financial freedom mindset.  That thing that you are striving to achieve with financial independence.

Reflecting back on my envisioned best life, this was it.  For that month out of the year, I was living it.

While on vacation, even if for just a short period of time, I got a glimpse of what it would be and feel like to be financially independent.  This only happened because I save up in advance for my vacations.  I have a vacation fund set aside for all the spending I want to do while away.  This way, I don’t have to worry about my finances, and I can focus on my adventures.

Coming Home and the Crash

I love that feeling.  When traveling, the financial freedom mindset comes so easily; it’s part of me.  Whenever I came home from vacation, there was always a low feeling a few days after. I was no longer on holidays; things didn’t seem as exciting.  There was no euphoria in my every day.  I hated that feeling. 

After one of our epic trips, I wondered how I could achieve a financial freedom mindset at home.  There had to be a better way than coming home to that low feeling. I was determined to find a way to shift my mindset.  But how?

Shifting Towards a Financial Freedom Mindset

Just like I had a balance between my job that was here and my love of travel, I needed to learn how to live my best life everyday day without having to wait until traditional retirement. To find that feeling in my everyday life, not just while traveling or on vacation.

It took me a long time, but slowly I started to shift my mindset. I began to look for opportunities to make my every day resemble my ideal day.  I started to look for adventure in my local community. How could I become a local tourist? Or enjoy a staycation?

But it wasn’t just adventure that was part of my financial freedom mindset. It was that feeling of independence like I controlled my own time.

How could I achieve that at home when I had a “day job” and regular responsibilities?

In order to assess my situation, I did an audit of my day. First, I started by looking at all my responsibilities and how I spent my time. Were all my responsibilities necessary, or had I put them on myself?  What was I spending my time doing?  

The Busy Trap 

For a while, I got caught up in the busy trap. Bragging to others about how “busy” I was and how I had no time for myself. 

Being busy was a badge of honour.  

Sound familiar? Have you ever got into a discussion with someone and felt the need to one-up them with how busy you are?

Why did I place so much value on “being busy” and so much less value on my own time?  

When I did have time for myself, I wasted it mindlessly watching television instead of putting my energy towards things I enjoyed.  I admit sometimes I do enjoy watching television, and there is nothing wrong with that.  The problem was that most of the time, I didn’t enjoy it, I was just using television to fill the time.

Once I realized I was caught in this trap, I looked for ways to get out. Yes, I still had responsibilities in my job and personal life. But I started looking for and realizing that a lot of what I thought were responsibilities were unnecessary busy work.

Time Audit 

Besides looking at all my responsibilities, I did a time audit. How was I spending all my time? Was I enjoying how my time was spent, or was I so exhausted and checked out from everything that I was just going through the paces?

I didn’t only look at what I was spending my time on by also what I wasn’t. 

By doing a time audit, I realized 4 key things. 
  • When I sat down at my computer to “get work done,” I was easily distracted by email and social media. 
  • I could easily cut back on the things I said yes to at work. Often times there were other people that could help, and I didn’t have to feel like I had to do everything. 
  • I spent a lot of time watching television I didn’t enjoy
  • I didn’t make enough time to do the things I enjoy just for me, like reading, going to yoga, and going for a float.
  • There was plenty of time in the day. I just wasn’t using mine to do the activities I wanted to do.

Realizing that when I said yes to something, I said no to everything else was like a lightbulb moment for me. Learning to say no turned out to be a huge step towards achieving a financial freedom mindset.  

Related Post: Saying No – A Workaholic’s Transformation Story

Instead of looking for more work, I began to look for ways to become more efficient. 

To free up my time as opposed to just giving it away. The more free time I had, the more I could do with it what I wanted.  Now that I knew what I wanted my ideal day to look like having time to do some of those things now, which helped to solidify my financial freedom mindset.

My perfect day did not include having someone else dictate how I spent all my time.  Even if I wasn’t financially independent enough to live my ideal day, I could still use the financial freedom mindset to try and make today somewhat resemble it.

What about your time? Have you ever done a time audit to see how your time is being spent?  Are you spending it how you want to or how everyone else is?

Money & the Financial Freedom Mindset

Reflecting back on that “vacation feeling” and the financial freedom mindset, besides having complete control of my time, I am also not worried about money.  In a way, for that short period of time, I’m living as if I am financially independent.

That’s because while on vacation, I don’t have debt.  I save up for my vacations all year so that when I’m on vacation, I don’t have to worry about money.  

One way to do this is to have a separate vacation account.  

When I’m on vacation, I just spend the money from that account.  The trick is to run out of vacation before you run out of money.  I tend to be an over-saver, so have yet to run out of money while on holidays.

Now the trick was to figure out how to do that in my “everyday life”.

How to decrease any money worries?

Looking at my budget’s spending categories, I noticed that housing is my largest cost.  If I could eliminate my housing costs, then I would need less money every month.

One way to eliminate housing costs is to house hack.

At times I’m all in on the path to financial independence, and my husband is very supportive of all my crazy frugal ideas. But there is no way I could convince him right now to have people move in with us.

There was a time when we had roommates, but now we enjoy our space more than the extra few hundred dollars a month they would bring in to accelerate our path to financial independence.  That is the right choice for us right now.  The financial freedom mindset is about finding a balance between today and tomorrow.

The second option for decreasing the housing line item in our budget is to pay off our mortgage.  This is an option I could convince him to get behind.

Eliminating Debt

I know that a mortgage is technically “good debt,” but for me, it still feels like debt.  That isn’t the case for everyone, but I hate having a mortgage.  For that reason, when we bought our first home, we worked hard to pay off our mortgage as quickly as possible.  We were able to pay off our mortgage in under 5 years.

Related Post: How We Paid Off Our Mortgage in Under 5 Years

The feeling of being mortgage free was so liberating.  It definitely added to my financial freedom mindset.  Every month it felt like we were printing money.  We deployed that money to buy real estate investments and have now grown our portfolio to 9 rental properties.

Our rental properties’ income is helping us achieve financial independence earlier. It’s our way of house hacking without having roommates.  Don’t get me wrong, self-managing rental properties is work. But the peace of mind they create helps with the financial freedom mindset.

Aligning Your Spending to Your Values

Aligning your finances with your values is a key foundation of the financial freedom mindset.  It’s not about depriving yourself or sacrificing the things you enjoy.

As a new momma, my ideal day has shifted away from wanting a vagabond travel lifestyle.  Now my ideal day includes tons of family time and time and energy for my passion projects.  It doesn’t include working a “regular day” job in which a huge chunk of my time and energy is out of my control.  

Although I’m not yet at my ideal day, adopting a financial freedom mindset is helping me get there faster.

With the birth of our little one, we saw an opportunity to spend a few months together as a family.  As a teacher, I already had my summer off.  I returned to work before the summer holidays so my husband could take 4 months of parental leave.

My husband had 4 months off in total with our little one.  Their bond and relationship are so strong now because of it.  Going back to work a bit early in order to provide them with this opportunity was a conscious decision we made.  I was never worried about our little one because I knew that she was at home with her dad. 

Having my husband go on parental leave was a huge hit to our budget.  But we knew that in advance, so we saved up before the parental leave began.  Having 2 months off together as a family was worth every penny that it affected our budget.  

Related Post:  FMS – Part 3 – Creating a Budget in 5 Easy Steps

Those 2 months were a glimpse into what financial independence will feel like.  Shifting to a financial freedom mindset gave us the headspace to see that as an option.

What are you spending your money on? 

Have you aligned your budget and spending with your values?

If you’re unsure, now is a good time to review your expenses for the past few months and develop a plan.

Related Post:  FMS – Part 2 – Goal Setting

Seeking Opportunities for the Financial Freedom Mindset

Now that I was starting to get control of my time and money, I began to seek out things that I enjoyed.  Carving out small parts of my day to do whatever I wanted to bring my today closer to my ideal day. 

We are the average of the five people we spend the most time with.

Jim Rohn

When shifting my mindset, not only did I look at my time and money, I looked at the people I was spending my time with.  I started to notice that when I was around like-minded people, my energy went through the roof.  But being around naysayers drained me.  

One of my life’s purposes is to help people, so the more I can give back, the better I feel too.  

The financial freedom mindset helps me to be more mindful of spending more time with people who support me, and I can support in return.

Without being aware of how I was spending my time, money, and energy, I wouldn’t have been in the right mindset to look for opportunities.  Now that I know what I want my ideal day to look for, I’m continuously looking for opportunities to get closer to that.  

Fear & the Financial Freedom Mindset

Fear can be paralyzing.  I know for me there are often things that I shy away from out of fear.  Even the thought of achieving financial independence can sometimes be a bit scary.

What if I run out of money? What if I’m bored? How will I socialize? How will I build relationships?

All of these are questions that I have contemplated at one point or another when thinking about financial independence.

The great thing about the financial freedom mindset is that it helps to decrease these fears.  I don’t have to do everything at once, but by adopting a financial freedom mindset, I can do a little at a time right now before achieving FI.

If I know what my fears are, I can start to take action related to them.  Again, what can I do today so that it slowly begins to resemble my ideal day?

Why wait until financial independence to pursue the things I think I’m passionate about?  By trying them out now while I’m still working, I can figure out if, in fact, they are my passions.  Once I act on figuring out things I enjoy doing, the fear of future boredom melts.

Systematically I can attack all of my fears of financial independence now before they become an issue.  Thinking and living like I have financial freedom now gives me a head space to do this.

Financial Freedom Mindset Action Steps

  • Envision your ideal day
  • Write down or record your ideal day
  • Continuously reflect on – what can I do today so that it slowly begins to resemble my ideal day?
  • Do a Time Audit – where are you spending your time?
  • Create a budget – does your spending align with your goals and values?
  • Seek out opportunities that lead to the Financial Freedom Mindset
  • Name your fears and come up with an action plan to counteract them
  • Be mindful of your time, money, and energy – do they align with your values?
  • Use the Financial Freedom Mindset to live your ideal day
Financial Freedom Mindset

Financial Freedom Mindset Final Thoughts

Complete delayed gratification is not for me. I’m not willing to wait another 30+ years to live my best life.   Within reason, I want to live like I’m financially independent right now. 

Achieving financial independence is not black and white; it’s more of a dimmer switch.  By continuously seeking opportunities that align my time, money, energy, and values, I’m moving that dimmer switch in the right direction.

There’s more to financial independence than dollars and cents.  For me, it’s that feeling of independence – like I am in control of my own time.  To enjoy today without feeling deprived.

I’m not saying that I’m willing to throw away my financial independence plans for a sports car or shiny new toys.  But I am willing to delay reaching financial independence in order to get more enjoyment out of my day today. 

Maybe that’s SlowFI, may it’s not.  When you change your mindset and feel like you are living as if you are financially free without sacrificing your financial future, that financial freedom mindset eliminates the need to sprint to financial independence.  It’s a balancing act that requires being mindful of your money, time, and energy.  

Aligning your time, money, and energy with your goals and values is the financial freedom mindset.

You don’t have to wait until traditional retirement age or full financial independence for your ideal day and to live your best life.

How can you adopt the financial freedom mindset so that tomorrow begins to resemble your ideal day?

12 thoughts on “Financial Freedom Mindset”

  1. Travel is super important for my husband and I. My father is a pilot so traveling is basically in my DNA! And we get antsy when we haven’t gone on an adventure in a while. But we have prioritized going on adventures whenever time allows. My husband and I both have Monday’s off so we typically travel to the mountains and car camp! We pack our food so we don’t have to spend money on that. It scratches the travel itch we get and it’s super refreshing.

    1. I love that! Making the time for things that are important to you and it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. Sounds like you guys are already working towards the financial freedom mindset.

  2. This reminds me of the “list of 1000 dreams” from the book 168 Hours. Basically you sit down and list 1000 things you’ve always wanted to do, big or small, including dreams you’ve already achieved (like getting into college or getting married). Then pick one from your list and put it on your calendar for the next available opportunity. For example, one of mine is to explore all the state parks in Wyoming. I can look at the calendar and see when our next school break is, pencil in “XYZ State Park” and start looking at travel arrangements. At some point, we have to take responsibility for our dreams and start making them everyday events. Great post 🙂

    1. Thanks Kim, I have never heard of that book. I will have to check my library for it and add it to my “must read” list.

  3. I love traveling. That feeling you get when you are on the flight back to your home from a trip, and you don’t have another trip planned. It’s like a weird kind of depressing feeling. Half the fun is planning the trip, I find 🙂 Or the feeling of escape.

    1. I totally agree that half of the best part of vacations is the anticipation of them. Although I find packing and preparing for them to be a bit stressful. But all that stress melts aways once we get to the airport. At that point it doesn’t matter if we forgot something or not, there isn’t anything we can do about it but adapt.

  4. LOVED this! Exactly how I would describe FI, a balancing act that allows you to live as though you’re financially free without actually being there just yet. I also appreciate the time audit you talked about. I think if more people did this they could easily discover an hour or two of their days that they could claim back. Time that could be put towards their passions.

    Keep up the great work!

    1. Liz you are right, time audits are so important. We spend so much time thinking about how we spend our money but more thought could be put towards how we spend our time. A few minor changes and the financial freedom mindset is attainable for everyone. The best part – it doesn’t cost a thing.

  5. This is such an important concept—that financial freedom is a mindset, and that you can adopt it long before achieving financial independence.

    You and your husband have done really well, working as a team on living your best life NOW, and not just when you’ve reached FI. It’s wonderful that you’re sharing your journey and what financial freedom can look like (when done well)!

    1. Thanks Chrissy. Sometimes when you’re stuck in the middle of pursuing FI it can feel like you’re stuck or that there is nothing to do. Focusing on the mindset during this time can be really helpful.

  6. Hi Maria,

    Great stuff. Even prior to the explosion of social media #FIRE traveling has been the core in our working lives not neglicting our saving habits of course. Creating memories is much important to us and we feel rejuvenated everytime after coming home these trips.

    1. Like you Rommel, travel has always been huge for us. I’ve always felt a sense of peace when traveling and yet am always ready to come home when it’s time. Like anything, adopting a financial freedom mindset is about balance.

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