Most of us have a long list of activities we would love to accomplish, but simply can’t afford.
Whether it’s traveling to far parts of the world, spending more time with family, or investing our time in writing a novel – they’re great activities, but we don’t have the time or money necessary to achieve them. So the daily grind continues…
This doesn’t need to be the case.
The reality is, we don’t need to fearfully live from paycheck to paycheck. It isn’t necessary to put off our dreams for eternity in order to afford our day-to-day lives. We can, and should, pursue the life of our dreams.
The challenge, of course, is preventing ourselves from going broke – now or in the future. If you’re like the average American family with just $95k saved for retirement, avoiding a $5k annual vacation could actually double your retirement savings.
Thus, we find ourselves facing a difficult quandary – enjoying life today, or preparing for an enjoyable life in the future.
As it turns out, it doesn’t need to be an either/or decision. If you plan well you can enjoy life today while building up your wealth for the future. Here are four activities to get you started:
1. Plan Ahead by Budgeting for Things that Matter
Most of us know what our big expenses will be far before they come up. Yet, for some reason, most of us treat them like surprises. Instead of saving we take out loans, add balances to our credit cards, and spend far more on purchases than we need to.
If you want to enjoy life today and tomorrow, start budgeting for everything. No, this doesn’t mean you have to carefully track every penny – it just means that you should set money aside for expenses that you know will come up – like a new phone, annual vacation, or college degree.
An easy way to automate your savings is with Qapital, who allows you to set up automatic transfers from your checking account to activity-specific savings account based on a wide range of criteria. Schedule your transfers and then watch as your savings accounts grow without any effort on your part.
2. Make Retirement Saving Automatic
For most people, retirement saving is an afterthought. Money is put away for the future only after bills are paid and leisurely purchases are made.
If you want to prepare for your future, the key is to make saving automatic. When your retirement account grows without your involvement, it grows much faster.
The first step to smart retirement saving is to take advantage of any 401(k) matching program that your employer has in place. Although 401(k) accounts generally have sub-par returns, the free money from your employer more than compensates for the difference.
Next, create an IRA account with either a traditional broker or a robo-investing company, and schedule monthly deposits. Need help deciphering between them? PolicyGenius has set up a comprehensive breakdown here. By automating your retirement savings, your future will be far more secure.
3. Pick Up a Side Hustle or Start a Business
How do you spend your evenings and weekends? If you’re sitting in front of the TV, the odds of achieving your bucket list are pretty slim.
Consider investing some of that time into launching your own business or side hustle. There are literally hundreds of ways to make money in your spare time – and many people earn an extra $5k+ every month by spending an hour or two working in the evening.
Start freelancing on the side, launch a blog, or develop an online store. The cost and time investment necessary to try a new idea is lower than it has ever been in history. Make the most of it.
If the idea sounds appealing to you, but you can’t think of a venture to pursue, consider taking a vacation. Not only does escaping your office give you time to think, but traveling can help make you a better entrepreneur. Perhaps your million dollar idea is just a flight away.
Sure, spending 10-15 hours a week working may taking away from your TV time, but ask yourself this: how much more could you accomplish with an extra $60k a year?
4. Change Careers
One obvious ways to improve your life satisfaction is to change careers. If you find yourself miserable every day, it’s time for a new role. If you find yourself struggling to pay the bills every month, it’s time for a new role.
By acquiring a job that gives you more freedom, flexibility, and financial support, you can embrace the lifestyle you value now – without ending up in the poor house later.
How do you do this? Start by seeing if you can find a higher paying job in your current field. Or, if that field has become boring to you, search for a way to transition to a new field and increase your pay simultaneously. It’s certainly possible.
A fast-growing option is to become a digital nomad. The community is full of freelancers, remote workers, and entrepreneurs who have discovered how to mix business with pleasure. Some travel the world, others are stay-at-home moms – but they all enjoy the flexibility and freedom of controlling their own schedule. If you have no desire to focus your life around work, this may be the right option for you.
In short, be willing to work hard and smart. Put in the time necessary to succeed, but don’t spend countless hours in a job you hate for a mediocre paycheck. When you find yourself in that situation, it’s time to find a new job.
Money should never prevent you from having an incredible life. Although it isn’t the secret to happiness, being financially stable makes life far less stressful.
Focus on saving more and earning more today, and you’ll be able to live your entire life without ever worrying about money.
Now go plan your next adventure!
Author bio: Rob Erich is travel enthusiast who writes about the digital nomad lifestyle at MoneyNomad.com and discusses personal finances for InvestmentZen.com. He loves meeting new people and helping them find a meaningful vocation. If you’re into that kind of thing, you can stalk him on Twitter: @MoneyNomadRob.