My Checklist To Financial Freedom

Download this free personal financial checklist here

I love checklists. Especially when I want to make progress in a particular area but don’t exactly know what steps to take. This is a personal financial checklist that covers many of the steps I have taken over last decade that have helped me move from being a financial mess to having a little bit of an idea of what’s going on.

Some of the listed items are bigger and will take a long time, and some of them are simple tasks that you can accomplish in a day. Some will be relevant to your situation and some will not – that is why it is called “personal” finance – everyone’s situation is unique.

But, if you are just starting out and are trying to get yourself into a better position financially, I would suggest spending the next couple months and checking off as many things on this list as possible. If you do that you will be on your way to financial freedom!

Download this free personal financial checklist here

If you would like to print this checklist and use it for yourself, just click here

This is not a chronological step-by-step process, but like the title suggests it is just a checklist. Some of the items can be done simeultaneously, while others will require another item to be checked off first. Other than the first couple items, they are not listed in any particular order. If you are looking for a step-by-step process, I highly recommend Dave Ramsey’s book The Total Money Makeover.

My Personal Checklist to Financial Freedom

Start giving regularly

Something. Anything. If you don’t have money, give your time. Just get the sowing and reaping process started. The Bible says as long as the earth remains there will always be seedtime and harvest and you can’t reap what you don’t sow. So just like a farmer wouldn’t expect crops without planting seed, we too must start sowing in the area that we want to reap.

Make a lifelong promise to yourself to spend less money than you earn

We could end this checklist right here and it would suffice. Just about everything listed below falls into this category. Spending less than you earn is the key to wealth-building, and is the most important lesson when it comes to personal finance. You can do everything else right, but if you spend more money than you earn you will not be in a good financial position.

This is the simple rule that allows families living on a $40,000/year salary to retire with millions and that causes millionaires to go bankrupt. You have to decide that you will not spend more money than you earn.

Pay off all consumer debts

Proverbs 22:7 says that the borrower is slave to the lender. Having been a slave and a free man in this area, I much prefer being free. A wonderful second benefit is that you have a lot more financial peace and can build wealth faster when you are out of debt. For paying off debts, I recommend the Debt Snowball Method and there are a few other tools and resources to cut your debt.

Negotiate a better rate with credit card companies

While I was working to pay down my debt, I spent some time on the phone negotiating with my credit card companies to get a better interest rate. It isn’t a guarantee, but I consistently would get off the phone with a better interest rate than when I called.

Create a budget

Creating a budget can be as simple or as difficult as you make it. I love having a budget in place – contrary to what I thought before I tried it, it doesn’t feel like we are in handcuffs, but rather that we are more free to spend money in the areas we want to.

There are lots of budgeting software options and other budgeting tools to help you. Having a budget has helped my marriage, saved us thousands of dollars, and given us so much more peace with our money.

Get the employer match on your 401(k)

If your employer has a matching program in your 401(k) or 403(b) (many of them do) you should try to take advantage of that if at all possible. My former employer had a 100% matching program. So if I put in $500, they put in $500. That is a 100% return on my investment. This is the easiest way to boost your retirement dollars.

Start an emergency fund

This was another thing that we did to give us a lot more peace with our finances. It can be expected that unexpected things will happen. Creating an emergency fund is just proof that you are expecting them. We have since used our emergency fund to save us even more money.

Sell your junk

Way too many of us have way too much stuff. A lot of it would never be missed if we got rid of it. I have sold a lot of stuff on Ebay & Amazon and it helped provide some extra cash to pay down my debt.

Start learning what the Bible says about money

The Bible really has a lot to say about our money. I wrote an article called 5 Bible Verses about Money that Every Christian Should Know and if that isn’t enough here are 250 Bible Verses about Money.

Create a balance sheet

A balance sheet is a snapshot of your financial position. I like to update it every six months and it is a fun and helpful way to gauge your progress.

Create a FLOP

Since I handle the finances in our family, I know a little more about what’s going on than Linda does. I created this file, which I call our Financial Life on One Page (FLOP), as something that she could go to if I died prematurely. I combined it with our balance sheet to make it one file that covers all the financial details that she would need if I were gone.

Start giving 10%

Giving 10% of your income to your local church is an important milestone. God was the original giver and we were created by Him to be givers as well. I have witnessed miracles in our life in the area of giving and it also happens to be the only place in the Bible where God says it is okay to test him – see Malachi 3:10.

Organize your bank accounts

I discovered that having more than one checking account allowed us to manage our money much cleaner and with more efficiency. Here is a little on how we organize our bank accounts.

Cut your expenses

If you are really trying to save money or get out of debt, you need to thoroughly examine each of your monthly expenses. I wrote about 15 ways to cut expenses which will get you started, but always be asking yourself, “Is _______ really necessary?” or “Can I get ______ cheaper somewhere?”

Simplify your bill-paying process

I created a simple system for paying my bills each month. It made my life a lot easier and eliminated a lot of stress. Read more: How to Pay Monthly Bills.

Figure out your true hourly wage

This is a fantastic exercise to help you more accurately know what your time is worth and whether or not that job you have is worth it. Try it here: How much are you really getting paid?

Set career goals

Following up on the previous task, is the current job worth it? It is going to help you reach your career goals? If you continue doing what you are doing, where will you be in 5 years – or 20 years? Are you doing what you love? If not, find someone doing what you want to do, take them out to lunch, and ask them how they did it.

Create a will

Save your loved ones a headache and just do it. You can do it at LegalZoom.com in less than 30 minutes and be done with it.

Evaluate your car situation

I am convinced that the one of the biggest things that keeps the middle class Americans in the middle class is their insistence on spending way too much of their income on cars. I used to believe that I would always have a car payment. I was wrong and now I intend to never have a car payment because I will save up cash for whatever car I buy. Watch this video for inspiration. For more read How Cars Affect Your Financial Freedom.

Start saving for your children’s college education

If you have kids you might want to start saving for their college education. Personally, I wouldn’t do this until I had my debt paid off and had a head start on saving for retirement. Your kids can take a loan out for college, but the only loan you can get for retirement is on a credit card and that seems a bit foolish to me – don’t you think? Some argue that the 529 is the best college saving plan, but the Education Savings Account is a good option as well.

Get life insurance

I believe in buying term life insurance over whole life. There are some cases where there could be an argument for choosing whole life, but generally term seems to be a better purchase for most people. I recently signed up for my first life insurance policy. I used Zander to get a term life insurance quote and was happy with the process. You can read more in my Zander Term Life Insurance Review.

Pay off your house early

As part of getting out of debt, I want to live without a mortgage as well. Here are some ways to pay off your house early. Just imagine your electric bill being the most expensive bill each month. I can’t wait!

Give more than 10%

The more I understand stewardship, the more I realize that every dollar that is in my bank account isn’t mine – it is all God’s. A big part of being a good steward is understanding this and never letting money get a hold on us. I am convinced that the most fulfilled people in the world are those who always looking for ways to give of themselves. Time, energy, or money – it is in our DNA to be givers and like the parable of the talents teaches us, if we are faithful with small amounts we will be entrusted with more.

Any other items you have on your personal financial checklist that should be added? Leave a comment!

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29 Comments
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  1. Wow, what a check-list. I can see this being over-whelming if one thought it was a “todo” list, instead of something to work on over time.

    I love how the first two items are the only really important ones, and all of the following ones are just subsets of those first two. It really amazes me how many people don’t understand the concept of “spend less than you earn.”

    • @Adventure-Some
      Good point – for me it has been something a decade in the making – so maybe it can be a to-do list with a 5-10 year time-frame…

  2. Wow, this is such a comprehensive list! Definitely getting bookmarked and referred to often.

  3. Great list. I’m definitely incorporate sme of it into my life. I like the idea of the FLOP. That’s a great idea to make it easier on everyone.

  4. Kathryn

    Thanks for sharing these tips! I really like the idea of Flops. The part about cars affecting our financial freedom is very true! Our car is paid for but whenever I think about trading it I’m for something newer, I think about what else I could buy. For example, the $40,000 SUV would be wonderful, but that same $40,000 could buy my family 8 trips to Hawaii!!

  5. Great list Bob. Seems like you learned a lot of this the hard way. Hopefully this spares us some time by learning from your wisdom.

    At this point, I’m seeing more and more of the stuff and junk I’ve accumulated over the years. It’s stuff that I no longer use and should start selling away to free my life of clutter.

  6. Pam McCormick

    I totally agree with not always having a car payment.I bought a 1995 toyota camry in 1996 for 12K(took 4 yrs to pay it off) drove it till 2009 with just routine maintence(oil changes/belts/tires) always ran like a top and no worries! My darling hubby is a fan of leasing- I am not so finally I have been able to get him to see why always having a car payment is not the answer.We are currently finishing paying off a 2007 Honda Element that we started out leasing and I adored so much,had put the down payment on that I convinced him to see a paid off vehicle was so much more economical by showing him the math…numbers never lie ! I could still be driving that toyota camry if I had not folded to pressure but alas I did so I did donate the toyota to a good home and now I have Winnie Mini Cooper adopted 2nd hand 2002 new to me! I will take good care of both of these vehicles so they last for many many years.Lesson learned…..Again

  7. KEVIN KATO.

    Hello sir
    Your blog has consistently enriched me to stewardship. Bravo,keep it up.
    I am from Africa – Kenya.21 yrs old. There is a greater need for your wise education to reach many here. I have a thought how we can achieve this.

    I look toward joining campus this year, though have obstacles on the way to this. Kindly get back to me, I have much I wish to share with you.
    Every Blessing.

  8. The envelope system you describe for setting a budget is absolutely amazing. I’m kind of kicking myself for not finding this system before… for the past five years I have been trying to manage HUGE Excel spreadsheets trying to accomplish what you have showed us how to via the ING accounts. Because I only had one checking account for Bills, Variable fees, groceries, gas and on top of that my “spare” dollars, it was a near impossible task. THANK YOU for this article. I just signed up for an Electric Orange account and am in the process of setting up my various savings accounts. By the way – ING Direct is running a promo right now for new customers. If you use the debit card for your Orange checking account three times in the capacity of a credit card (i.e. you don’t have to use your pin) 45 days within opening your account, ING will fund your account $50.00

  9. I was so grateful to know God’s principle on giving. Thanks for sharing this useful tips on how a person could be able to have financial freedom. Actually, I’ve been saving also for my kid’s college. I used to make more templates on my personal finances to be more organized.

  10. You created names for some of the documents I came up with through trial and error (FLOP/Balance Sheet). Nice.

    I also recommend creating a central spot (fireproof safe for $150?) where you keep a paper and digital copy of these documents.

    Make believe you are your spouse/child, opening that folder when you die. Put an index, and put the most important things up front. Top it off by writing your own obituary and selecting your funeral music, so they don’t have to mess with those things at the worst possible time.

    I wrote “What to do when I die” on the file. My wife cries each time we do our annual review, but it’s a good cry. She leaves with peace of mind that we have a viable plan, and when I go, she and the kids will not be eating cat food.

  11. Wow, great comprehensive list. It include biblical, principles and tactics. I will use this as a model for myself and others.

  12. Ursula

    This morning while writing in my journal, I asked God to teach me how to work with money. No worries He says. And here I find myself on your site. It’s really amazing.

  13. Praise God! I have found a HOME PAGE that helps me fight through tough times and Biblical principals together. Just last week we figured out the car thing! I sold a 2007 Jeep for $2000 profit, lost a payment and now we can payoff a debt that hangs over us! God will supply! An awesome God we serve! Thanks Bob for following His call.

  14. Jonathan K

    My wife and I became debt free this year after taking a Dave Ramsey course because of some of these same principles. This is a fantastic website! We have shared your website Bob with family and friends. I actually found this website a few weeks back while searching for “Ways to Save Money.” We praise God for your ministry Bob!

    We have taken a lot of the advice that you mentioned here. We have committed to spending less than we make. I have updated my 401k to fully take advantage of my companies matching policies. We completed this month our emergency fund with 3 months pay. We are still working towards a fully funded emergency fund of 6 months. We have cut several expenses and plan to cut more including our Netflix account. We are giving more! Amazing how much you can give when debt free! Praise God! We have re-organized our bank accounts to better suit our savings goals for a new car, vacations, newborn, etc. A great website for keeping track of expenses is http://www.mint.com

    Thanks again Bob! This website is a great resource for everything from budgeting to saving money to what the Bible says about money. Keep up the good work. You are encouraging more people than you know!

  15. I enjoyed the artcile My Financial Checklist to Freedom! Please enter me in the IPAD 2 giveaway. Thanks! :)

  16. I’m so glad I read this article because it put a smile on my face to know that I am not living beyond my means. Reading this article just made me realize that and I am so proud of myself. You have hit all the important points!!

  17. great checklist and I’ll certainly start implementing some of your suggestions…. especially the one about starting to save for your child’s college education NOW, since it is certainly going to take a while…..

  18. I love your website. I am currently researching building my own website. I am a single mother on government assistance. I have an anxiety disorder which makes going out and working feel almost impossible. I am a hard worker and have many traits that would make having a website a really positive source of income for my family. As far as God and the Bible go and the information you have on your website about reaping what you sow – I could not agree more. My children and I have received adopt-a-family gifts at Christmas, food hampers from local churches on difficult months when our car has broken down and our grocery money has had to go to car repairs, there are some times I have receive gift cards with the food hampers to buy meat and produce and half the gift card is spent on gas to afford to get them to school. All of the people out there who donate to their churches and make these things possible are truly helping families and hopefully they are feeling God touching their lives as well. Helping their families to feel balanced, happy, secure and blessed. I am looking so forward to giving back as a way to show God how thankful I am that my children and I have made it through this very difficult time in our lives. Also, people have no idea that when they adopt-a-family at Christmas the true heartfelt joy these children get to feel. Anyhow, I love your website you have incredibly good information and a really great set up with very practical, honest and straight-forward information. God Bless you.

  19. Incredible Checklist! Many of these have a check next to them, some are a ‘work in progress’ and some I’d never even heard of! – Josh

  20. Been trying to pay off the house early. I couldn’t believe how much money it will save in the long run. Every new couple should have this advice. Thanks for this great list.

  21. The part about living within your means is very true. The word of God is very clear when it says “Owe no man anything but to love one another”. I do understand the importance of paying tithes and through obedience in this area, I have experienced great blessings in my life. You can never out give God. The law of sowing and reaping is a reality and the sooner we understand this and act accordingly, the sooner we can experience the change that we desire.

  22. Good Morning Bob:
    This is a great list for everyone! Not all of us have made the commitment to figuring how best to manage not only our finances but lives as well.
    As an older parent out of debt but still working and no written budget the “List” is right on target. We attempt to prepare our children for their futures’ and are rewarded with mixed successes. One an artist with son who now has a nice house with equity but not much income is finally selling art work nationally, and the other a successful businessman has a nice house and family and more expenses than he anticipated even with a business degree. Both could use the the Christian PF approach and I have recommended they do so.

    I would like to make a comment to you about life insurance. It is all well and good to make a blanket recommendation to by term and invest the difference. It usually does not work out as planned. Having bought both the investing the difference makes the car payment not a savings.
    My personal recommendation is to buy as much term as you can afford, but demand convertibility to whole life. If you have term and experience a life threatening health issue and the term runs out you are now uninsurable. My case allowed me to convert to whole life after a heart condition and have the coverage needed at the time. After a long career in industrial sales and now retired from this I did get an insurance license, but didn’t understand the situation as described. Could have made a difference in my short insurance practice.

    Please accept my apology for the length on this response and hope it helps someone in some small way.
    Sincerely,
    Art

  23. Christine

    Excellent advice. Thank you so much. I ‘ve been in a rut for so long, I need a way out. Your advice is so bibilical, we need Christians like you to speak the truth.

  24. What a great list! I just re-wrote it on a word document then I highlighted the ones I have already taken care of. I now, am going to work towards the others. Well done for this great list. Thank you as it is a plan that I work towards

  25. Please email me vital info re saving for retirement and getting on the ball to go back to school really need your help..I am disastrous right now..Will be living off cat food if I do not get my act together ASAP…Need help now…Can you help me.

  26. Awesome and bookmarked

  27. Wow! Nice checklist. I would also add “learn how to invest properly and start investing”.

    I like the fact that you have put “give to others” in your list. We sometimes fail to remind that we are blessed to have been born in America. Not everybody on this planet has had the dame chance.

    Thank you

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