Freedom fund

How I Bought My Freedom for $25 a Week

I’m working at my laptop in a coffee shop just outside of Seattle. I have a chamomile tea next to my stack of notebooks, and I’m looking out at the sunset and the drizzle of rain. It’s 5:30 and I have about 2 hours of work left to do, but I don’t mind. That’s the beauty of a flexible workday. I decided to sleep in this morning and head out to lunch with my mom – a wonderful reason to be working late. I log on to my email to change my flight; I was going to fly back home to Washington, DC in a few days, but I think I’ll stay awhile longer.

This is my definition of freedom: me, in a coffee shop on the other side of the country, spending time with my family, whenever I want.

And all it took was $25 a week to make it happen.

Freedom fund

I still sometimes can’t believe this is the life I live.

If you told me a year ago that I would quit my job to start my own business, I would have laughed – hard. I would have told you that you had the wrong person. “You must have mistaken me for someone who’s crazy.”

See, I’m good at being an employee. I like feeling confident and secure in what I do. I also like a guaranteed paycheck. I don’t ever want to go back to living on minimum wage without health insurance. Leaving full-time employment for the unknown would go against every fiber of my risk-averse being.

Yet deep down, I always knew that I wasn’t meant for a 9-5 schedule. My energy never really synced up with the typical workday. I couldn’t flex my creative muscles the way I wanted to. And if I wanted to visit my family and friends out on the West Coast, it meant banking up vacation time to see them for only 5 days at a time.

Something told me that I wasn’t meant to be doing this… But starting my own thing? Not me. No way. I was afraid of the financial risk.

And then I found a way (accidentally) to take the risk out of the equation.

What would you do if you didn’t need your job?

Take moment and let that question sink in.

What would you do if you didn’t need your job?

What if you didn’t have to stay a job you didn’t like? What if you didn’t feel like a slave to your paycheck? What would you choose to do with your time, your career, your life?

What if you had your freedom?

I’m sure you’ve dreamed about it. Maybe it’s being able to take that trip to South America you’ve always imagined. Hell, maybe it’s being able to take a nap in the middle of the day.

For me, freedom meant being able to spend time with family and friends across the country whenever I wanted to. It meant exercising at 1 pm in the afternoon. It meant doing projects that I cared that made me feel alive.

But the simplest definition of freedom is one we can all agree on: never having to stay in a job you don’t like.

That’s powerful. That’s freedom. And it’s possible with just $25 a week.

Never staying at a job you don't like

How I Bought My Freedom for $25 a Week

After I graduated from college, I never dreamed of starting my own business. Like I said, I wanted a steady paycheck and a career ladder to climb. But even 22-year-old me knew that I had bigger plans. I knew that someday I wanted to travel – that someday (maybe between jobs) I’d take a few months off to explore the world.

And I knew that I’d need a cushion of cash to make that happen.

I wanted this badly someday. This vision was important to me. Even as a fresh-out-of-college twenty-something earning a non-profit salary, I was determined to have the money available to someday explore the world. So I decided to set aside $25 a week. I opened up an account at SmartyPig (a fantastically simple online savings account with an awesome goal-setting feature), set up my savings transfer schedule, and named my account: “Explore the world!” (Send me an email at stephanie at empowereddollar dot com and I’ll send my SmartyPig referral link your way!)

$25 a week was just enough to let me watch my account grow without feeling the pinch. In the meantime, I kept aggressively paying off my student loan debt.

Fast forward to Summer 2013. I still had my “Explore the world” account that I hadn’t touched. And here I was: unhappy at work and looking for a next step. I applied for a few jobs, but nothing was panning out. Nothing called to me.

That’s when I took a look at my savings account. My jaw dropped. I had saved up almost $10,000.

In that moment, I realized I could do something bold. I could leave work. I could take time off. I could create my own career. And if it didn’t pan out, I had the savings to back me up.

I had a choice. I had freedom.

My savings gave me the courage to take an incredibly bold leap. Risk-averse, pay-check-loving Stephanie was going to leave the comfort of full-time work and start her own business.

I never thought I’d see the day. And now I’m a full-time Financial Empowerment Consultant. It still feels crazy :)

4 Simple Steps to Creating Your Freedom Fund

That $25 a week in savings turned into something incredible. It literally bought me my freedom. And it’s the one thing I would recommend for everyone in their twenties to start. You don’t have to want to start your own business. You don’t even need dreams of travel.

This is about buying your freedom of choice. This is about being able to leave your job whenever you wanted to. And it doesn’t take a lot of money to make that happen.

Here’s how to start building your freedom fund:

  1. Pick your own definition of freedom. Think about the question from earlier: If you didn’t have to work, what would you do? Where would you go? What would your day look like? Choose your definition of freedom. Picture yourself in the mountains in Peru, taking time off to spend with your family, or creating your own career. Name it. Embrace it. This is the image that’s going to help get you freakin’ pumped up to put $25 in a savings account each week :)
  2. Don’t wait. Open an account immediately. Today. Now. If you don’t already have a “freedom fund” set up, do it immediately after reading this blog post. I mean it. This account could change your life someday. It only takes a few minutes, and the more time you have on your side, the more money you’ll be able to stock pile. SmartyPig.com is my favorite goal-setting online bank; you can even name your accounts. I ended up changing the name of my “Explore the World!” fund to “Don’t Let Anything Hold Me Back!” once I knew I wanted to use that money to launch off on my own. (Send me an email at stephanie at empowereddollar dot com and I’ll send my SmartyPig referral link your way!)
  3. Save a small, steady amount. $25 a week was a very realistic amount for me when I first started saving. Over time, I slowly increased my deposits to $50 a week. But I purposefully started small and steady; in the beginning, I knew that I needed positive momentum more than anything. And I didn’t miss that $25 that was coming out of my checking account.
  4. Throw in extra money when you can. As soon as I started seeing my savings pile up, I started getting more and more excited about all the options I would have with my money. I added extra money whenever I could; I wanted to see this account get huge. Every time I came across extra money (like a bonus or a tax refund), I used half toward my student loan debt, a quarter toward something fun in the short-term and then the other quarter toward my freedom fund. A little bit of extra money here and there really helped build my reserves.

$25 a week. It’s crazy how simple it is. And it’s crazy how good it feels on the other side.

Freedom is beautiful. And it’s simple. It’s a simple as sitting in a coffee shop on a rainy Seattle evening, whenever I want.

I hope whatever definition of freedom you have, you’ll give yourself the $25 luxury of working toward your dreams… starting now :)

So tell me: what would you name your Freedom Fund? What would you use it for?

9 thoughts on “How I Bought My Freedom for $25 a Week

  1. Addison @ Cashville Skyline

    Wow, what an inspiring post! It’s amazing that such a small amount of weekly savings can add up to so much. I would love to have the freedom you’ve described. Traveling, visiting family, and flexible work schedule are all important things to me.

    Reply
    1. Stephanie Halligan Post author

      Aw, thanks Addison! I’m glad it was inspiring. Sounds like you have an awesome definition of freedom to work towards :)

      Reply
  2. Chas

    This is a great post, Stephanie. Simply put, I have named mine the Independence account, although, it is at a Credit Union.

    Reply
  3. Wanda L. Mwalwanda

    I am so inspired by your story. My husband is from Malawi and I too hope to travel to Africa to meet his family. I am definitely starting this savings account as soon as I get paid this week. Thank you so much.

    Reply

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