Are you always running short of your funds? Do you still have to borrow money sometimes to live comfortably? Do you always pay your bills on time, or do you occasionally have to let some of them become overdue? Do you find that you can’t afford the things you want or sometimes, even the things you need?

If you answered “yes” to two or more of these questions, you need a “financial tune-up” and might even be in danger of being financially unstable.

If this is you, don’t go and sulk in a corner! It’s time for you to get in gear, to put yourself on a plan to create a more stable financial foundation. Begin by telling yourself every day  “I have to be financially independent!”

What is financial independence? Financial independence is the capability to determine your needs and goals, then supporting yourself through your own endeavors in reaching them.

Here are 7 proven habits (or steps) that, if put in place in your life, will drive you to gain financial independence. When we say “habits”, we’re not talking about something you do “once in awhile”. We’re talking about creating regular, everyday actions, attitudes, and viewpoints that eventually become second nature.

At first, you may have to constantly remind yourself to “stay on point”. Developing positive financial habits is not easy, especially if up till now. You’ve led a lifestyle that isn’t in line with your new financial goals.

Take heart! As you begin moving forward towards financial independence, you’ll feel better, more confident and secure. By keeping your goals in mind, and by using your new, positive, everyday financial habits, you just might find yourself beaming with pride over your achievement!

1. Keep a focused vision.

It all starts here. What is your vision for your life? Close your eyes and visualize where you want to be in 5 years. Now do it for 10. Yet again, for 20 years out.  If your vision includes being able to stand on your own and having a stable, secure life for you and for your family, you must become financially independent.

Your vision is an all-important first step towards attaining financial freedom. Keep that vision in mind. Hold on to it as you move forward. The choices and decisions you make from here on MUST be in line with making your vision a reality. When faced with tough decisions, or when times get hard, ask yourself  “Is this choice I’m making in line with my vision?” If not, consider making a different choice.

2. Generate and Increase Your Income

Investments start with the income you generate. This income will lay the financial foundation for reaching your vision. Typically, this means working for someone – most likely trading hours for dollars. Don’t settle for “just getting by”, making only enough to cover your bills.

If you can’t make enough at your regular job, use your off hours to launch an enterprise of your own. Start a business that you’re passionate about and turn those extra hours into cash.  Before you begin, carefully consider every detail of your business plan. Make sure that it will keep you moving towards your vision. Plan carefully, and when you’re moving forward, don’t settle for “good enough” results. Aim high. Remember, it takes excellence, quality and integrity to succeed.

Once you’ve increased your income beyond “making ends meet”, it’s time for Habit #3.

3. Save money

Start a fund for your future by allotting a percentage of your income to savings. Put money into your savings account right after you get paid, when you’re depositing your paycheck at the bank. Do this first, before spending on anything. Immediately afterward, pay your bills, buy groceries, and gas up your car. By following these easy steps, you’ll avoid the bottomless pit of living beyond your means. It will also teach you how to properly budget your money for necessary expenses.

Money in a savings account will earn a modest amount of interest. Although that interest isn’t substantial (compared to a good, solid investment), it is still a good way to keep money for your future. Once you put the money into savings, pretend it doesn’t exist. Only two reasons are good enough to withdraw funds. One: putting those savings to work for you in a bona fide investment. Two: a real emergency. Here’s a tip – buying a 50″ high definition TV is NOT an emergency! The 46″ set you bought last year works just fine.

Don’t overlook your pocket change. Every single cent matters. At the end of each day, take that change out of your pocket and put it into a jar. We suggest emptying the jar once every three months, putting it into your savings account. You’ll be amazed how quickly it will add up!

4. Spend wisely

Here in the US, we’re conditioned to be “conspicuous consumers”. Everywhere we turn, someone or something is telling us to spend money. New cars every year. New clothes, shoes, HD televisions. It requires discipline to retrain yourself, but you must avoid the impulse to buy, buy buy. Start by buying only things that you really need. Tighten your belt for now as you bank for a more secured future. Choose to live simply. Forget the need to show off by always having the “latest, greatest”.

In order to achieve financial independence, you must hold on to your money as much as possible. It’s incredibly easy to look at your bank balance right after making a deposit, and think “Wow! I have money to burn!” The truth is – you don’t.  Above all, never spend all your earnings. As they say, don’t earn to spend.

Hand in hand with learning to live frugally, is avoiding debt whenever possible. The worst offenders are credit card companies. Credit cards are a bottomless pit of debt, insidiously designed to disconnect you from the reality of handing over hard earned cash. Card companies take great pains to keep you from realizing that by paying the “minimum payment due” amount you’ll likely end up having paid at least twice the original purchase price! If you must use credit cards, make a practice of paying off the entire balance each month. Otherwise, you may find yourself locked in a desperate state, unable to break the shackles of debt.

Just behind credit cards in the “Worst Offenders” column are automobile companies. Buying a new automobile off a showroom floor is in all likelihood the worst investment you’ll ever make. Aside from being the second most expensive item you’re likely to ever purchase (the first being a home), autos depreciate at a horrendous rate. Just driving that new car off the lot will cost you roughly 20% of what you paid, minutes before!

We all know that we can’t get along without transportation. Consider purchasing a “pre-owned” vehicle.  A car that’s a year or two old has already taken the largest drop in value it ever will, proportionally. Many models that fall into this category may still be under warranty.

By learning to live with less debt, you’ll be able to avoid the trap of giving up the bulk of your income paying interest! By making ends meet now, you radically increase your chance of reaching your financial goals, and realizing your vision!

5. Have a contingency plan in place

You must plan for unforeseen events. While it’s likely you may never have health problems or suffer business losses, you would be wise to have “Plan B” in place. Begin by being certain that your financial assets are secured. At this phase, you’d be wise to be well insured. Insure your life, health,  property, and even your loved ones.

Protect your interests whenever you enter into any engagement –  business or romantic. Always be sure of where you stand legally, that the financial risks are acceptable, and that “if all else fails”, your financial boat won’t sink. By doing so, you can move forward with confidence, devoting all your efforts to achieving optimal performance and desirable results.

6. Take care of yourself

Health is wealth. The only way for you to achieve your dreams and be able to stand on your own is to be physically and psychologically able to do so. Have regular check ups with your physician. Maintain a healthy diet, and exercise regularly. In order to reach financial independence, you need to be healthy enough to get there. By properly maintaining your body, you’ll be in the best position to enjoy the fruits of your labor!

7. Be Unstoppable

Stay focused. Don’t allow yourself to be distracted. You must reach your goal. Don’t procrastinate. Every single thing you do, every minute you’re awake and every cent you earn will affect how soon you’ll become financially independent. Take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. Keep yourself confident.

Tell yourself, “I am a Winner. I will reach my goal and achieve my Vision! Nothing can stop me!”