The email contained a single-word subject: “Help!” The sender, I’ll call her “Emily,” had been asked by her community group leader to give a 15-minute presentation on how to achieve financial freedom. She was honored to have been asked, excited to do it, but also panicked by the thought. She asked if I would help.

My first thought was that I can’t even introduce myself in 15 minutes. How could I, Emily or anyone else tackle that subject in just 15 minutes? But then I got to thinking: If money management is, as I believe, not that difficult, why couldn’t she do it? Why couldn’t I do it? I decided to give it a try.


Do not confuse saving money with spending less, as in “I save money when I buy things on sale.” You are not saving at all; you are spending less. Saving money means that you actually put money into a safe place for some future time. Do that. Starting right now and forevermore, make it a rule that you will put some amount of your paycheck into a savings account before you spend any of it.


Give away the same amount that you save. Just give it away — no strings attached — as an act of gratitude for what you have and how you are blessed. Goal: Give away 10 percent of all you receive.


Rein in your lifestyle so that it fits into 80 percent of your net (take-home) pay. Pare down your lifestyle. Reduce your spending in every area of your life by a small amount and you will be able to achieve this goal — probably sooner than you ever dreamed.


You only need one credit card. Pick the Mastercard or Visa you’ve had for the longest time. Cut up all the others (but don’t close those accounts, because that would do terrible things to your credit score). Now you cannot use them. If you have a balance on the one card you keep, do not carry that card with you. You’ve given up that privilege until you are able to pay it down to zero dollars every month.


The only debt that is safe for you to carry is secured debt (mortgage, car or anything with collateral). All other debt is dangerous to your wealth. Make a plan to pay off all of your credit card debt and other unsecured debts quickly. This is critical to your financial health.


Not all of your expenses occur on a monthly basis. Figure out a way to put aside a little bit each month to handle those expenses that are irregular, intermittent and even unexpected. It will do wonderful things for your peace of mind.


It’s proven that you will spend about 30 percent more if you depend on plastic to pay for day-to-day purchases, even if that plastic is a debit card! Leave the plastic at home. Live off cash as much as possible. Inconvenient? Yes. That’s the point.


Society wants you to believe that living spontaneously brings freedom. Just the opposite is true. You need to have a spending plan (a way that you pre-spend your paycheck on paper, which some call a budget) so that you know ahead of time where the money will go. Write it down, and then stick to it. Take control of every dollar so you are telling it where to go, and then pay attention to make sure it does as told.


You need to know that you are not alone. The best way to do that and to keep your focus every day is to get support. Find a community. There are thousands of people getting control of their financial lives. Go to to sign up. You’ll receive daily support and encouragement in your email inbox. Join in, and get involved.

There you go, Emily … financial freedom in 646 words and 15 minutes. Put this into your own words and you’ll be good to go. Best of luck with your presentation. I know you’ll do well because you have that secret ingredient shared by dynamic speakers: passion.

Mary invites you to visit her at, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at, “Ask Mary.” This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book “Debt-Proof Living.”

Photo credit: Slav Romanov at Unsplash


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