Tips to help become financially independent

Financial independence can be an elusive—and hard-to-define—goal.

Financial freedom is in the eye of the beholder. To some it may mean freedom of debt; to others it may signify early retirement. Whatever your financial goals, here are four tips to help you get your financial house in order.

Track your expenses

It's difficult to know how to save money if you don't have a good idea of where your money is going. Carefully track your spending habits for a typical month. Applications like Mint can be helpful, or simply record your expenses on your phone or a notepad. Doing this will help you to become more conscious of frivolous expenditures. It will also reinforce what expenses are unavoidable and remind you to plan for unexpected expenditures, like weddings and car repairs.

Make a budget

Once you’ve taken inventory of your expenses, set a budget. Don't put it in a drawer and forget about it; save it to your desktop or pin it to a wall and check it often. Spend a half-hour per month reviewing how your actual expenses match your budget and make adjustments as necessary.

Force yourself to save

Have some percentage of your paycheck automatically deposited into a separate account—whether it's a savings account, a 401(k) or an IRA. Money that isn't easily accessible is not easily spent.

Find a financial planner

Financial planners have a way of putting numbers into perspective. They can help you to define your financial goals and show you how much you need to save to retire when you want to.