If you ask people what financial freedom means to them many will talk about having more money or earning more money, when, at its simplest, financial freedom generally comes from spending less money than you have.
Someone who earns $20,000 a year and spends $18,000 a year is far more free than someone who earns 200,000 but has outgoings of $250,000.
Obvious as this is, the vast majority of us living in first world countries will always equate financial freedom with making more money. It's not our fault. We're sold the idea that shopping and consumerism are so much a part of life that we rarely have a day when we don't buy something. We also rarely question the buy now, pay later culture that used to apply only to major purchases such as a house or (maybe) a car, but now applies to our daily expenses as we charge things as small as our daily latte to credit cards.
This is not a get-out-of-debt guide. If that's what you need there are plenty out there. Just Google them. And while you're applying all that good advice to your finances think about applying some unconventional values to your everyday life:
Start to value things that don't cost money. From friendship, to nature, to laughter.
Start to see debt and over spending as what prevents you from attaining financial freedom, rather than lack of money. It's easier to get control over something you have (debt), rather than something you don't have (money).
Try and get back to a mentality where you have to have the money before you spend it. Decide, when you see something you would have to put on a credit card, to wait until you have the money in your bank account. If you find yourself thinking 'but that could be six months!' remind yourself that with minimum payments on a credit card that's already full, you could be paying it off (with interest) for the next six years or more.
Only buy stuff you need. Pretend you are travelling, with no room in your suitcase for souvenirs, and only buy what you need to get you through each day.
See how long you can go without spending any money at all. Families all over America are joining "The Compact" movement and pledging to go a year without shopping. Maybe that's a bit drastic but surely you could go a day. Or two? Maybe even a whole week?
Write down what you actually need to survive (hint: a new cell phone should not be on this list, food and water should) See if you can at least go a week only buying the things on your list.
Become a late adopter. A lot of consumer spending in the US is on technology. Now technology is a wonderful thing, but it's one of the few categories of goods that invariably get cheaper over time. Wait for the price drop.
Set a budget. OK we're back to the solid financial advice any get-out-of-debt guide will give you. But when you set that budget think outside the box. Way outside the box. Challenge everything you take for granted. Do you need a car or could you take public transport? Do you need to watch cable TV or could you write a book instead? Do you need an expensive gym or golf club membership or could you spend the time coaching underprivileged kids at sport. For every expense on your list try to think of three really drastic ways you could eliminate or reduce it. If even one thing on your list ultimately proves doable you may have cut spending and changed your life.
"The Compact" movement: families who go a year without shopping