3 Financial Decisions I Made a Decade Ago That Have Really Paid Off

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These decisions have helped set me on the path to financial security.

When you're managing money, it's important to take the long view. After all, improving personal finances often means sacrificing in the short term to get a future payoff.

With that in mind, it's helpful to think back on past financial decisions you've made to see if they set you on the right path or if they've made it harder for you to use your money wisely. For me, there were three big decisions I made over a decade ago that have had a positive impact and have helped me get to a good place in terms of my finances. Here's what they were:

1. To never carry a credit card balance

Although I use credit cards for every purchase possible, I committed a long time ago to never carrying a balance. And I've stuck to that.

As a result, I haven't had to pay even a dollar in interest over the past decade. While earning thousands of dollars in credit card rewards, I've been able to avoid making my purchases more expensive with interest charges. This has allowed me to keep my money free for other goals rather than giving it to creditors.

2. To automate my savings

Once I set my savings goals for retirement, a home down payment, a car, and other big purchases, I set up automatic deposits to each individual savings account. As a result, whenever I get paid, some of the money disappears from my checking account as soon as it's deposited.

Using this system, I've developed a healthy retirement nest egg that should allow me to retire on schedule with plenty of money. I was able to make a 20% down payment when I purchased my house. And I was able to pay for my last vehicle without taking a car loan.

Automating my savings has also allowed me to spend money in my checking account without having to feel guilty or live on a super-strict budget. I already know I'm saving what I need to. So, when I spend money, it's cash that's there to be spent.

3. To have an emergency fund

Finally, I made it a financial priority to always maintain an emergency fund with six months of living expenses in it. This has given me tremendous peace of mind, especially as I'm a freelance writer, and my income can fluctuate since I don't have a steady paycheck to count on.

I've also used my emergency fund numerous times to cover important expenses. In fact, my emergency fund has saved me in a wide variety of situations, from helping to save my dog's life to repairing our furnace when it broke during a cold spell. Because I had the money ready, I was able to spend the cash I needed when a crisis came up -- and I didn't have to break my vow to steer clear of credit card debt.

Not every decision we make will work out, but these three moves can pay off in the future. If you can tackle even one of these financial decisions now, it could put you on track for accomplishing your goals and ensuring you won't be derailed by debt.

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