Our Mind Your Money series, we dig deeper into how you can ensure that you’re spending your money intentionally. Think of your spending like it’s the tip of an iceberg—it’s the visible part. But your spending reflects your money values, which sit below the surface and are larger and much more important.
We are all familiar with values like honesty, integrity, reliability, etc., but have you considered what your money values are?
Money values are what you hold important. Do you value safety, security, freedom, giving back, comfort, adventure, and/or independence?
Money values are also personal to you. You may value adventure but your partner values security. One person’s money values are not more important than another’s. You can have more than one money value operating at once. For example, you may value both security and adventure. Money values can change over time and circumstances. Consider what was important to you when you were 21 years old. Are those things still as important now that you’re older? It’s common— and normal—for money values to shift when you’ve created a family of your own. And finally, your money values significantly influence your spending patterns. If you value safety and security, you’re more likely to put money aside for a rainy day. If you value adventure, you may put money aside for travelling. Perhaps you value charity and community development and put your funds toward organizations that focus on causes near and dear to you.
HOW TO MAKE YOUR SPENDING CONSCIOUS AND ALIGNED WITH YOUR VALUES:
Identify your values.
Here’s a fun exercise: imagine that you won the lottery. What would you do with the money? Would you take care of your family and friends (hint, there’s a money value here)? Some people would go back to school (the money value could be higher learning). Some people may start their own business (the money value could be independence or creativity or something else).
Some could put money into savings, ensuring their safety and security (money values). Some people would start their own charity (the money value could be charity and giving back). Once you identify what you would do with the money, ask yourself if your values are being met. Then list your top three money values.
Explore the importance and history of your values.
For each value, ask yourself why it’s important to you? Then ask yourself, How did this money value come to be important to me? Did you have an experience as a child that shaped your value? One example is a child seeing their parent go bankrupt, perhaps due to a failed business. This child may grow up to be an adult who values safety and security. Another example could be someone who grows up with a lot of stuff but finds it stifling. They may value simplicity and minimalism. This is about being curious, so be gentle in making judgements about your past.
Identify how and when the value is being met.
Ask yourself, How do I know when my (insert money value here) is being satisfied? If you value charity, you may be meeting your money value through donations or volunteering (remember, time is a resource, like money). Perhaps you meet your value of a comfortable retirement by connecting with your financial planner and adhering to your plan. Or maybe you get a charge out of seeing your savings grow or planning your next scuba diving adventure. Consider, as a bonus, what it feels like when you are aligned to your money values—peace, happy, comfort?
Identify when (or where) you’re resisting your values.
Sometimes this can play out as impulsive spending. An example could be that you value freedom, which looks like enough money in the bank to go anywhere you want at a moment’s notice. However, perhaps you’re also spending more money than you want on convenience items like ordering takeout multiple times a week. Once you’re more aware, you can ask yourself if the purchase you are about to make aligns with your money value. If it does, great! If it doesn’t, consider not making the purchase.
Create an anchor to remind you of what’s important to you.
This could be something physical (a picture, jewellery, crystals, etc.) or nonphysical (a song, a favourite quote). It could even be a little sticker on your credit card as a reminder of what you value. So every time you break out the credit card, you can ask yourself if this purchase aligns with your values. It provides a simple reminder when you are focused on other things.