The Value of Our Money

How do you spend your money?

We often equate the spending of our time with what we value most, which is wonderful, as our time is a finite resource.  Sure, our money is limited to our budget or income at this moment, but it has the potential to be practically limitless.  While we can increase our bank accounts, no one will ever be able to get more than 24 hours in a day.

So while we think of spending our limited time on the people and things that matter most to us, what about our money?

Money is really just a transfer of value; I value the product or service you are providing, so I give you a certain number of coins to show the world concretely that I think it is worth something.

If our money is an outward transfer of value in the world, then why don’t we do a better job of considering our authentic core values before we spend it?

I’ve been trying to do this for a while now, although it is still a work in progress.  The more self aware we are, the better we will be at it.  Yes, the budgets and tracking our spending and saving are all very necessary tools, but if you’re still spending your money out of guilt or obligation or boredom or lack of impulse control, there will always be a feeling of longing, a hole to fill.  The Rolling Stones really did say it best:

I have known for a long time that one of my core values is expansive experiences.  Would I like a new, large flatscreen for watching movies at home?   Well, sure.  But if given the choice between that and putting the money into a vacation fund, I’ll pick the vacation fund any day.

Do I enjoy a nicely furnished home with artwork on the walls and perfect throw pillows?  Absolutely.  But on my list of priorities, it just doesn’t give me the same lasting satisfaction as a night out on the town with my husband.

Neither of these examples are judgments or even suggestions for how to spend your money; they are merely ways that I recognize, for me personally, how I value spending my money.  Maybe your values are the opposite, and spending money on a perfect Persian rug you can run your feet through every time you walk in the living room is a lovely and lasting way to bring you more pleasure than just another Thursday night happy hour with friends.  If so, find the best alpaca you can, baby!

Emperor's New Groove Alpaca

I’ve also been working diligently to stop the running internal commentary on other people’s spending habits.  You know how it works:

“Joan, would you like to come out to dinner with us?”

“I would love to, thank you for inviting me.  Unfortunately, I just can’t afford it right now.”

And then it starts, maybe in your head or when you get home or when you get together with those friends:

“I don’t know what Joan’s talking about, can’t afford it.  She just took that trip down to Florida a couple weeks ago, and she’s always got a new purse!”

The insinuation is clear – if Joan isn’t spending her money on what we value, then she shouldn’t be spending it at all.  We make this assumption all the time that people should either live in a manner of complete financial scarcity, never spending money on anything “frivolous,” or else they should be so completely secure that they can buy whatever they want on a whim.  It’s no wonder we need Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman.

Don’t worry about the values you see around you – what are yours?  If you’re married, sit down with your spouse and come up with a list of family spending values together.  When considering a purchase – ANY purchase – consider your list.  If it doesn’t meet the criteria, your wallet doesn’t see the light of day.

Sometimes you won’t have the funds available to spend on something you value and wish you could purchase.  That’s okay.  But recognizing that desire and saving instead of blowing your cash on a third-rate impulse buy will bring you more satisfaction in both the short and the long run.

I’ll just keep up my mantra: experiences over things, memories over material goods.

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