Americans have a cultural belief: Money Talks. What is yours saying? How strong is the connection between our spending and our values?
After tracking your spending for a week–or more–what useful information emerged? Dissect the information with a Learning Eye. instead of a critical or judgmental one. Using this neutral approach reminds us to look for leverage points for change and to step away from any inclination to fault-find or judge. (Information is power–and our friend–when we allow it to be so.)
In today’s post we will consider several questions. We’ll examine the data that shows how our cash was actually spent versus how we’d assumed and/or intended. Get ready to discover “golden nuggets” to which we’ve been previously blind. (Imagine that.) So …
What did your spending over the last two weeks say? First, the appearance of a disparity between expectation and reality is neither a good or bad thing. It is simply information. So, if your chart reveals this kind of gap, the next step is to identify what drove the financial decision. Was it a response to an immediate but unexpected financial priority to which you intentionally appropriated money? Or, was it an impulse expenditure.
If the latter, dig deeper to identify what drove the choice: stress, hunger, time constraints, loneliness, pressure from family, friends or co-workers, community or world issues, etc. By identifying the reason, the leverage point for creating better decisions in the future becomes clear.
How well did it embody your Core Values? This can be a more challenging inference to accept. Has habit led us to spend money in a way that does not reflect our Core Values? Which spending choices revealed an abandonment or weakening of our values compass? Examine each choice separately. Get as clear a mental picture of the factors that occurred at the time you spent the money. List who was present. Recall your emotional state as well as any other details that you can. How did that group of factors make it easy to veer away from your values?
When the chart indicated that an expenditure aligned well with your values, ask the same questions as above. This will help identify the thoughts, circumstances and systems that help keep you aligned with your values.
What role did impulsivity play? Let’s face it. Modern life is BUSY. We never seem to have sufficient time, energy or money. Sometimes it is easier to spend spontaneously without first calculating if it is prudent or not. Once we’ve noted the factors that led to spontaneous (un-Intentional) spending, we can use that awareness to decide with more Intention in the future. Revealing the specific influence opens the door to new strategies.
For example, daily stops at Starbucks can add up quickly. What is this expense accomplishing for you? Perhaps it a dash of needed self-indulgence. How else might that be accomplished in a less costly way that also aligns with your values? Or it might be a way of denying that money is tight because “It’s only a few bucks” so of course it’s okay. It could be a reflection of many possible factors, e.g. poor time management, unhealthy eating habits, hunger, or a behavior that is part of a group-identity. Whatever the reasons, they provide valuable insight. What opportunities for change did it highlight?
To what extent did Intentionality govern your spending? Again, look at the factors and circumstances that supported your decision-making. Identify how you can create those factors more often. Note which relationships and circumstances support your values-based living as well as those which divert you. What can you do to moderate any negative influences in a way that honors your Core Values, yourself and your family? How can you avoid or limit the occasions that draw you off from your commitment to your values?
What will be your first action step in response to this exercise ? How will it benefit your family? How will you involve the entire family in raising awareness of the connection between your Core Values and your spending habits?