Have you ever noticed how some people just seem to have endless amounts of money—like that one friend who always has the latest iPhone, Louboutin shoes and fancy new car? You sometimes find yourself feeling jealous, wondering how your friend can afford it all—until you realize that she doesn’t seem happy or fulfilled in life, leaving you even more confused. “But she has everything,” you think. “How can that be?”
Well, if you’ve ever felt this way, you’re not alone (and you might even be that friend). I think this is a huge epidemic in our society. People are spending money left and right and have no clue what they’re actually spending it on. I see it all the time. It’s what I call “unconscious spending.” Not only is unconscious spending bad for your financial health (how can you possibly save if you have no idea where your money goes?), but I believe it is also bad for your overall happiness and fulfillment in life. How you spend your money is far more important than how much of it you have. And too many people are still spending their money on the wrong stuff.
I think that in order to find more happiness and fulfillment in life, you have to be clear on your values (i.e, love, happiness, health, freedom, security), then spend in alignment with those values. I call these “money values” because, in essence, they become the values you refer to when you’re spending money. When you’re clear on your money values, you can practice conscious spending and know exactly how you should spend your money in order to bring more joy into your life.
For example, one of my biggest values in life is making a difference. Because I’m clear on this money value, I have no problem spending money on personal development books, classes and conferences to improve myself as a person and learn the necessary skills to make a difference in my life and the lives of the people I work with. But in order for me to be able to spend money on these important things, I have to cut my spending in areas that aren’t that important to me, like fine dining, designer clothes and manicures. However, even with these sacrifices, I still feel happy because I get a lot of personal satisfaction from using my hard-earned dollars on the things that are most important to me.
Starting to get the idea?
Here’s another example. I have clients who really enjoy lattes every morning at the coffee shop because it gives them a sense of connection to others. They love seeing the same barista each day—the one who knows their exact order—and like saying “good morning” to the other coffee-shop patrons. And unlike every other personal financial expert out there who tells you to cut out spending on lattes, I say go for it! If fostering a sense of connection with others is one of your top money values, then spend the money on lattes. It’s totally OK! Just realize that spending money on coffee every morning may mean you have to make sacrifices in other areas.
So, how can you discover your money values?
To discover your money values, complete the money values exercise below:
- First, start by asking yourself this question: What does money mean to me?
- Then ask yourself the same question, except this time replace the word “money” with your answer to the first question. Do this until you cannot come up with any more money values.
As an example, here are my answers to the money values exercise:
- What does money mean to me? Security
- What does security mean to me? Freedom to do what I want
- What does freedom mean to me? More time to give back to others
- What does giving back mean to me? Making a difference in the world
Call to action:
Complete the money values exercise and then post your money values somewhere where you can see every day. You can even carry a small note card listing your money values with you, so every time you spend money you can check to see if it is in alignment with what is important to you. It may seem cheesy, but who cares? This is your personal happiness and fulfillment we’re talking about!
This post was contributed by Brittney Castro, a Los Angeles-based CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ practitioner and founder of FinanciallyWiseWomen.com. Brittney Castro, CFP® specializes in working with busy professional and entrepreneurial women who are passionate about life and want to gain clarity about their money. Brittney’s mission is to help women plan and create the life of their dreams, free from anxiety about money. Brittney Castro is not affiliated with TheEveryGirl.com. Brittney A. Castro is a registered representative with and securities offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. California Insurance License #0F33895. The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.