How I Determine Values to Guide My Spending

So I’m taking a sick day, and not the fun kind where you just use a sick day to relax, but a real sick day where I’m actually sick (read: cough, cold, & shivering while somehow also sweating).

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I have been trying to sleep like a responsible sick person, but it’s not working so I have decided to write instead.

Recently I have been thinking that I may need to re-evaluate the values-base behind my spending.  I have done this before, and continued to think about it, but looking at my notes this afternoon I realize that the last time I really sat down and did this exercise was on September 30,  2017!  We are now October 1, 2018, which is strangely enough, almost exactly 1 year later.  It seems like a good time to do this again.  It’s a little bit embarrassing to share, but here’s what that looked like back then:

Screen Shot 2018-10-01 at 3.37.35 PM

Things that strike me when I look at this exercise a year later are that I actually did make changes in a lot of my desired directions, but maybe a bit too much so.  At the time that I wrote this exercise (1 year ago) my spending was extremely minimal.  I had pulled the belt in so tightly around my finances that I was beginning to lose it.  I was, at that time, refusing to do any social activities that costed money, and I didn’t allocate any money in my regular budgeting to clothing or toiletries, but I would inevitably end up buying them sometimes.  Also, if memory serves correctly, I was budgeting myself a grand total of 40 every 2 weeks for spending money and restaurants combined.  This was highly effective (I paid off almost 12,000$ of credit card debt and I am still successfully at 0), but it was also causing me to feel a bit like I was losing my mind.


It also strikes me in looking at this that I both wanted new clothing for work and didn’t want to spend the money on it.  I still feel this way and it continues to be a struggle that I have mitigated somewhat by starting to shop for them on the second hand economy (at thrift stores and on kijiji and facebook marketplace, etc.), and by trading my old clothes in at the thrift store and using my credit to get the things I want.  At the start of this paragraph I said that I had made changes in the directions I wanted, but “maybe a bit too much so.”  What I mean by this is that I did increase my spending in my sports and medical categories (primarily for physiotherapy), but recently I have begun to wonder if I feel a bit too free to spend on things as long as they fit into the “fitness” category.  This is a bit problematic because the amount of clothing, equipment, and gadgets you can spend on in that category is fairly endless.  This has been causing me to sometimes wonder if I should actually pass on some of the things I choose to purchase in that category.  For example, do I really need another pair of running pants?  I used to subsist on one pair that I would just wash on a near-daily basis (if I had time), but okay, maybe that was a bit gross!  I have also increased my restaurant spending all the way up to 80$ every 2 weeks (160$ per month budgeted).  This feels admittedly exorbitant to me, and the reason for it is that my partner chooses this as one of his main areas of spending.  He likes to treat himself to a nice meal on the weekend after a hard workout and this is a life pattern I resisted at first (and still do sometimes) but eventually grew to enjoy.  I did, however, eventually decide that twice per week was too much for me, and scaled it back to only once per weekend, letting him go alone the other time.  Being without student loans, he is in a different financial situation than I am, so it is perfectly okay for him to do this twice a week, while I don’t choose this for myself.

All of this to say that it is definitely time for me to reevaluate my values and my spending again, now that it is one year later.  I have made a lot of progress financially, but I want that progress to continue.  Also, from a psychological perspective, keeping in mind the values or core reasons why we make any life change is helpful for maintaining our motivation.  It’s important that we know why we want to do something and why we want to avoid the alternative (the outcome of not doing something) if we want to succeed in achieving behavioral change.

So having said all of this, I’m going to take the next 30 minutes or so to re-write this values exercise, to see how my values have changed over the past year.  I hope that this will help me with my budgeting moving forward, and help to illuminate any areas that I can change and optimize.

However, for this year, I have added one additional question:

What are the consequences of not spending according to my values?

This is meant to illuminate what will happen if I don’t spend in accordance with my values.  That is, what will my life look like if I don’t spend in line with my values?

Feel free to try it yourself and see if you learn anything about yourself, your values, or your current spending plan or your actual spending.

Values & Spending Exercise

What does my ideal life look like?
What do I need to spend on to accomplish this?
Things that aren’t working:
Things that are working:
Things I want to budget for that I’m not:
Things I’m spending on that I could cut down on:
Things I want to spend more on:
Things I want to spend less on:
What are the consequences of not spending according to my values?


As always, thank you for reading.

Debt Dummy


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