My car is an embarrassment. It has 246,640 miles on it. It is 17 years old. My driver’s side window does not roll down, so everytime I go through a drive-thru I have to open the door. Also, my window does not go all of the way up, so my coworker duct-taped the gap so i won’t freeze this winter.
My new apartment on the other hand is amazing. I live in a freshly remodeled one bedroom in downtown Burlington, VT. All of my appliances are brand new, I have an in-unit washer/dryer and beautiful wood floors.
Why the discrepancy? I made a decision to spend my money according to my values.
Cars are not a big deal for me. I didn’t get my first car until I was 24. It was an ’01 Acura Integra. It cost $2500 and was a graduation gift from my mother. I was just happy to have a car. Then it died on me. I was in the middle of paying off debt, so I went 8 months without a car. Then I found a deal on my current car, an ’05 Subaru Forester for $1000. It was a major upgrade from walking everywhere. I even had all-wheel drive!
My old apartment was about 300 square feet- the definition of a shoebox. I had a hot plate, a microwave and a plugin oven. It was too small to have more than one guest over and it was in my bosses mom’s basement. 😐
When I was forced to move due to flooding, I knew I could not live like that again. I realized I valued space and the ability to entertain. I also valued being in a safe, quiet neighborhood that was walking distance to town. Those perks do not come cheap, but I was willing to delay getting a newer car because spending on a nice apartment aligned with my values. Yes, I could have done both, but then I would be living paycheck to paycheck.
I have made values-based decisions in many areas of my life. I shaved my head a couple years ago, but I still get my nails done every two weeks. I weaned myself off coffee, yet I still (unfortunately) smoke cigarettes. I don’t buy meat, but have a serious avocado habit. I don’t have cable, but I have an iPhone with a 4 gig data plan. The list goes on.
Life became simpler when I identified my values. I recommend that you sit down and spend some serious time with a journal and figure out what your top 10 values are, in order. Now look at your bank statements and your calendar. Do you spend your money and time in accordance with your values?
Paula Pant of the Afford Anything podcast has a saying, “You can afford anything, but you can’t afford everything.” Sure I would like to have a 2018 Subaru Outback, but I don’t have the cash for it, and financing would go against my value of financial independence. Every purchase we make is a trade off.
Values are also important in how we spend our time. How many times have you been invited to something and proceeded to be bored for 5 hours and wished you were doing something else? That “something else” is what you value more in that moment. However, sometimes our primal fears of loneliness and not being accepted make it difficult to make decisions that are best for us. A lot of people are chasing happiness, and for me, happiness came when I started saying “no” to things. Why? Because that leaves more room for the things I want to say “yes” to. In the words of Tim Ferris, “if it’s not a hell yes…it’s a no.”
So think about this in terms of your budget this month. What are you spending on that you don’t truly value? Maybe you are making a hefty car payment because you fear no one will date you if you drive an older vehicle. Maybe it’s clothes or makeup that you but make you feel pretty, but you still feel insecure. Maybe you go to Starbucks because it is the only place you don’t feel socially awkward. Whatever your reasons, you are exchanging your money for them.
So what do YOU think? As always, you can always email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet @maddymoneycash. I will always respond. Also, signup for my weekly newsletter, where once a week I will send you helpful tips, articles, and insights to help you live your best financial life. I also created a Facebook page, for the non-Twitter readers out there.