Tending to finances is often seen as a dreary activity. However, the way you approach your money can make a huge difference — not just with your finances themselves, but with your entire outlook on life. Your values influence your outlook on life and vice versa and help balance your mental and physical wellness.
Here are a few suggestions to help you bring a sense of purpose and positivity into your fiscal activities.
Separate Values From Tactics
If you want to truly reflect your values in your spending habits, you must start by separating two critical concepts: values and tactics.
Your monetary values are the set of core principles that help to guide your financial activities. These can be both vague and complex. For instance, the desire to avoid debt can be a powerful financial value. Avoiding debt can positively influence your mental wellness, but might not be possible in certain circumstances. Instead, invest in sustainable activities and products to infuse your spending habits with positive values.
Typically, your values will reflect two distinct factors:
- Your financial values will involve a sense of ethical behavior. When considering values, everything from debt to spending habits typically impacts the “greater good” in one way or another. In other words, your financial values should create a set of beliefs that guide how, where, and when you spend your money.
- Your financial values will overlap with your non-financial personal life. When you take values into account, your finances simply cannot remain cubby holed into a dull activity that you address once a month. Whether it’s buying ethically sourced clothing, prioritizing entertainment organizations that consider the quality of life of their employees, or patronizing organizations that value corporate social responsibility, your financial values will typically impact how you live your life.
Your financial values should always be the top priority in how you handle your finances.
While financial values revolve around beliefs and ethical behavior, financial tactics are cold and calculated. Another word to use for this could be financial strategies. These involve the various specific activities that you implement to maintain a healthy financial lifestyle that is both responsible and reflects your values. Common financial tactics include:
- Paying off debt.
- Creating an emergency savings fund.
- Keeping cash on hand.
- Boosting your credit score.
- Tracking your spending.
By equipping yourself with the best financial tactics, you can successfully execute your financial activities in a manner that respects your values. Strategizing wisely helps you avoid feelings like buyer’s remorse or guilt overspending, feelings like contradict your values and contribute to the erosion of your mental health.
Putting Theory Into Action
It’s nice to understand the distinction between values and tactics in your finances. However, actually applying tactics to achieve your values can take a bit more discipline. Here are a few tips for how you can begin to do so consistently.
Identify Your Life Values
Success begins with knowledge. If you don’t know what your life values are, you will likely never reflect them in your spending. Naturally, then, you should start by identifying what your most important life values are.
Remember, this is personal. It doesn’t have to do with how you think the government should be spending taxes or how your employers should be investing their profits. Consider your personal values, particularly in areas where you tend to spend your money. Think food and lodging, entertainment, community, and even your general sense of self-preservation.
As you consider your life values, make sure that you take your entire family into account. Family values are often different from individual ones, particularly if you’re compromising with a partner. Create lists of your family’s top values
and then compare and contrast them.
Set Clear and United Goals
As you analyze your life values, you’ll begin to gain a more specific sense of what truly drives your decision-making. As this comes into focus, begin to create clear monetary goals that reflect these values.
For instance, you might find that you and your partner have strong feelings about where your food is sourced from
. Issues like animal cruelty and sustainability are common driving factors behind food consumption. If this is the case, you can set a financial goal of cutting down on eating out. This can enable you to invest more money into your grocery budget to help you afford ethically sourced ingredients for your meals.
Create a Budget to Match
Now that you’ve emphasized the soul and spirit
of your family first by identifying values and goals, it’s time to create a budget that supports them as well. Start by prioritizing your goals so that you know which ones are the most important to adhere to. This is a critical starting point, as you may not be able to fully address every single value all the time — and that’s okay.
By prioritizing your goals, you can focus on the most important ones first without losing sight of other convictions that you hold dear. As you create (or rework) your budget to align with your goals, look for ways to weave your values into the mix.
For instance, if you’ve identified that being debt-free is extremely important, you can take steps to correct poor credit card habits
. Activities like paying more than the minimum payment and paying down your balance are practical budgeting tactics that can help you live out your values in the real world.
Aligning Values and Spending
It isn’t difficult to align your values with your spending habits. However, it does take focus, commitment, and time. If you can invest some upfront effort into identifying your financial values and the tactics that can help you carry them out, you’ll be able to rest in the peace that every dollar you earn will be thoughtfully spent in support of the things that you hold dearest and can balance your wellness.