Align Your Spending To Your Values

This morning my wife asked me if there was anything I wanted from the grocery store, since she was making a small shopping trip there.  I have been trying to eat small snacks throughout the day lately in order to avoid getting too hungry and doing something stupid like eating out, so the conversation went like this:


“Sure!  Some nuts would be great.”

“Okay, what kind?”

“Almonds would be cool, but can we afford it?”

First off, let me say that the fact I even asked that question is evidence of me coming a long way this past year as far as my relationship with money.  I mean, come on….can we afford it?  Of course we can “afford” it.  We have the money to buy almonds as opposed to cheaper nuts, or a crappy salted mix.  But my question really meant

“Is this purchase in line with our values and goals at this time?”

Now that is a completely different way of thinking about spending money.

In my post about lifestyle inflation I addressed this idea.  For instance, you can watch several car commercials during one football game and do the math in your head about different payments that flash up on the screen.  A Honda Accord for $199 a month?  I can afford that!  A Jeep for $350 a month?  I think I can afford that!  Sure, maybe your salaried position can squeeze out that much money per month over the course of 6 years…..if that is your definition of affording.

But let’s pose the question the other way:  “Is paying X amount of dollars per month in line with my values and goals?”  Hmmmm….  Well, my values and goals are the following:

  • a vehicle is simply a tool to get me from point A to B safely and with decent gas mileage
  • I do not want to have a car payment
  • I don’t give a rat’s ass what people think about me based on the car I drive
  • I could put X amount in a savings account every month for 6 years and have quite a bit stashed away for the kids’ college, my retirement, etc.
Bottom line, I can afford the car, but who cares?  I choose to buy a $5000 used car for cash and bank the rest, baby.
As far as the almonds were concerned, we bought cashews (slightly cheaper).  Of course we could afford them, and they are a healthy snack that, when eaten between meals, will prevent me from spending money grabbing a (most likely unhealthy) snack elsewhere.
Substitute “car” for just about anything and try asking that essential question to yourself!

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