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How to Align Your Spending and Values

Janay Lenhart

Is it okay to spend your money? We’ve all read articles about the best way to take control of our budget is to simply quit spending money. Stop buying that latte every morning. Stop eating out at restaurants. Stop taking those expensive vacations.

This is normal and I think there is some truth in those messages. We are bombarded every single day with advertising messages that try to make us think we need something new, or that what we already have is not good enough, or that we need to keep up with the proverbial Joneses.

Spending is Okay

This may be the first time you’ve heard this, but spending money is okay. Our goal should be to try to be aware of our spending. We should make sure we are spending for the right reasons and recognize that spending for the sake of spending and accumulating things won’t make us any happier. Consumption is fine. Compulsive consumption and consumption to find happiness is not.

Aligning Spending and Values

We need to get really clear about what we value. Then, spend out time and money in ways that are aligned with those values. For example, one family might find they spend a lot of money on outdoor recreation. At first that might be hard to acknowledge, but since they really value time outdoors with their family they are fine with spending the money.

Another example might be a couple struggling to save money for a down payment on a house because they spent a lot of money dining out. After realizing that they both value restaurant experiences and didn’t really value homeownership, they learned that they could reallocate their spending to spend money on what they value and not spend in areas they didn’t value as much.

Be Careful

It’s not simply about saying you value something and then spending all of your money on that. Another example is a person who spent $100 every weekend having lunches with friends. If this person really valued time with friends, on the surface it would seem that this is fine. Even though it is spending aligned with values, there are probably other ways to spend time with friends that do not cost $5,200 per year. (For related reading.

Stay Within Your Means

Along those same lines, we have to stay within our budgets. I said earlier that it’s okay to spend the money, and that’s true if you have the money to spend. Do not go on a vacation with your rent money because you value travel. There are ways to spend in line with our values that are within our means.

Everyone is Different

Some people will value outdoor travel and adventures and will subsequently spend more money on hiking and camping trips. Some people will value eating out at different restaurants. Some will value large houses, luxury cars, or country living. Every one of those is okay and they can spend accordingly. Don’t let other people’s spending habits and values impact your values.

Final Thoughts

Take some time to determine what you truly value. When you do this, try to determine why you value what you do. Then see if you spending is aligned with what you say is important to you. If it doesn’t, try to make a change. If it does, see if there are more cost effective ways to spend in line with your values.

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