MSEL: Align your money with your values.

Note: This is Part Two in my My Money Rules series.

Once upon a time, I was a spendthrift. I bought things to fill a void, to make up for loneliness. I was a recent college grad, and everything was in flux. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, I had started my first “real” job, my friends had moved away and I needed to make new ones. I clung to things as a way of anchoring myself. The things I owned (and wore) gave me momentary comfort at a time when I didn’t know who I was supposed to be. I spent more than I earned, and ended up in debt.
I’d been buying things in an attempt to make me fit in with whoever I thought I was supposed to be. But somewhere along the way, I started to become comfortable in my own skin. As I grew more comfortable with myself, I started to let who I truly am – and what I truly value – determine how I spend my money.
So much advice about financial management focuses on budgeting and denying yourself pleasure. I’ve taken a different tactic – yes, I know how much I need to make each month to pay my bills and my taxes and put something aside for an emergency. But it’s important that I not be stingy with the things I’m passionate about so I save a portion of what’s left over, and then spend a large amount of the remainder on things and experiences that are in line with my values.
So, what do I truly value?
My creative life. 
My art is my passion. I buy art supplies. I take classes. I invested in creating a studio in my home. I make less money consulting part-time than working full-time so that I can spend more time on my art..
Aesthetics and quality. 
I like beautiful, well-made things. I buy handmade. I buy more expensive items that will last, and I shop at resale and secondhand stores for most everything else. I avoid chains that entice me to buy throwaway items (you know what stores I’m talking about). I live in a beautiful apartment in a great neighborhood.
My health. 
I cook almost all my own meals. I shop at the farmers’ market. I pay more for a doctor who practices holistic and traditional medicine. I (finally) have health insurance. I don’t eat fast food (except for the occasional Sausage McMuffin).
Freedom to take on the work I want to take on. Freedom to set my own schedule, take a month off from client work (or from printing) to travel or visit my family. Freedom to be focused and present when I spend time with my family, friends, and dog.  Right now, freedom from a mortgage.
A disclaimer: I don’t have money to do or buy everything I want. But I rarely feel deprived. What I do have aligns so closely with who I am that I feel pretty darned rich a lot of the time.
And you? What do you value? How do you affirm this?

3 thoughts on “MSEL: Align your money with your values.”

  1. Jen, congrats for getting there; I know it was a hard battle.

    You are very encouraging for those of us who are still finding our way there. Just recently I stopped taking on work so I could focus on some other things I want to do. We are lucky hubby is bringing in some income now; but at times I still get a little nervous because I’ve cut way back on my income. But I know this is the right thing to do and the right time to do it.

  2. This is a great post. It is so important to focus your income and time on what really matters. In addition to what you’ve mentioned, I try to make a conscious connection between intentional spending and setting aside money for charity–I find it helps to think specifically about what I can give up (and what I can’t) so that someone with less can have a little more.

  3. Angie – I still get nervous, too! I have to remind myself that I have enough. It’s a constant struggle (but it’s way easier now that I know I’m spending my money in the right direction).

    Elizabeth – Excellent point. It’s so important to put aside money for charities that do work we believe in!

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