3 questions to ask yourself as you spend

Image: Images_of_Money - used under a creative commons license

How do you get a balance between enjoying life NOW and working towards the dream?

You think:

I don’t want to scrimp and save every penny for years.

I don’t have the money to make major changes in my life.

I don’t have the money to go back to study.

I don’t have the money to move abroad.

I don’t have the money to quit my job and see if I ‘make it’ on my own.

It can feel depressing. The more we try and save and collect money to spend on training ‘someday’ the more we feel as though we’ll never get there - it’ll always be in the far distance. How do you know what to spend today to help you get closer to your dream?

What DO you spend your money on? Do you know? First, get noticing. Not judging, not changing anything for now, just notice.

Here’s some ways to do that:

  • Diarise your spending. This can be ‘techy' (expenses apps) or 'non techy' (week to view paper diary or a notebook)
  • Keep your receipts for a couple of weeks and set a time to go through them.
  • Keep a post-it on your purse to remind yourself to mentally notice
  • Set a trigger thought (every time you see the Shopping Centre sign)
  • Check out your direct debits, standing orders and regular payments

Before I began to notice, I regularly spent money on presents for people, who actually were just after my company. I bought clothes because they were cheap, not because I actually wanted them, not because they made me feel beautiful. I spent money on going out to eat and drink, when actually what I wanted was to put the ingredients together myself and create something simple and delicious in the kitchen.

What did I learn from this exercise? That I was saying ‘yes’ with my money in places I didn’t want to say ‘yes' to.

A different way to spend

When you’ve started to see what you’re spending on, begin to ask yourself these three questions every time you hand over money.

1. Am I spending money on the steps that take me towards or away from my dream?

2. Am I spending my money on things that merely make me feel good for a while, or am I doing the things that give me absolute joy and  give me energy? 

3. Am I spending in line with my VALUES?

1. Am I spending money on the steps that take me towards or away from my dream?

Does the person that I want to be wear this?

Will this purchase give me information about the next step for my dream?

By buying this, am I choosing something that I would be if I had all the money in the world?

You can see how knowing exactly what you want is really important. Being really clear on where you’re going is the cornerstone to this practice. For me, this become a challenge to myself to begin filling in some details. I was faced with choices about my spending: asking myself 'What do I wear in my dream life?' 'What do I eat?' 'Where do I shop?' And this process doesn’t stop! As we move closer to the way we want to live and begin actually living it - and the more we practice this method, the more familiar it becomes.

2. Am I spending my money on things that merely make me feel good for a while, or am I doing the things that give me absolute joy? 

Dancing is one of my passions. I love dancing, it makes me feel alive, it’s pure joy for me. It’s part of my dream life; that I dance regularly.

And yet, just a year ago, I was giving it scant attention. The dancing I did was ‘pay as you go’ and I attended one class or freestyle approximately every 6 months. Conversely, I was spending a lot of money on food - eating out, ‘treating myself’ to a nice lunch or dinner, eating chocolate or wine to make myself 'feel better.'

I thought I couldn’t afford to dance. My rent had just gone up. I never seemed to have enough money. Yet when challenged, I realised the amount was within my spending capability, I just didn’t believe that the investment in my own joy would be worth it. I didn’t think I was worth it. Yet it is and I am. I paid for 10 classes in advance, and that made all the difference to me. It meant I made myself go or I would have felt that I would be wasting the money. Since that initial payment - in faith - I’ve not stopped paying for lessons, every time asking myself - is it worth it?

The answer is always ‘yes'.

3. Am I spending in line with my VALUES?

I challenge myself with this question every time I take out my debit card or some cash. I know my top 5 values, they are written in the front of my notebook and they are kept very handy in the front of my mind. It’s a benchmark, a test, for every time I spend. Money is trading value (cash) for value (experience or object). By handing over cash for those things which we don’t value, we steer ourselves in the wrong direction. When we invest in what we do value, we say ‘yes’ to ourselves.

If you don’t already know your top 5 values, google ‘value list’ and identify those concepts which you have the strongest connection with - that 'pull' you. Watch out for those you think you ‘shouldn’t’ value - keep them on the list anyway. Shortlist and shortlist again until you have 5. And ask yourself the next time you pull out your wallet. Is this spending in line with my values?

The reason these questions are important is not to give you a way to berate yourself when you get it wrong. Be very kind to yourself about how you spend your money. Changing your money habits takes time and patience. So forgive yourself if you DON’T manage it the first, fifth or fifty-sixth time. Just observe how you feel. And be so gentle with yourself, like you’re a little child, who is learning for the first time.

Just like dancing, the energy and joy that fills me when I consciously choose to spend in line with my dreams, spurs on that part of me that believes in me.

Honouring yourself pays dividends in currencies you didn’t know existed.