Do you ever feel like you just don’t fit in? When it comes to finances, I’ve always felt that way. I don’t follow a lot of the hard and fast frugal living rules that many finance writers do.
In some instances I am super frugal and even cheap, while in other instances I don’t mind spending more for quality products or things that save time. I especially enjoy spending money on food and experiences that truly bring me joy. When it comes to comparing my spending habits with my close friends and family, I rarely feel like I have the same habits. I’m happiest in thrift store clothes eating locally farmed grass-fed filet mignon. Don’t judge.
I’ve never have a set of rules for spending my money. Instead I tend to spend intuitively. This bothered me for years, especially as a frugal living blogger whose job is to offer solutions to readers. I felt like maybe I was doing something wrong. Even so, I kept saving money and making smart investments. I’ve never even had credit card debt. Obviously I’ve been doing something right since I always seem to have money for emergencies, contribute to investments, and still have money to spend on the things I love.
It wasn’t until I learned about values-based budgeting that I realized that I’ve always been a values-based spender. Spending money according to my values has worked well for me and I think it could work for you too.
What is values based spending?
Values-based spending is an introspective way to prioritize your spending according to your values. Many people find it freeing to spend money this way, while others find it too hard to figure out what kind of spending aligns with their values.
Values based spending is as simple as spending money on things that fit in with your values. As easy as it may sound, it is actually pretty time consuming to sit down and think long and hard about your values.
Can you honestly list your top 5 values right now? If so, good for you! Now spend money based on your values.
If you can’t list your top 5 values right now, keep reading so you can identify them.
There have been many popular op-ed pieces about how values- based spending is actually worse for your budget. And it’s true! I honestly can’t argue with it. If you always spend according to your values, but neglect to stick to a budget, surely you will find an issue with values-based spending.
The difference between values-based spending and values-based budgeting
Spending and budgeting are two different things. You can spend without budgeting, but you can’t budget without the intention of spending.
I find that when you create a values-based budget, you are more likely to enjoy values-based spending.
With a values-based budget, like all budgets, you tell your money where to go. What is different than traditional budgets is that when you are creating a values-based budget you keep your values in mind. Paired with values-based spending, values-based budgeting allows you to spend more on the things that align with your values and to scrimp on the things that don’t.
Need help setting up a budget? Open this post for later.
How to Identify Your Values for Values-Based Budgeting
This is the hardest, but also the most fun part of values-based budgeting. It’s funny because identifying your values seems like a pretty easy thing to do, right? Tying your spending to your values makes it a little different than just having “values”.
First, we need to review values. We probably all know what a value is, but can you define it?
Values are basic and fundamental beliefs that guide your actions. A value is something that you believe is important in the way that you live and work.
When you really think about it, shouldn’t values always determine how we spend our money? I think yes!
The problem is that we sometimes allow media and society to influence us in ways that don’t exactly align with our values. In order to make sure you are always spending according to your values, you need to figure out what you value most in life.
A few values to choose from
It can be daunting to figure out your values. I like the activity in this link that helps you figure out your 5 top values.
I also love the values list below from Brené Brown’s Dare to Lead book. She gives a few different ones from the activity above. I recommend you look at both lists to find your top 5 values.
- Being the best
When I did this I identified these as my top 5 values:
It really comes as no surprise to me that I found those to be my top 5 values.
Also, it should be noted that it is okay for your values to change as you change and grow as a person.
Examples of values-based spending
Okay, so you probably get the gist of values-based spending, but I think it is important to stress that values based spending is not a free pass to spend money on anything and everything that aligns with your values. Here are some examples of what values-based spending is when done correctly within a values-based budget.
Example one: value friendship through value-based budgeting
This is a real example from one of my friends. She kept overspending when out with friends because she valued friendship. True friends will not judge how you spend your money. You should never feel like you have to spend money to keep friends.
A values-based budget will allow you to spend time with friends that you value by setting up a monthly budget for socializing with friends who are important in your life. It’s up to you to work within that budget.
Values-based spending without budgeting could get you in a pickle where you end up spending $300 on bottle service at a fancy new club just because your friends want to go and you value friendship.
I promise you that no friend is worth going into debt.
Example two: value health through value-based budgeting
This is an example from my sister who is a health nut!
A values-based budget will allow you to allot a certain amount of money each month towards healthy food, exercise, supplements and more. You may find that if you put more money in this category, you have less money in another category like entertainment. However that probably won’t be a problem because since you value health, you are probably happier taking a free hike than you would be spending money at a movie theater.
Values-based spending without budgeting could get you in a pickle where you end up spending $10,000 on a health retreat because you value your health.
Example three: value the environment through value-based budgeting
This is a real life example from my own experience! When I first started living an eco-friendly lifestyle I noticed that all the “green” products on the market are very expensive. Ethically sourced clothes and cleaning products aren’t cheap.
A values-based budget will allow you to allot a certain amount of money each month towards eco-friendly purchases such as spending money at local shops and restaurants or buying used clothing from second hand shops with an occasional treat of new ethically made clothing.
Values-based spending without budgeting could get you in a pickle when you buy the $300 ethically made organic cotton dress that is trending on Instagram.
Seriously, who are these people who buy $300 “house dresses”? And yes, I’m a little bitter that I haven’t found one at a consignment store yet.
Example four: value time through value-based budgeting
This is another example from my own life. I value time and family so I’m willing to pay more for things that will give me extra time with the people I love.
A values-based budget will allow you to allot a certain amount of money each month towards conveniences that give you extra time. For example, this might mean spending money on a cleaning lady, a handy-man or take-out food.
Values-based spending without budgeting could get you in a pickle when you decide to spend money on all the conveniences that give you extra time. You can afford some conveniences, but not all of them.
For example, I’m enjoying teaching my boys how to clean the house as a family. I love spending that time with them and teaching them a useful skill. However, when my mom was sick with cancer and I had zero free time, I paid for a cleaning crew so I could spend more quality time with family.
The bottom line: values-based budgeting can help you save money when done right
Remember, spending money according to your values is not a free pass to spend your money on anything and everything you value.
Instead, if allows you to identify where you can spend more money and where you should save your money. If you have the ability to stop spending money on things you don’t value, then you should see your savings go up or find that you finally do have more money to do the things you love.
You can have anything you want in life, you just can’t have everything!
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