What are your money values?

By Andy Hayes

Very few of us think about how we spend our money in terms of what we value in life. Most of us just pay our bills and buy the things that we like. We don’t stop to think about how our spending choices today can impact the financial future. However, every dollar you spend is a choice. Once you spend your dollar on one thing, you can’t spend it on something else. You’ve made a choice.

Have you ever thought about if your money choices match up with your values?

It’s easy to investigate where you’re spending your money – whether you’re using a tool like Mint, or just reviewing statements from your bank, you can add up and see exactly how much money you spend on food, drink, clothes, concerts, movie tickets, etc.  But how do you know your values?

I’d like to share a few exercises to help you better understand your money values.

Step 1:  Make a list of possible money values.

I think that money flowing in and out of your life can be broken down into 7 major buckets:

  • fun
  • physical
  • career
  • health
  • friends
  • romance
  • personal growth

We’ll come back to those buckets in a minute.  First, take out a blank piece of paper.  I’d like for you to set your timer for 7 minutes, and I want you to write the words that describe feelings you want to have about money.  Keep writing until the 7 minutes of up.

What are money values, exactly?  These are more like mindsets and states of mind.  You could think of it like this: if someone you didn’t know was looking at your money habits, how would you want them to describe it?

For example, some of my money values are peaceful, creative, and fulfilled.   But here is a diagram of some example money words that will help you brainstorm.

money values

Struggling for the right word?  Steve Pavlina has an even bigger list of values.

Step 2.  Rank your values

Now, I want you to take your list, get a fresh piece of paper, and I want you to rank them in order of importance, start to finish.   The first value is the one you want to embody the most, and following on in order of how important they feel to you.

Once you’re finished, I want you to take out an index card, and write down the top 7 values.  These are the most important values for you.  Put this index card somewhere where you’d see it every day.  Use it to help guide you when making a decision about money, ask yourself if your decision brings you closer or further away from that value.

For example, if one of your values is health, then deciding on investing in a fitness trainer would bring you closer to your value of health instead of away from it.

Bonus Round: Pair Your Values with Buckets

If you want to further understand your values, I’d like for you to pair your value statements with the 7 money buckets above.  For each bucket, pick your top 3 values that you want to embody in that bucket.  You might find your values repeat often – for example, you might want ease in all areas of money in your life, or maybe you want challenge in your career but ease when it comes to spending money on romance.

And just remember – for this exercise, there are no right or wrong statements.  Everyone is different when it comes to money values!  (And if you share money with someone – e.g. in a business or in a marriage/partnership, be sure to do this exercise separately and discuss your answers!)

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