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Financial Values: Spending More & Spending Less

Part of finding a balance in our spending habits means spending more money on things that enrich our lives and spending less money on things that don’t matter so much.

When I work with people as a financial coach, I often get them to do a values exercise. This happens after they’ve already tracked their spending for a month. Now that they know where there money is going, they need to decide if it’s going where they want it to go.

Part of this exercise involves filling in as many of these phrases as you can. Try to fill in five to ten at minimum but the more you can fill in, the better it will work. If you are married or in a serious relationship fill these out separately and then share them afterwards.

I don’t mind spending money on ______________ because ______________.

I don’t like spending money on ______________ because ______________.

There are no right or wrong answers. Writing them down can help you identify what is important to you and where you don’t mind spending money. It can also help you identify areas where you could really cut back to free up funds to spend in areas that align with your values.

I will share some of mine with you here.

I don’t mind spending money on:

I hate spending money on:

Recreation because I like to keep fit and spend time doing things as a family is important to me.

Extended warranties because I think companies should guarantee their products without me having to buy extra insurance.

Painters, repair people or someone to shovel my extraordinarily long sidewalk because it frees me up to spend more time doing what I enjoy.

System access fees and activation fees because if you want my business, you’ll be clear about the actual charge and you won’t charge me extra to be a new customer.

Ethnic food in restaurants because I have no hope of making something as good at home.

Drinks in restaurants because I get the exact same thing at home for a fraction of the cost.

A cell phone because knowing I can call someone in an emergency or the school can reach me if the kids get sick gives me significant peace of mind.

Fundraising products if I can get it for significantly less elsewhere because I’d rather get a good deal on the product and write the school or team a cheque.

Charitable giving because it helps people in need.

Dry-cleaning because I can buy the shirt on sale for less than I could get it dry cleaned.

Healthy food because my health is important to me and I like feed my family nutritious food.

Regular food in restaurants because if I want a hamburger or chicken caesar, I can make a better one at home for less

Eyeglasses for family members because glasses become a part of their appearance and they way they view the world. I’d rather they had the best quality we can get.

Membership fees to shop because I don’t want to pay money to shop in a store.

Keep in mind that these are my values. It doesn’t mean they are values that anyone else should have. Each person will have their own set of values. I knew a family that lived extremely frugally and spent very little on decorating their house or on groceries. Yet every summer they’d travel to Europe to visit extended family. This was a family who recognized that it was more important to them to travel than it was to live in a well decorated house or eat expensive food.

This will also help you identify areas where you can budget to spend a little more freely. Knowing you’ll have enough money left in your budget for the things that matter to you makes saving on the things that don’t matter even easier.

The is the time of year when many make New Year’s resolutions. We’ve considered financial resolutions in the post on 8 Financial Resolutions, but when you think about some of your other resolutions, make sure you allow room in your budget to reach your goals. It’s ok to spend money. When you spend it in ways that are important to you and save money on things that aren’t as important, you can increase your personal standard of living without a huge hit to the budget. The trick is figuring out what those values are.

What are some things you don’t mind spending money on?

Kathryn works in public relations and training for a non profit. In her off hours, she volunteers as a financial coach helping ordinary Canadians with the basics of money management. Her passions include personal finance and adult education. Kathryn, along with her husband and two children live in Ontario.

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About the author: Kathryn has been a staff writer for MDJ since January 2009. During the day she works in an office. In her off hours, she volunteers as a financial coach helping ordinary Canadians with the basics of money management. Kathryn, along with her husband and two children live in Ontario.

{ 20 comments… add one }
  • Four Pillars January 7, 2010, 10:11 am

    I can’t disagree about how spending priorities vary for different people.

    Regarding restaurants – I agree about ethnic food. Even in non-ethnic restaurants, I often try to order something that I can’t make as well or wouldn’t make at home. For example sometimes restaurants have some sort of venison (rabbit etc) which I’ll try because that is not something I would ever buy and eat at home.

  • Ramona January 7, 2010, 10:51 am

    My cleaning service – for 2 reasons. One, they are family so I’m helping them out, and two, coming home to a clean house!

  • Jason R January 7, 2010, 2:06 pm

    I can’t agree more on the having a cleaning service.
    We started having someone else clean our home when my wife was on bed rest with our second child, and I was unable (unwilling?) to keep up with work, a 2 year old and all the household chores.
    But we kept with it after and it really is worth every penny.
    We don’t have to fight over who has to clean the bathroom, and the feeling of coming home to clean house it priceless.

  • FT FrugalTrader January 7, 2010, 2:08 pm

    Hiring a cleaner is an attractive idea.. what is the going rate these days?

  • Jason R January 7, 2010, 2:17 pm

    We are in Victoria, and have pay about $60 an hour for 2 cleaners. It takes about a hour and 15 to do our house every other week. $82.50 with tax. They use all natural cleaning products and supply all of their own supplies and equipment. We have had less expensive services where they used our stuff. But prefer the natural products and the simplicity.

  • Ms Save Money January 7, 2010, 3:47 pm

    That’s an great start to getting a budget down. I’ll try this out. Thanks for the advice Kathyrn. :)

  • Kate January 7, 2010, 4:27 pm

    I do not mind spending money on vacations because that is what I am living for ;)

  • Caitlin January 7, 2010, 4:55 pm

    I’ll definitely have to try this!

    One thing I don’t mind spending money on is fencing gear, because I love the sport!

    One thing I don’t like spending money on is [most] clothing. I’d rather go to Value Village and get the same brand of shirt second hand for $6 than for brand new for $50

    @Jason R – thanks for the price breakdown! Gives me a ballpark figure to work with, anyway.

    I got a gift certificate for Molly Maid for Christmas, I hope to be able to use it soon. I’d love to put “hire a cleaner” as one of the things I don’t mind paying for. While it’s true I wouldn’t mind paying for that, there’s other things I need/want more at this point. Maybe after I use my gift certificate I’ll be thiking differently! ;)

  • Ramona January 7, 2010, 5:28 pm

    My costs are very much like Jason’s – it takes about an hour & half every two weeks and I pay $20 an hour per person – they supply their own cleaning products. Remember that this is family – if they were a business, it would be more like $30 an hour. I highly recommend this service if you can afford it – it’s a huge time saver for me, not to mention there is no nagging!!

  • Kathryn January 7, 2010, 5:30 pm

    Cleaning people around here are around $20 a hour too so the cost will really depend on the size of your house and how much work needs to be done. We don’t have a cleaning person yet but once we get our income up, cleaning is something I would love to hire out.

  • Melanie Samson January 7, 2010, 8:00 pm

    I did the exercise without looking at your answers and I too wrote system access fees and bank fees. They’re among the worst systematic rip-offs Canadians are subjected to these days.

  • Chris January 7, 2010, 9:48 pm

    When I was a kid my mom used to say something that has stuck with me my whole life: “never cheap out when buying a mattress or shoes – you spend a lot of your life sleeping and on your feet.” It’s been good advice!

  • cash back credit cards January 7, 2010, 10:10 pm

    I don’t mind spending money on investments does that count? Because it helps make me more money! HAHA

  • Ken January 8, 2010, 12:03 am

    I don’t mind spending money on books. I love to read and I learn in the process.

  • Tax preparer January 8, 2010, 4:51 am

    Spending More will save more & Spending Less will save less”..

  • used tires January 8, 2010, 9:04 am

    That’s a great fun little exercise for people when you are coaching them financially =D anyways here is my turn, I don’t mind spending money on computer upgrades because I want to be able to spend less time surfing the web, and what ever it is that I am doing online, a faster computer allows me that, as well as a fast internet connection :D

    Till then,

    Jean

  • zud January 8, 2010, 5:02 pm

    I don’t mind spending more money on meats and eggs raised on small farms that offer improved conditions for the animals.

    I don’t like to spend money on name brand items when the generic is just as good and sometimes the identical product.

    However I don’t mind spending money on name brand drugs/meds as it goes to fund additional research whereas off patent drugs are pure profit..(is that correct?)

  • Link Wheels January 9, 2010, 1:59 am

    Great Post, It has really got me thinking about my own spending habits and how I need to alter them. After this comment I think I am going to draw up an easily readable chart like your own.
    Regards, David Pagotto

  • Pastor Jimmy Kibler January 9, 2010, 3:54 pm

    Very good article. Working hard and spending less does not always add up to prosperity. I know a lot of people who worked hard all their life and pinch pinnies and wind up with almost nothing. The secret is to work smart and enjoy life. This is what god wants for us.

  • Brad Davis January 17, 2010, 4:36 am

    This is a great point and one of the key lessons I think we all need to realize with money (and time) – we do not choose yes or not, but we decide between two things. Spend now or later, by this or that. When we realize that every purchase mean forfeiting something else it gives a very practical way to judge our spending – exactly as you suggested.

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