Monday, August 6, 2007

What your budget says about your values

I think it's very true that we put our money where our hearts are, and that what we choose to spend money on says a lot about us. As I made my August budget, I really tried to think about what my spending says about me, and whether my spending is in line with my values and priorities. So, without further ado, my budget items from greatest to least (I've omitted actual numbers).

1. Rent - I'm okay with this one. Shelter is one of the four essential necessities, and while our apartment certainly goes beyond a basic roof over our heads, I'm okay with it being the top line item in our budget. It would be possible for us to cut this a little by moving to a less nice place, but there are a variety of reasons (proximity, amenities, etc) that we chose this in the first place, and moving to a new place would bring us much less happiness. While I understand that rent is not an investment in any equity, it's the right decision for us now, so again, here my budget and values are okay.

2. Car loan - Ouch. Do I really value my car this much? No, not really, and I certainly don't value car car debt. I'm pretty sure it was a mistake to buy it, but I'm still not sure it's a good idea to sell it now. I'll have it paid off in about 10 months, and then I'll hopefully drive it for another 6-7 years or until the wheels fall off (and use the payment toward retirement). This is one that I think for now I'm just going to suck up and deal with, although it is a break between my budget and my values.

3. Groceries - Yeah, I'm okay with this. We really love food. I could probably cut this back a bit more, but in some ways I feel that good quality food is not the place to skimp.

4. Student loans - Well we definitely value education, and the increased income that will (hopefully) eventually come from it, but again we don't value debt which is why I'm glad we're not taking out any more. I would love to see these gone, and I'm going to throw my might behind getting out of student loan debt in the next year.

5. Gasoline - This is another place where my budget definitely does not fit with my values, but I'm not sure what else to do about it. I already drive an efficient car, keep it maintained and relatively empty, combine errands, and walk whenever viable, but the gas budget keeps creeping up. Frustrating.

6. Restaurants - I must admit, eating out really does make me very happy, but I don't like that this item is so high in my budget. I wonder if keeping more high quality tempting food in the house would make eating out less appealing.

7. Investing - I'm actually really proud of the money we've put aside for investing every month. I feel like it's going to do something very important for our future and our family's future.

8. Cell phones/cable/internet - These are all things that I regularly use and that I feel I get sufficient value from for what I pay for them.

What's missing:

Charitable giving - This is something that used to be very important to me, and I wonder whether my money obsession got the better of me let this get away from me. I definitely want to start reworking my budgets to allow for more of this.

So, that's what my budget says about my values. What does your budget say about yours?


My New Choice said...

This is a very interesting way to look at your budget and I don't think I've ever really examined it from this point of view.

Off the top of my head, our top expenditures would be our mortgage, retirement savings, groceries, gasoline and college savings.

I'll have to examine my numbers.

SavingDiva said...

My budget says I value clothing and travel :) SO I guess I'm superficial

story girl said...

my new choice - sounds like your priorities are in order!

savingdiva - LOL! I love it. You're not superficial at all, just FUN!

Anonymous said...

I found your post from the CofPF. I compare my spending and budget with our values all the time - I think it's THE way to craft a beautiful budget, (one that is personally motivating). Thanks for sharing your personal experience with comparing your budget and values.

Coincidentally, my carnival submission included detailed instructions on comparing your expenditures with your priorities and values:
Baby Step to Financial Freedom #5: How To Find Financial Happiness

What does our family spend the most on? Our top 3 include:

*Savings (for early retirement so we can be stay-at-home parents).
*Travel (in alignment with our priorities of family, friendships, fun and learning.
*Health (organic foods, preventative care, etc).

The Happy Rock said...

I like the discussion here, and I agree that were our money goes does say a lot about us.

I might even take it a little further and ask what our spending says about our dreams and the future. I know my spending now reflects my desire to pursue my dream of becoming an entrepreneurial philanthropist.

Nantahala said...

My budget screams that we love food... something to think about.

Anonymous said...

I really appreciate your mentioning the absence of charitable giving - it's something struggle to keep in my budget (it's creeping up, but it's still not where I'd like it to be!), and I definitely think that it's harder to do so given how little attention it gets in the PF-blog world (which is where I get a lot of my motivation for / reminders about saving).

Thanks for a good post!

plonkee said...

I'd be on
Fun (I know its a broad category)
House repairs/maintenance

Not bad. I'd prefer to switch Fun and Mortgage ;)