How to align your monthly budget and spending with your personal core values (for long-term happiness)
I used to love shopping! I loved getting pretty clothes, fun gadgets, and going out to eat!
Yet, time after time, I would end up regretting the shopping trip. “I spent too much money; I don’t really even like that top. Why did I buy it? Why do I keep doing this?!”
Sometimes I’d return the items, and sometimes not.
Today I am going to walk you through how discovering your personal core values can bring instant clarity to your life, and you’ll have a higher chance of not only reaching your financial goals but making lasting, positive change in your life!
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Your Relationship with Money
Think about it, what are the relationships that you will have for your entire life? A relationship with yourself, food, and money. People and things come and go, but those three relationships you will carry with you forever.
So it’s probably a good idea to make sure that these relationships are healthy ones; oddly enough, they happen to be the most volatile for many people.
We’re going to go through one of America’s most trusted financial expert’s framework for achieving financial success, David Bach. He calls it a Values Circle, and you can read in-depth about the process behind it in his books.
What are Personal Core Values
Personal core values, or your core beliefs, are a set of guiding principles that influence your behaviors and ultimately shape your personal life. They reflect who you want to be and how you (should) ideally live your life if you want to be true to yourself.
These fundamental beliefs influence your decisions and your attitudes, which in turn help reinforce your mindfulness and behaviors.
When your actions and behaviors support your core values, you experience fulfillment and happiness. Since money is usually part of your everyday life, it makes sense that your relationship with money impacts how you feel on a daily basis.
Money and Your Personal Core Values
Let’s get cozy and share some personal stuff. One of my own main core values is “security.” For whatever reason, I am very afraid of not having enough money to retire on, or of leaving my daughter unprotected if my husband and I should pass away unexpectedly. It scares me. It scares me a lot. Some call this bag lady syndrome, which isn’t a good money mindset to have.
It would make sense that I would spend my effort, time, and money on making my family more “secure.” This means that my husband and I have a will and living trust in place. This means that my husband and I each have a life insurance policy.
This also means that we are saving money every month in our retirement accounts so that we can support ourselves in our old age.
Having these things in place makes me feel more secure, which in turn, makes me happier. You could say taking care of my daughter is my financial why.
If we spent our money on stuff every month and never saved anything, I would not be living by my core values and I would feel the opposite of secure. I would feel agitated and probably scared. I wouldn’t be respecting my guiding principles.
Yet every day, we are pulled in by countless marketing schemes to lure us to spend our hard-earned money on things, or what I call “stuff”, which I consider to be a bad word! Sure, we need to buy things (i.e. food, shelter, utilities, clothes) to live. But I need to balance and base my purchase decision around my personal value circle and our needs.
Here is my own personal core values circle…
In a circle, each value is important differently, and I can focus on each in its own season. Yet, I am not placing one above the other. Knowing that the fastest way to reach a goal is a straight line, it’s important not to distract yourself with too many goals at one time.
There’s a time & a place for each in the puzzle. It’s up to you to prioritize them and plan them out strategically so they build off of each other.
Longtime financial expert and many times over bestselling author David Bach goes in-depth about the core values process in his book Smart Women Finish Rich. He gives lots of examples of people going through the process of discovering their core belief system! The PCV is just a small segment in his book, but it’s totally value-packed!
If you’re looking to add a few financial books to your reading list, Bach’s books are a great choice! Easy reading with important concepts! I highly recommend his books! (Be sure you look for the updated edition, as some previous versions are 10+ years old).
My Personal Core Values
I have three values that relate to my family; marriage, family, and security. I believe strongly in making sure my family is taken care of. Because financial stability is key to children’s development and happiness.
The other two values, health and freedom, are more personal, and they impact the other three.
Let’s break down what each personal value means to me. There isn’t an official guide as to what value means specifically. It’s all about how “you” view it and how it resonates with you.
- Health = I am taking care of my body and mind through exercise, eating right, and practicing self-care.
- Freedom = That I am not tied to a specific job or place irrevocably and that I can choose where I want to spend my days and how I spend my time. (Yes, I need to “work,” but that can be wide open.)
- Security = That my husband and I won’t need work until we’re 80, we can retire comfortably due to smart money planning, and we have created a legacy to care for our daughter.
- Marriage = My husband and I are happy with each other, and we share the same vision for “us” and the same value system.
- Family = That I prioritize family time & experiences. That we look after our collective best interests.
This is how these values resonated with me; they may mean something different to you, and that’s totally okay. There’s no one right way of doing this personal core values exercise.
Figuring out Your Own Personal Core Beliefs
Ask yourself, “What really makes me happy?” Let’s get to the root of what is really important to you. Some of you may say good health, a strong marriage, a loving family, or a strong spiritual self. These are all great values to live your life by. Don’t get caught up in what you feel should be an important value to you; you can’t force it.
You may feel that there’s one priority above all others, that could be your primary value, or they could all be equal. Your true core values should just be you.
Your values could be around leadership, honesty, creativity or empathy, kindness, or compassion. Many values sound similar yet are distinct, so pick the best one for you. There are over 200 values to choose from, so if the ones above don’t resonate with you, click below for the free workbook that will guide you through the most popular on the core values list.
Your personal core value exercise
Sit for a minute and think about what makes you truly happy. Not your TV or your new Athleta hoody. This should be the heavy stuff, the big-picture stuff. Now introspection isn’t easy, and it may take you 10 minutes or a few different tries to get to the layer that’s important here.
If all you can truly think about is your TV let’s dig deep into that. What do you love about your TV? Is it so great or different from other TVs? Or is it that you sit with your husband and couch cuddle watching old seasons of Survivor?
Here we are, you’ve arrived! It’s the quality time and emotional connection you get to have with your hubs. Or, to phrase it a different way, it is building a strong marriage. Or if you’re solo, maybe it’s the relaxation and self-care piece that is really hitting it here.
So let’s take a more in-depth look at marriage as a value in this example. Having a stable and loving relationship is very important to many of us, and yet if we dig deep, we may find that our small, little daily actions aren’t supporting this core value.
For example, You value work and a sense of purpose. Thus, you have an amazing job; it challenges you, and you do work that is fulfilling. Oh, and did I mention the high salary? You live in this fantastic house! Yet the work hours stink; you have lots of working dinners or weekend seminars to schmooze potential clients.
That leaves you with little time to spend with your spouse. When you are home, you may be exhausted from your work to truly appreciate your partner or your big house. This job that you think is great is actually in direct conflict with you as a person; they are conflicting values.
Now, I am definitely not saying that you should quit your job; having a job is a good thing. What I am saying is that you need to be aware of the tradeoffs that you are making and how they are impacting you on a deeper level.
Maybe you need to relook at your working dinners and limit them to only two a week. Or perhaps you nix the weekend seminars that are out of town, which would require travel. Or maybe you keep the above items in and take a Wednesday off instead to be with your spouse.
You just don’t want to go through life and say to yourself, “But I have a great house”. You don’t want to stand in that house and look at all your “things” and wonder where your life went!
Remember the BOOM from earlier? We’re back to that point… maybe money can really buy you unhappiness!
So let’s flip it, and you can use your money to support what does make you happier in the long term! I want you to live an amazing life full of purpose, happiness, and in line with what matters most to you.
Develop Action Items to Support Your Core Values
So for each of your values, list out a big goal and then 2-4 action items that will help you reach your goal. (To help you brainstorm, here are some great financial goals). For my personal example of Security, I listed out…
- Get a will, and a living trust set up (due in 2 months) – DONE
- Have adequate life insurance coverage for both of us (due in 2 months) – DONE
- Set up a home emergency binder set up & complete (due in 2 weeks) – DONE
- Establish a special needs trust set up for my daughter. (If I haven’t mentioned it before, my daughter, who is eight years old, has Cerebral Palsy, she has more complex issues/needs that can be covered in our own living trust.) ( due in 3 months) – DONE
- Set aside money in our retirement plans and daughters’ trust every month, and set up auto-draft (due in 1 week). We do this with a Pay Yourself First strategy. – DONE
As you develop your action items, make sure that they are specific and within your direct control. If you chose Health as a core value, and then lose 20 pounds as the outcome you want, it sounds like a decent action item.
Yet, you can’t really control if your body will comply with that. However, you can write your goal as “go to the gym on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 8am, every week”. That is something that you have direct control over!
Make a Values Statement
Some people find it really helpful (and more meaningful) to also write an overarching values statement. These have been traditionally used by companies as part of their mission, vision & values piece, yet it could totally be a personal values statement.
Make it something that is easy for you to remember, so when times get hard (and we know they will), you can repeat it back to yourself, kind of like a mantra.
For example, your values could be family, self-care, creativity, health, and happiness.
Your values statement could be, “I want to live a life full of creativity, so I can feel energized and refreshed, ready to happily care for my family in the best way possible.”
Align Your Spending With Your Action Items
Doing this values exercise hopefully will show you where you should be putting your resources (aka money). If “Style” wasn’t a core value of yours, then maybe you now know why buying a new pair of shoes only brings you a few moments of happiness, and then you feel bad again later on.
Look at using your money where it will serve you best. Maybe under family, you feel that spending more time together without the TV would be great, so purchasing some tabletop games for your Family Game Night would serve you better than that pair of shoes.
I know that this will be an “easy say hard do” kind of thing. As our current habits are deeply ingrained in our lives, so being aware of your spending habits and learning how to change them will be key. It takes conscious thought and willpower, but it is totally doable! You got this!
If you want to read more in-depth about core values, David Bach has a few different books for you that are tailored to your situation. Don’t forget he’s a 9 times NY Times bestselling author, so he knows his stuff! There is Smart Couples Finish Rich, or there is Smart Women Finish Rich.
I have read both, and they are equally great, yet you don’t need to read both to master this concept; just pick the one closest to your situation. They are both fast reads, with actionable items for you to do to help you get to where you want to be. I am finding a good number of items that I want to do to help support my financial goals!
Yet, if you’d rather jump straight to figuring out your personal core values, then click the button below for my How to Guide on Discovering Your Core Values.
At the end of the day
You know that in life you are going to spend money. So it would make sense to spend your money on things that are going to support your overarching goals and core beliefs. So be happy about the $25 Scattegories purchase for a family game night, and don’t forget the popcorn!
What are your core values? Share one value and one action item in the comments below so I can cheer you on!
Next Steps: Sign up below to download your FREE Personal Core Values List and start living your life by what is really important to you! Your happiness doesn’t have to be fleeting and your guilt doesn’t have to rule you!