3 min read

3 questions to evaluate your spending habits

3 questions to evaluate your spending habits
Photo by Alexander Grey / Unsplash

I continued reading  "Your Money or Your Life" on the beach today, and reached step 4 of the program. This chapter claims that evaluating everything you buy with these 3 questions will transform your life:

1. Did I receive fulfillment, satisfaction, and value in proportion to life energy spent?
2. Is this expenditure of life energy in alignment with my values and life purpose?
3. How might this expenditure change if I didn't have to work for money?

These questions aim to help you declutter your life and discover your bar for "enough." The first question asks if your current spending brings you genuine happiness. The second asks if your spending aligns with your aspirations. The third asks you to envision a scenario where work-related expenses aren't a concern, and what you may no longer buy as a result.

Finding our values

These questions go beyond budgeting and dig into your relationship with money. In particular, the second question asks us about our values and life purpose, which isn't necessarily easy to discover. While reading this chapter, this section on values stood out to me:

Our values are those principles and qualities that matter to us. Truth is a
principle, and honesty is a quality of how we live truth...

So our values reflect our beliefs. But since how we act reflects our real motivations, our values are revealed by our behaviors. (Parents sometimes try to sidestep this fact with the phrase “Do as I say, not as I do!”) When we choose to provide food, shelter, and clothing for our children, we are making that choice on the basis of values—being a good parent, expressing a natural feeling of love. Whether we spend our day off walking in the park or going back to the office, our choice is based on values. “But I had to go to the office!” you say. “That’s not a values decision; that’s pure necessity!” Yet you value the paycheck, so you choose to do the job. Or you value being responsible to your family. Or you value the good opinion of your boss. Our behavior is a concrete representation of our values. How we spend our time and money speaks volumes about who we are and what we stand for.

How we spend our time and money provide clear indicators of our underlying values. It reminded me of this tweet from Codie Sanchez, that our actions show our true values:

Finding our purpose

Similarly, our purpose isn't a single grand pursuit, but rather a series of meaningful, everyday acts. As Robin puts it:

If you remember that there is no single act of greatness, just a series of small acts done with great passion or great love, then in doing what you see needs to be done—taking dinner to a sick neighbor, helping a child learn to read, writing a letter to the editor of your newspaper, being an advocate for the homeless in your city—you will discover a life filled with the experience of having a purpose worth living for.

Components of "enough"

What does "enough" look like? The book suggests four key components:

  1. Accountability: meticulously tracking your income and expenses, so that you can determine your "enough" point.
  2. An internal yardstick for fulfillment: cultivating self-awareness of what brings you joy, without comparing yourself to others.
  3. A purpose in life higher than satisfying your own wants and desires. finding fulfillment in contributing to others and offering our gifts.
  4. Responsibility: responding to the needs of others, while aligning our actions with our professed values.

I'm excited to apply these insights and assess my 2024 expenses when I'm back in NYC.