Stay on Your Path: Money Matters
Money matters, I love that pun. Money matters for our daily existence for living expenses and to buy experiences that bring us joy and happiness. Then, the second interpretation – What is happening with your money? It is a very personal question. As in how much do you have? How do you acquire it? What do you spend it on?
Let’s back up. To stay on your path, you must know what is on your path. By looking at how you spend your time and money you can see who you are and what you do everyday. For some, time is what matters first, and money second. In many ways they are interchangeable. They both matter. Probably, one means more to you than the other. As a result they both contribute to your daily reality and staying on your path.
Years ago, I learned this truth.
A budget is your political preferences in action.
Your budget is a picture of how you spend your money. It says a lot about who you are and your choices. As a result, the word political is important here as it denotes realities we must accept, such as taxes and other expenses that provide for our basic needs, food, housing, transportation. But political also denotes choices that are made to keep promises.
How do I spend my money?
Money is easy to track. It comes in, it comes out, whether it’s cash or credit. You can track where it goes. Actually, you know where it goes, you just might not be paying attention. This is why it is important to look at what you spend your money on. Everything is a choice. Where you live and how much rent you pay or if you have a mortgage; what type of car you drive or what mode of transportation you prefer, each of these expenses has an equation. I earn this much or I have this much. Based on my circumstances I spend this much. The remainder is what is discretionary – I can do what I want with it. The question is: Are you making cognizant choices?
For example, a company may say “Our priority is to protect the environment.” We can check out if that is true by looking at their financial statements. What percentage of their budget is designated to the environment? Is there in-house expertise or is it in a consultant line or sub-category? Is it in their corporate DNA? Is it a priority in each line of business? Are funding and resources devoted in most areas? Are they a Certified B Corp? Do they hire and pay well for this expertise? Is it something they value by putting dollars behind that statement?
Make it personal.
It works the same way in our personal lives. I believe that I am charitable, I love my community. Looking at my giving patterns I can test this belief. Do I only give money when a friend is in a swim-a-thon or having a fundraiser for their 60th birthday. Am I more generous to a charity I know and have already supported? Do I take credit for what I give or give anonymously? Can I reach to give more than what is comfortable? Will I make a decision to say ” I can’t have the extra latte this week because I made that donation.” Can I put my generosity ahead of my own comfort level. Does my belief about being charitable match my actions?
What does that say about me?
The choices I make with my money say a lot about me. Do I always buy things on sale? Which isn’t a bad thing as long as I don’t short-change myself and get what I want and need. Do I spend the time to figure out what I want and how to make that happen in my life or do I just go along to get along? Am I spending purposefully or just trying to get through the day, the week, my latest life event?
Are my beliefs inline with my spending?
Understanding that funds are limited and must first go to paying rent and other necessary things, how you choose to get what is important to you is the measure of who you are . Real tangible expenses, such as medical bills and emergency repairs aside, honestly answer the question: Do I spend my discretionary money on what I believe is important to be my authentic self? Is my spending in alignment with my narrative about who I am or does it represent who I wish I was? Am I living incongruently with the proverbial, tomorrow, I will fix it tomorrow. Tomorrow will be different.
Take Yoga for instance. – I would only take the free classes, and I didn’t go as often as I should. Or I would buy the expensive class pass and not use it. By looking at that pattern of who I wanted to be, vs. who I am, I can now say, “Yoga is not for me and I don’t need to try anymore!” That’s the truth for me. This is applicable to most things in our lives. What I choose to eat; How I spend my free time; what I buy to use for my home. For me that meant being honest about Yoga, which is not in my life any more and doesn’t make me feel guilty about not doing it. By being honest, I can spend my money and my time on things that nourish me, not worry me.
Make a conscious effort to track your expenses, even for one day. How much are you really spending on your daily coffee habit or your transportation because you are rushing or other things that don’t work for you (such as Yoga for me). Does what you spend your money on make your life smoother or does it cause friction? Are you filling your soul with the items that feed your authentic you? What do you choose to spend your discretionary funds on? Get in alignment with who you are and what you truly care about and sail through your day.