How a journey begins.
I passionately believe that people should do what they love - not just when there are big decisions to be made, but with the small things too. The way we live should reflect our deepest sense of who we are and what is important to us. In general, I've been good about making decisions this way: I invested years and thousands of dollars worth of schooling into a career that I love, and I try to give generously when I find meaningful relationships capable of enduring the hard stuff. Because of choices like these, I have largely lived with a deep sense of fulfillment. But like most humans, I sometimes fail to live in a way that matches my values. Recently, this was particularly true about the way I was spending money.
Meaningful Spending & Me
I get crazy excited about civic engagement and effective government. (Don’t stop reading, I promise that politics and—yawn—bureaucracy are not the topics of this blog). Shortly after high school, I optimistically ordered “Rock the Vote” promotional materials, volunteered at a voter registration drive, and had a letter to the editor published about why people need to be involved during elections. I capital-L Love my work in city government. There is a beautiful theory (in my very nerdy opinion) that government budgets should reflect the values and priorities of the people they serve. While I agree that there are a bazillion examples that we could use to argue that this does not happen in practice, I deeply wanted my spending to be this way. It was not.
Here’s an embarrassing example of where my values and spending weren’t matching up:
When I overcame my squirmy, uncomfortable feelings and really looked at my finances, I found some awfully bad habits. One of those habits was spending an average of $131 per month on expensive coffee drinks. Maybe some folks are happy to sacrifice a big chunk of their change to keep the green siren of Starbucks swimming. I was not. In fact, there were lots of other things I would rather be doing with my money: Paying off debt, making necessary house repairs, donating to causes I believed in, traveling, saving up to replace my aging car, doing more for the people I love, making my home the coziest place on the earth… Really, the list of things more important to me than helping a large corporation generate more profit is pretty much endless.
To be fair, many of my dollars went to small, locally-owned coffee shops, but this fact didn’t make me feel any better. My husband and I will be deciding next year whether we want to add parenthood to our shared adventures (my husband is already a rock star stepdad). As the primary money manager (budget queen/bill payment sender) for what I thought of as a low-maintenance household, I was deeply ashamed by the fact that debt accumulated since our wedding might be a deciding factor when it came down to deciding whether to have a baby. Even worse: Instead of using my daily spending choices to reduce this debt or save up for future emergency expenses, I was choosing 16-ounce soy lattes.
I needed to make a change. Even if my husband and I end up deciding that other adventures will suit us better than babymaking, who would regret looking back and finding that their dollars and days were mindfully spent? I chose to look my true habits in the eye, and then I started making changes to ensure I was saving, spending, and living in a way that matched what mattered to me.
This blog is my re-commitment to spending and living with meaning. I hope to share tips, tools, and inspiration for managing time, finances, thoughts, and health in the pursuit of deeper meaning and connection.
Want to offer advice along the way or receive weekly email encouragement from Mindfully Spent? We have big plans! Subscribe below and don’t miss a topic.
- Easy wins! How I found over $700 in savings in just two weeks
- Looking your demons in the eye: Identifying and exorcising bad habits
- Why being mindful of our thoughts is more important than you think
- “Do it Cheaper” tips to help you spend less to do the things you love
- And... Guest contributors that are way ahead of me when it comes to making sure their days and dollars are meaningfully spent
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Deep appreciation to Rachael Telford (Super mom, “smitten” knitter, and future proprietor of a dazzling Etsy handcraft shop) for posting about “The Spender's Guide to Debt-free Living” and unknowingly moving me from wallowing to butt-kicking action. And to Debi Christensen for once suggesting that I “do something” with all those Toastmasters speeches I wrote on spending our time and money on what we love.