2. Do a joy audit on your life
In the past five years, what has brought you the most joy? Write down anything that comes to mind. Next, commit to keeping track of all the money you spend for one month (a site like HelloWallet.com can help). At the end of the month, print out your list and use a highlighter to mark each item that brought you joy.
Now take a hard look at the two lists. How much of the money you spend goes to things that make you happy? Some expenses you will not be able to avoid; others will be eye openers. As I looked back over my prior month’s purchases, I saw that I got a lot of pleasure from the $118 that I spent in cafés. In contrast, I realized I got almost nothing out of the $25 I spent on a pedicure—I hate having my feet touched.
3. Create your money-joy return-on-investment list
The next step is to identify two or three ways you can shift your spending to bring it more in line with the things that make you happy. One of the activities I love most is learning to tango. The $75 my husband and I pay for each lesson supports our physical and emotional health—it’s like therapy for the brain as well as the body. Adding more sessions gives me a strong “money-joy” return on investment. But pedicures? I have a negative ROI for those. I should polish my own toes!
When you do this analysis, consider all facets of your life. For example, are the maintenance bills you pay on your home supporting your joy or merely servicing a style of living that is more habit than pleasure? Do your country club and alumni organization really make you happy, or are they expenses that crept in? The right answers to these questions are your answers. But the benefit of this kind of thinking is that it puts you in a position to make decisions that support your dreams. And that’s enough to make anyone happy.
Manisha Thakor writes and speaks about personal finance for women. Her website is MoneyZen.com.
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