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My Budget Told Me to Get to a Museum!

I recently attended my mentor Barbara Stanny’s “Overcoming Underearning” workshop. She shared a number of tips and tools with us, but one that resonated strongly with me is the values clarification exercise. (You can find it in her book, Overcoming Underearning: A Five-Step Plan to a Richer Life.) She provides a long list of life values, such as family, beauty, success, and travel, and asks you to choose your top ten. This is actually much harder than you might think! I felt a sense of completion having come up with ten, but was then asked to whittle the list down to my top five! I found this to be very challenging. But it was also incredibly illuminating. There is something deeply grounding about knowing your top five values, and I find them a helpful decision-making compass that relates not only to money, but life in general.

One of my top five values is learning. I am always taking classes, workshops, and working privately with mentors. However, one of the things I found recently is that I was not taking the time to read books on my (quite long) reading list. And, true confession, this is what prompted me to launch the Financially Smitten Book Salon. I wanted this accountability … to know that each month, I need to show up and lead a discussion about a book on money psychology. (I do hope you will join me for this opportunity to nurture your relationship with money!)

Another one of my mentors, Bari Tessler from Conscious Bookkeeping, also speaks about the importance of knowing one’s values. In fact, she has designed a brilliant and creative method to track one’s finances, which she refers to as values-centered bookkeeping. Bari advises her students to come up with meaningful and fun categories for what is typically a staid chart of accounts. So, for example, what might normally be referred to as rent or mortgage is now coined Sweet Sanctuary or Relaxing Refuge. It puts a whole new spin on budgeting and accounting! She also encourages her students to review monthly numbers to monitor if the ways we are using our money truly reflect our values.

This was enlightening for me recently, as I witnessed the expenditures in my “Soul Restoration” category waning. I had the feeling that I was working too much, but looking at the numbers really hit home for me. As they say—numbers don’t lie—and I had an opportunity to revisit how I was spending both my money and my time. So … a museum date got scheduled! 

Financially Smitten Call to Action for You Today:

Get clear on your values! Here are a few suggestions to guide you:

  • Google “values clarification exercises” for a variety of free Web resources.
  • Ask yourself: How would I spend the next six months if I found out that was all I had left to live?
  • Write your own obituary, putting into it all of your life-long accomplishments of which you are proud and why you are proud of them. If you died tomorrow, what would you like others to say about you?
  • Imagine you have received a million dollars. What would you now do with your life?
  • These exercises will help provide insights into what is genuinely important to you.