As we approach year-end, many use this as a time to take inventory of their year. As you think about the financial side of your life, it is worth asking if your money has been going toward things that are important to you. Some things areas of spending are inevitable, like food, housing, and healthcare. Other areas you may have more control over such as trips or a house project.
Over the last couple years your spending habits may have changed. We have seen changes in our daily routines. Working from home may have eliminated your commute and reduced your spending on transportation. On the other hand, higher food prices may have increased your grocery bill each month. Although inflation has started to show signs of slowing, prices for many goods are up meaningfully over the last two years.
These changes in spending may also be due to changes in your season of life. Starting retirement may drive more spending on outdoor activities and travel while spending on housing may fall. As your kids grow older, you may go from spending on daycare to travel sports to college expenses.
As you look at where your money goes, ask yourself – does my spending align with my values? Money is personal. What is important to your neighbor may not be important to you. We view money as means to experience life in a way that is fulfilling to you.
To see if your money aligns with what you value, it is worth going through the following exercise:
Step 1 – Take an Inventory of What You Value
Sit down and make a list of things that are important to you. They can be big or small. Some examples of things we hear include:
- Convenience – Paying for lawn service or meal preparation to free up time to spend on other areas of life.
- Charity – Helping to advance the causes important to you.
- Travel – Seeing the world and spending time with friends and family.
- Support Others – This could be helping pay for college expenses or a down payment for a house.
- Make Work Optional – Being able to retire early or pursue a job that matches with your passions.
Step 2 – Track Your Spending
Your spending may have changed over time. Looking at where your dollars are going gives you the data to inform your decisions. Are you spending on areas that are important to you?
Step 3 – Plan for the Year Ahead
As you look at how your spending matches with what is important to you, you can decide what changes you want to make, if any. That might include setting aside money for a trip or increasing your monthly contribution to your favorite charity.
Sometimes we may feel like our spending is on autopilot and we don’t realize where our money is actually going. It may have changed over time due to a change in lifestyle or rising prices, among other factors. Each year, it is worth making sure that the way you use your money matches up with what is important to you. If you would like to talk with a financial planner about how to use your money in a way that matches what you value, please schedule a call with us here.