Money is like religion. Not that it just gets worshiped, but that there are irrational beliefs that surround it. Like religion everyone has their own, based on their own experience, and how they were raised.
I have always said that money is a necessary evil (a tell of my beliefs about money). I never had the intention of going out and making a lot of money. What was more important to me was finding meaning the work that I was doing.
When I went to college, that was my goal. Finding work that would give me meaning. That’s how I ended up in theatre, and education.
I got married young (22) and getting married forced me to grow up quickly. I was forced into some realities that aren’t overly pleasant.
And of course, MONEY.
I carry a lot of baggage about money surrounding my beliefs about what money is, how it works, and it’s role in my life. The hard thing about these beliefs is that I didn’t know they existed, they were my normal. They were my everyday.
The only reason they started to surface was because I got married and my wife has a whole different set of beliefs about money. It means something different to her than it means to me.
I realized that my perception about money isn’t reality.
There’s a lot of things about money that I don’t particularly like. I give money a lot of power. Money controls a lot of my actions. That’s not something I’m particularly proud of.
For a while now I’ve tried to identify my relationship with money so that I get to the point I want to financially. I don’t want to spend my whole life stressing about money.
This is the point in the blog post where I tell you how I did that so you can repeat the process. That would be a. I haven’t figured it out. I work at it everyday.
That’s a lie. Most days I don’t work at it at all.
Since the beginning of the year money has become a major focus. I think about it a lot (but not everyday). There is one thing that I have learned, that has somewhat changed my behavior.
Money management is health management.
Just like I can’t get a six pack from the one workout and the half day of clean eating. I’ll never have decent finances without some consistent work. I know, I know, I’ve known that.
I’ve always known that. So what changed?
I realized that money is a tool. I exchange money for what I want, for what I value. When I fill out the values sections of Franklin-Covey planner I put down the standard answers of what I value. The things I think I value. The things I want value.
The primary answers. But the uncomfortable truth is that I spend my money on what I value.
I just had a great conversation with a former high school teacher of mine about the impact of travel. He’s a guy that values travel. He spends his time, energy and money making it happen.
Before you think it takes a lot of money to travel remember that he was my high school teacher. And he didn’t come from money.
When I look at where I spend my money I am really looking at what I value. It turns out to be food.
(This is a 6 month snap shot of where we spend money. Our house is the biggest expense we have and we bought a car within the last 6 months)
If you would have asked me in college what I would end up spending a good portion of money on I wouldn’t have said food. I also weighed 150 pounds and would often forget to eat meals.
I have since found the value in good food (obviously). Also notice that food isn’t on my primary list.
I could argue that it fits under family because we spend time together cooking, or eating out or whatever. Or health. Whatever’s going to help me sleep at night right? I categorize it as both by the way. And I sleep just fine. Better than ever actually.
I bring this up because of the hard question that it asks….
Is this really what I value?
It’s not a question of how I can optimize my spending at the grocery store, it’s a question of personal value. What I find important.
I can clip coupons all day to save money at the grocery store. Turns out that they don’t coupon real food. Only the things that come in a box. That’s a whole other blog post.
The benefit of this chart is that I get an idea about where I’m spending my day-to-day money (the trees). But life is made up of a whole bunch of trees (a forest). I don’t want to get caught off guard and lose of sight of my entire life (my whole value system) because of the things that are immediate and right in front of my face.
Making big changes is impossible because it’s too much change too quickly and habits are hard to replace. In order to gain some control over the forest I need to start looking at the forest.
Once a week I sit down with my wife and look at the finances. That’s it. For now. Sometimes it doesn’t happen every week.
The real crappy part is that when we first started doing it there’s not a lot we could do except look at it. When I want to make changes, to anything, I want to make them now.
Trying to make adjustments right after Christmas and in the middle of the month would have caused more damage. It was over the next few months of looking at it every week that we started to understand our habits and were able to make adjustments.
We adjusted budgets. We made short term and long-term goals. We made room for some splurging without guilt.
It’s all the same stuff you’ll read in any finance post or habit book. The things that really got me to take action was recognizing the power that money had over me.
I don’t want to be a slave to anything.
What’s your relationship like with money? Any great tools or tricks you’ve found that help keep you on track?