Can Money Buy Happiness?: My Argument For Values Based Spending

can money buy happinessI have never been all that interested in wealth acquisition and desire a slow, simple (ideally debt-free) life. Don’t get me wrong; money is an amazing tool and plays a significant role in living a life of purpose, health and joy. I love budgeting, goal setting and gleaning from books and podcasts about finances and simple living.

I love living clear on my WHY – living fully conscious and purposeful about my mindsets, habits and the life I choose to create. Putting our (limited) money to work in a way that aligns with my/our core values.

So can money buy happiness? Well maybe that depends how we use it. Once our basic needs are met, I suspect that the more we spend in a way that honors our personalities and primary values, the happier we may become.

Let’s see… I don’t care about flashy cars or luxurious vacations but purposeful spending buys me books, healthy food, organic coffee; it allows me to connect with my girlfriends or sisters (who do not live close by), has permitted me to buy art supplies or piano lessons for my kids. Purposeful, Values Based Spending has helped me pay down my mortgage quicker, to maintain an emergency fund. All of these things contribute to my happiness. Living generously makes me happy, too.

Whether we have much or little, whether like me you desire a fairly simple life or you aspire to great wealth and “worldly success”, if you dream of adopting babies or saving the whales, I argue for creating a Values Based Spending Plan to support yourself in living with greater purpose, health and joy.

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Creating a Values Based Spending Plan is one element, albeit a foundational element, of living with purpose – clear about who and how we want to be and making choices which align with that bigger vision. Last week I did a one hour FB Live in which I explore this topic with examples from my life – might be helpful for some to go back and watch. Otherwise, here is a quick rundown of some of my thoughts:

WHY do we want clarity around our finances:

  • Less conflict in our marriage and in our home overall.
  • Less stress, less shame and embarrassment about unhealthy spending habits or about looking and living differently from others, better understanding of our fear or shame triggers as they relate to finances (listen here).
  • More mindfulness and calm.
  • Greater happiness (listen here); more awareness of what actually makes us happy (ex. small simple pleasures or a luxury car; good quality food or further education); we can spend in a way that promotes self care; we can spend/save/give according to our core values.
  • Less debt (the typical Canadian owes $21,000 in consumer debt and the typical American has about $16,000 in credit card debt alone; about 55% of Americans carry a balance on their credit cards).
  • Greater ability to stand firm in the face of consumer or peer pressure, comparison, temptation.

HOW can we gain this clarity:

  • Start with Life Visioning; essentially create a super clear picture of what you want your life to look and feel like; engage your senses and get detailed. Let go of who you used to be, who you used to want to be, who your family thought you ought to be.
  • Identify your personality type and learn how this influences whether or not you like to shop or save, etc. (some people, like one of my children, actually need to give themselves permission to spend!) Read these posts to get started 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 (and listen here!)
  • Figure out your “Money Story” – all the emotions and beliefs around money that you learned from childhood, your baggage – good and not so good. And if you are married, consider how much your partner’s money story might vary from yours and how this impacts your relationship.
  • Establish some manner of Values Based Spending Plan and tracking system; don’t worry about getting it ‘perfect’, just start (I encourage at least the broad categories of Give, Save, Spend).
  • Choose spending plan categories that speak to you and help shift your mindset (Instead of “emergency fund” which might stress you out, you might prefer the term “peace of mind fund”; instead of “medical bills” you might use the heading “healthy body”.)
  • Schedule in regular money dates to deal with your money and have important money conversations with your partner and kiddos; no more hiding bills or ignoring your money reality (these dates should be fun and relaxed as much as possible).

WHAT are some other considerations:

  • Sometimes we need to compromise (Two of my values are generosity and quality food and I don’t do either of these “perfectly” or in the way I desire – I must still live within my means.)
  • Forgive yourself for the mistakes – the investment gone bad, the credit card debt, the shopping addiction.Take responsibility, get help if needed, make a plan of action to move forward today.
  • Starting over is hard. Divorce, death, unforeseen circumstances happen. Do the work to release the shame and fear and move forward from here. Maybe your Life Vision shifts now and that can be painful but I encourage you to narrow your vision at this point to the next year and create a plan of action to move forward.
  • Focus on progress not perfection. Money should never consume us and the important thing is to keep taking even baby steps forward. Baby steps are powerful!
  • Our worth and identity are not rooted in what we own or how much money we have in the bank. Nor in how much we give. Keep money in its place – it is simply a tool.
  • Model healthy money habits to your kids; get them involved in the money conversation from a young age if possible; surround yourself with money-healthy friends.

WHERE can I find resources to support me further:*

I had better quit here with all the links – if you have questions ask away. If you have a favorite resource to recommend let me know! Otherwise, join in the conversation and let me know if you already have a Values Based Spending Plan in place (or will you get one started?). Have you ever considered the link between personality type and spending habits?

So what do you think – can money buy happiness?

Krista xo

*the book links are affiliate links

**the term Values Based Spending comes from this book (which I thoroughly enjoyed)

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