I recently had another first. For the first time since I’ve been here at Center for Financial Resources, I had a client crying in my office. I suppose if you were to ask my kids on the right day, they would tell you that I like to make people cry and am a big meanie-head like that. But really, I’m not….. at least not here at work.
This client was in for our Homebuyer Express class and was preparing to close on the purchase of her new home. She was and is in a good financial position. And yet, as we talked about budgeting and where money can go, she was brought to tears.
“It’s so bad. I give so much of my money away to people and I know it’s so bad. I know I won’t get it back and I still give it away. It’s just bad.”
She went on to share about an emotional (and expensive) gift she had given to a family member. When I asked her why that was all bad, she wasn’t quite sure.
“Are you covering all of your bills?”
“Are you regularly setting some money aside in savings?”
“Do your kids have what they need?”
“So what’s so bad about it?”
It is true that we encourage people to make sure they are actually getting something for their money. We want to see their equity, or net worth, growing. Usually that point is made, though, in the context of borrowing money.
Beyond that, it comes down to a matter of needs versus wants. In my client’s situation, she had all of her needs and more covered before she started giving money away. Given her emotional response, I could tell that sharing her money was very important to her even if she wasn’t really getting something for it – at least not something material.
There are a lot of motivators in our lives. Personally, I hate gambling. Inevitably I end up losing and I hate parting with my money for no good reason. For me, the ‘thrill of the game’ just isn’t enough to make me want to do it. But we don’t always need material returns as motivators.
Emotional satisfaction is a huge factor in people’s lives. We see people all the time who do things purely for the sake of enjoyment. There isn’t anything material attached to it, but we sure do find a lot of enjoyment in it.
So is it bad to do those things? I think not!
It’s all a matter of priorities. I would encourage you to sit down and take some time to be intentional about identifying your priorities. Write them down. Review and revise them to make sure they say what you mean. Then begin to put them in order of priority. Hopefully you have things like food, clothing, savings, and shelter at or near the top of your list. Those are pretty important. But it can get quite subjective after that.
Once you have them in order and have gone back to review them a couple of times, share them with someone who knows you well. In some respects, it’s like looking in the mirror. They are simply giving you a different view of yourself. Would they agree on your priorities? Would they include anything else as a priority for you that you haven’t thought about?
Once you have your priorities in place, examine your spending habits. Are you putting your money where your heart is? As long as you have your needs covered, it is just fine to spend on your other priorities. In fact, once someone has become aware of and intentional about controlling their spending, they often find they actually have more money to spend on their passions.
Want to get started? Here are the steps to lay out your priorities:
- Write down what matters to you.
- Review your priorities to make sure they say what you mean.
- Put your priorities in order from most to least important.
- Review your priorities with your spouse or significant other. (Are you going the same direction?)
- Have someone else that knows you well give you feedback on your priorities.
- Evaluate your spending according to your priorities.
- Adjust your spending to better fund your priorities.
Last but not least, occasionally review your priorities to make sure they still really are your priorities. Hey, life happens. We all change and our priorities often change with us. If they do, simply adjust your behaviors accordingly. You have the ability to be in control. You simply have to claim it.
By the time my client left, she seemed to be much more comfortable. She felt much more confident with her home purchase. Perhaps more importantly she was a little clearer on her priorities and the fact that it was just fine for her to be sharing her money as she was. She could now be happy about what makes her happy.
So what makes you happy? Do you have your priorities laid out? Are you doing anything to achieve those priorities? Would those around you agree according to what they see you doing?
You can do all of this yourself. If you would like an objective eye to help you work on your priorities and spending habits, the Center for Financial Resources counselors would be happy to help. We don’t dictate. We don’t judge. We may ask some hard questions, but it is for your sake. Schedule an appointment and we can help you get headed where you really want to go. Even if it isn’t a financial crisis, we are happy to help.
written by Breck Miller
images courtesy freedigitalphotos.net