Casting a Vote Through Spending: What’s Important to You?

Casting a Vote Through Spending - picture of using phone to pay at credit card station

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After two years of campaigning, scores of scandals, and more personal insults than policy discussion, the big day is almost here. It’s time to get your vote on ‘Merica!!! And, if you ask me, tomorrow can’t come soon enough. #IsItOverYet

Yes, voting for president happens just once every four years, and it’s something many of us take very seriously. But, did you know that you actually cast a different type of ballot every day? Yep, every day, you make a decision to vote by the way you spend your dollars.

Your spending choices influence all types of things, and they affect more than just the products you see in the store. While these votes don’t receive much airtime, the way you vote with your money has a huge impact on your overall financial wellness. Here are some things to keep in mind before casting that next vote with your hard-earned cash.

Your Spending Has Consequences

Sometimes, we get sucked into thinking that how we spend our money doesn’t matter. We think, “It’s just $10” or “I’ll charge it now and pay for it later.” Or, maybe we rationalize that we’ll never get out of debt/be able to retire/have any money anyway, so what does it matter?

Just like your political vote, the way you vote with your money matters. Every dollar you spend has consequences, and small expenses can really add up over time. Let’s say you blow an average of $10 a day on things you don’t think matter. That’s $3,650 a year. For somebody making $36,500, you’ve just spent 10% of your total salary on stuff that “doesn’t matter.” If you’re making $60,000 a year, you’ve just spent more than twice the 3% raise you received. Think that extra 10 bucks doesn’t matter now?

Your Spending Reflects Your Priorities

This one might hit a sore spot: Your spending is a direct reflection of your priorities. There’s no other way around it. You spend your money on what is most important to you. Money is a tool to help you get what you want. So, when you give up item “A” to spend on item “B,”  your casting a vote on what is more important to you. Now, you might experience buyer’s remorse later, but in the moment, you made the chose according to your priorities.

I can’t tell you how many people tell me they want to get out of debt. I’ve heard hundreds confess that they wish they had the money to travel. Even more have said they just want to stop living paycheck to paycheck. But, when you ask them to give something up – to stop spending on something that is holding them back – they get defensive. “I need cable TV” or “I’ve got to have unlimited data” or “I can’t live without my Starbucks” they’ll say. While their words are saying one thing, their spending is saying another.

What does your spending say about your priorities?

Your Spending Reflects Your Values

The vast majority of people go to work and trade their time for money. And, while money is printed like it’s going out of style, I’ve yet to hear of anybody who is making more time. So, when you earn money from a job, you’re literally trading your life away to make money. What you do with that money reflects how you value your most important asset – your time.

Do you value experiences above things? Do you value early retirement more than fancy cars? Is it more important to look like you have money or to actually have a bank account that’s full of it? What do you value and how does your spending reflect that?

Aligning Your Spending with Your Values

If you feel like your spending doesn’t match your priorities and values, you’re not alone. Most people never think of spending in these terms. But, once you realize you’re wasting your money (and your life) on things you don’t value, it’s time to make a change. Here are a few steps to doing just that:

  1. Distinguish Between Your Wants and Needs –  The first step is to draw a clear contrast between the things you want and the things you need. And, be honest with yourself. Far too often, we put things in the “need” column that are really just “wants.” Stuff like cable TV, cell phone service, new cars, huge houses, new appliances… the list goes on and on. We don’t really need any of this stuff, but we frequently place more importance on these items than we realize – costing us the things we really value.
  2. Determine What IS Important – Next, determine what’s actually is important to you. This doesn’t have to be grandiose or reflect anybody’s values but your own. Everybody is different. If you’d rather choose a big house over the ability to travel more, that’s fine. The important thing is to understand that you’re making a conscious choice.
  3. Make Changes – Now that you know what you really want, it’s time to implement the financial changes to make it happen. Ruthlessly cut your spending on things you don’t really want so you have money for the things you do. A good zero-sum budget and tracking your expenses will help you make this a reality. By making the most of the money you have, you’ll be able to enjoy more of the things you really love.
  4. Rinse and Repeat – Don’t stop there. Keep deciding what is important to you, and make sure that your spending continues to reflect your priorities and values. Don’t forget, these might change over time. If they do, make the adjustment and keep on moving. You’ll enjoy more of what you love while trimming the fat on the things you don’t.

Final Thoughts

Whether you realize it or not, every spending decision you make is a vote with your money. By spending on items you don’t value, you’re wasting your money and your life. Stop.

Instead, cast a vote for what matters. Vote for savings. Vote for options. Vote for the financial freedom you crave.

Determine what is important, and make sure your spending reflects what you value. When you do, you’ll find buckets of money you didn’t even know you had. Put it to good use by spending on the things you really want in life. It’s then that you’ll realize the true meaning of our motto, “Stop spending. Start living.”

How are you voting with your money? What do you consider before you spend? Let us know below!

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  1. Completely agreed Greg. My Dad always used to say when you look at a person’s checkbook you see what they care about. I’ve heard a lot of the same things you have, and was guilty of it myself in the past, but once I started viewing money as a means to hit our goals that’s when things changed. Having something in the moment may feel good for a bit, but not when it means debt or having to wait longer to get to where we want.

  2. Good stuff, Greg. And yeah, this election can’t finish fast enough.

    I think the vast majority of Americans probably aren’t consciously spending their money on their true priorities, and are instead expressing which habits & marketing they’ve succumbed to over the years. But the goal is to do what you’ve said: spend to your true priorities. A kind of vote, to be sure.

    1. Conscious spending is what is important. Set your priorities and then spend accordingly 🙂

  3. This is a great, useful way to look at spending. Most people have a lot more choice with their money than they let on. I think people can easily become enslaved to their preferences–whether for Starbucks, stylish clothes, nice furniture, new cars, or whatever. We can choose some things we value, but you can’t choose everything, especially if you have debt. It is hard to discern between wants and needs in today’s milieu, though. Few are living at a subsistence level, and the constant onslaught of marketing makes it hard to decipher what’s really necessary, or just “needed” to fit in.

  4. Great post and it’s something I admittedly haven’t always thought of in the past. But with each dollar spent, I’m saying I believe in you and your product. Sometimes it’s easy to buy the cheapest thing, even though it may not support good ethical practices. But it may be worth spending more if you really believe in a company or product.

  5. It’s really a reflection of who we are. Are we a spender or a saver? Everyday, we choose decisions, either good or bad. It’s a sort of responsibility just like voting.

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