I love this concept from Lifehack: The way to measure your personal values is to consider how you spend your time and how you spend your money.
It’s a logical premise. As explained in a brief article, Marcus Taylor considers both topics, beginning with how he spends his money. And for documenting that piece of the puzzle, he turns to his banking information – in other words – the most direct method you have for tracking your spending patterns.
Of course, not only does this exercise tell us about our personal values, it is a strong indicator of where we are in life.
You’ll see pretty quickly whether or not you’re navigating on your own, and what you may be up against.
Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
I always liked the cut-and-dry nature of the expression, “put your money where your mouth is,” and its cousin, “talk is cheap.” In other words, for yet another cliché, you could say that actions speak louder than words.
From a practical standpoint, the way we spend our hard-earned dollars does reveal a good bit about who we are, or possibly, who we aspire to be.
My financial transactions 20 years ago included baby clothes, furnishings, and professional attire for myself. I was participating in New Family Culture, Corporate Culture, and “making a home.” You would also find menswear merchandise – I was fond of buying my hubby’s shirts and ties – and I was the Family Gift Provider: Birthdays, anniversaries, and Christmas all wound up on my purchasing list.
Also evident by tracking my spending was a commitment to various non-profits and arts-related organizations. I put my money where my mouth is.
Spending Money: Life Stage
10 years later, after divorce, you would see literally every purchase that a household with children requires and little else. Once again, my life stage, marital status, and to some degree the elements of my divorce story were readily apparent in my financial transactions. Moreover, the casual observer (or savvy parent) would witness an evolution from items like transformers, trucks, and the once all-powerful Pokemon cards to maturing, interest-specific items like art supplies for my younger son and scientific gadgetry for my elder.
You would also note far more items from discount stores, very few recreational purchases, little clothing for myself, and one notable addition – online dating subscriptions from a variety of services. In fact… Nearly. Every. One.
What remains consistent?
Books and magazines, though fewer during the leanest years.
Spending Time: What Does It Say About You?
Do we spend our time wisely? Are we wasting time? Is our so-called wasted time dedicated to counterbalancing life’s stresses?
How we spend our time is dependent on life stage, as is how we spend our money. But doesn’t it also reflect what we value – deep in our heart-of-hearts?
My old agendas span two decades and provide an audit trail of sorts: business meetings, work-related social events, seminars – and interspersed – notes about sitters, pediatricians, vet appointments, children’s parties.
There are project-related deadlines and reminders about after school pickups. But these offer little clue as to my priorities, which fall out as follows: before 2009 – kids and work – whatever it took; after 2009 – kids, work, and writing, here.
Social Media as Time Thief?
What about social media? What percentage of time are we spending on our favorite platforms, and if we try to quantify it, might we be stunned?
(I spend a relatively small percentage of my time here, in fact, although that has varied over the years.)
As I tend to pop on Twitter several times a day (and Facebook, far less), and my engagement is more professional than personal, I suspect I’m online less than many would imagine. Less still, since being in a relationship – which is probably no surprise.
Has Social Media Impacted Your Values?
While the writer of the article I mention went so far as to calculate percentages of a whole, both for expenditures and time, I’m not in a position to radically adjust much at the moment. (My budget is set; I deviate fairly little; and my current allocation of time is work-for-pay activities over almost everything else.)
Having performed a version of this exercise in the past by tracking (for several years) every expense, categorized, I can attest to the worthwhile nature of scrutinizing all our scarce resources in this manner. It’s an informative discipline, and helps redirect both money and time.
With my own participation in social media (primarily since 2009), I do note a shift. I sleep (even) less (yikes!); I read less (egads!). I’ve begun disconnecting somewhat more often in order to redress both those potential problems.
Still, I can say that social media has, in general, provided opportunities I never expected, introduced me to fascinating people and organizations, helped me clarify goals, and given me new skills. I am reminded daily that I cherish people, ideas, and the arts. Access to all of these is enhanced by social media, when we can filter out the noise, and remember that time spent sleeping is time well spent.
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