Getting More Value from Your Money: Part 3 – The power is yours

Thanks for staying with us, so far. Now we’re getting to the really good stuff.

The previous two parts probably contained some things you may have heard before.

However, it was necessary to go through them in detail and put them into proper context first.

The reason is because, magic is quite risky!

So, before trying any kind of magic, we need to have a solid foundation to work on.

Otherwise there is an increased risk of it failing or, even if it does work, creating a host of negative side effects in other areas of our lives.

So, before trying the principles in the following parts, we need to have understood the principles discussed in part 1: “On being broke” and we need to have started the preparation described in part 2: “Measure, measure, measure

Photo by Alex Kondratiev on Unsplash

I came across the idea in this post while reading the blog “The money principle”. This blog is written by Maria Nedava. In 2009 she and her husband realized they had over one hundred thousand pounds in personal debt (that was roughly $160,000.00) ! That number was excluding their mortgage!

They then went on a period/regime of learning and doing until they had fully paid it all off in just three years!

I found reading through their experience with her very enlightening.

In particular, one simple question jumped out at me. It totally changed my approach to managing my finances for the better.

The question was:

“What are your priorities?”

It was revelatory to me.

Without realising it, when it came to my spending, the question I had always been trying to answer was

“What are the priorities?”.

Notice the difference?

I was searching for “the” priorities. Trying to figure out which things I should be paying for and which things I could cut money from in my budget.

This made me realize, what actually matters though are my” priorities. The things which are meaningful, and of value, to me!

It is an idea that seems a bit obvious in hindsight. We are the ones who decide our own financial priorities!

For example:

I don’t have to pay rent:

I could become a professional house sitter (an actual job where people pay you to live in their houses when they are on holiday).

I could live out of a backpack and hitchhike across the world if I choose.

I could buy a tent, a warm sleeping bag and shower at the office gym every morning.

Alternatively, I could decide to move to cheaper accommodation farther away and then work remotely more often.

Or I could move to a slightly more expensive location closer to work, sell the car (with all its related costs) and then walk, cycle or take the train everywhere.

None of these option is automatically a more valid choice than the others!

The value of every single item we spend money on is determined by its value to us. There is no global committee on the value and importance of items on a budget. We are the ones who decide!

The only thing we can do ‘wrong’ is trying to spend more money than we have.

Or worse, spend money on something we don’t really value, which means we then have less money to spend on the things which actually are important to us.

Some of the most important things on my own list of priorities include.

  • Being able to support my close family and friends when they are in need.
  • Investing towards financial freedom in my future.
  • Small charities I support (I support some big charities too, but they don’t need my money as much, so are a lower priority on my list)
  • Buying a delicious lunch at work each day, from a different takeaway/restaurant each time, without worrying about the bill.

As a result, I will happily walk around in tattered old shoes, cancel my sky tv subscription or move to a cheaper house;

…just so that I can have a choice of grilled salmon salad, juicy steak with Italian style potato wedges, or that delicious egg and cress sandwich that “Eat” used to make, for lunch every day.

It’s our own priorities that matter.

So, with this in mind, we now need to go over the list we made in part 2. The list of items we currently spend money on.

Let’s go back to that list and rate each item on the list based on how important it is to us. We can use marks out of ten.

So, the most important items on the list we rank as a “10” and the least important items on the list we rank as a “1”. We do this for all the items.

A high mark on this list doesn’t mean you need to spend more money on that item. (For example, a salmon salad may be more important to me than rent. However, even if I add a whole month of salmon salads, it is still much cheaper than my month’s rent).

What this rating actually shows us is, if we need to reduce our spending for any reason, what are the things we can reduce, or remove, with minimal impact to the quality of our lives.

By removing the things that are least important to us, we can maintain the things that add the most value to our lives, while reducing our costs and spending.

Also be aware that this list and order of priorities is not set in stone.

For example:

When I first started doing this, I had rated take-away meals as a very low priority on my list.

My “Measure, measure, measure” exercise had shown that they were much more expensive than I realized.

Cooking at home gave me much more delicious, cheaper, and healthier meals.

However, after trying it for a couple of months, I realized that I was a very slow cook.

It took up a lot of my time, which ended up reducing the time I had for things which I considered much more important.

At first, I tried a couple of different ways to improve my time spent cooking.

In the end, I decided (against the recommendation of almost all the money saving advice out there) to simply increase the value of takeaway food to me.

Doing this meant I had to reduce the money I spent on some other things, which I now rated as less important and spend that money on takeaways instead.

But it also gave me back a lot of time, which I considered worth it.

The list is not set in stone.

It exists to help us improve our lives. So, as our lives change, the list should change accordingly.

Great. We have now rated everything on our list based on their value to us.

There are still some things we need to add to the list though. After all, right now it only contains things we currently spend money on.

However, they are also things that are important to us, but that we haven’t had the chance to spend any money on for a while.

Perhaps it’s a gift we’ve been thinking of buying for someone special,
Or a hobby we really enjoy but can never find the cash for,
Or an eye test we have been putting off for a couple of years now.

Whatever these are, we can add them to the list, then rank them against the other priorities on our list.

Once they are on the list, we need to decide how much money we will start putting towards these every month. The same way we put aside money for our other annual bills.

We will need to move money from those items less important to us on the list to these new ones which are more important

And that’s it.

We’re just in part three of a five-part series and we already have the answer.

Each time we move money on our list from something of lower value to us, to something of higher value, the value that money adds to our lives increases.

We are officially “Getting more value from our money”.

What makes it “magic”?

Well, these are all rather small steps we can take to make these improvements.

If we just read these steps and imagine the impact they will have, we will usually expect a small improvement. Maybe a few extra pounds to spend on something nice.

However, if we actually DO the steps, the resulting improvement is mind-blowing!

You simply have no idea how much your life will improve and I cannot explain it to you. (Maybe if I spent another five posts telling stories of how my own life changed, but we’ll all get bored with that quickly.)

As far as I can tell, part of the magic of workig with this list is this.

Whenever we find ourselves faced with a spending decision, we no longer need to make that decision based on the pressures, panic or excitement of that moment.

Before we decide to spend the money, we can see just how much we have available to spend and how important that purchase really is to us.

Impulse purchases are almost always things that seem super important when we have money burning a hole in our pocket, but the satisfaction we get from them may not even last until we get home.

By taking a step back, to remind ourselves of what we really value, we consistently make better, more rewarding choices for our lives. And all those small better decisions we make will quickly add up to outsize results.

Progress is underwhelming in the short term

But unbelievable in the long term

Neil Degrasse Tyson

And, when we make changes, it won’t be just because we are having a bad day. It will be based on considered choices about the type of life we want for ourselves.

I really can’t explain the full size of the impact it can have on your life.

Just accept that its magic, and try it yourself for six months.

Well, if the magic is already here, what are we going to do in the next two parts.

We’re going to supercharge it! 😀

First, we apply the YNAB Method!

The full “Getting More Value from Your Money” series

>> Prologue
>> Part 1: On Being broke
>> Part 2: Measure, Measure, Measure
>> Part 3: The power is yours
>> Part 4: The YNAB method
>> Part 5: Catalysts
>> Epilogue

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