Our discretionary expenditures reflect our emotional wounds, values, and beliefs.
I’ll start us out. There are bills we grudgingly pay and purchases we’re excited to make. We also make monetary outlays that we simply accept and routinely make, without much, if any emotional investment. Some of us carefully track incoming and outgoing funds and others of us earn and spend without record keeping. While a budget can be a useful tool to help us reach financial goals, noting down our expenditures can also serve the purpose of helping us understand what’s truly important to us based on our spending behavior.
A look at where and how we use our money can be divided into regular and required outlays—like rent or mortgage, utilities, basic food and clothing, transportation—and discretionary items—like entertainment, gifts, charitable donations, vacations. While our regular outlays will reflect us (an expensive mortgage may flag the priority we place on having a very nice home), how we spend money on non-essential items may be more revealing.
We may find, if we’ve not performed this exercise in the past, that more of our money than we might have realized is spent on impulse purchases. This could indicate shopping as an emotional reward or crutch. We might learn that we donate more or less to charitable causes than we would wish, reflecting our sense of generosity. Investments in our children’s well being—lessons, hobbies, summer camp, extracurricular activities—demonstrates our love for them. Pet care costs show the importance of our domestic animals as family members.
Today’s message shows me that my budget can teach me about myself. A closer look at my optional outlays will show whether my subconscious spending behavior aligns with what I believe my values to be. The clarity this analysis might provide can help ensure I use my money for what is most important to me.
How about you? Do you budget, and if so, what does a review of your non-essential spending tell you about yourself?