Don’t you wonder sometimes how to spend your money? It all seems so frivolous and abstract but spending on what’s right can actually make you happier. The small things in life can sometimes make a huge difference!
I do not know where you are at the moment but where we are from, it is snowing. It is snowing a lot and it will snow much, much, more in the next 4 months to come. When we were living in the city, we had an indoor garage and ever since we owned a house, we paid someone to plow our driveway.
Depending on the neighborhoods and driveway size, snow plow services can charge up to a thousand dollars per season. The going price seems to be driven by your driveway size, location, and supply. In our case, our driveway is 2 cars wide, we live in a lower to middle-class neighborhood, and there are a lot of farmers around us. Being in a more rural town dramatically drops the prices since farmers want to put their tractors to work during the winter. Since the supply is high, prices go down.
We paid this guy to do the job.
Calling the 4 major providers in our town, we got quotes from $200 up to $350 for the whole winter. It’s not a lot but it is easy to do it ourselves and save that money for something we actually value.
Why pay twice?
If you think about it; you can pay others to do the work for you, and then pay for a gym membership to exercise. Or you can just do the work yourself and get free exercise out of it.
In our region, there are, on average, 10 big snowfalls per year. All the rest do not really need plowing. This means we were paying about $20 per snowfall, even with the cheapest guy in town.
We just had our first large snowfall this week and it took me 30 minutes to plow everything. This means that $20 can be saved in 30 minutes of exercise. In other words, I am paying myself $40 per hour to get a workout. 🙂
Shoveling snow is fun and a 30 minutes workout burns about 243 calories, even more when it drops below 14°F (-10°C).
This is why, for the first time, we decided to plow our own driveway this year. This expense just did not align with our values.
It’s not about the money
Like most decisions in life, money is not the main driver. Even as money bloggers, we do not make the cheapest choices all the time. It’s all about what we value.
Your values are what should dictate how you spend your money, not just the price tag.
If you are a bit lost and have not found your core values yet, your first step is to identify the times when you were happiest. What are you doing during these times? Ask yourself what objects are required during this time and how much this activity is costing you if anything. Most of the time, you will notice the happiest moments in life are free or very cheap.
Then, identify the times when you feel the most fulfilled and satisfied. Some of the most expensive things in the world are actually pretty shallow. Will this $60,000 Hermes bag actually fulfill you or is it just a big marketing scheme?
Find out your values and associate them with the things or experiences you enjoy most. For example, some of our values are a spirit of adventure, education, and open-mindedness, so we highly value traveling. We like to go on an adventure, explore our beautiful world, and learn about other cultures. Find your own values and then try to find the things or experiences you value. Core values include:
- Being the best
- Good humor
- Service to others
- Spirit of adventure
This is not an exhaustive list, write your own and add all the core values you can think of. When looking at our expenses, we could easily find stuff that is not necessarily in line with our values or stuff we could easily find better alternatives.
As an exercise, go through all your expenses last month and ask yourself if this is in line with your values. If so, spend a quick 5 minutes searching for an alternative. All you need is a quick online search to see if you are overpaying for these.
Step One: Aggregate
Once you know your values, the first step is to glance at your budget. Go through your expenses and see if you are spending money on things you do not particularly value.
Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants. -Epictetus
You can go about this by category or, if you really want to be thorough, look at each expense one-by-one. We highly suggest you go through at least a month’s worth of transactions to spot even the small amounts which are wasted. To see all your expenses in one place, we suggest Personal Capital or Mint, they are free and highly customizable.
Step two: Make it fit
Once you know your values and your spending, make each expense or category fit with some of your core values. This can get tricky, no one gets joy and fulfillment from mortgage payments. However, your home might be perfectly in line with safety, dependability, reliability, or even appearances. Our mortgage is our biggest expense and we value its resulting asset very much.
I bought some pretty good stuff. Got me a $300 pair of socks. Got a fur sink. An electric dog polisher. A gasoline powered turtleneck sweater. And, of course, I bought some dumb stuff, too. -Steve Martin
All jokes aside, going through our expenses, we can see how we align our purchases with our values. We mostly spend on food, we really enjoy discovering the flavors from around the world, spending quality family time together, and eating healthy home-cooked meals. This would correlate with our worldliness, family, and health values.
In this snippet of our spending, we also spent on charity, our pet, and entertainment, all things directly aligned with our core values.
Try it yourself. Going down your list, ask yourself why you did that purchase and if they are in line with your values. Start eliminating the things you do not care for or cannot answer why you bought them in the first place.
Step three: Find alternatives
Finally, you will be left with the actual expenses you value and enjoy. From there, try to find alternatives to each of them. This might be a different provider, a different brand or store… You do not need to change anything but at least you will be aware of the other options out there.
In some cases, you might find that you can get the same happiness and fulfillment out of a cheaper product and you will end up saving a bit. In other cases, you might find better, more expensive, options that you value even more. For example, we highly value skiing and spending on a brand new pair of skis last year was one of our best purchases of the winter. Even if we already had perfectly fine skis, spending more on an upgrade was worth it in this case.
After this little exercise, you should end up with the optimal spending for optimal happiness and fulfillment. Of course, this was looking backward but you can consciously think about each and every purchase you make and go through these steps quickly in your head. Hopefully, you will live a better life, save more, and be happier. Mr. and Mrs. Xyz.
8 replies on “Spend on What’s Right”
Love this post!
With our expense tracker, we can look at all our spending by date, or by category, which is very helpful. And we found that last year we didn’t do as good a job of being charitable as we wanted to. We’ve been rectifying that this year.
Just one caveat, not to be a Debbie Downer, but for folks reading, keep in mind that shoveling snow is hard on the heart. There’s risk involved for people with high blood pressure, a heart condition, a sedentary lifestyle — and additional risks. Please check into them before lifting a shovel!
Thanks for the cautionary tale, always stay within your limits and don’t over exercise but starting all these things early is what prevents such a sedentary lifestyle 🙂
Nice job to save money by exercising. I have a snow blower but only use it about once a year. I just like the workout from shoveling.
We looked into snow blowers but they don’t make any financial sense. They are about $2,000 brand new or about 10 years of snowplow service.
Might as well shovel…
If it costed only 200-350 dollars for a season, we would definitely get someone to do it for us. We got a quote, and it came north of 600. We got a good snow blower for 1300 dollars. You make me feel like we are bleeding money. We use it when the snow fall is over 4 inches or so. Especially when the snow is wet (and we get that a lot!) and the town dumps 1.5-2 feet of snow at the end of driveway.
Now that I am done justifying (to myself, I guess) our extravagant habits, let me tell you that I really enjoyed reading that post. I like your way of writing – I have to go back and read the rest of your posts!
Thanks, Busy Mom, I guess we aren’t as busy 🙂 We just decided to take the time to exercise and enjoy the fresh air.
Good point. People are paying others to shovel their snow and then pay expensive gym memberships to keep in shape 😀
At least you found a great way to save money and also work out.
This applies to many things in life, once you start looking around, we are spending so much on things we don’t need.