The Value of Things

Ever wondered why we can happily spend £200 on something, and then bemoan the £5 cost of something else a short while later?

The types of things we are willing to spend more money on will vary for each of us (e.g. think gadgets, clothes, car, or entertainment), and this is based on more than just the retail value of the product or service.

For the next 30 seconds, think about the main things you spend the most money on and write a short list. You should be able to come up with 3-5 things pretty easily. Include things that you may not purchase very frequently, but that you spend a fair bit on when you do.

I really encourage you to record them in some way – because there’s a lot this list can tell you!

Dr John Demartini talks about the correlation between what we spend our money on, and what our values are.

For example, I spend quite a bit on cat food/health/wellbeing – which suggests (correctly) that I value my kitties very highly. If you spend a large portion of your income on your accommodation, then that might suggest that anything from security, to location or personal space are top priorities for you. And if holidays are a big annual spend, then that will indicate another of your top values – depending on what a holiday means most to you  (it could be about escape, relaxation, adventure, exploration etc).

So you can start to see some of the insights about what is important to you, and also use it to sanity-check a purchase… “Will this xyz honour the value that I’m buying it for?”

I was also struck by a particular appeal while watching the TEDx video that Gina shared with us a few weeks ago; Adam Baker encouraged us to:

“Start collecting experiences, not things.”

And as I was pondering this today, I realised it provided another clue based on what we spend our money on.

My list looks something like this (in no particular order):

  • Cats
  • Travel (to Australia, for courses/business)
  • Dining out
  • Books

And if I add one or two things that seem slightly disproportionate to the rest of my spending, then Starbucks and fine wine probably deserve a place too.

I was quite surprised to find that all of these were actually more about the experiences they give me, than the actual purchases themselves. Travel grants me access to my family, friends and development opportunities. Books give me experiences of escape and learning. Dining out and fine wine give me experiences that anchor me in the moment – I love savouring a mouthful of culinary magic, or the complexity of an aged red (not to mention the usually fine company!). And I confess, Starbucks gives me a whole host of experiences – comfort, belonging, social interaction, a creative environment.

So whilst I do still spend money on other “stuff” – a greater amount of my spending is done on things that I deem to give me valuable experiences.

And it can get even more interesting when we discover that our spending habits highlight values we may not have recognised as top priorities in our lives! Our values heavily influence our decisions – whether we are aware of them or not!

I was pretty surprised to consider the amount I spent on health & wellbeing last year… I certainly valued recovery from injury (mobility, independence, relief from pain) pretty highly!

We can also look at things we dislike or resent spending money on, for clues as to what might fall nearer the bottom of our values list. Whilst there might be some usual suspects, are there any that surprise you?

Perhaps next time you take out your cash or plastic – you might take a moment to think about which value the purchase is affirming for you.

Is it giving you a valuable experience, or is it just more stuff?