More Than Money
Issue #8

To Spend Or Not To Spend

Table of Contents

“The Freedom of Structuring How You Spend”

When the sky's the limit, spending choices can seem terribly arbitrary. To create a sense of logical order, people with wealth often design structures or systems to guide their spending over a period of time. By following a pre-determined formula, their daily decisions about spending feel simpler, clearer, and more in line with their values. We learned about a number of these systems while researching this issue and pass them on to you here.

Using Inherited Money

Some people treat the income they gain from inherited money differently from the dollars they earn through their own work. For example:

Inherited money for chosen extras: Abigail and Burt use their earned money for basic needs and their inherited money only for selected extras. As a result they both have built confidence in their ability to support themselves. They also feel more in rapport with their working friends.

Inherited money for basic needs: Chris uses her inheritance to pay for basic needs such as groceries, housing and utilities. She spends her earned money (which is far smaller than her inheritance) for extras such as eating out, travel, and special clothes. This enables her both to enjoy her luxuries more and to limit their quantity.

Inherited money for all personal spending: David uses inherited money for both basic needs and extras. He devotes his earned money to charitable giving. This motivates him to earn more and helps address his concern about taking money away from those who need it. He enjoys the freedom of not working "for a living" and feels energized by donating the income from his consulting work to causes he has been involved with.

Delighting in Budgets

Not many wealthy people set limits by dollar amount (eg. "I want to spend no more than $1,000 on clothes next year"), but many enjoy keeping track of expenditures because it brings them a greater sense of freedom, choice, and control. Most use easy-to-learn home finance software such as Quicken (plus a small pocket notebook for cash expenses) and follow overall budget guidelines such as these:

Allocations: Elinor reserves percentages of her income for different uses: 50% for spending, 25% for saving, and 25% for giving. Her sister, Flora, prefers to designate dollar amounts to different categories: $50,000 for basic needs, $10,000 for comforts, $5,000 for luxuries, and the rest for giving.

One for Me, One for You: Whenever George gets a massage, he gives a gift of a massage to a friend who can't afford it. Since doing this, his choice to spend on certain luxuries has felt more real to him, and he is excited to explore this way of balancing spending on himself and giving to others in more arenas.

Timely Deep Pockets: Henrietta and Irving decided to use principal for down payment on a home but not for buying a car or computer. They were then clear they needed to save income for those larger purchases. (This method is irrelevant to those with very large incomes.)

Encouraging Spending: Because Jacqueline had an easy time spending on her children and giving to others, but a hard time spending on herself, she decided for the next six months to designate $100/month on spontaneous and fun spending. Having clear limits on the amount of money to spend encouraged her risktaking.

Routines for Awareness

For many people, it is not the dollar amounts that are important to them, but rather the spirit and thought behind their purchases.

Tracking each purchase: When Kevin printed out a report of his expenses, he was shocked at how much he had spent. He resolved over the next month to ask himself before each purchase: "Am I spending this money in line with my deeper values and purpose?" He felt that such frequent questioning (at least for awhile) would assist him in achieving greater consciousness. (Questions such as these are being promoted by the New Roadmap Foundation).

Staying grounded: Larry, an impulse buyer, talks about any purchase over $100 with his father. His dad, Manny, had the same tendencies, so now when he gets the impulse to buy a major item he waits at least a month before making the purchase. These systems help them both to step out of "the heat of the moment."

Valuing the Money: Before taking her item to the checkout counter, Nancy thinks of a few other things the money could be used for. When she tried out a guitar, she imagined that the money might have paid for a far-away friend to come visit her. Making the tradeoffs vivid helped the amount of money seem more real to her.

If you know of other systems wealthy people use to guide their spending, we would love to hear about them. For those who have never adopted structures, we hope this list stirred your imagination about the possibilities. Please keep in mind that overall guidelines like these can sometimes mask deeper issues, giving the illusion of easy "solutions" to complex issues.

Even if you follow a simple spending formula, we encourage you to keep examining your underlying needs and values and the opportunities money brings to your life. Be sure that whatever structure you adopt is streamlined and fun, not a burden that you will soon resent and leave behind. Remember to "keep your eyes on the prize": to align your spending with your larger purposes in life. .

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