Change. Pivot. Adapt.
It’s the theme of 2020. And I can feel this theme resonating throughout my finances.
As Mr. Taco and I sat down to complete our mid-year financial review, I could tell there had been a shift.
I had spent the last few years focusing on how to spend less and save more money for our future. During each of our past money meetings, I spent most of my energy analyzing our spending and searching for more fluff to cut out.
But that is not what happened during this last meeting.
This time, the focus shifted to how we can spend our money, and spend it well.
This shift was intriguing to me, so I thought I’d write about my reflections on this shift and how it’s affecting my view of what personal finance is truly about.
The Inspiration for My Shift in Money Focus
My view of the world has changed in 2020. More specifically, my world expanded.
I’m embarrassed to say that my world was small. I didn’t think much about things outside of what affected my day-to-day life. I had blinders on.
Yes, I made an effort to support local businesses and causes, but it wasn’t a driver in my financial plan. The focus of my financial plan was on meeting my own money goals, now and for the future.
Going through this shared experience of the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted that focus.
This experience has pushed me to think about our money differently. I stopped seeing our money as only something to help us create a life we love. I started to see it as a resource to help us support the things that help shape the world we want to live in.
As businesses and places we love were slowly going under, and as people continue to struggle physically and financially, I felt compelled to offer my support.
And we have been fortunate to be able to do so.
How My View of Personal Finance Has Changed
As I mentioned above, I spent the early years of my money journey focusing on how to financially balance enjoying my life in the present with preparing for my future. I thought that this was what personal finance was all about.
But what I’ve come to realize is that my narrow definition of personal finance was missing something: how my money can impact the world I live in and how I can use my privilege to shape that world.
Personal finance is not just personal.
Yes, we have to take care of ourselves financially. That always will be, and should be, a priority.
But once we have taken care of ourselves to the point of being prepared for now and the future, we have the opportunity to think about what our money can do for the world around us.
I feel very fortunate that Mr. Taco and I are currently in a position where we can further expand our view of our money to include not only our personal goals, but also our dreams for the world we live in.
Switching My Focus From Spending Less To Spending Well
Using My Money to “vote” for the Businesses I Want to Succeed
I often used to focus on where to purchase something at the lowest cost.
And a lot of times this meant supporting companies that have business practices that I don’t agree with.
Finding the lowest cost has dropped down a few notches on the priority list of factors that help me make a spending decision. I would rather spend a few more dollars to support a local business that has values more aligned with my own.
And this feeling of supporting organizations that share your values is wonderful and feels so much better than saving a few dollars. It makes spending money fun and meaningful.
Setting Aside Money for Spending Locally
After watching an Instagram story from the owner of a local home goods and clothing store, The Waxwing, on the struggles her business is enduring during this pandemic, I went on a shopping spree. And boy did it feel good.
I went to three local businesses’ online stores and bought a few prints created by black artists, some stickers to decorate the campervan, a belt for Mr. Taco, and some plants to brighten the house.
This is something I would have never done pre-COVID-19. My house is bare and it’s typically hard for me to justify spending money to make my home look nice or cute for myself, or the very few visitors we have.
But it felt great to buy some things that both brightened up the house and supported a few local businesses doing their best to survive right now.
It was definitely a moment where I successfully fought my frugal instinct and spent the damn money.
But fighting this frugal instinct is not easy for me and I’ve found that I need a little help to spend money sometimes.
Therefore, I’ve made an effort to include a specific category in my budget to spend locally for non-necessities like clothes and household goods. If I have it in the budget, I’m more likely to actually spend the money.
I Feel Different About Spending Money
I’ve noticed that spending money in my community doesn’t bring on the anxiety like it used to pre-COVID-19.
I used to find myself in a restaurant thinking about how much money was going to disappear from my bank account for the meal. Now when we order food from a local restaurant, that thought doesn’t creep up. Instead, I’m thinking about how I’m supporting a business that I love, and its employees, while enjoying a nice meal.
It’s no longer about how much money I’m spending, it’s about spending my money well. Those few dollars I’m saving by not buying a glass of wine doesn’t matter as much as supporting the community around me.
I feel fortunate every day that I currently have the privilege to make this shift in thinking and take action on it.
We Got This
The lesson I learned is that my finances, while personal in the fact that I get to choose what I do with my money, are not just personal. They affect way more things than my small world.
I always knew this deep down, but it took the shared experience of a global pandemic for me to really feel it enough to make a change in my spending habits and start thinking about my money differently.
And while I’m not going to go on a spending spree to buy things I don’t need, I am making an effort to use my privilege to switch my focus from spending less to spending well. Even if that means I’m spending a bit more money and saving less.
I’m curious, has going through this shared experience opened your eyes to something new? I would love to hear about it in the comments below.