The Gift of the Gap: Aligning Spending with Values
I feel safe in saying that we can see a light at the end of this pandemic tunnel and it is not a train speeding towards us. It has been a year since we went into lockdown to try and control the spread of COVID 19. Over the past year, many of us have adjusted our spending habits and largely out of lack of opportunities to spend money.
Everyone had to be mindful of when we left the house so spur of the moment shopping trips to Target were no longer the Sunday routine. We couldn’t travel. We couldn’t eat out in a traditional way. And no Sunday Fundays at the local bar. A year later, we are looking toward returning to pre-pandemic life.
This week I heard the phrase, The Gift of the Gap, in terms of thinking of this past year as a gift. That may seem like a stretch because in a lot of ways this past year was hard and traumatic and lots of people died. But viewing a big shift in life as a gift means we look back on it with fresh new experienced eyes and can see the opportunities it brought.
“This week I heard the phrase, The Gift of the Gap, in terms of thinking of this past year as a gift.”
Let’s think of the gift of the gap and especially with your spending habits. Where did you not spend money this past year and did you miss it? As we look forward to the coming months and years where we live in a post pandemic world, I have a few tips on how to maintain the gift of the gap as it relates to your spending habits.
1. Know your Values/Priorities
This may seem a bit out of left field in a tip about spending but I firmly believe that we should tie our spending to that which matters most to us. It is the life hack you may have been missing. By tying our spending to what matters most to us, we remove emotions such as guilt and shame. No more buyer’s remorse when you can look at how you spent money and see it tie back to your values.
So step one is to understand your values.
- Do a values exercise if you haven’t done one before.
- Look back on where you spend your time and money – this will tell you what you value.
There may be a misalignment and we will talk about that. Get really clear on what matters to you. As an example, my values are relationships, integrity, health, experiences, helping others, and fun. Money I spend on travel, treating friends, giving back to my community, and my health is money I feel good about spending. When I spend money on something to try and impress others or because I am stressed out and trying to do some retail therapy is money I usually regret spending. Take this time to get really clear on what is most important to you.
2. Know your Numbers
Go back and pull information on how you spent money in 2019 versus 2020. You can do this by pulling bank statements and credit card statements and categorizing your transactions in categories like food, shopping, entertainment, etc.
I would separate fixed costs such as housing and utilities from costs where you have more control. Look at your spending in 2019 vs 2020.
- What is different?
- Where did you spend more money?
- Where did you spend less money?
3. Know your Future
This is where we take Step 1 and Step 2 and make a magical formula for the future. Think about the next 12 months and make a plan for how you want to spend money.
- What habits formed around spending during the pandemic do you want to keep?
- Where did you not spend money that you want to keep the same going forward?
For me, I spent less money on travel in 2020 and for me because experiences is a core value, my travel spring and travel fund are fully loaded. I am ready and cannot wait to spend money on travel. I spent more money at Costco because it became the reason to leave the house and I really struggled with being coped up this winter. I’d like to spend less money at Costco going forward and going to see my sisters will be an option, so that will be how I replace those shopping trips.
Maybe for you, you used to eat up a Sunday by going to brunch and then shopping with friends. But in the pandemic you instead met in a park and went on a walk or chilled in the sun. The pandemic experience costs a lot less and you still spent time with your friends which, if I had to guess, is what is tied to what matters to you and not the shopping.
The gift of the gap is that we can change our future by being aware of what we actually liked about this gap year we were just forced into.
- What habits did you form around money and spending that have served you well this year?
- What do you want to carry forward as we return to our desired normal states?
I encourage you to be intentional in this time and take control by aligning your spending with your values.