As you can probably tell, I’m a bit of a financial nerd. But, you may not know exactly why – is it because I’ve learned a lot of tips for living large on a small budget? Is it because I enjoy the challenge of doing my own taxes? Or, is it because I’ve found the secret to getting out of student loan debt quickly? While all of these things are true, none of these are the real reason. My passion for money comes from one single discovery. Money, when used intentionally, can become a tool to help me better live out my values in the world.
Money isn’t an end in itself – it’s a means to an end. Money can help me do the things I enjoy, care for the people I love, and nurture the causes I’m passionate about. The challenge of personal finances is figuring out how to direct more money toward the things that matter most and less toward the things that don’t really matter to you.
One of my favorite books about money is Lynne Twist’s The Soul of Money: Reclaiming the Wealth of Our Inner Resources – if you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. In this book, Twist invites her readers to “imbue their money with soul” – letting it stand for who they are, what they believe, and what they hold most dear. When we view our finances in this way:
“Money becomes a currency of love and commitment, expressing the best of who you are, rather than a currency of consumption driven by emptiness and lack and the allure of external messages. One of the greatest dynamics of money is that it grounds us, and when we put money behind our commitments it grounds them too, making them real in the world . . . Money is a great translator of intention to reality, vision to fulfillment.” (194)
Money can make our ideals real in the world. It’s another way that we show people who we are and what we care about. Twist reminds us, “The word wealthy has its roots in well-being and is meant to connote not only large amounts of money but also a rich and satisfying life.” (57) In some ways you could say the mission of this blog is to help you become wealthy – not in a traditional sense – but to help you create a fulfilling life which will look different for each and every one of you.
You may wonder what it really looks like to use money in this way. Here are a few examples from my own life. Two values that are really important to my husband and I are family and generosity. We wondered if we might put these two values together by making donations to causes that our family members care about instead of spending money on birthday gifts that people didn’t often need or want. We did a lot of research and found organizations that fit with each person’s passions. It was a lot of fun for us and our family members were very appreciative. Often, we had found organizations that they hadn’t been previously connected with, which opened up new opportunities for their own generosity.
We also value creativity – particularly supporting the arts – and spending quality time together. Over the past few years, we have started attending more SPCO (St. Paul Chamber Orchestra) concerts. If you are in your 20s or 30s you can get tickets to most of their concerts for just $10 and choose from the best available seats. My husband and I used to go when we were dating because it was cheap and we loved the music. Now, we attend the concerts because we want to be intentional about supporting an organization that fosters creativity and is intentionally working to make music accessible to everyone no matter their age or economic status. After every performance we leave feeling moved and inspired – grateful for the time and money we’ve invested in supporting such a talented group of musicians and community builders. As we’ve gotten to know their mission better, we’ve also started giving to the SPCO to make a further investment in their mission. A date with a purpose? Sounds good to me!
I realize it could be easy to dismiss this post. You might say that I am writing from a middle class perspective – which I am. You might argue that there lots of people around the world who don’t get to make decisions about their money based on their values because they are struggling to afford basic necessities for themselves and their families - I do not want to dismiss that reality. But, I have to admit that those with the least happen to be those people who have taught me the most about this concept. Their generosity and their decisiveness about what they will and will not spend money on has been an inspiration to me.
For me, this concept came alive while I was in the seminary living in a small apartment and just barely making ends meet. I had to consider carefully each way that I shared, saved, and spent my money. Once I realized that I had choices every day about what I would and would not spend money on and began setting clear boundaries I began to find small, but empowering, ways to imbue my money with soul to take stands for who I was and what I cared about most.
I’d love to hear from you! Tell me in the comments below, what’s one way that you’ve used your money in connection with your values that you feel really good about?