Personal Improvement

Live With Money Not For Money

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Money is essential, but it shouldn’t consume your thoughts or your life. We should live with money, not for money.

This is a podcast about money, but we also believe that money shouldn’t be the most important thing in your life. We have to live with money, but there is more to life than accumulating as much money as you can.

Life is Not About Money

What if we were to value other things in our lives in the same way or even more than we value money? Imagine if it weren’t about money? What if we viewed money for its actual intent, survival?

Can Go Both Ways

When most of us think about being obsessed with money, we think of making money. But some people are obsessed with saving money. There is nothing wrong with being frugal, especially if you have debt you’re trying to pay off.

But some people take being frugal too far. Buying two-ply toilet paper and splitting it into one ply isn’t frugal, it’s cheap and gross! Why not go all in and use old corn cobs?

Some people know the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

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And at some point, isn’t your time more valuable than whatever small amount of money you’re saving by grating bars of soap to make your own laundry detergent? Wouldn’t working even a minimum wage job pay more than you’re saving by extreme couponing and pretending that’s a job?

Your Buying Diary

A piece of advice often given to people wanting to lose weight is to write down everything they eat or drink, all of it, the lick of the sauce spoon while making dinner, the rest of the chicken nuggets you ate from your kid’s unfinished plate, not just what you had for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

People are often shocked and even embarrassed when they look at what they eat in stark black and white.

Do the same with the things you buy so you can reflect on how you spend money. How you spend money is a reflection of who you are and what your values are. What would your spending say about you to a stranger? Is that how you want to be seen?

Fueling the Consumption

Look back at your past spending decisions and your current financial commitments. What of those things bring you happiness and what are just a vestige of previous decisions.

You bought an expensive car and a house. Why did you do that? Because they were the next things on the list of “Stuff Adults Do?” Who made that list? You? Your parents? Your peers? Society in general?

A big car payment and a mortgage are like a ball and chain. That’s not to say owning a home is a bad idea for everyone but for young people who might move around with their career for several years, there are more affordable, less committed options.

Being chained to your lifestyle can mean being chained to a high paying job you hate. Reigning in lifestyle spending affords you the ability to take a pay cut to do a job that would be more meaningful and enjoyable.

You’re stuck in that job though because it fuels your consumption.

The FIRE Movement

Lifestyle doesn’t necessarily mean spending a lot of money; It can mean you’ve become too invested in the FIRE movement. 

The idea of this movement is to cut your expenses and maximize your savings to allow you to reach financial independence and a very early retirement. The movement calls itself FIRE—short for financial independence / retire early.

The FIRE movement is made up of people around the country who think that you should be well before you hit your 60s, with some even advocating for retiring by 30. If you think that’s impossible, just look at one of the de facto leaders of FIRE, Mr. Money Moustache.

Like being too frugal, being too vested in the idea of FIRE can be a recipe for unhappiness. During your 20’s and 30’s, you never turn down an opportunity to make or save money. But what’s the cost of that?

Thomas loves the idea of FIRE, but he has his limits. He’s turned down ads on the CIG podcast because they were booked too late.

Yes, he left money on the table, but it wasn’t worth staying up all night to meet a deadline, stressing out and breaking plans just to add some more money to his bank account.

The antidote to being consumed by FIRE or putting money ahead of everything else for any reason is values-based spending.

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Values-Based Spending

We all need money because that’s the system we live within but what if we could beat the system? What if we can shift our views on money, change our perspective and find a way to live a sustainable life where we can live with money but not for money?

Those things are what values-based spending lets us do. It means allocating your money based on the things you value and enjoy. Values-based spending puts you in control of your money and makes you mindful of each dollar you spend.

There are ways you can invest based on your values too. Divesting from companies whose business practices you don’t agree with is one of the most effective forms of protest. 

You do need to continue to live within your means though. It’s great if part of your values is buying only fair trade goods, but they are often much more expensive than conventional products.

Your Five Things

Think about the last five things you bought. Can you call them to mind immediately? Do you know why you bought them, and what use they had for you? Was it food, to keep you alive and well? Was it clothing, to protect you and give you a confidence boost?

Before you buy anything, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I honestly need this new thing? Do I have something else that will suffice?
  •  Is this an item I want for a valid reason?
  • Will this support a system I believe in?

More often than not, your answer should be “No.” We don’t really need most of the things we buy.

Make Your Own Choices

Many people will try to advise you on what you should do, without understanding what you really want, what you truly value and how you want to lead your life.

They’ll tell you what’s best for you based on their own success, from their own experiences. And while their advice may very well be in your best interest, financially, it might not align with your values.

Everyone has different values and desires. They base the choices they make on what they value most. Make sure you can say the same about your choices.

Money is a Tool

Start viewing money as a tool or resource. In game terms, money is mana. It’s not a score.

When you’re playing a game like Magic, you almost never have TOO much mana. If you do, then you’re not using it well, and you’re probably going to get killed eventually. But you also shouldn’t spend all of it on each turn. It’s usually smart to keep some open to react to things the other players do.

This is analogous to real life. Hoarding money means you’re not using it as a tool. And even if your life is so complete that you no longer need it as a tool, someone else could probably use it. Research has shown that being generous makes people happy. 

We Value Money

At LMM we value money but not for the material things it can buy. We value money because it buys time, freedom, and choice. When you value those things, you can live with money and not for it.

Show Notes

Bitches Brew: An American Double/Imperial Stout by Dogfish Head.

Fat Lama: Borrow almost anything.


Candice Elliott - Senior Editor
Candice Elliott is a substantial contributor to Listen Money Matters. She has been a personal finance writer since 2013 and has written extensively on student loan debt, investing, and credit. She has successfully navigated these areas in her own life and knows how to help others do the same. Candice has answered thousands of questions from the LMM community and spent countless hours doing research for hundreds of personal finance articles. She happily calls New Orleans, Louisiana home-the most fun city in the world.

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