On August 5th, I turned 32.
I was in Krakow, Poland, spending time with my mother and sister on their month long girl’s trip through Eastern Europe. Ringing in the third year of my 30s with champagne and pierogies admittedly wasn’t what I thought 30-something would look like growing up.
Like my peers, I was conditioned to believe there was a singular life trajectory – get married, buy a home, have kids. But sitting outside that lovely café, I realized, not only had I not achieved any of those milestones, I didn’t really care to.
It’s said that if you want to see what you really value, you should look at how you spend your money and how you spend your time. By that logic, my values are living in New York City (hello rent!), growing my business, traveling the world and spending time with the people I love, (mostly grabbing drinks and eating out).
It turns out my bank account and calendar are far more aligned with my priorities than any trajectory for success I heard about growing up. And that alignment has served me well, supporting both my financial successes and my personal happiness..
The key to these successes wasn’t trying to keep up with my peers, satisfy the expectations of others or adhere to arbitrary timelines for achieving life’s milestones, but to align how I spent my money and my time with the things I value most.
So if this is the year you were determined to get serious about your financial goals, take a moment to step back and make sure the actions you’re taking and the goals you’re working toward are actually in alignment with the lifestyle you’re hoping to build.
Because the more connected your goals are to your priorities and values, the stronger they are, and the more likely you are to stay motivated as you work towards achieving them.
Start by pulling together your receipts, bank statement and credit card statements from the last few months and comb through them line by line to see how your spending compares to your personal priorities.
Seeing the numbers laid out in front of you forces you to get real about where your money is going and face up to your bad money habits.
When you first confront the reality of your spending, know that it might be a bit overwhelming. Instead of getting bogged down by all that you’ve done wrong in the past, you can use this exercise as a kind of call to action going forward. Once you see your spending, you can begin to identify the specific ways in which you can break the cycle of spending money on stuff you don’t really care about at the expense of the things you do.
It’s far easier to make changes and realign your spending with your goals when you can identify exactly what’s keeping you from reaching them. And it’s far easier to stay accountable to your priorities when tracking your financial inflows and outflows is a daily practice.
It’s not about sacrificing everything today for the sake of tomorrow, and it’s not about saying YOLO at the expense of your future, it’s about making financial decisions with equal consideration for both, using your personal priorities as your guide.
By taking the time to make these adjustments now, you’ll not only know more about where you stand with your finances by the upcoming New Year, you’ll also know more about whether your spending plan is really working for you and if it’s producing the results you really want in your life.