Values-Based Accounting – Part One: Where to Start?

Written by Briana Cavanaugh

July 20, 2011

One of the things that I’m best at is helping people work in alignment with their values.

I was talking to some folks the other day that made me realize again that for most people money is their life’s energy. That we – most of us – trade our time, energy, brain power and often our passion and love, for those small green pieces of paper (or a reasonable facsimile there of).

WHen we spend that money we are doling out our life’s energy. If you earn $45/hour and that new pair of shoes is $135, do you really want to trade 2 hours for those shoes?

It gets even more complicated when we think about taxes. If about a third of our income goes to taxes (which is true for many middle class folks) then it’s more like 4 hours of your time. Half of a day’s work if you’re on a 40 hour work week.

A similar question is: are you giving yourself away? If a salaried employee consistently does 10 hours of over time, they are actually getting paid far less per hour than they do if they only work their 40 hours a week. But we often don’t count those little things: the coffee, the extra couple of hours on a project, the extra 25 miles I drove (four times a week to help a friend which is probably about 4 tanks of gas plus wear and tear on the car, plus time, plus…).

Just to be clear, the point is not to have negative judgements about what you’re doing, but to get current about it. To understand what you’re doing so that you can make informed decisions. The biggest issue I find clients have is that money slips away when they’re not tracking it or paying attention.

Start to track what you’re spending. Doing it in Quicken, QuickBooks or Mint is great, but you can fold up a regular piece of paper in to sections and write down everything you spend for a week, one day/section at a time. When I say “write down everything” I mean everything including the $350 for the morning mocha, the money for lunch, the $10 you gave you kid and the money for the haircut not just your “regular expenses.” Because your life is not just regular expenses, it’s a whole multi-faceted host of stuff and you deserve credit for being a whole person.

After a month you’ll have a lot of information. Take a look. Are you proud of how you spent your money? Did you spend some of that money on savings? Did you get all the things you needed? Do you have “enough” money? Do your decisions reflect who you think you are? Are you in alignment with you values or is something not quite working?

If you’re totally on track – great! But chances are the reason you’re here reading this blog is because something isn’t quite working for you. In the next section will start to look at what that is exactly.

In Values-Based Accounting: Part Two – Determining Your Values, we’ll look at how to determine your core values. (Note that this next piece won’t be published until 7/27/11 so the link won’t work immediately.)

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