Inside My Wallet: Katie’s Money Philosophy

By Katie, 5:39 am

Ah, money. Who knew that such little pieces of paper could cause so much stress? We earn it, we spend it. We make it, we lose it. We love it, we hate it.

I’ve decided to start a new series here on the blog called “Inside My Wallet.” A few years ago (read: after I graduated from college and had to pay my own bills) I became very interested in personal finances. I read books and talked to people and started to get smart about what I was doing with my money.

My no means am I an expert! My financial experiences have run the gamut from shrewd to silly, from insightful to thoughtless. Both sides of the coin (haha!) have taught me that financial health can be just as important as physical or emotional health, which means the green stuff is a perfectly relevant topic to discuss here.

But before I say anything specific about money management, let me tell you exactly where I’m coming from.

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My Money Philosophy

I once heard someone say that if you want to know what someone really cares about, just look at his or her checkbook.

It makes sense, doesn’t it? How we spend our money reflects our values. Our bank account is a tangible illustration of what’s important to us.

When I first decided to take a good hard look at my financial situation, I was definitely not happy with what I saw. My money wasn’t going toward the things I said were important to me, things like security and good health and helping others. Instead, it was going toward things like a too-expensive apartment and an unnecessary Starbucks habit. :-?

I figured I would either need to change my spending habits or change my values…and the latter weren’t going anywhere, so the money it was. I kicked the coffee. I moved into a cheaper place. And I made intentional decisions about where that extra money was going to go.

For me this was relatively easy, but for others it can be a real struggle. One way to make it easier is to create visual reminders of what’s really important to you. I’ve heard of people doing things like wrapping a photo of their children around their credit card in order to help them stay on track.

The key for me was really making that connection between money and values. Even today I’m constantly asking myself, if someone were to look at my bank account right now, what would they learn about me from what they saw? Would it be an accurate reflection of the things I care about?

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Here are some of the topic ideas I have for the series:

  • budgeting (it’s not as boring as you think!)
  • handling debt
  • buying a house
  • getting smart about retirement
  • creating an emergency savings

I’m planning to write a post for the series about once a week, so I hope you’ll stop back to read more!

What topic would you like to see covered in the series?

Do you have a money philosophy? What is it?

31 Responses to “Inside My Wallet: Katie’s Money Philosophy”

  1. Karen says:

    Could you talk about the impact marriage has on finances…do you merge your accounts or keep them separate? Each pay your own bills or pay everything together? I think my husband and I do a pretty decent job with our finances but I know there is always room for improvement.

  2. Simply Life says:

    I think in the budgeting section you can talk about creative ways to have fun on a budget! My husband and I have switched off who’s been the student since we got married – meaning we’re forced to live off one income. Although we can’t always do all the things are friends are we have so much fun thinking of creative ways to stay on budget and I think friends appreciate coming over for a home-cooked meal more than going out anyways!

    • Katie says:

      Love that suggestion! It is definitely possible to have a good time without spending a lot of money.

  3. Sportsgirl says:

    I don’t know if I really have a money philosphy, but I think I am fairly wise about how I manage my finances. I definitely try and spend the least amount possible on where I live since I am renting. The one thing I am not afraid to spend money on is food, but I see that as an investment in my health and wellbeing as well as enjoyment.

    • Katie says:

      I think that’s such a big part of it. No money is wasted if it’s spent on something that’s truly important to you.

  4. Love any and all of these things!

    I try to always use cash–helps me not overspend. I also love Dorry’s philosophy at living with healthy hunger–she likes to spend money on experiences, and not material things.

    • Katie says:

      I remember when you were doing a series of posts on money! Also, I think I’ve even read a research study that shows that spending money on experiences instead of material things increases happiness levels.

  5. Sarah says:

    I’m about to move into stay-at-home mom territory, but I like to eat well. I’d love to read a post on eating healthy on a tight budget.

  6. yan says:

    My checkbook shows that I love food. I spend more than I sometimes need to on food, but I like to cook. Also, in the past year of having a serious relationship with someone who also works full time, I eat out more than I ever did before — sometimes we want to see each other, but not spend an evening cooking. We are experimenting with working together in the kitchen, as well as cooking for each other. I think food and money are central issues — I think eating well is one of my values to be supported financially, but eating out isn’t, not necessarily.

    As far as money in relationships, there was an excellent series on Slate.com recently about the different money management in marriage styles. The thing I found most interesting was how partners decided which expenses were “shared” and which weren’t — especially career-related expenses (appropriate clothing and grooming, travel).

    Also, I think that rather than talk about buying a house as a topic, maybe discuss living expenses in general. Buying a house makes sense for a specific segment of the population (those relatively settled on their geographic area, with stable employment), but not for many others. Renting is also significant, as is deciding when and whether buying property is appropriate for you.

    • Katie says:

      Thank for all of this wonderful information! I really appreciate it. I see what you’re saying about discussing living expenses instead of buying a house specifically, and I will definitely take that into account!

  7. Alaina says:

    My husband and I both agree to make sacrificies now to have fun later on in life.

    I would like to see your thoughts on impluse buying. :-)

    • Katie says:

      You mean how often I do it and then regret it later? Haha! ;) No, in all seriousness, it’s a great topic idea!

  8. Cammy says:

    I’m super-interested in following your posts in this topic. I’m a grad student right now, so the “handling debt” item is of special interest to me. My boyfriend is in grad school in a different region, and we’ve both really had to be conscious of our finances and the need to make sacrifices in order to afford to be able to see each other at least once a month. Both of us have canceled our cable, are doing a lot less meals/coffees out, etc. Prioritization is key but well worth it!

  9. McKella says:

    I’d like to learn about working out money stuff with a partner, because I’m a saver and my husband’s a spender!

  10. I love this, Katie, and I can’t wait to see your posts about money. Money is on my mind a lot lately and it has been interesting to learn how my life in money is very similar to my previous life in food. Just like our relationship with food, I think our relationship with money has a lot to teach us. I like the way you look at it and I never really thought of it that way.

    • Katie says:

      I’ve also been thinking a lot about the correlation between food and money in my life. I find it fascinating, honestly.

  11. AnnE says:

    Wow, first sex and now money. You are a brave woman! My hubby has been unemployed since September, so this subject is a bit tough for me right now. I may need to skip your posts on this subject, but applaud you for being willing to tackle such an important subject.

    • Katie says:

      Thank you! I appreciate your comment, which is a great reminder for me to be sensitive to everyone’s differing financial situations as I write these posts.

  12. Katie, I’m so happy that you’re doing this series! I absolutely have a lot to learn. I really like the idea of asking myself if what I spend my money on reflects who I really am. Talk about food for thought! I really never thought about it this way.

    I think your philosophy looks great! My parents have always taught me to a) pay my bills on time b) not to spend more than I make and c) never skimp on nourishing foods. :) That sort of informs part of my philosophy, I think.

    Also, I know that you weren’t in this situation but I’d love to hear how others split the bills and organize general financial stuff when they’re living with significant others but aren’t married. I’ll be in this situation shortly.

  13. I’m a big saver. I have the long-term goals and really use that to save (like buying a house). Right now I am stressed because I don’t have a job so I am frustrated. I want to work so badly!

    I would like to see some posts about the emotional stress of money matters and perspective on that/how to deal with that, etc.

  14. Sarah says:

    I put the maximum possible in my 401K and I make sure I have enough savings to cover 6 months of living expenses in case I lose my jobs or something. I also do not carry credit card debt in order to save money from interest rates.

    When I first graduated from college, I lived paycheck to paycheck so I learned to cut coupons and shop around for the best prices. I used to go to several different grocery stores to save money. Plus TJ Maxx and Marshalls are great for bargain clothes, accessories, etc.

    Can’t wait to read more!

    • Katie says:

      Congratulations on being so on top of things, Sarah! I’m really impressed with your emergency savings; at this point we only have three month’s worth, but we’re working to get to six!

  15. bubu says:

    Great idea and I have no doubt you will have a terrific and insightful perspective, based on everything else you’ve written here -really looking forward to it! I recently have noticed the similarity of spending and eating – it can lead to the same thrill/charge, the same escape from unpleasant feelings, and the same guilt afterward. Learning to not reward myself with spending, just as I ideally won’t with food, is important to me to figure out. I’m trying to remove ideas of “earn” or “deserve” from shopping or eating, and focusing on identifying “need” or “want”. Anything in this vein would be greatly appreciated.

    • Katie says:

      I too have noticed similarities in my relationship with food and money. Great idea!

  16. [...] If you missed the first “Inside My Wallet” post, be sure to check it out: My Money Philosophy. [...]

  17. [...] my first three Inside My Wallet posts? Check them [...]

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