With a new plan in place, based on some online research, my wife and I recently went through all of our old financial paperwork in an effort to purge everything we didn’t need but were, for some reason, holding onto. We took a class on personal finance last year and learned more in about six weeks than I ever had in my life. It wasn’t rocket science or CPA level tax advice, just basic tools and steps to take toward personal financial freedom.
Going through my old stuff, I had paperwork and receipts dating back to just after my college graduation and even though everything was organized by year, there was way too much stuffed into my filing cabinet. After we came up with a plan of what we were going to save and what we were going to get rid of, we carved out a day from our calendar and spent the necessary time to get things cleaned up, and that meant an entire day. I’ll be honest – I wasn’t looking forward to this, but I knew it was necessary.
Now, it wasn’t necessarily a bad experience, although it was much more exhausting than I expected…filtering through files and papers and receipts and taking the occasional snack break really takes it out of you. Some of this process was tedious, as can be expected, but the thing that surprised me the most was that I actually kind of enjoyed going through my old receipts from way back when. Looking at some of those receipts instantly took me back to old memories and experiences that covered almost a decade of time.
As I looked through my old expenditures and thought about the different things I spent my money on, I learned a little bit more about myself. Almost like writing in a journal gives you a written record of your thoughts, going through old receipts gives you a historical record of what you ate, where you went and what you did – how you spend your life. Movies. Restaurants. Stores. Travel. All of those experiences carried some sort of financial obligation and I began to reflect on how I got to where I am now…consider the perspectives – personal, professional, health and wellness.
My interests haven’t changed a whole lot; I still do and enjoy many of the same activities I always have, but the thing that piqued my interest the most (although I shouldn’t really be surprised) were my grocery store receipts. It was really interesting going back to look at the various food and drink items I’ve purchased over the years for myself and sometimes for others. There were definite trends to what I bought and when I bought. What days of the week, what times of day and what items I purchased those different days and times. It was only just a few years ago that I really started taking my health more seriously and even though I really enjoy good food, I enjoy food that tastes good even more – and my receipts reflected that. It’s interesting how you look back at your life and see so many changes. So many experiences. So much personality and self. I saw that in my receipts that day a few weeks ago, going through my personal financial history.
I think now about how those receipts reflect who I was and who I am now. What am I spending money on now? We all need food to survive, but the category of food is huge. Grocery stores (supermarkets really) are some of the biggest stores we’ll ever step foot inside and some are as big as entire shopping malls. And some are so unique and small you can only buy a few very specific items.
So what food do you spend your money on? I spent a good amount of my money for many years on food that probably wasn’t the best choice possible; admittedly I still do this to an extent. I definitely ate some good, healthy things and plenty of it, but there were many choices in there that I could have done without and my body reflected those choices. Then, a few years ago, my receipts reflected a change in those choices though. I started buying and checking out books from the library about healthy lifestyle choices. I signed up for a health coach through my insurance plan. I even started buying new gear for my bicycle and started getting interested in group fitness activities and events. I slowly started to to take responsibility for my health and stopped blaming everything outside my own control – and that was a hard decision and one I try to commit to every single day.
Since the summer of 2012 I’ve eaten more vegetables than ever in my life, trained for and run two half-marathon races, trained for and run one full marathon race, hiked many miles on mountain trails, joined in on fitness classes at the local gym/sports club, biked so much I’ve had to change my bicycle tires because the tread was so worn out and now I try to walk at least a mile a day. My receipts have changed quite a bit since I graduated from college and I’m proud of that fact. Small daily choices turn out to be the way we spend our lives.
There’s a lot of advice out there and many great ways to make positive changes in your life and this blog post is another suggestion and perspective on how to do that – change how you spend your money. What change do you want to see in your life? Weight loss? Better relationships? More experiences? More fulfillment and less worry? Stop spending money on the things that don’t matter and spend money on the things that do – you are what you spend your money on. We can’t get through life without money, so use it as a tool to help you get what you really want and less of what you don’t. Do some work on yourself, get a hold of your finances and take control of your life, one penny, one dollar at a time. If you want to know more about the personal finance class I took, let me know – it completely changed my perspective on money.
It’s amazing how personal and psychological money can be. We use money to get what we want, to make ourselves feel better, to numb our pain, to make ourselves feel good, to help other people – oh yeah, to help other people! Use your money to make small, daily choices in the direction of where you eventually want to end up. You are what you spend your money on, so what do you want to be?