It’s time to spend — and give it thought |

It’s time to spend — and give it thought

Danielle Howard
Staff Photo |

From the time our feet hit the floor in the morning, soap up in the shower, get dressed and grab breakfast, we are making financial choices. We have the freedom to choose how money comes into our lives, how to give it away, how to invest it and how we spend it on ourselves and others. Spending decisions ranges from the mundane to the complex, but is increasingly becoming rote.

Choices range from our mindsets around what we buy and why to the tools we use to execute the monetary exchange for those purchases. It is essential that we take an arduous look at our selections and their corollaries within our families and our corporate social structures. It is complex, but we can have a healthy economy, environment and personal net worth statements. It takes cognizant, creative, collaborative new ways of looking at money. Our personal expenditures are a starting place.

Would you consider yourself cheap, frugal, grandiose or intentional when it comes to making purchases? To expound, I define cheap to mean buying low-price, low-quality items. I look at frugal as avoiding waste, and involving little expense. In the grandiose category, I would put ego purchases, or buying a label for its own sake. I deem intentional spending as purchasing quality, reflecting personal beliefs and items that will endure over time.

Ponder the environmental consequences of purchasing cheap trinkets to be thrown away after one use. Contemplate ongoing purchases of high-cost name brand items that don’t fit within your spending plan. What is your thought process when you make a purchase? How do you weigh your options? Do you need it or want it? Do you consider the opportunity cost (the value of the best alternative forgone)? What does the spending choice say about you? How do you feel now, versus how will you feel about the purchase in six months? How are others affected by your decisions? Why do you care? Should you care?

It seems innocuous for a family to buy and use wrapping paper. But when you hear that Americans spend more than $2.5 billion on wrapping paper, consuming tens of millions of trees and generating millions of tons of trash, the collective impact is a bit more compelling. Change starts at home.

Do you use cash or credit? We are quickly becoming a cashless society, with safety and ease at our fingertips. However, a Pandora’s box of consequences is surfacing. The field of behavioral economics has established that we unconsciously spend more when we use credit than when we use cash. The emotional centers in our brain associated with pain do not fire the same way when we use plastic, scan our phones or push the computer button to make a purchase.

When we use cash, our brains feel a bit of pain when we part with a $50 bill and get $7.48 back in change. We have become immune from the downside of our purchasing experiences, and “affluenza” (more stuff brings happiness), is running rampant. We have increasingly become disconnected with our financial choices, hence potential monetary havoc and ensuing emotional, relational, spiritual and physical consequences bear down. Using tools and technology isn’t bad, we just need to use it wisely within safe boundaries.

As you head into the mother of all spending seasons, take time to reflect on why you are making the choices you are, the consequences thereof and possible alternatives you have. Let gratefulness, your values (guiding principles), and thoughtful intentionality be your guide, you can’t go wrong.

Danielle Howard is a Certified Financial Planner. Wealth By Design LLC, her financial life planning office, is located in Basalt. Visit her at or call 970-927-3909. Advisory Services offered through Cambridge Investment Research Advisors Inc., a registered investment advisor. Securities offered through Cambridge Investment Research Inc., a broker/dealer, Member FINRA/SIPC. Cambridge and WBD are not affiliated.

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