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Handout 1: Mindful Spending

Handout 1: Mindful Spending
Handout 1: Mindful Spending

Excerpted from “Break the Spell of Spending Mindlessly,” by Gregory Karp, published in the Chicago Tribune, September 23, 2013.

Are you spending your money the way you want to—on purpose, rather than by accident and habit? Assuming you're not scraping by just to put food on the table, does your spending match your priorities and your personal values?

"It's not necessarily 'Buy nothing,'" [Wendy] Philleo, [executive director of the Center for a New American Dream], said of mindful spending. "It's, 'Buy differently.'" Maybe you value environmentally friendly products or those made in the USA or items produced locally. Maybe you would like a tropical vacation more than eating every lunch and dinner at a restaurant. Maybe you would trade off some consumption to work less.

"I think there's more awareness that more stuff does not make us happy," Philleo said.

A growing body of academic research shows that experiences, especially with other people, tend to make us far happier than more stuff. Granted, some people can get a brief "high" from purchasing, but it's fleeting. By contrast, memories of experiences tend to improve over time—as unpleasant events fade and enjoyable parts remain. Money guru Suze Orman doles out financial advice on a variety of topics, but one constant is her mantra, "People first, then money, then things."

Self audit. What do you spend your money on? Until you know that, you won't know whether you're spending money mindfully… Consult your personal calendar and your bank statement. Despite what you tell others, your true priorities are reflected in how you actually spend your time and your money. Are you satisfied with your priorities? You can begin with the literal end in mind too. Imagine you're on your death bed reflecting on what was important in your life, along with the purchases you made and didn't make. With that perspective, would you change your current spending habits?

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