Aligning Your Spending with Your Values

As graduate students it can be particularly hard to align our spending with our values because sometimes there just isn’t enough money to go around. However, it is still important for us to be conscious of our spending habits and how these align with our values. This is particularly important as you are creating or revising your budget.

Here is a simple process for aligning your spending with your values:

  • Make two columns.
  • Begin by listing the top ten things that you value in the first column. Don’t think too much about it, just write out the first things that come to mind. Your list can include specific items (house, new computer, saving for Italy, etc.) and/or more abstract values (adventure, philanthropy, art, friendship/love, etc.). Having trouble listing your values? Check out this resource.
  • In the second column, list the areas in which you spend (housing, dining out, clothes, travel, etc.) in order from highest to lowest spending. You can also do this with individual purchases, by putting different purchases on the same line as the value that they correspond with and see if the amounts match up.
  • Compare the two lists. Paula Pant suggests that you ask yourself: What opportunities am I missing as a result of the way that I am spending my money? What does my current spending say about me?
  • Depending on the disparity between your spending and your values, you might choose to restructure your budget around your values. While it can be difficult to organize all of your spending around your values as a graduate student, you might try this with your discretionary spending. For more information on budgets check out these articles on creating and maintaining a budget.
  • This list of values can also come in handy when you are making a purchase. Every time you consider purchasing something, ask yourself if it lines up with your values.

While it may be difficult sometimes, establishing good spending habits now can have a big affect on your future spending habits. So, why not begin aligning your spending with your values now when you have just a bit of extra cash and begin forming the habits that will guide your spending later when you have more discretionary cash?

Join the Conversation: What are your ten values?


Why Not Host A Party?

So its Friday night and what are you going to do? You want to take a break from the books and hang out with your friends but you are a little low on cash . . . again. Do you go out and risk breaking the bank just so that you can hang with your friends? Do you really want to be that person that just orders water while everyone else is getting drinks? Or do you succumb to another night in alone watching Netflix? Sometimes it feels like these are the only options that we have.

While you could go out, why not stay in and invite people over? Here are some exciting party ideas that take a little planning but don’t break the bank.

  • Wine Tasting: Host provides snacks and every guest brings a bottle of wine ($10 max) in a paper bag. Sample all of the wines and at the end of the night unveil your favorites!
  • Starving Students Dinner: Get a group of students together for dinner, switch the host each month and compete to see who can create the cheapest meal.
  • Progressive Dinner: Find a few different hosts each featuring a different course. A dinner like this can be even more fun and frugal on foot or on a bike.
  • Minnesota-Style Covered Dish Dinners: Have each guest bring his/her favorite family casserole to share, be sure to swap the recipes too.
  • Game Night: Have a board or card game competition.
  • Not Your Traditional Movie Night: Borrow a projection screen and have a movie night.
  • Girls Night In: Invite all of the girls over for an evening of desserts, girly movies and pampering. Have each guest bring a favorite sweet treat to share and their favorite nail polish.
  • Celebration of Color: Have each guest bring his/her favorite colorful snack (a colorful fruit tray, an array of veggies, 7-layer dip, etc.) and have a coloring contest.
  • Ice Cream Sundae Party: The host provides the ice cream and each guest brings their favorite topping.


Are you attending a wedding on a tight budget? Don’t worry, it is possible to give a good gift on a small budget, take a look at some of these ideas:

  • Create a Photobook of the couple’s favorite pictures
  • Put a favorite picture, poem, quote or story in a nice frame for the couple to hang in their new house
  • Pack a picnic basket for the couple (cutting board, cheese knife, wine glasses, bottle opener, tupperware containers, plates, utensils, etc.)
  • Look at their wedding registry early and create a bouquet of all of the kitchen utensils (big spoons, whisks, spatulas, etc.) that they have on their list and wrap your bouquet together with a nice ribbon
  • Make your own card- you can save money and make it personal
  • Take the time to nicely wrap your gifts can make cheaper gifts look more expensive and more carefully picked out

It is all about being Creative! Presentation and personalization can go a long way.