Priorities, Values, and That Dolla Dolla Bill Y’all

Aasha was a young college student and she walked into her next class to find that her professor had a big jar sitting on his desk.  She didn’t think much of it because he was a little quirky and she continued to settle into class.  A few minutes later the professor, without saying a word, walked into class and started putting rocks in the jar. A few late students looked puzzled as they found their way to their seats.

When the rocks had reached the top, he asked his confused class if the jar was full. The general consensus was “yes”.

The professor then pulled a bag of gravel from his desk drawer and started to put handfuls into the jar with the rocks.  The smaller stones clinked around the bigger stones and the professor would gently shake the jar from time to time to help the gravel settle.  When the gravel reached the top of the jar, the professor asked the class again “Is the jar full”?

With a bit of hesitancy, the classroom said “yes” again.

The professor pulled another bag from his desk but this time it was filled with sand which he poured over the rocks and gravel shaking the jar to help it settle. When he asked the class if the jar was full this time, no one responded.

The professor brought out a pitcher of water and filled the jar to the brim.  The jar was truly full. Aasha realized the moral of this demonstration…If the professor had put in the sand, then the gravel, and then the rocks and water; not everything would have fit into the jar.  The way we prioritize things matters.

Dr. Stephen R. Covey shares this story in his book First Things First and it is a perfect illustration on how spending (time or money) intentionally makes our resources more efficient.

In terms of spending, the rocks represent the things we need to live

  • Food
  • Clothes
  • Shelter
  • Transportation

The gravel stands for the things that are important in our lives such as: 

  • Daycare
  • Insurance
  • Internet
  • Daycare

The sand are the things that bring value and comfort like: 

  • Upgrades to the “rocks” (better clothes, a nicer car, etc.)
  • Going out to eat
  • Getting your nails done
  • Vacation

The water represents the things that we spend money on, but they do not provide value or comfort:

  • That subscription you never use.
  • The dress you bought that was on sale but you haven’t worn it
  • Credit card interest

Think about the things in life that are most important to you and what you want your future self to look and feel like. 

You may envision yourself as an active 50-year-old traveling with your friends or partner.  That could mean your health, your relationships, and feeling safe, stable, and secure, are very important to you.  

How does your current spending line up to that?

For example, you might say that your health and feeling financially stable are extremely important but… you’re spending hundreds of dollars a month having fast food delivered to you.  This would be an area where your values are out of alignment with your spending and an adjustment needs to be made.  

Do you feel regret, resentful or angry when you pay a particular bill?  

One of the financial mistakes I made was buying a car that my (now ex) spouse wanted even though I knew we couldn’t afford it.  Every time I made that car payment (or couldn’t) I felt so much anger and resentment towards that car, my partner, and for my lack of boundaries.  

These feelings are indicators that your spending is not lining up with your values (my peace in this example) and what matters to you. It’s time to make a change and use these experiences to make better decisions in the future. 

I have created a workbook to help you discover and get clear on what you want your future to look like and what is most important to you so that you can become more intentional with your money.  Click HERE.

Next week, we will talk about creating a spending plan that works. 

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