It’s easy to look at your finances and pinpoint mistakes you’ve made or ways you can do better. But we think there’s another side to personal finance that doesn’t get talked about enough: what is worth celebrating.

So often, money “gurus” and experts talk about how to cut back spending, boost savings, and pay down debt at all costs. We at Everyday Money think this can lead to a somewhat unhealthy view of money. Why? Because money can actually make you happy when used properly — and that happiness is worth being celebrated from time to time.

How does your money make you happy?

You may have heard us talk about values here before; it’s a topic that is very important to us. Why? Because we think money is a values-based resource. It either helps you live in alignment with what is most important to you, or it doesn’t. We all spend and earn money in ways that either make us feel better or in ways that make us feel not-so-great.

Of course, not many of us “value” a trip to the mechanic to repair our vehicles, but that expense can help you support your career, or get your kids to school — both of which might align with values based on your career or family.

We also talk a lot about values in the Everyday Money Workbook, where couples are asked to consider where they are already living out their values. This is an important exercise because it flips the traditional personal finance paradigm on its head. Instead of “What are you doing wrong?” the workbook asks you “Which parts of your finances seem to really work for you, and make you happy?” People often get down on themselves about how they aren’t doing x, y, or z right, but we think it’s important to also celebrate where your money is “going right,” and where it’s aligned with the things that make you happiest.

Celebrate what’s in alignment

Given the season we are in (we’re nearing the winter holidays as of this writing), we think now is the perfect time to celebrate your money and what it allows you to do. Even on the tightest of budgets, you may have things that you spend money on that bring you the most joy, or that move you closer to something that is really near and dear to your heart.

Maybe you decided to get that coffee with a friend who was having a hard time because your value deep relationships. Maybe you decided to buy a business book or take a class because education and growth are important to you. Maybe you chose to travel somewhere new or commit to a weekly date night because you value experiences and novelty. Or maybe you can’t turn down a chance to donate a few bucks to a charity you love. Whatever it is, we all spend money in ways that may not seem “necessary” to others… but that bring us a lot of joy and fulfillment.

Instead of asking “how you can do better with money” like most of the personal finance blogs out there, we want to ask you: Where are you spending money in alignment with your values? And how can you celebrate that? 

Not sure where you’re spending in alignment… or what’s worth celebrating? Ask yourself:

When was the last time you paid for something and felt like you got more out of it than the activity or item actually cost?

Have you spent money on something at a time when money was tight, but you’re thankful you did?

Have you ever given something up to help pay for something that seemed more important at the time?

In the last year, have you invested in things that are aligned with your values? 

Have you hit a big milestone, whether in your income, savings, or general budget goals that you’re excited about? 

Think about what you spend money on that makes you truly happy and take a moment to celebrate it. Because money isn’t always about having the most… it’s about getting the most out of what you have. 

Celebrate the big and small things

Not everyone lives in alignment with their money values (or their values, period). You might see this in people who work soul-sucking jobs for tons of money, or in the person who spends all their money on stuff they don’t want but feel they need. Other people might be bitter that they can’t take vacations while they sink all their money into a house they don’t love. Whatever the case, we’re sure you can think of someone who isn’t living in alignment with their values.

This is why we think it’s so important to celebrate when you are in alignment with your values, and to recognize when you consciously consider your values when you spend your money. Of course, we’re not saying to go treat yourself to something extravagant to celebrate; we’re just saying it deserves at least some attention.

We know people who have saved up for a big trip that was in alignment with their values of travel, exploration, and cultural education. They made a whole night of their travel booking, ordering in pizza and having a couple of drinks, selecting hotels and flights with great care. That small celebration alongside the act of spending money made it that much more powerful for them.

Other people might celebrate their values by choosing to go out with friends for a drink, instead of going shopping at a big box store after a hard week. Others might want to take a night off to just watch Netflix after a long week of growth and learning at work. But there’s also so much power in just reflecting on what you’re proud of, and reviewing your finances with the lens of “Where did I spend my money that was in alignment with my values?”

This is a celebration in and of itself, which is why we’ve built this sort of review right into our Everyday Money Workbook. Each month, we ask you to recall one way you’ve spent money in alignment with your values. We’ve found that this question helps people shift their thoughts from “I didn’t do it right” to “I feel good about where I spent my money.”

A final note on celebrating your money + your values

At the end of the year, we know there are a lot of holiday expectations and expenses that arise that may not be in alignment with your values. Part of this celebratory exercise is to pinpoint the things that are in alignment so you can focus on the positive, rather than get sucked into the negative.

We hope that, by celebrating the ways you spend money in alignment with your values, you get a small break from financial stressors. Yes, we need to be wise with our money and spend it within our means, but let’s also celebrate how we use money to live a life that is meaningful!