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Home>Daily Capital>Family Life>Values-Based Spending: How I Budget for What Matters to Me

Values-Based Spending: How I Budget for What Matters to Me

If there’s one thing I tell every single one of my clients, it’s this: You don’t have to stop spending money. You just have to stop spending money on things you don’t care about.

What may seem like a short and simple statement that has you thinking, “Of course, Tori, that makes sense!” is actually a strongly rooted ethos of my small business, Her First $100k.

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There are too many personal finance coaches profiting off financial shame — using this discouraging emotion as fuel for your financial success. I’m not about that. 

I am never, ever, ever going to tell you to not buy something.

One of the goals I do have, however, is to help you make intentional purchases that build the life that you want with your money as opposed to feeling as though your money is controlling you. See the difference?

In this article, I’ll explain how I make sure my discretionary spending is value-based with something called the 3 Value Category System.

The 3 Value Category System

It’s almost as simple as the title makes it out to be. Your three value categories are not the things you need to eat, sleep, and breathe. Rather, they’re made up of the things you want. Which purchases fill you with joy AND at the same time, give you the best return on your investment? These are the items that are special enough to fill one of your three value categories.

I’ll share mine so you can get an idea of how this works.

My three value categories are:

  1. travel 
  2. food out
  3. nesting (basically, plants and decor and a Roomba. I like making my apartment look real cute.)

After you’ve chosen yours, you are going to funnel most of your discretionary spending toward these three things. Discretionary = things you could do without if you had to. By limiting yourself to three categories, you are making sure you are not emotionally spending, better known as purchasing items to help boost your mood in order to feel happier and/or more fulfilled.

The thing is, these mood-boosters are often fleeting and short-lived and you’re left with feelings of shame and regret. We want to avoid those negative feelings at all cost — so, enter your 3 Value Categories

A note: I’m not saying you can never spend outside of these three categories. For example, I still buy makeup, clothing, and coffee — but they don’t make up the majority of my discretionary spending. 

The bottom line is this: It’s best to use the majority of your discretionary money in the areas that you actually love and that actually brings you joy. Spend money according to your values.

With Personal Capital’s holistic approach to monitoring your finances, it’s easy to keep tabs on your cash flow. Cash flow, in other words, is what money goes in and what money comes out of all your accounts. By keeping track of what you’re spending, you can start to see if it aligns with your three value categories or if you need to start making adjustments to your everyday spending.

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Personal Capital compensates Tori Dunlap (“Author”) for providing the content contained in this blog post. Additionally, in a separate referral arrangement between Author and Personal Capital Corporation (“PCC”), Author is paid $70 and $150 for each person who uses Author’s webpage ( to register with Personal Capital and links at least $100,000 in investable assets to Personal Capital’s Free Financial Dashboard. As a result of these arrangements, Author may financially benefit from referring potential clients to Personal Capital and/or be incentivized to present blog content that is favorable to PCC. No fees or other amounts will be charged to investors by Author or Personal Capital as a result of the Referral Arrangement. Investors that are referred to PCC and subsequently subscribe for investment advisory services provided by PCC’s affiliated adviser, Personal Capital Advisors Corporation (“PCAC”) will not pay increased management fees or other similar compensation to Author, PCC or PCAC as a result of this arrangement. Additional information about PCAC is contained in Form ADV Part 2A available here.

The content contained in this blog post is intended for general informational purposes only and is not meant to constitute legal, tax, accounting or investment advice. You should consult a qualified legal or tax professional regarding your specific situation. Keep in mind that investing involves risk. The value of your investment will fluctuate over time and you may gain or lose money.

Any reference to the advisory services refers to Personal Capital Advisors Corporation, a subsidiary of Personal Capital. Personal Capital Advisors Corporation is an investment adviser registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Registration does not imply a certain level of skill or training nor does it imply endorsement by the SEC.

Tori Dunlap is a millennial money and career expert. After saving $100,000 at age 25, Tori founded Her First $100K to fight financial inequality by giving women actionable resources to better their money. A Plutus award winner, her work has been featured on Good Morning America, New York Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, and more. An honors graduate of the University of Portland, Tori currently lives in Seattle, where she enjoys eating fried chicken, going to barre classes, and attempting to naturally work John Mulaney bits into conversation.
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