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The Values Project Blog Series – Part 3

In this 3- part series we explore how our personal values relate to different aspects of everyday life

How do our values influence how we spend our money?

In our report, “What do we value? How our values influence everyday behaviours”, we explore how our values impact the way we spend our money in a way that is consistent with the circular structure of values. We asked people how they spent their money last month. We distinguished eleven product categories selected from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Household Expenditure Survey (AU) and the Consumer Expenditure Survey (US). The broad categories are: Food and non-alcoholic beverages; Alcohol, tobacco and gambling; Housing including mortgage, rent and utilities; Clothing and footwear; Transportation; Medical care; Recreation; Education; Communication; and Donations to charity.

The main aim of our research is to explore whether individuals with different value priorities allocate their money differently.We found that relations between values and spending were not haphazard. Rather, they were consistent with the motivational compatibilities and conflicts among values, with neighbouring values often showing similar relations to spending.

We report on value-expressive spending behaviour. We compare people who give relatively high priority to a value (i.e., top 25%) with people who give relatively low priority to the same value (i.e., bottom 25%). We did this because for values to motivate a behaviour, they need to be both relevant to the behaviour and at least moderately important to the person. In total, 5,771 people completed the survey on spending behaviour. Specifically, we found that:

  • Those high on the Self-enhancement values spend more money on housing, clothing and footwear, transport, and education, and less money on food and non-alcoholic beverages, medical care, communication, and donations to charity than those low on these values.
  • In contrast, those high on the opposing Self-transcendence values spend more money on food and non-alcoholic beverages, housing, medical care, communication, and donations to charity, and less money on clothing and footwear than those low on these values.
  • Those high on the Openness to change values spend more money on alcohol, tobacco, and gambling, recreation, housing, and transportation, and less money on medical care, education, and donations to charity than those low on these values.
  • In contrast, those high on the opposing Conservation values spend more money on medical care and education, and less money on alcohol, tobacco, and gambling, clothing and footwear, transport, and recreation than those low on these values.

Overall, our findings clearly show that values influence how Australians spend their money. Our report provides a glimpse into the potential for understanding the important role values play in people’s lives. Download a copy of the full report.



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