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As the seasons shift, now is an excellent time to pause and reflect.

This past week, I’ve been reflecting on how my values affect my choices, including my financial decisions. I find taking time to reflect before the holiday season (defined by me as Halloween through my sons’ birthdays in January) helps me manage my holiday spending.

Day-to-day life and purchases don’t allow much time for reflection. However, let’s explore a couple of quick activities that can be helpful. First, list your top 10 values. Many values exist, and your answers aren’t either correct or incorrect; they are your values.

Can you think of ways that your values influence your spending or your saving behaviors?

I traveled to California this past week to visit with my parents and sisters. This travel required using two scarce resources: time and money. However, upon reflection, I feel that this was a good use of my resources, as family is a high value for me. I value spending my scarce resources with my family compared to other things; for example, having a new car. This doesn’t mean that having a new car is either a good or bad thing; it’s just not something that I value.

If I examine other ways that I use money, I might find that I’m not matching my values with financial behaviors well. It’s easy for me to overspend on holiday gifts or decorations (because it’s fun!) even though it doesn’t match my values. Taking time to reflect on this before I start holiday shopping helps me. And it reminds me of the usefulness of making a holiday spending plan now.

Creating a holiday spending plan can be relatively easy. My husband and I usually discuss how much we want to spend and how much for different people in our lives. Then we track our purchases as we spend. Having a written (or electronic) record of money already spent allows me to double-check spending progress (and limits) when I’m out shopping. These guidelines help me stay on track for the long holiday spending season.

Would you like to explore these ideas more? Perhaps one of University of Illinois Extension’s educational programs would be a good fit.

One of the goals of our Money Mentors program is to help people match their values and priorities with their financial behaviors. If you’d like to align your values with your behaviors and have a personal coach encourage you as you explore changes, then you’re invited to participate in the Money Mentor program. Participation in the program is both free and confidential.

Money Mentors are available to assist individuals with other personal-finance strategies, including organizing finances, managing debt and building savings. To register to chat with a Money Mentor, visit

All mentor volunteers have completed a 30-hour training course with University of Illinois Extension educators. The training includes financial education and coaching skills.

Also, UI Extension and the Urbana Park District are partnering to provide financial wellness workshops. The next workshop, “De-Stress Your Finances,” is at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Phillips Recreation Center in Urbana.

It will explore tried-and-true strategies to take control of day-to-day money worries. These strategies may help decrease your stress and increase your mindfulness about your finances.

On Nov. 14, we will discuss “Holiday Shopping Savviness” and how to give yourself the gift of a debt-free holiday season. In addition, strategies to protect yourself from identity theft will be shared. You can register for either event at or by calling 217-367-1544. Each costs $5.

Kathy Sweedler is a consumer economics educator at the University of Illinois Extension. Contact her at 217-333-7672 or