Money Mocha #3: Bring more meaning to your money
with this simple tool.

written by Bari Tessler October 20, 2018

Can money be practical AND deeply meaningful?

It’s something I wondered about — longed for, really — in the early days of my money journey.

On the one hand, I saw mainstream folks talking about money — but in ways that rubbed me a little raw. Cold, hard facts and cash, Jack. No room for feelings — let alone dreams and deep values and spirituality.

On the other hand, my creative and spiritual friends were deeply committed to their values, to living lives of purpose and meaning and connection — but most of them avoided even peeking at money (so mundane and boring, right?).

Maybe you’ve been in one of these camps — or both, at different times of your life. But having worked with all kinds of folks, I can tell you: there is pain in both of these approaches.

I knew, somewhere in my bones, that there had to be a way to bridge both of these worlds. That somehow, if we faced it head-on, with an open heart and enough savvy, money could be both deeply meaningful and practical. Yin and yang.

You can be savvy about money AND make it come alive with your deepest values, creativity, and playfulness.

When you infuse money with your deepest values, big change starts to happen. Resistance melts away and you start feeling more coherence and peace around money.

The best news? You can start making this shift today with my simple tool: Values-Based Bookkeeping.

Pour yourself a cuppa and relax while I tell you the story of Values-Based Bookkeeping: a simple, profound practice you can start using today.



Values based bookkeeping. 

In the late summer of 2003 while living in Sebastopol, California, I had one of the most vivid paradigm shifting dreams of my life. It had been two weeks since my first money mentor, Tamara Layton had passed away. In accordance with her wishes her community had gathered at her home for several days after her death, remembering, telling stories and honoring the impact she had had in our lives over the years. I spent many hours reflecting and journaling on our friendship and the legacy she was leaving.

I had been privileged to spend the last two years of Tamara’s life with her, soaking up her philosophy on money. She had been my teacher, my mentor, and my friend. When I had just started my first business doing bookkeeping for creative professionals, she was one of my first clients. We spent countless hours together reviewing our numbers, setting our goals and intentions, and having brilliant conversations about our own philosophy on money, life’s work and value.

In my dream two weeks after her death, a curious package arrived at my door. I ran my fingers over the brown craft paper and through the butcher’s twine looped around it. Something about it felt sacred and other worldly. I tore open the brown paper to see a stunning scarlet red book and instantly knew Tamara had made this book and sent it to me in my dream. She had filtered the creamy white paper hand sewn the edges, and bound it all in red vellum.

Inside I found a ledger of every single moment of Tamara’s life. Every idea she had concocted and shared, every piece of artwork and every activity, and next to each one was a monetary value. Line after line, page after page were meticulously inscribed in Tamara’s swirly flourish filled handwriting. This red book was Tamara’s book of life, and honoring and remembering in a financial accounting.

I will confused wasn’t it somehow sacrilegious to assign a monetary value to these moments and creations in Tamara’s life? My mind couldn’t fully wrap itself around the strange concept, yet my heart knew this was as far from sacrilegious as you could get. This life chart of accounts was the full integration of Tamara’s esoteric vision and financial teachings. It elevated money matters to the realm of the sublime and the sacred.

Here was the bridge I had been searching for so long, between heaven and earth, between heart and money, between deep values and tangible moments. While it took me a few years to fully unpack the message contained in his vision like dream, it forever and instantly changed my relationship with bookkeeping, both in my own life and in my work as a financial therapist.

In that red book, I glimpsed a radical new way of interacting with financial numbers. One that not only reflects our deepest values in the world, but honors them, strengthens them, and brings them to life in a tangible way. So this was just one of many moments, or significant moments where I knew that I had to incorporate values into the bookkeeping. I wanted to bring in the qualities that I was bringing to every other area of my life, which was creativity and deeper meaning and playfulness and compassion and mindfulness and on and on.

And if I was going to entice people, excite people, get them to sit down and learn a bookkeeping system, set up a bookkeeping system, interact with it I knew that I needed to bring all these other qualities in, and I knew that I wanted to bring in our value so that we could truly see, are we in align with our values in the way that we earn and the way that we spend and give and save and invest.

And so you know the light bulbs went on years and years ago that I needed to figure out a simple yet profound way, because that’s how I like to roll with most of my tools and practices. A simple and profound way to bring in the values into our bookkeeping system. And so I knew that we needed to rename our categories. We could rename our income categories, our spending categories, our debt categories. And so here’s two examples of how this renaming works.

One example is looking at our rent or our mortgage, and how could we rename those categories, what do they really mean to us? So in our community, folks have come up with home or sanctuary or love shack. So imagine renaming your rent or your mortgage as something like home or sanctuary or love shack. It simply makes it so much more playful and engaging and interesting and it reflect something that’s important to you instead of just rent or mortgage, which are just more dry names, they’re fine names. But if we want to incorporate other qualities, this is one way to do it.

So that’s a playful version of how to rename a category. Here’s an example that brings in a little deeper meaning to something. And when we think about a debt, normally it’s that damn debt that I have, it’s hanging over my head like a dark cloud. I think about it when I’m going to fall asleep or when I’m going to fall asleep and it keeps me from falling asleep, and it’s just that damn debt that I’m not even looking at the number or coming up with the payment plan and on and on. And wait a second there’s always more going on here because in a long life, if we have the honor of having a long life, we’re going to have transitions.

What are transitions? Transitions can be a phase in our lives when a diagnosis happens of an illness, when we’re going through a health crisis, when we have baby number one or baby number two or three, when we are leaving the corporate world to start our own business, when someone close to us has died, when we are separating or divorcing and on and on.
These transitions are real. In these moments we need resources. Where do we go? We go to the savings that we’ve accumulated. We go to retirement and we may have to pull out some money there. We go to family money. We sometimes go to a zero percent credit card and that is a debt, right? That is a liability. So I was working with someone years ago who didn’t want to look at the number, was not paying it down, was just like throwing into the closet and ignoring it. We sat down, I said, what was going on at this time of your life where you accrued this debt? She said, Bari, wow. It was a time where I took this whole adventure to Italy that changed my life, changed the course of my life, changed really who I am from the inside out in a beautiful life changing way.

And so I said, oh, okay, well that’s not a damn debt. That’s a huge moment in your life that deserves some more honor and love and let’s rename it. Let’s rename this debt, and she did a more playful version of just my big Italian adventure. But right in that moment it shifted the energy enough for her that she suddenly was able to look at the amount. She was able to come up with a payment plan on a monthly basis over so many years to pay that down. She was able to honor this time, this transition in her life in a completely different way, just simply by renaming.

So that’s another example of how renaming can bring in deeper meaning and honoring of life, and who we are and the different phases that we go through. So renaming is one of the ways that I make bookkeeping a lot more exciting and interesting and creative and playful, and include a deeper meaning that I know that I need. And it’s also a way to help us look at our bookkeeping systems and just see truly who we are, what’s important to us, and if we are really in alignment with our values. And we may not be in align with their values at all phases of our life, it’s something that we’re working towards. We are striving towards. And this renaming tool is one of my favorite, simple and profound tools that we learn in the Art of Money.

You’ll hear:

  • The powerful dream-vision about a red Book of Life that gave me the inspiration for Values-Based Bookkeeping
  • How Values-Based bookkeeping can help you break through resistance, resentment, and shame around money
  • Ultra-simple (but potent) ways to bring more playfulness, creativity, and deep meaning into your money
  • Exactly how you can start using this simple renaming tool today in your spending, earning, and debt repayment (it’s so easy and so powerful)
  • Real-life stories and examples of renaming — and how they helped people get un-stuck and more joyful.

Like these ideas? Wanna go further?

I hope this introduction to Values-Based Bookkeeping inspires you to take a fresh look at how YOU relate to some of your spending, earning, or debt categories.

If you’d love some guidance and support and community and mentoring to help you along, you just may love my year-long money school, now open for registration.

Art of Money 2019

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  • A live, 2-hr Kickstarter call with me on Sunday, October 28th – to get some love and perspective on your money relationship now.
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What’s a Money Mocha?

It’s a mini-jolt of financial clarity. A drop of money wisdom. A morsel of financial peace and joy.

And it’s a sneak peek of the kinds of teachings you’ll find in my year-long money school: The Art of Money, now open for early registration (for a very short time). We kick off a fresh year in January, but if you sign up now during our earlybird shindig, you’ll get a boatload of e-prezzies from me, so you can start tasting the money joy right away.

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