February 8, 2021  • Newsletter

This Month’s Money Message: Intention

In 2008, Joe Biden gave a speech in Michigan, and he quoted his father: “Don’t tell me what you value; show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.”

This remains my favorite quote about budgeting. It captures the real spirit of spending money: Aligning your spending and your choices with what you value. That’s why a budget isn’t an exercise in arithmetic or a rote process to be repeated annually. It’s an opportunity for intention.

And that, with a hat-tip to our newly inaugurated president, is the theme of this month:


To do something with intention is to do it on purpose, with as much information as possible, and with a clear understanding of the consequences. Intention in many ways equals power. If you are intentionally doing something, you are in control. We have plenty of conversations around intention in the budgeting process with clients, and often those conversations start with apology or regret:

  • “I know I shouldn’t splurge on organic produce, but I have a health condition that makes it hard to eat processed food.”
  • “It’s probably a bad financial choice to purchase coffee every day, but the owner of the coffee shop always comes to my shows.”
  • “I know I could use cheaper materials, but the quality is so much better if I don’t.”

None of these individuals have anything to apologize for. They are acting with intention. They just need a bit of affirmation for their choices.

“Don’t tell me what you value; show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.”
The first person is intentionally choosing to prioritize their own health and well-being. The second person is intentionally choosing to invest in their community. The third person is intentionally adding value to their work (and saving time in the process).

All of that makes sense.

But intention requires attention: You must know what you want to do and do it on purpose. For these individuals, that might mean spending less in other areas of their lives or charging more to capture the real value of what they do. Their budgets still have to work; intention isn’t a magical pass on the budgeting process. But it can make the process work more mindfully.

There is a limit to intention however: Intention doesn’t apply to everything we do. There are some things we cannot control, and some choices we are not free to make.

  • “I probably shouldn’t shop at this discount store, but it is the only one on the bus route near my home.”
  • “I probably shouldn’t just invest blindly in this mutual fund, but it is the only one my company offers for retirement savings.”
  • “I really wish I didn’t have to do business with this credit card company, but it’s the only one I was approved for when I was younger.”

None of these individuals have anything to apologize for either. Intention can intentionally come with grace and understanding of the systemic limits we all face. And it should.

You can forgive yourself for not aligning every single dollar with your values. You can forgive yourself for making choices for convenience, or ease, or survival. Goodness knows the past year has been full of them. And future years will be as well. Hard choices aren’t going away.

With that in mind, here are three things to know, do, and believe this month:

  • Know: What you spent last month on your business and your life. EGL’s Note: Before long, you’ll get last month’s bank and credit card statements. Look through them with curiosity—not judgment—about what you spent and sort the amounts into categories that make sense for you.
  • Do: Check your spending against your values. EGL’s Note: Go through each category or each expense and evaluate how much each one aligns with your values. If there are changes you’d like to make, spend some time listing the actions you can reasonably take.
  • Believe: My spending can reflect my values. EGL’s Note: There is so much we cannot control when it comes to money. But spending with intention is something we can. Focus on making intentional choices about your spending when you are able.

What We’re Doing

If January started slowly, February is coming in with a bang. We have two multi-week courses kicking off this month, one with the National YoungArts Foundation and one with POWArts. Plus, there are workshops on the horizon with Alyson Stanfield, the Center for Cultural Innovation, and the Creative Entrepreneur Fellows with the Arts & Business Council of Greater Boston. How we’re squeezing it all in 28 days remains a mystery. But we’re doing it with intention.

What We’re Talking About

This month our conversations have centered around big decisions – a perfect opportunity to think about intention. If purchasing a home, leaving a job, or moving to a new state is on your mind, it may make sense to talk through the financial implications of those decisions. Intentionally.

Creative Coaching (1 hour, $110)

If you’d like to chat with me to answer your own questions, feel free to find a time that works with your schedule.



It is hard to regret a choice made with intention. After all, intention implies a proactive, mindful, and informed choice. We may not always like the consequences, but we’ll know full well why the choice was the right one. I can’t wait to hear about how your intentions grow this month. I am intentionally rooting for you. Until next month…




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