A friend recently reminded me that what someone will spend their money on gives you a decent indication of what they value and how much. Though not why they do or don’t value it. This idea wasn’t a great revelation, but I hadn’t really systematically thought of myself in that way. (As opposed to thinking about money vs. values on a decision by decision basis.)
Mostly when I think about it that way, I realize that I tend to value quality. So for the things that matter to me I’ll try to get somewhat medium high-ish quality (not usually highest though). But if I can’t get high-ish quality then I instead quickly default to just getting the best deal I can live with. Hence the grad student with high-ish quality electronics, small appliances, backpack, bicycle, and knives, but no car and a cheap yet livable apartment.
In addition, lots of people spend time and money on their personal hobbies. So there are many things I spend time and/or money on that aren’t particularly noteworthy to people who know me. The only thing that occasionally catches people off guard is that I’m curious enough that I’ll to spend surprising amounts of time and money to have new experiences. Especially if I think I’ll learn something. But I’m much less inclined if I don’t think I’ll learn something, even in the face of “social cohesion”, or some other group happy talk. On the flip side, unlike a few people I’ve known over the years, I’m usually fairly willing to spend time and money to spend time around friends if I’m in the mood for company. (Those few people I’ve known were generally quite frustrating because they’d insist they valued relationships, but then only do things that cost them no/little time/money. Their actual friends were alternately amused, embarrassed, and frustrated by them.)
I should remember to think about this more when I’m analyzing other people. To more broadly think about how they put their money (and time) where their mouths are.