Posted by: Adam Roper | May 14, 2009

Personal Finances: The Vocational Approach

Some concluding reflections:

I’ll admit that finances are not something I think extensively about, but rather only something I grapple with on a daily basis, trying to figure out the best approach. I suppose the same goes with anything in life- we can claim to understand a great many things, but only really understand one or two things.

So, my growing theory on finances has become similar to my growing approach to life itself: always changing and growing into the changes.

A little while ago a read a book that discussed the purpose of “Vocation” as an element of adult psychology. The author suggested that there is a difference between a person’s Career and a person’s Vocation. Pursuing a career is something you can do apart from life- as just another detail- but pursuing Vocation is forming your entire life around specific pursuits inherent to your growth, experience, and passions.

The reason why Finances are such a vague and unorganized concept for many people is that the culture they are growing up pulls them in a thousand different directions. Rather than pursue one vocation we are constantly barraged by the idea that there is something else, something better, than what we are doing. We jump from one thing to the next, never growing in one specific area, and our finances are dragged with us.

If we ever hope to become more intentional and capable with our finances, we have to approach them holistically. We have to form our entire lives around the idea of being more responsible with how we deal with our finances, as opposed to our finances being something we do on the side.

The reflective approach to finances could start in the most simple ways- by, each month, writing down on a piece of paper how much you earn, then subtracting how much bills/phones/food will cost. From there you can decide what else is essential to you. From there you can even budget in a certain amount to give to a charity each month.

To go deeper, to be reflective with money is to, eventually, lose your dependence on your money. If you, like me, have become dependant on buying coffee, CD’s, concert tickets, etc. for a primary source of fulfillment, you have to re-think things.

The reflective approach will, eventually, require you to ask who is dependent on your money. When you shop for food will you choose to buy the cheapest item, which is probably shipped from other countries, or will you seek out places that sell locally. If you have a passion for organic foods and find them horrendously expensive- which a lot of them are- … well, the answer isn’t easy. If you want to support local or organic you have to decide to form your entire approach to food and eating around being able to afford to support ethical food sources. Maybe this means buying less snack-food? Or buying bulk and re-using the same packaging?

That said, there is also a lot of organic food products that are more fashionable than practical… these you can disregard. I’m not suggesting we should all start buying only soy-bacon, and shopping only in the organic section. What I’ve found to be effective is forming a diet around actual food, like produce and fruit.

It’s actually pretty amazing how much money you can save buying vegetables and fruit in season, rather than buying dinner in a box/can/bag. This might even mean learning how to can food, so you have a readily available supply of food that is in season. If you are too lazy to do this, consider joining a co-op, or starting one.

Supporting local merchants is vital in the current economy. To return to my “buying local” idea, I fully understand that items like coffee and tea are impossible to grow locally.  So my challenge, then, is seek to purchase things that are fairly traded- like coffee. And purchase coffee that is roasted locally. Many farmers are as dependent on our support as local people selling that coffee.

With all these things said, my confession stands. I am one of those people that tries to understand everything but only really understands one or two things. If you want a more reliable approach to beginning to become better with finances, or with becoming responsible with purchasing, you can look into these resources:

Alan Schram – I can’t say enough good about Alan’s “Saving For Serenity”  blog. If you ever need practical tips on anything pertaining to finances, or life in general, this is as good a place as any to start.

Michael Pollan’s Blog– Pollan, author of “In Defense of Food” and “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” offers his reflections on establishing a lifestyle around choosing more ethical food sources.

I still have a lot to learn, as it turns out. Let’s continue this conversation.




  1. WOW! love your post, and i agree finances are not something we think about it like comes with your everyday life. its like breathing. its always there! 🙂

    • Thanks a lot. I’m not really an expert on finances by any means (in fact my finances are pretty shabby. Its still a work in progress in so many ways). I would highly recommend checking out my friend’s blog on personal fiances, a practical approach that really gets to the heart of the matter-

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