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Spending mindfully: A challenge to pay attention to your wallet

Stanford's WELL for Life programs challenges participants to spend mindfully, in an effort to understand the relationship between well-being and finances.

I tend to think of well-being as my overall mental and physical health — with my bank account, bills and the occasional retail therapy outing as an entirely separate beast. But understanding and owning the many spokes of financial health is actually a big chunk of championing your own well-being, according to Stanford's WELL for Life initiative.

That's why WELL is issuing a challenge that asks individuals to take an honest look at how they bankroll their life, what they value the most and how those two things can best align financially. The goal is to use the challenge as a way to study and better understand the relationship between finances and overall well-being.

The idea is to be your most fiscally responsible self for one week, using a variety of tactics to track and understand how you're doling out the dollars and if there are ways to cinch the purse strings a bit by aligning your spending with your values. The challenge asks participants to break down their spending habits — decide which purchases are frivolous and which are necessary, and when possible, opt for the more pocketbook-friendly alternatives.

In being our most fiscally responsible selves, researchers behind the Mindful Spending Challenge aim to promote key aspects of well-being, such as self control, understanding needs versus wants, mitigating stress and encouraging appropriate conversations about money (like with a partner, for instance).

The challenge offers a mini calendar of sorts, providing an approachable strategy for participants to follow. Day 1 and day 2 help sort out how you spend your money and identify what you value most in your budget, the "must haves." During the remainder of the week, participants aim to adhere to a financial plan that reflects those values.

The challenge even offers some tips: Try paying with cash or find ways to make lifestyle changes, rather than just cutting one-time buys. You could, for instance, take public transit instead of using app-based ride services, or make your morning latte at home, rather than buying it on the way to work.

Participants will be asked to fill out short daily surveys throughout the course of the challenge, as well as one post-study survey. Registration for the challenge opens today and runs through Friday, November 23.

Photo by rawpixel

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