Money is something that many of us tend to chase to some extent, all of our lives. Whilst we’re at university or in education, we struggle on a tight student budget. When we graduate, we are eager to bag first proper jobs with appealing salaries. In fact, many graduate jobs are even sold to us as having “competitive” salaries. When we secure a job (and a salary), we start thinking about promotion, increasing our salary and a long list of possibilities that go along with what we could do with the extra money. It could mean purchasing your first car, a step towards getting on the property ladder, starting or building on your savings, or even peace of mind. Money can mean a lot of different things to each and every individual.

There is a good chance that you would have heard people have that same old discussion again and again. “Can money make you happy?” And this question is something that I think about and debate over quite often. I certainly don’t think that money alone can make you happy. It doesn’t have the ability to change everything and it certainly isn’t the be all and end all. But I do think that it can add to your happiness. It can make things easier and it can open up possibilities. With this in mind, it can be so easy to get wrapped up in figures, salaries and possibilities. However, when it comes to the value of money, I have come to realise how that is a completely different matter, and one that I want you to realise.

Coming from a working class family who have worked all their lives to provide the best they can, and being the first in my family to go to university, I am admittedly ambitious and I aim to carve out a comfortable life for myself and my family. Whilst I am aware of how a sizeable salary can contribute to that, when I think about the value of money, it brings me back to who I truly am. A salary is simply a number, figure or amount, but it is what you choose to do with your money (however much you have) that really counts. And that is what I believe to be the true value of money.

First hand, I saw my mum budgeting, balancing and stretching her small salary as far as she possibly could to provide for the family and the things we needed. On the other hand, I have also seen people with huge salaries and disposable incomes choose to provide the bare minimum, when their salary could have easily allowed them to give so much more.

Whilst many people strive for large salaries and big figures and think that money will be the answer to all of their prayers, they neglect to think about the value of money and how they spend it. To be clear, a small salary can go a long way if you make it, just as a larger salary can be easily wasted. (It can also be very well spent too!).

Another point that I would like to highlight here is that a hard earned salary should not go without acknowledgment. Society and many people in it, are so quick to judge people by their jobs and more so, by their salaries. If you are one of these people, I have some information for you: some people willingly accept and work a job (regardless of whether an attractive salary is attached) in order to obtain a wage to provide for their families, so rather than judging or making assumptions, you should have the upmost respect for them. Hats off to all the hard workers out there, getting up everyday and doing the best that they can for themselves and their families!

Somebody who gets paid the minimum wage is no less deserving than somebody who managed to bag themselves a high earning job. And at the end of the day, regardless of what salary you earn and how you choose to spend it, ultimately we all end up spending the same thing to earn money and to live, and that is time.

Money is a powerful thing and it can consume you whether or not you have it, so I am not going to leave you with a typical be grateful for what you have message. The message I do want you to take away is that money does not define you. Nor do salaries, figures or amounts. The way that you spend your money (however much that may be) and how you choose to use it to positively contribute to yours and the lives around you, represents the true value of money, and that means so much more than any figure on a pay slip.

A thought provoking view from Wawel Castle, Kraków.

What do you think is the true value of money?

L.