Prioritizing with The Prioritizer


I was reading one of my favorite debt-reduction blogs, I've Paid For This Twice Already... today, and paidtwice mentioned The Prioritizer. The Prioritizer is a tool created by CNN Money to help folks focus on their financial goals.

It works very simply--you enter up to 15 goals in the boxes (long-term or short-term), and the Prioritizer pits them against each other in various ways, with you having to choose not between all of them, but just between two of them at a time. Once you've made all your choices, it spits out a ranking of which goals you have indicated are most important to you.

Seems like something we shouldn't need a tool to help us with, right? For me at least, not really. It's very difficult to look at a list of things, all of which I want, and rank them. Much easier to pick between two things. So I decided to try it.

First, I listed some goals. I went back to my 43 Things list to remember some of them.

The 12 goals I came up with were:

  • travel

  • get a Ph.D.

  • get Lasik surgery

  • see Gustav Klimt's paintings in person

  • donate more to charity

  • pay off my student loans

  • work for myself full-time

  • publish writing

  • have my photo taken by Karen Walrond

  • start my own dog rescue

  • move back to Oregon

  • build a retirement fund

After going through the exercise, the tool told me my priorities lined up like this:

  1. move back to Oregon (100)

  2. travel (90.9)

  3. pay off my student loans (81.8)

  4. work for myself full-time (72.7)

  5. see Gustav Klimt's art in person (63.6)

  6. get Lasik surgery (45.5)

  7. build a retirement fund (37.9)

  8. donate more to charity (34.8)

  9. start a dog rescue (28.8)

  10. have my photo taken by Karen Walrond (25.8)

  11. get a Ph.D. (18.2)

  12. publish my writing (0)

There are definitely some surprises here. The first two are what I expected, with moving back to Oregon being my #1 long-term priority and traveling in general being the most important way to spend money I can think of right now (though my actions don't necessarily line up with those priorities). The rest, though, is interesting. I had no idea that getting a Ph.D. would rank so low, or that build a retirement fund is more important to me right now than donating more to charity or starting a dog rescue. And publishing writing might as well just drop from the list completely, since I rank it behind everything else.

I don't know how much this list will change the way I spend money, but it certainly gives me a new way to thinking about some things. So what about you? Try it and see if you are as surprised as I am.


I love that tool! It definitely offers some surprises on bigger lists - two items you thought were relatively parallel turn out not to be at all!

However, I wish it was not always head to head, which can be hard to call. 2:3 choices might be easier/more-accurate to make.

the art institute here has Klimt drawings, but MOMA in NYC has a lot of his paintings. And that's only a few hrs from VA!

That was cool.

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