This is the eleventh part of The Simple Dollar Book Club reading of Your Money or Your Life. Want to know more?
This section encourages you to ask three vital questions about each category that you spend money on, but I find it’s much better to actually ask myself these questions about every purchase. Why? They provide a realization of what you’re actually trading for some material good or transient pleasure.
First, did I receive fulfillment, satisfaction, and value in proportion to life energy spent? Remember that true hourly wage you figured? Divide the cost of the item you’re considering by that wage. That result is how many hours you spend devoted to work in exchange for that item. This is a pretty straightforward application of the idea of a “real hourly wage” – how much time is this item costing you?
The second question gets more interesting, though. Is this expenditure of life energy in alignment with my values and life purpose? This leads right into some serious questions about values. What are your values? It’s not an easy question to answer for some. I know it took a lot of soul-searching before I could really answer that question clearly. Better yet, what is your life purpose? That one’s not obvious for very many people.
Let’s look at that question in application: if I look at my values as being oriented towards my family and my writing, is the purchase of a Nintendo Wii in line with those values? I believe that it is, in that it provides a very clean opportunity to play games with my family (and also to unwind), but is it truly worthwhile?
Many people will often justify a purchase by saying that it’s essential to help them unwind, but the third question looks that right in the eye. How might this expenditure change if I didn’t have to work for a living? Would you stop having to buy things to “unwind” and “decompress” from work? Would you stop spending as much money on gas or on transportation or on clothes?
When you go through all of your expenses through these filters, you’ll likely find that your spending drops through the floor. I know it did for me – I realize quite clearly that my spending would change significantly if I were to make a significant career change in my life.
Tomorrow, we’ll continue on with an assessment of the answers to these questions, starting with the section entitled “Assessing the Three Questions” and finishing up the chapter. This section appears on pages 128 through 145 in my paperback version of the book.