Years before Jen and I met, Your Money or Your Life had also had a big effect on me. Its core guidelines are easy to describe:
- Calculate your real hourly salary: include all the time you spend getting ready for work and commuting for work; deduct all the money you spend on job-related costs, e.g., professional clothes, transportation, or even comfort food to compensate for a bad day.
- Track all of your expenses (every penny.)
- At the end of the month, categorize the expenses in some way that makes sense to you, and total the expenses for each category (exclude the things that were already deducted in step 1, or they'll be double-counted.)
- For each category, divide the total expense by your real hourly salary. This yields how much of your life, in hours, it cost you that month.
- Reflect on whether that's how you really want to be spending your life.
I'll stress that there's nowhere this process is making its own value judgements. The categorization is yours; the reflection is yours. If your real hourly salary is $10/hour, and you see a movie every Friday night at $11 per, for $44 a month, then those movies cost 4.4 hours of your working time. It's entirely up to you whether you consider that a good trade. If you do, great! If you don't, then maybe you'll want to try something different.
It's with this spirit that this blog is intended. We're not here to tell you that no one should ever buy thing X, or that thing Y is always better than thing Z. We're here to encourage paying attention to whether the ways you spend your time and money are consistent with your values and your goals. And, if they're not, to suggest alternatives in some cases.
But, in the end, it will always come down to your values and goals.
Do you know what they are?