3 Things I Learned From "Your Money or Your Life"

Aug 28th, 2020
Personal finance

In the past couple of years, I have realized how interested I am in personal finance. One of the things I’m trying to do about it is to read more on this topic. I recently picked up “Your Money or Your Life” by Vicki Robin. I read about it online, and it felt like it would be a challenging read for me. I wasn’t disappointed.

I mean, challenging in the sense that it would challenge my way of thinking, but it was a very smooth read. I even managed to do most of the exercises (slightly adjusted, though). The thing is, from what little I knew, it sounded a bit on the hippie side for me. I tend to take a very pragmatic, no non-sense stance on money, but the book made me reconsider some of my ideas.

I’m not going to dive into too many details about the book, but I do encourage you to pick it up. I think it’s worth reading the whole thing. These are just my thoughts, no spoilers.

First, money as life energy

I bill by the hour as a contractor, so I have a very clear picture of what an hour of work gets me in terms of money. So my usual rationale was that if something I needed to do was going to take an hour, I was willing to pay someone or some company to do it for me, up to my hourly rate. That was a way I justified a lot of my spending.

This way of thinking is flawed in more than one way, but the book shined a light on the worst part of it. What I was doing was getting myself one more hour I needed to work so I could pay for that service. I usually enjoy my job, but I have a limited amount of hours a week I can do it enjoyably.

Instead, I would suggest learning to enjoy some of the chores, they are a part of life, and if you think of them as paying for a break from work, they can be a nice thing. If on top of that, you can save a few bucks from doing your laundry, cooking, or walking your dog, it’s a no-brainer.

If you look at your expenses and add up everything you would rather do yourself, instead of over-working, they might add up to an opportunity to move to a less time-consuming job or at least take your job easier.

Second, your work is not only what you get paid for

Modern life makes you build a lot of your identity and your self-worth on your day job. This way of thinking puts a lot of strain on our relationship with our jobs; we stop seeing our jobs for what they are in principle, which is an agreement where we trade our time for some money.

I am all for getting involved in your job, finding some meaning in it, and perhaps there is where I disagree a bit with the author, but I do think there is a lot of fulfillment to be found in valuing the work you don’t do for money on an equal standing to your day job.

I have taken to learning, writing, and coding about personal finance, and though I still do other stuff to pay the bills, I see this as my work too.

This idea has the added benefit of removing some pressure from my day job to give me meaning and also taking off some pressure from my side-projects to make money.

Third, community wealth

I have been doing a lot of soul-searching the last couple of years, been to beautiful places, and done a lot of exciting stuff, but I have found the two things that genuinely bring me joy are learning and sharing with close friends and family. I could almost say I believe building a close community is the true meaning of life.

But there is also an overlooked part of this, which is also good, even if it’s less romantic. A tight-knit, trustworthy community is also a form of wealth.

A very simple yet powerful example is that if you have someone to take care of your kids or your dog (a friend, a relative), you can save an absurd amount of money.

I’m not saying build a community because it’ll save you money, but what I’m prepared to say is that you should think twice before sacrificing personal relationships for work.

Any corrections, comments, ideas or suggestions? Email me at santiago@perezperret.com. You can also subscribe here.