The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

How much life energy did you spend on that TV?

Example of a tally of how much life energy was spent on each monthly expenseThe next step in the Financial Integrity process is to keep track of all of your expenditures for a month.  Now sum up the expenditures in categories and divide each one by your real hourly wage.

This can be a bit of an eye-opening experience for many people because money is an abstract for most of us.  We often don't realize that the $500 plasma screen TV we bought on a whim last month actually represented 45 hours of work --- that's a solid week of full time employment!  This exercise alone is probably enough to tempt many people to cut back drasticly on their spending.

On the other hand, dyed in the wool skinflints like me sometimes come to another realization.  I simply don't believe in spending money on non-essentials (something Mark has worked hard to train me out of), and this step helped me realize that a few luxuries really are worth it.  I defnitely don't mind working for an hour to get to enjoy a meal with my family at a restaurant now and then, or to get a whole month of entertainment through netflix.  After reading Your Money or Your Life, I finally made peace with spending a bit of money on luxuries.

Whichever end of the spendthrift/skinflint spectrum you stand on, this step is definitely worth your while.  Try it out and watch your spending habits change.

Check out our ebook about starting your own microbusiness and quitting your job.

This post is part of our Your Money or Your Life lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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What about us retired folks? The money comes in every month. The work was done aeons ago, and in the case of retirement funds (as opposed to Social Security), much of the money is from pension fund investment increases. With social security, someone else is working now to pay for my income, just as I paid for others when I worked (our legislators robbed the original trust fund to pay for their little wars).
Comment by Errol Wed Feb 17 13:11:48 2010

I was pondering how this step would work for folks on disability or retiring on social security, and I didn't come up with a very good answer. The book says that folks who are retired should use their real hourly wage from the last job they held, but that doesn't ring true to me. Instead, I think that, in your case, I'd use the Barbara's real hourly wage, divided by two (figuring that you spend about as much time keeping the household running as she does working at the college.)

An alternative way of looking at it is that people like you are outside the system, and your money doesn't actual have any bearing on work time anymore. Instead, everything you do is volunteering, where presumably the returns on your labor are measured in satisfaction, not money.

Comment by anna Wed Feb 17 15:23:33 2010

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