Of all the financial books I’ve read, none has had a greater impact on my lifestyle choices than “Your Money or Your Life: Transforming Your Relationship With Money and Achieving Financial Independence” by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin.
Whilst most financial books advise mostly on saving, managing and investing money, this one distills its message down to one simple question: How much money do we really need to create a life that’s truly fulfilling and satisfying? Because often what we believe we want from life is nowhere close to what we truly want; at least in our hearts.
Is owning a small, secluded cabin on a nice piece of land that overlooks the ocean what we want, or is it the feelings of peace and quiet and serenity we’d get by spending lazy summer afternoons at a cabin that we’re truly after? While these two “wants” look similar, they are actually quite different. The book helps us to understand the differences between them, and offers suggestions how to reach the one we truly want much quicker.
It does this by explaining a simple premise: Anytime we work, we trade our time for money; whenever we buy goods and services, we are trading that same money for stuff. So far, so good.
But here’s the thing: If we buy less stuff, we spend less money (like renting a cabin instead of buying one); and if we spend less money to achieve the outcomes we want, then we won’t need to work as much to, you know, to pay for the stuff we don’t buy.
Of course, there’s some stuff we absolutely need to buy, (like groceries and warm socks and a roof over our head) so we happily trade our money for it. There’s also stuff (like a good book or chocolate milkshakes or a delightful trip to Morocco) that we don’t need, but know could bring us much joy and happiness. For such indulgences we’re happy to part with our hard-earned shekels, and why not? We love joy and happiness!
But what happens when we make purchases of stuff that (a) we don’t need, or (b) don’t bring us any genuine joy or happiness? You know, frivolous things like 90% of the pitches on Shark Tank and Dragons’ Den (like a vacuum/broom combo – WTF?); what then?
Trading our money for things we don’t need or that don’t bring us real joy means we are essentially trading our time for things that add zero to our lives. Such purchases waste both our money and time; and while we can always get more money, we can never get more time. Once it’s gone, it’s gone; so we had better spend it wisely.
Understanding this concept was a complete epiphany for me, and caused me to dive deep into the other concept in the book – Simple Living. Simple Living suggests that consuming less stuff opens up space not only in our lives, but in our homes and heads as well. Simple Living replaces often expensive spending routines and rituals, with simple and more enjoyable ways of living.
Think again about the aforementioned cabins, and owing versus renting; one route brings along lots of financial burden and stress with it, (the property taxes are due! The roof needs a costly repair! We’ve got rats!) while the other is all about non-committal relaxation and enjoyment. Pay for the week, get the enjoyment and then go home. I like that.
And because Simple Living encourages minimalism, it means we don’t need to work as much to buy stuff that, well, we’re no longer buying, leaving more time with loved ones or pursuing a cool hobby like cosplaying at a Medieval castle somewhere. Or not. Either way, here’s an example of how the mechanics of this idea might work:
Instead of buying a new fully-loaded vehicle on credit, Simple Living would buy a clean, reliable no-frills used car that’s great on fuel. Since used vehicles cost dramatically less than new ones (with all the “bells and whistles”) there’ll be less (if any) debt to service (a.k.a. no monthly payments), which means we work less to pay for the car. And since we don’t have to go into the office as much, why don’t we go to the beach instead?
But that’s not all: Simple Living is also being keenly aware the effect our decisions have on the planet; take the vehicle we just mentioned. Purchasing a used car means we are repurposing an old car, rather than allowing it to be dismantled for parts, and winding up in a landfill somewhere. You see, Simple Living is not just good for our pocketbooks, it’s also good for the planet; and applies to so much more than just vehicles.
I used to toss away at one disposable razor away each week; I mean, how bad can a single razor be? It turns out my weekly contribution added to the two billion razors that fill landfills each year. And yes, that’s billion with a B; and it’s just one item! Understanding this, I’ve changed razors, shave far more effectively, and use about 75% less than before.
Then there’s bottled water… Why on earth people waste precious and irreplaceable time to work to earn money to pay for something that comes out of taps for free is beyond me, but like lemmings headed for the cliff, they habitually do. This ridiculous habit contributes to the over sixty million plastic bottles that are discarded EACH DAY in landfills and garbage dumps, or in our rivers and oceans where they’re slowly destroying delicate eco-systems and choking the wildlife to death. And we’re just getting started.
Many developing countries don’t have adequate recycling facilities, so instead they’ll incinerate plastic waste (including millions of water bottles), causing toxic fumes that people ingest into their lungs causing illnesses. We could avoid all this harm if everyone used reusable water bottles, however many people don’t… Why not? It boggles the mind. I say just buy a damn reusable Sippy cup already and be done with it!
Now more than ever, our planet needs us to understand how we are contributing to its destruction; and I’m not just talking about the Brazilian rainforests or the polar ice caps, but the near-biblical weather systems and other devastations that have been showing up in our own backyards as of late.
Over the past few years we’ve experienced mass (a) hurricanes, (b) flooding, (c) earthquakes, (d) unseasonable cold temperatures, and (e) crazy heatwaves called “heat domes”… Enough already! It’s up to us to reverse this trend before it’s too late. Simple Living makes us aware of the waste we create, offers alternatives, and helps us, to help the planet.
So where to begin? “Your Money or Your Life” offers Simple Living solutions anyone can use right now to gain back control of both their lives, and minimize the impact they have on the planet. One idea I’ve embraced is de-cluttering by donating excess clothes and other items to thrift shops, which has (a) created space in my home, (b) given someone else the chance to enjoy them at a low cost, and (c) benefit a charity. Less clutter in my home means less clutter in my life, and nothing goes into landfills.
Overconsumption limits our freedom and hurts our planet, while Simple living gives us back our freedom to enjoy our time and helps heal our planet; the same planet which, by the way, we’re leaving for our children and grandchildren to grow up on. This alone should make us all want to take this idea seriously, and “Your Money or Your Life” is a great place to start, don’t you agree?
Because “There is NO Planet B” is not just a slogan; it’s a hard, cold fact of today’s world.
Besides, a weekend getaway at a rented cabin isn’t nearly as idyllic when the ocean view contains volumes of discarded plastic bottles and garbage; trust me on this.
Author Bio: David Knapp-Fisher
As founder of The Inspired Humans Project, David loves sharing inspirational stories. His TEDx talk, “Discipline or Regret, a Father’s Decision” been viewed over 112,000 times, and his book, “Punch Failure in The Face, The Buy It a Beer” has 37 five star reviews on amazon.ca.
David lives in Victoria B.C. and spends most of his time trying (& usually failing) to stump his son with movie trivia or planning his next big adventure; both while drinking great coffee, of course.