More Value

In school we have grades to measure our performance and in the workplace we have salaries.

Living without a traditional job for the past months, I’ve realized just how much of my identity has been wrapped up in a paycheck. It was harder than I anticipated to leave this marker of my worth (an income) behind. I began to wonder…Did I place too much value on price?

“Price is a public matter — a negotiation between supply and demand. A thing’s price is set in competition. So the price of a car is determined by how much some people want it, how much they are willing to pay, and how ready the manufacturer is to sell. It’s a public activity: lots of people are involved in the process, but your voice is almost never important in setting the price.

Value, on the other hand, is a personal, ethical and aesthetic judgment — assigned finally by individuals, and founded on their perceptiveness, wisdom and character.”*

In school we have grades to measure our performance and in the workplace we have salaries, all of which are ultimately determined by others. Opting out of these worlds for a time allowed me to recalibrate my worth according to my own definition. With a stricter budget and no job to dictate how I spent my time, I got really clear on what I value. Material comforts became less important and spiritual nourishment became primary.

In these months of unemployment I created a movement, I read great books, I began to dig deep for my purpose and identify what I was willing to give up for it. From the outside, my life has been anything but glamorous. I neglected to keep up with the latest fashions or dine at hip restaurants. In fact, I spend most of my days cooking simple meals at home and reading. I will eventually get another job or perhaps create one of my own, but I will never forget to ask whether the price paid is justified by the return. Is this thing, person, pursuit really necessary for me to lead a good life? If not, feel free to let go and mark it as a gain.

*From How to Worry Less About Money via Brain Pickings.

Unconscious Spending

By rethinking how we meet our basic needs, we can cut costs by $20,000 per year.

Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t those once in awhile splurges that drain our wallets most. If we take a clear look at how we spend money, the majority goes to what we consider essential such as eating out, driving everywhere, and being plugged in all the time. By reevaluating how we meet these basic needs, we can drastically reduce our spending.

Cook meals at home. The average American dines out 4-5 times per week and consumes mostly pre-packaged foods ($5-20 per meal). I shop at a fairly high-end market and spend $50 on groceries ($2.50 per meal) weekly. By cooking at home, we’re talking an average of $10,000 in savings per year and double or triple the amount if you spend more on dining out.

Unplug. Remember when we paid $20 for a landline? With an array of new electronic devices and services, our monthly bills have skyrocketed. Today many spend hundreds on phone and internet packages every month. By cutting back on electronic subscriptions and being more conscientious about our usage, we can significantly reduce our costs.

No unnecessary driving. Gas prices are on the rise and with insurance, car payments, repairs and maintenance, our dependence on motor vehicles is a huge drain. Even if you have a daily commute, there’s a lot of unnecessary driving that can be cut out. By walking, biking or taking public transportation just once a week, you can save $100 a month. By taking public transportation to work, you can save over $10,000 annually.

Financial freedom is key to creating a life centered around less work and focused on more fulfilling pursuits. By adjusting our daily habits and lessening our financial need, we can invest in those things that really matter.