[So, this is what happens when Allison feels like her life is too easy and she's not growing fast enough. Experiment time!]
What would your life be like if you had infinite money?
No, seriously. In your day to day life, what would you do differently?
Being rich is a common fantasy for many people, but what is being rich really like? In other words, what is it that we really want when we think we want to be rich?
To me, being rich means:
- You don’t have to worry about having enough money, or where your next paycheck is going to come from.
- You can be yourself and do whatever you want. (Since you don’t need to worry about getting fired or anything. You’ve got it made already!)
- You can buy whatever you want whenever you want without thinking about the cost.
- You can spend all day doing what you want to do. Time affluence.
- You’ve solved one of the main puzzles in the game of life.
- You can focus on quality over quantity/hoarding/buying stuff just because it’s cheap.
- You don’t have to worry about planning as much in order to feel secure (if you forget to pack something on a trip, you can buy it en route).
Notice that those things don’t have to do with specific numbers or possessions, they’re more like attitudes, or ways of approaching life. Technically, it’s possible that someone could possess all of these attitudes without actually having millions in the bank. It’s about not letting negative beliefs about money affect how you live your life when, in reality, they could just be self imposed limitations.
My system – until now
Lately I’ve been thinking about my relationship to money and how I feel about the system I’ve been using up until now. For the past few years I’ve done a lot of accounting and tracking. I have a spreadsheet that I fill out yearly and adjust throughout the year that calculates all of my savings, what I expect to earn, what I expect to spend, and calculates how much money I would have left over for spending money. I have another spreadsheet (spreadsheets for everything YAY!) where I note down everything I spend, and I give myself a weekly “allowance” in order to pace myself so that I don’t burn through my extra cash before the end of the year.
This method has been working pretty well in terms of causing me to not spend too much money. But it does have some downsides.
It’s focused on the future rather than the present. Unfortunately (or fortunately?), I can’t predict the future with a high amount of accuracy, but still I try to budget as if my predictions were accurate. My system is vulnerable to fluctuations, and large fluctuations can break it. I remember last year there was an error in my spreadsheet which lead me to think I had about $2000 more than I did, and when I fixed the error I found that I was supposed to be spending -$3.45 a week. (Yeah, negative.) Even small negative fluctuations could lead to me having to go a few weeks without spending anything in order to ‘catch up’. And then later, I would unexpectedly come into some more money (like a scholarship or a contest or a new gig), which would make the whole thing moot. In retrospect, it seems like a lot of hoops to put myself through, since all of these rules are self imposed. It’s like adding layers of mindgames on top of something that could be as simple as “I have $x. … now what?”
Overall, the system doesn’t make me feel the way I want to feel about money. Two weeks ago I wrote this in my Evernote:
How does my current method of tracking money make me feel?
- like I have to micromanage/control it
- losses hurt me
- like I HAVE to make X amount or I’ll be behind
- not expecting good things to happen later on
- like I know everything that’s going on – I have a clear picture (positive, but not true)
- makes me think about the future a lot and try to predict the future
- like I don’t have enough
- money is complicated
What do I want to feel?
- in the moment
- trusting the universe, everything will work out
- like I have enough
- like I can buy whatever I want, when I want
- like I have more money than I can spend
- money is simple
So I thought about it. What would be a better method that would get me those results?
A while ago, I lightened up in terms of trying to track and obsess about what I eat, and so I decided to eat whatever I wanted whenever I wanted and just trust that it will work out. Well, I’m not dead yet. I haven’t gained weight either. (Sidenote: I’m vegan! Not sure if that’s a factor.) So it appears that trying to have strict control over my actions wasn’t really doing me any good. My body just processes what it wants to process automagically.
If letting go works with my diet, why can’t it also work with money? This thought lead me to create the framework for my current experiment.
- The trial is to last 3 months. Starting date: May 22. End date: July 22. (I’m already a week into it.)
- I’m not allowed to consider cost as a factor when deciding whether or not to do something. (The most challenging part.)
- Buy everything possible with my credit card so that tracking is automated. (Obviously, I pay off my credit card every month and never carry a balance.)
- I’ll check into my online banking every 2 weeks like I normally do just to make sure nothing fishy or apocalyptic is happening.
- If I have to buy things in cash or with paypal, I’ll only record it if it’s over $50.
I expect the amount I spend to go up a little, but not by a whole lot. I think that for day to day spending, I will just spend more on food and snacks while out of the house.
The biggest expenses I could expect to incur over the course of this experiment would be: 1) deciding to go on a random trip somewhere, 2) getting a smartphone, or 3) moving out (I currently am living with my parents while I’m in school). But I don’t know if any of these will happen.
I’ll also be curious to see exactly how much spending money I would use per month under optimal circumstances, and how difficult it will be to change my thought patterns.
I’ll be more free in my business to try and target the kind of work that I really most want to do, since I won’t have to worry about just doing what’s profitable. I’m curious to see whether my attitude towards work will shift more towards being a service to others, rather than making money for myself.
Are you crazy?! What if you permanently screw up your finances?
I’m aware that this experiment goes counter to the conventional wisdom about how you’re supposed to deal with money, but I’ve really thought about it, and I don’t think I’ll burn through my savings or go into debt by the time the 3 month period is over. Here’s why:
Having infinite money =/= spending infinite money
There are valid reasons to not buy stuff even if money is no object, like ethical reasons, quality of life reasons, personal preference, not having the space/time to use or appreciate the thing at the moment, not wanting to put effort into acquiring something, or just not feeling like you need something.
I’ve already acquired the attitude of quality over quantity, and since I’m actually trying to get RID of stuff, I’m really selective about adding new objects into my life. I still think that buying things secondhand is preferable to buying them new for environmental reasons (energy spent to make them, transport them, produce the materials). I don’t have or want a car because I don’t like driving and don’t need the added complexity in my life. I’ve never been much of a traveler (that may change in the future!), and since I quite like how my life is set up right now, I don’t feel any particular urge to go on a vacation. Most of my hobbies are free, or close to free (drawing, reading, blogging, taking photos, geocaching, Astrojax, working on my business, walking, surfing the internet).
Money is for Making
I want my primary relation to money to be about making it, not about spending it. Making money is fun. Landing gigs is fun. Completing projects that people appreciate is fun. Creating neat things that people want to buy is fun. Pushing my limits in this area is fun. (It’s kind of like playing those iPhone or Facebook games where you manage a restaurant or a hotel or what have you – work can be fun if you enjoy the process and are not too attached to the outcome.)
Spending money? Well, acquiring a shiny new object is cool I guess, but I’d rather the whole spending part be automated rather than spending time tracking or worrying about whether I can afford something. So if I spend less energy worrying about acquiring objects/being able to afford stuff, and more energy on having fun making money, wouldn’t that result in me actually having more funds overall? It seems plausible. We shall see!
I’ll have some fail-safes. If I notice that I’m about to go into debt, I’ll call off the experiment, since I hate the thought of being in debt. (I’m paying for school without loans, and am currently ahead with my savings.) Also, I’ll stop myself from doing anything stupid like buying a house (though I don’t even know if I’d want that).
I’m pretty sure that in the absolute worst case scenario, like if I somehow didn’t realize that I was burning through thousands upon thousands of dollars, if I ate all of my savings I would just get a couple thousand dollars under, and I could just pay that off by working for a few months while living cheaply with my parents. Even from a blank slate, if I worked full time I could build up my savings to where they currently are within a year, max. But for the reasons mentioned above, this situation is really unlikely, especially since I don’t plan to stop making money during the experiment.
I realize that some people are in situations where they would feel like they couldn’t take a risk like this (maybe they have children, or are already deep in debt, or they don’t have a family to fall back on if things get out of hand), and so I count myself fortunate that I’m able to run this experiment. Maybe what I learn could benefit somebody that wants to try this but is unable to.
It also helps that I’ve acquired the attitude of not caring so much about money, since I’ve seen how little my happiness depends on it.
See, life is a game. It’s about the experience. If you’re playing a videogame and you lose some of your points, do you become terrified? No, if you need more you just make more. You trust that just around the corner there will be opportunities to collect more. Not really big deal. And since it’s a game, making more should be fun. If it’s not fun, you’re doing something wrong. (Spending too much time grinding at your job? ;) So, can you understand how I don’t see this experiment as a big risk?
And what do I have to gain? Infinite money, for all intents and purposes. A major puzzle of life solved. I think it’s probably worth it. Even if I fail, at least I’ll learn something.
Observations so far
I’m already a week into this experiment, and so far so good. I think I might be spending a bit more than usual, but not orders of magnitude more. As expected, mostly snacks.
The most difficult thing is trying to circumvent my normal thought flow of immediately considering what things cost. This is challenging since it’s such an integrated part of my thought process, my brain automatically leaps to it before I even realize I’m doing it.
For example, I was in Chapters yesterday while waiting to see a play (Hairspray! <3), and a book on a table caught my eye.
Ooh, that looks cool. What is it?
Oh, short story comics from different artists, neat.
Wow, it’s just $5.99.
Wait, I’m not supposed to consider price. Right.
Hmm. Do I want this? It’s cheap. Wait, I’m not supposed to consider price. Uhh. It does look like something I’d be interested in reading.
I know I’m trying to get rid of books, but this doesn’t look like something that would likely be at the library.
Could I go without this? Well, sure. There are probably tons of other comics at the library or online that I could read instead, and that wouldn’t involve me taking on a new possession/consuming resources. I wouldn’t have to lug this book home with me.
But I probably can’t find this exact one online. And shiny full-coloured pages. And maybe it will give me inspiration for the short comic that I want to write.
And if it turns out that it’s not worth keeping, I can just give it away. It wouldn’t be a big loss anyway since it’s cheap. I mean-
And so on. The monetary cost of the object just kept sneaking back in. I’m hoping that with time and practice this will get easier.
(FYI, I bought it!)
I might even try to develop some external thought direction tools (predefined thought flowcharts or something) to help me arrive at the correct decisions. I might have to resort to listing pros and cons and deliberately crossing out those to do with cost and then trying to make an objective decision that way.
Otherwise, my life is the same as always, since I spend very little time actually dealing with money.
While working on a graphic/web design for a client today, I actually slowed down and took my time trying to get it right, instead of rushing to get it off my plate like I was initially inclined to do. I’m not sure if that was because of this experiment, but it wouldn’t surprise me if I shifted towards caring more about the quality of my work rather than just shipping it. If I’m not doing it for money, and I’m doing it just for the sake of making something, for the sake of exercising and stretching my skills, and for the sake of helping somebody, wouldn’t I care more about quality? Why make mediocre stuff?
If you’re interested in following my progress in this experiment, subscribe to my RSS feed. I’ll post any revelations I have, difficulties I encounter, or unexpected happenings. I don’t have a regular schedule for updates in mind at this time.
What do you think will happen over the next 3 months? Will I crash and burn or will I wake up from the Matrix?
Posted on May 29th, 2011
Filed under: Exploring, Featuring, Feeling Awesome, Learning, Living (All Posts), Making Money
Topics: business, experiment, life design, money
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