Thursday, September 16, 2010

Your Money Or Your Life

Here are a couple of notes and a short book review:
  • C's been in school for nearly a month and hasn't really gotten any homework besides reviewing spelling words. I'm not complaining, it's just that after a couple years of homework Monday-Thursday night, I feel at a loss not having homework.
  • The kids are getting much better at getting ready for school in the morning. D says he loves art and Spanish.
  • I just finished listening to Jane Austen's Persuasion. I think Emma is the only one I have left this cycle, and after that, I'm at a loss what to listen to. I should probably wait another year or so before doing Lord of the Rings again--I started my last listen-through less than a year ago, and it took me 6 months to go through the full 52 hours of audio.
  • A lot of people in the personal finance blog community love Your Money Or Your Life. (I should note here that I'm talking about the revised 2008 edition, rather than the original edition, which might be better.) I was disappointed. The basic idea (that your time is valuable, and that you sell chunks of your life for money when you work) is sound, but I would have preferred a tightly-written blog or magazine article, rather than a big mess of a book that keeps saying that over and over. This is a very influential book, but I wonder how many fans actually follow the authors' advice and tally up every dollar they've ever earned and the cash value of every item they own--that seems to me the point where 80% of even interested readers throw up their hands and give up. (As a Craigslister with a few years experience, the answer is that you're lucky to get 50 cents on the dollar for anything, and for most stuff, you'll get at most $1 or $2 for an item that originally cost $10-20. That fact alone has done a lot to cure my materialistic fervor.) I like the charts the authors encourage readers to make, where you graph your monthly expenses and monthly income, and there's a very good and influential bit on "gazingus pins". "Oh, there's a pink one...I don't have a pink one...Oh, that one runs on solar cells...That would be handy....My, a waterproof one...If I don't use it, I can always give it away..." There's a lot more of that, followed by "You arrive home with your purchase, put it in the gazingus-pin drawer (along with the five or ten others) and forget about gazingus pins until your next trip to the mall, at which point you come to the gazingus-pin section and...." That's very insightful. On the whole, Your Money Or Your Life is more a book to prick the conscience of unrepentant financial sinners, rather than a book for people who are already working seriously on this stuff. For example, the authors ask rhetorically, "What's the last item you actually wore out?" and I know immediately that they're not talking to me. All four of us actually wear out clothes and I do a lot of mending and darning. Finally, speaking as a housewife of over 8 years, I've don't understood why early retirement is so many people's holy grail in YMOYL and elsewhere. If you're doing something worthwhile with your life, shouldn't you keep on doing it? That said, I realize that I have what many of the YMOYL people want, but I don't see it as a permanent situation, just as a phase that I should enjoy while I've got it, and also plan to enjoy the next phase, too. Currently, I make sure we have clean laundry, milk and fresh produce. I make sure that everyone gets to the dentist and various doctors as needed. I go to school events, I exert myself in various neighborly ways, our clerical work is (mostly) caught up with, my email box is regularly swept out, and my husband and I have started taking care of time-intensive projects like photo albums and wills. I am trying to work through every closet and corner of the house, sifting our possessions in preparation for our planned move in the spring, and I do a little paid babysitting. I do have a lot of free time (a lot of which is wasted on the internet), but there's security in knowing that if the kids are home sick for a week, it wouldn't be a total disaster. Having some slack in the schedule is one way of foreseeing the unforeseen, just like having extra money saved is. I guess I don't really disagree with YMOYL as much as I thought I did, although it is going directly into the big donation box in my closet after this post.
  • I've lately tried to work hard on restraining myself from buying yet another book on personal finance and simple living. There are all sorts of gazingus pins, including books on not buying gazingus pins.

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