The 2 of Clubs

As Counting Zeros gets underway, I should mention that these first couple weeks of the year aren’t standard for me. I’m not in London, I’m not at work.

After Christmas and New Year’s in Ireland, I’m now visiting family in Chile. I’m here for 10 days, tucked away in a private house on a relatively remote part of the coast. It’s an ideal location for a writer. There are no distractions bar the odd pod of dolphins leaping past this stretch of ocean.

Ideal that is, except for a blogging writer busy with online research — it turns out that the promised internet access is spectacularly tricky.

During my first 24 hours here I have to admit that the lack of connection did trigger a sense of humour failure. I had all sorts of exciting plans for my 10 days which were dependent on the internet and these have now been dashed. Perhaps a blessing in disguise? Last week’s assignment involved a level of internet-ing which tentacled hours of life and that simply won’t be possible this week.

Fortunately the card I plucked this morning from the Deck of Small Change demands nothing but a calculator.

The assignment for the 2 of Clubs is basically a thought-experiment. It’s based on the ideas of Henry Thoreau, the American poet, philosopher and tax resister who advocated living as simply as possible. Thoreau believed that we enslave ourselves with the hours we invest in making money.

“The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.”

The task for the 2 of Clubs will help me apply Thoreau’s measure to my day-to-day life. First, I’ll need to work out what I earn per hour. Here’s the calculation I’ve just used to do that:

My monthly after-tax salary (i.e., the cash that lands into my account) x 12 months; divided by 47 weeks (not 52, because I get 5 weeks of holiday per annum).

This number tells me what I earn per week (roughly a grand), which, given that I work a 4-day week is £250 per day which on an 8-hour day is about £30 per hour.

If you’ve spotted an error to my mathematical logic (what are the chances? high!), do tell.

Now, I often work more than an 8-hour day and I’m a bit confused as to whether I should be dividing my annual take-home by 52 instead of 47 (though I can’t think why, I just sense that I might be looking at this wrong), and I am rounding up numbers — but despite these factors, I think my numbers are generally correct … and that’s the sort of person I am: happy to work with ballpark.

My assignment for the week ahead is to convert the amounts I’ve noted in my weekly spend tracker into the hours & days of my life it took me to earn that money. For example, I now know that it takes about an hour’s work to fund roughly 8 grande skinny lattes from Caffe Nero’s. And I’m good with that. But I’m not so sure I’m happy that it cost me half a day’s work to pay the fee for changing a recent flight to a different time of day ….

To complete my homework this week I’ll use last week’s spending tracker. This week is far too atypical given that it isn’t possible for me to spend much (or possibly any?) money. The house is paid for by my father and his wife, they’re not going to let me pay for meals and there’s no place to go shopping (not even online).

It’s just me and the dolphins and my calculator till next Saturday when I report back on whether it affects my outlook to know the number of hours I had to work to fund what I spent last week.

4 thoughts on “The 2 of Clubs

  1. This is a really interesting idea. I reckon I make around £9.50/ hour (I think I worked that out once but it was a while ago and I could be way out!) but I only work 27 hours/week. That means it would take me 3 hours to earn roughly what I spend a week in the supermarket. Proportionally interesting. I just might join you in this task: I think the conversion of hours to goods/services is a really worthwhile thought experiment. I’m certain I can’t afford to work less, but I’d love to know where the hours I work go.

    1. I’m looking forward to this exercise — like it so much more than idea of straight budget. I reckon it’ll help me spend less on certain things that I don’t value but feel fine about throwing money at things I do. Plus I really like my job but can find the workload oppressive lately – I think this thought-experiment might also help me get better at leaving the office/shutting down — maybe??

  2. This is a really good idea – I have seen in the past that converting sums of money – which can sometimes seem almost meaningless – into something much more tangible can really make it much more comprehensible. One thing I would suggest is that you use something a bit closer to your real hours worked to divide your total sum by. When was the last time you really worked only 8 hours per day??

    1. ! Yes … I was thinking this exercise might ALSO help me think about the hours I work. Also, it’s on my mind that I have all sorts of benefits (and actually an annual bonus I just rec’d!) which are a part of my compensation. But it’ll take future Counting 000’s assignment before I work out the price tag I should put on my medical insurance or pension contributions or the gym at work or the free restaurant! But you’re right — I don’t think I’ve worked 9-5 in my life …for now am going to adjust my # to incorporate my average annual bonus and 10 hour days … THANKS

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