Life’s calculator

Completing my assignment this week reminded me that the main reason I ignore my finances is that facing them leads to confusing questions, unpleasant findings and even actual despair. Whereas when I ignore them I feel fine!!

It’s not that the Life calculator was all that worrisome — I did as I said I would and used my hourly take-home wage to work out what things were really costing me in terms “the amount of life” it took to earn the money to buy them. The exercise revealed nothing alarming. For the most part the items on my spending tracker last week came in at less than an hour’s work. The biggest ticket item was my hotel stays — a night in the Dunraven Arms in Adare, county Limerick cost an hour and a half (bargain) and my overnight stay in Madrid cost 4 hours.

Less than a day’s work to fund travels is a good trade-off to me.

But when I got to the part where I noted down my monthly fixed costs — rent, household bills and the mortgage on my flat (where I don’t live, hence the rent), I started to get agitated. First off I wondered about my mortgage. I have a ridiculously low mortgage since it tracks the Bank of England’s interest rate (unless I´m misunderstanding what a tracker mortgage is??) … and therefore the very small amount of money I pay towards my mortgage affords me enough money to live where I want … by paying rent. What if my mortgage goes up? Actually ‘what if’ isn’t the question … it’s when and by how much.

So I got to worrying about not being able to live where I’ve been so happy and being forced back into a shoebox or the wrong part of town. Because if my mortgage returns to being as high as it used to be, this is what’s going to happen.

And then I got to worrying about the total of my weekly spend … what made the week atypical was the personal travel (and I didn’t even count the airfares since I paid these months ago), but thanks to ground rule #4 I wasn’t running around buying stuff. And so I started to imagine that normal weeks could pan out at roughly similar totals to last week (which was 65% of what I earn after tax) … which when I add in my fixed costs, started me panicking that I might be forced “to learn to go without”.

In reality the main problem is this: looking at my finances means thinking about my finances and thinking about my finances causes me anxiety — some of it well-founded and (I’m hoping), some of it not. So why bother stressing myself out like this.

My mantra for my year of Counting Zeros will need to be

Just stick with it and see

I can always go back to chaotic levels of denial if the pain of financial consciousness proves greater than the reward, right?

Notes worth mentioning this week…

  1. Thanks to Lisa’s comment last week I did adjust my calculations to reflect 10-hour days, but given that I’d overlooked my annual bonus, my hourly rate still came out at £30
  2. I´ve added the life calculator measure to my weekly tracker; everything I spend is now divided by £30 so that I know how many hours of work it cost me.  I’m convinced that paying attention to this measure will put plenty of my costs into perspective.
  3. I did make two purchases within the boundaries of ground rule #4: a pair of sunglasses and my usual Clinique make-up. Neither was an impulse purchase and both were required.
  4. However, the sunglasses cost me over 3 hours of my life which is a lot more than I’d normally spend on sunglasses (no kidding, I can hear some of my more brand-conscious and stylish friends muttering.) But first of all I needed to get my glasses at the airport and I could only find the expensive variety. And secondly I realised that I’ve been treating sunglasses as if they are umbrellas, when they’re not. Cheap umbrellas rarely work out, but expensive ones are very stupid — who doesn’t lose an expensive umbrella? But sunglasses … when I thought about it, aren’t an item I tend to lose. So the rationale to spend as little as possible on them now strikes me as unnecessary. No doubt I’ve cursed this particular pair with this rationalization …
  5. I’ve sort of found a solution to my bathtub worries of January 1st (i.e., how does the ban on impulse purchase work when I’m travelling and come across items I would NEVER find at home?!) In Madrid I decided that I could spend a small amount if it supported local artists and so I did. Outside the Museo Prado I picked up two prints by Joaquin Lorente at €10 each (see inserted print of the cello).
  6. But … doesn’t that SUSPICIOUSLY worthy? And am I not perhaps too much the hoarder of such items from my travels? I don’t know. I’m going to work with this “local artist rule” for now. What I’m more torn over is jewellery (see Panic Station for my jewellery-buying habit). Will I be able to resist buying unusual and/or beautiful! rings or bracelets or necklaces that I come across on my travels? Should I ban this category of spend altogether — just for this year — just to see whether it does or it does not drastically reduce the quality of my life? I don’t know. I’ll think on that one some more.

3 thoughts on “Life’s calculator

  1. Just brilliant – the honesty – the writhing – and what is more I am using the information and seriously looking at what I have and what I spend my hard earned euro on. Thank you Love Linda x

    1. Yay! Delighted to have company of the life calculator! Also, unlike other ways of measuring how far our money can go, am hoping this measure might actually make me feel great about cutting some corners while letting others stay just as they are … (Well, am hoping at any rate)

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