A virtual cooking class on wheels, the RV Cooking Show takes viewers on adventures to some of the most sought-after or interesting but little known RV locales then creates a healthy, easy destination-related RV recipe in host Evanne Schmarder's RV kitchen. Tune in to our RV TV...it's always delicious!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

This RVer's New Year Resolution - Your Money or Your Life

As fulltime RVers, my husband and I live unconventional lives but even so, the conditional pull of New Year’s resolutions can’t be denied. Often these annual goals include a financial mention: save more, earn more, trim the budget, track spending, make wise money decisions. Good for us, everyone – regardless of our situation – needs money to live. Some of us have unlimited resources but most are living on either retirement budgets or are still in the job market.

Years ago, before we hit the road, I stumbled upon a book that changed the way I see my relationship with money. In fact, one concept in the book propelled my husband and me to sell almost all of our possessions including our floating home, quit our jobs and embark upon our journey of a lifetime.

The Concept That Rocked My World

That book was Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin and the concept that stopped me in my tracks was on page 54: money is something we choose to trade our life energy for. Dominguez and Robin point out the obvious – life is finite, we only have so much time on earth. The big idea is the trade we make in life energy (time left) for the things we spend our money on. Every single spending decision we make costs something in life energy.

The "trading my life" idea stops me in my tracks. Based on average life expectancy tables I have 333,100 hours left on this earth. Dominguez and Robin assume we spend half of our lives taking care of ourselves – sleeping, bathing, exercising, etc. That means that if I live an average life span I have 166,550 hours left to devote to living. How I spend those hours is under my complete control.

The Concept in Practice

So how exactly can you determine the value of your life energy as it relates to money? For demonstration purposes, let’s say you make/made $25 per hour. That dinner out or bauble you simply must have costs $50. So, logically, you’d calculate that it took two hours of life energy (finite time left on this earth) to earn enough to purchase that experience or item. Right? Not so fast.

On it’s face that’s a reliable equation but the book urges you to dig deeper. Upon further examination, your wage is not exactly as it seems. Sure, you make/made $25 per hour but what expenses were associated with making that hourly? How much does/did it cost in fuel, vehicle maintenance, parking, clothing and personal care items such as aftershave, hair gel, and makeup required for your professional appearance, coffee and snack breaks, lunch, and other expenses associated with working. Let’s assume your total expenses divided by the number of working hours equaled $12 per hour. That means your “real hourly wage” is $13 per hour and in the scheme of things that $50 expense cost you almost four hours of your life. I repeat: four hours of your life.

Everything’s value and worth is an individual’s call. Exchanging life energy for things we need or want is a personal prerogative. I’ve got to have vehicle insurance and happen to like upscale RV resorts and high-end ingredients and tools in my RV kitchen. With this formula, I know exactly how much of my life I’m trading for these necessities or niceties and make an informed choice when I compare insurance plans, book a stay or go grocery shopping.

I’m less inclined to make rash purchases, pick up random trinkets or invest in items that don’t support my home or RV travel style. It’s simply not worth my life energy.

Fulfillment and the American Dream

While written as a financial advice book, chapter 4, “How Much is Enough? The Nature of Fulfillment”, resonates with the way I live. When is enough enough? Are we willing to trade our life energy for more? Do we work hard just keep up with the Jones?

For me, it all boils down to a question of value. Is a purchase, admission fee, meal out or even a campsite worth the life energy it will cost? Two of the three questions the authors pose in relation to spending “that will transform your life” remain relevant to my lifestyle:

1.    Did I receive fulfillment, satisfaction and value in proportion to life energy spent?
2.    Is this expenditure of life energy in alignment with my values and life purpose?

Chances are we’ve all returned home from a meal out and felt disappointed. I know I have. That’s why I don’t go out to dinner all that often. For the life energy I have available I’d much prefer to invite some friends over, mix up a shaker of fancy (read: very expensive out) cocktails, play some mood music, prepare a simple, delicious dinner in my RV kitchen and make an evening of it. That not only fulfills my cost/value proposition but also fuels my life purpose of connecting with others, making a difference and living my passion.

Another great example is my purchase of a new computer. It cost a heck of a lot of life energy but makes my life so much easier. The value I receive by a faster, more intuitive system and the way it helps me promote my passion makes it a fulfilling, worthy expenditure. 

Your purpose, passion and even life energy situation is just that – yours and yours alone. If you give it any thought you’ll realize that consciously or unconsciously you are making value calls every time you make a purchase.  

We All Make Choices

Choosing to live this RV lifestyle is a huge confirmation of how I want to spend my life energy, my passion and my life’s purpose. It’s a very public statement of who I am and what I stand for. Without a stick home I have low housing overhead. Living in a small space restricts the number of things I can carry around. Having the freedom to live where I want, when I want allows me to enjoy new environments and experiences. The fuel I purchase to move about is well worth the price…even at $5/gallon.

While I used to enjoy fancy vacations and expensive wine (who wouldn’t, really), I paid for it in life energy. I now know and accept that fact. Today I’m more satisfied than ever watching the sun set over the rugged mountain range or seashore that I happen to be closest to with a thrifty glass of wine and my sweetie by my side. Some people just can’t comprehend this but that’s okay, too. We all have to choose…so what will it be...your money or your life?

Happy New Year RV Cooking Show friends. May 2012 be a banner year for us all!


Note: To this day I carry around my 1992 version of Your Money or Your Life, Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin. Upon it’s release Oprah Winfrey raved, “This is a wonderful book. It can really change your life.” I suppose it did change mine. In 2009 Robin released a revised and updated version for the 21st century. You can learn more about the author and these concepts as well as purchase the book by visiting www.YourMoneyorYourLife.org. I’d love to hear about your experiences on this topic.

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