Your Money or Your Life

May 1, 2023 | Workforce

By Carlos Barboza

Transforming our relationship with money and reevaluating our spending activity could put us back on track.

Your Money or Your Life, written by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez, is one of my favorite books. This book challenged me to transform my relationship with money, which is not only how much money you make, spend, debt or save, but it also includes the time these functions take in your life.

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Once you have changed the nature and function of your interaction with money, your relationship with money will be transformed, especially to be in peace with your past, to evaluate your values, reach new levels of comfort, competence and consciousness around money. Basically, this book starts from the inside out. It says that if we want to change our outer financial situation, then we must first change our deepest beliefs about money. If we do that, then it will feel effortless to save money, eliminate debt, and become financially free.

The authors begin by introducing the concept of the “Money-Life” trade-off, which asks readers to consider the true cost of their spending habits in terms of the time and energy they must devote to earning the money necessary to maintain those habits. The authors argue that by becoming more aware of this trade-off, readers can make more intentional choices about how they spend their money and ultimately free themselves from the cycle of consumerism and debt.

This book offers a set of principles and strategies that can be applied to any person and business. Here are a few ways in which the book’s principles could be relevant:

Tracking expenses. The purpose of this exercise is to increase your awareness. It serves to locate you in time and space and review your earning and spending activity in the past. Therefore, you’ll gain a better understanding of where your money is going. If you don’t like the past result, here’s my advice: The past is an experience, the present is your responsibility.

Money is something we choose to trade our life energy for. This may be the most important idea in the whole book. Money is life energy. That means when you buy something, you’re not trading paper or coins or digital bits for that thing. What you’re really trading is some of your life energy. For example, if you made $20/hour and bought jeans that cost $40, then you just traded two hours of your life energy for those jeans. Seeing money as life energy brings clarity to our spending. Try it yourself. Next time you buy something, convert the price into the hours you had to work for that money. You may never look at buying something the same way again.

Treat every purchase as trading your life energy. Unfortunately, we buy everything from hope to happiness. We no longer live life, we consume it. We live in a society in which spending money is much easier when you don’t track it and don’t have a benchmark for your expenses. Once we realize that we’re really trading our life energy and not money, we won’t be so careless about it. And we indeed trade our time and energy no matter if we buy a $1 milk bar or a $50,000 Tesla. Any purchase that makes us fulfilled and that’s aligned with our values is a huge win. But anything that creates unnecessary disorder should be cut out from our lives.

Valuing your life energy by maximizing income. The book encourages individuals to pursue new opportunities to increase their income. Trade it with purpose and integrity for increased  earnings. According to a data taken from U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, Vital Statistics of the United States, if you are 40 years old, actuarial tables indicate that you have 329,601 hours of life energy in your bank, or if you are 60 years old, then you have 179,703 hours. Determine how you want to spend those remaining hours. Respect the life energy you have left.

Being frugal. Now that you know your life energy is finite, that means we only have a limited amount of it. Well, this is the real meaning of the word “frugality.” Being frugal is not about being cheap, but about getting maximum fulfillment from our expenditures of life energy. For example, buying an expensive pair of shoes can actually be frugal, if they are high-quality and will last a long time and you’ll really enjoy them. In fact, it could be far more wasteful to buy 10 cheap pairs of shoes that you don’t really like that end up sitting in the closet. So, to be more frugal, start from the inside out understanding the importance of your personal values.

Transforming our relationship with money and reevaluating our spending activity could put us back on track. We need to learn from our past, determine our present reality and create a new, reality-based relationship with money, discarding assumptions and myths that don’t work. In the end, the book is more about your values and aligning your lifestyle with those values, than it is about wealth. It’s more about our relationship with money than it is about money. Blessings!

Carlos Barboza is the owner of Eco Green Auto Parts, Orlando FL. Their website is and they can be found on Facebook @ecogreenautoparts.

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