Have you ever wondered where your money goes each month? What did you buy that used up all your hard-earned pennies?
In November 2016, I embarked upon a little experiment. Instead of merely recording what I spent, I tracked exactly what I bought. For every purchase (see the rules here), I asked myself a question:How much satisfaction, value and fulfillment did I gain from what I bought, relative to ‘life energy’ expended? That is, for everything I bought, I did a little cost-benefit analysis. Was that item worth an hour of my time? Did I gain sufficient ‘value’ from my purchase, when set against the effort devoted to earning the money to pay for it?
Let’s find out!
Here’s what I bought – in no particular order – (over and above food, groceries and fuel):
- Coffee – for myself and others (not more than once a week, so greatly enjoyed when purchased)
- Flowers – a gift for my auntie’s 70th birthday (my second most expensive purchase)
- Raffle prize, secret santa gift and a thank you present (each involving consumables)
- Measuring spoons (bought a new set to replace my 1/8th cup measure whose handle I had snapped)
- Salad spinner
- Dog shampoo and dog treats
- A packed tea for my daughter who was going to the theatre straight from school
- Tap dancing classes
- Tap shoes (I had been wearing my 14 year old’s shoes thus far!), plus new shoes for said daughter (my biggest single transaction and more than 3 hours’ ‘life energy’ worked to play for them).
During the month, I also enjoyed a number of yoga classes (purchased in a bundle during October) and paid £11 towards a ‘Come Dine with Me’ meal that was a fundraiser for the chorus of which I had previously been a member.
So, how did my purchasing choices stack up when set in the light of ‘life energy’ expended?
Many of the items costed considerably less than the equivalent of an hour’s work or ‘life energy’. However, some things, if better planned, might have have offered even greater value in proportion to the life energy expended. Take the packed tea: an M&S wrap and accompanying goodies are a treat, but an indulgence when compared to how much the same food would have cost if made at home. That was simply about being more organised, rather than having food in the house but not being bothered to make something.
As a hobbyist and foodie, it’s clear to see where my spending priorities lie. The tap dancing classes and shoes together represented around £100 of spend (and therefore several hours’ ‘life energy’) but offered so many more hours of fun, fitness and camaraderie. The shoes will certainly last for years.
When I look at my buying categories, gifts feature quite a lot. Giving to others was important but I made a point of not buying stuff. Instead, the flowers and wine were intended to be enjoyed or consumed but not kept.
The things to be kept (salad spinner, measuring spoons) are the ‘essentialist’ tools of someone who loves to eat and cook!
So, as I review these purchases in the round, how much satisfaction, value and fulfillment did I truly gain from what I bought, relative to ‘life energy’ expended? I’d say – overall – the virtual life energy barometer would be nudging towards HIGH.
I have made intentional purchases over the month, which have enabled me to enjoy experiences over stuff; show my appreciation and love for others; and prioritise food and friendship. You can’t put a price on that.