When the next level up might be a double-edged sword

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Last week, I overheard two colleagues talking, as I passed them on my way to another building. One had shared some information, perhaps about a new job or house. The response from the person receiving the news was, “Oh, that’s good. Is it a level up?”

This struck me. If a new job or a new house is ‘up a level’, what are the benefits? What are the implications?

Stepping up

In respect of the former, a ‘step up’ in career-terms might bring more money, status and recognition. It might be the culmination of years of hard work and study to achieve a long-held goal. Great! Yet, what else might be in store at the next level up? More responsibility? Longer hours? More stress?

If the latter, a new house can mean more space, a new environment, a place to welcome friends and the sense of being ‘a level up’ on the housing ladder in investment terms. The converse is that a new house might bring more debt, more house maintenance and the need to do more paid work, as we service the needs (and costs) of a bigger, more expensive place to live.

Pros and cons

So, if you are thinking about going up a level, take a long, hard look at why. Do the pros really outweigh the cons?

If you consider that your job is fundamentally an exchange of your ‘life energy’ for pay, you might see the prospect of the next grade differently when you reflect that you have the chance to gain a sense of personal satisfaction from the other things you do outside of work. You are not your job. Your job is just one of the things you do. Yes, by all means maximise your earning potential but not at the expense of the things that matter to you (e.g. time with loved ones or a home-cooked meal).

The alternative

You might want more space, but do you really want more debt, higher bills and a commitment that can’t easily be aside. Instead, consider if the process of decluttering might just help you see your existing home through fresh eyes. Do you really need more room or just less stuff?

So, the next level up may be a double-edged sword. Be clear about what you’re getting into. Maybe being where you are right now isn’t such a bad thing after all.


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It’s not what you spend, but what you buy that matters

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I’m reading a book* about our relationship with money. As I read, I realise that a lot of what we learn about money management suggests that tracking our spending will help us ‘tell our money where to go.’

We all know that if we look after the pennies, the pounds will look after themselves. Right?

Was what you bought really worth it?

Whilst establishing (and sticking to) a budget works for a great many people, the authors offer a fresh perspective. They argue that, if you first work out your proper hourly rate of pay, you’ll then be able to consider how many hours of work (translated into life energy’) you expended in order to buy something. Then you can ask if what you bought was really worth it.

When you look at your spending in this way, it takes on a whole new perspective. It might even impact on the choices you make about how you spend your hard-earned cash.

For example, if you earn £10 per hour, that £5 glossy magazine has effectively cost you half an hour of ‘life energy’. When you know this, you can then ask:

“Did I receive fulfilment, satisfaction and value in proportion to life energy spent?”

If not, then you might think twice about purchasing a similar item again next time you’re presented with the opportunity.

Why we spend

In the book, we read that US organisation Debtors Anonymous asserts that we go into debt to avoid feelings, especially feelings of deprivation. Like other addictions, debt allows us to deny pain, sorrow, loss, anger, loneliness and despair. I would say that you are more likely to be struggling with debt – or on a very tight budget – if your spending doesn’t align with your values or bring you real satisfaction.

So, I’m curious.

I’m going to conduct an experiment: a ‘Life Energy (Expenditure) Experiment.’ I’ll do this for the whole of next month.

My ‘life energy experiment’

Rather than tracking my spending or recording ££’s spent, I’m going to track what I buy and ask what value, fulfilment or satisfaction I derived from these purchases. I don’t have any particular plans to buy anything in November (no Christmas shopping for me – see my earlier post on gifting here).  So, I’ll be curious to see how the month unfolds. I’ll be posting my purchases on Twitter, along with their related ‘fulfilment factor’.

Will you join me? What will we notice? How might our future buying habits change by conducting this real-life experiment?

Follow the story using #LifeEnergyExperiment

And let me know how you get on!

*”Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence: Revised and Updated for the 21st Century” by Vicki Robin, Joe Dominguez, Monique Tilford.


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