‘Cause it’s a bitter-sweet symphony, this life, try to make ends meet, you’re a slave to money, then you die. ~~The Verve, Bitter Sweet Symphony
So is it all a waste of time?
If we wake in the morning, any morning or every morning, and want to pull the covers over our heads the question to ask is “why”? What is it about this day, or every day, that we want to avoid?
In a Bitter Sweet Symphony, the subject was earning money. What do you earn your money for? Other than a roof over our heads, some good food and a few comforts like heat and electricity life shouldn’t be so complicated, or expensive.
One thing I learned from the book Your Money or Your Life was assessing the value of my spending by how many hours I had to work for that item. Will I really get the same satisfaction from a $30,000 new vehicle versus a used one costing me $5,000 with plenty of life left?
My last car cost me $4,500 and ran for 11 years, my son now has it. In total repairs I paid less than $700 the entire time I had it. Sure there were things wrong with it. The one door was missing a hinge so the door would be caught by the wind if you weren’t holding on when opening it, or it could be blown back at you. The speakers weren’t as good as what I had before.
Let’s say I was able to earn $20 an hour. My last car then would have cost me 260 work hours to pay for it. That’s actually shocking to me now that I’ve done the math. That is a full 6.5 weeks of work at 40 hours per week.
Now if I went with the $30,000 car that had all the bells and whistles I would have had to work 1,500 hours and that’s not including the higher insurance and other costs associated with a new car. This would have cost me 37.5 weeks to afford, not including the interest if you had to finance it. That would nearly double the hours I needed to work.
What about that new flat screen 46 inch television? There is a sale!! I can buy it for only $800, wait a minute that means I would have to work another 40 hours to pay off that TV, that’s okay it’s only one week of my life.
If I am completely honest, my biggest expenditure used to be on books and magazines. I could easily spend $200 or more per month, or each time I walked in the bookstore. To break my habit I began to call the only book store close to us and ask if they had certain books I wanted. They would hold them at the front desk for me. I would go straight to the checkout, pay for my books and leave without ever letting myself look at anything else. That’s really how bad I was about buying books. Everything and anything in a book store could potentially come home with me if it was reading material. But using my $20 an hour formula that meant I had to work a minimum of 10 hours every month just to support my book addiction. Many months it was much more than that.
And so it goes. With every purchase we make we are selling ourselves into slavery, to paraphrase Verve.
There are many things I don’t want to live without.
- a sense of community,
- my family and good friends,
- food when I am hungry,
- art on my walls (it doesn’t have to be expensive),
- soothing colors around me,
- and yes I want the internet.
What I didn’t need included:
- Television and cable hook-up,
- a big home,
- expensive jewelry,
- new clothes (second-hand works just fine),
- credit cards which are too easy to use for spur of the moment purchases,
- expensive, or even new, furnishings,
- stereo system,
- monthly manicure or pedicure,
- eating out (I know some people enjoy this, I never did)
- any thing considered a status symbol
- or anything I could borrow for free
This is how I broke the feeling that life was a vicious cycle of waking; rushing off to work, often times jobs I hated; coming home to clean, cook, and get some sleep–only to do it all over again the next day.
On your journey to simplicity what did you decide was robbing you of a better life?