You’ve probably heard the argument ‘money doesn’t buy happiness’. There are a plethora of studies that indicate that over a certain income, cash simply stops becoming a tool to enable greater life satisfaction.
I don’t buy it. I have a theory, a pretty simple theory.
It’s not that money can’t buy happiness, it’s that people spend money on the wrong things.
We all have that friend, he starts earning a decent income and all of sudden develops a penchant for designer clothing, feels the need to dine out at fancy restaurants, and only stays in the best hotels.
There’s nothing wrong with spending your hard-earned cash on any of these things if they bring you joy. The problem is, it’s tempting just to go along with the status quo, splashing out on whatever your peers splash out on.
That friend we just talked about? That was me. I’d just started earning my first decent salary as a Product Manager, along with a bit of income from a side project here and there. Although I was earning a lot more than I was at my previous job absolutely nothing was getting saved, seeing my balance run to zero every month was tragic. Something needed to change.
I used my intimate experience with prioritisation, from my job as a product manager create a system for spending to try and purchase myself maximal joy. It’s a simple system, just 3 easy steps.
First things first, make a list. A list of every non-regular expense you are lusting after. This could be a new pair of jeans, a holiday, a nice meal at that fancy restaurant, a new iPhone. Whatever it is — document it.
Don’t buy anything at this stage, all we are doing is creating a wish list of items, you may one day purchase.
This is where the clever stuff comes in. The idea here is we are going to prioritise the list in terms of what provides the best ‘bang for your buck’. The first thing you want to input is the cost of the item, simple enough.
The second thing you want to put in is the ‘Expected Joy’. This is where things get a little more tricky. The idea here is that you think of a number between 1 and 10, 1 being basically no joy, 10 being the video of that kid getting a Nintendo 64 on Christmas. It sounds simple, but putting an ‘Expected Joy’ rating next to an item really makes you think about your values, and what really makes you happy.
I was surprised that when I contemplated a very sexy Tom Ford perfume that I’d been lusting after for months, the expected joy only came out as 2. Whereas, a very un-sexy overhead rig for my YouTube videos came out at 8. I just get more joy from creating cool stuff than I do from smelling great every day.
Ok, you’re going to have to do some maths here, but don’t sweat it, it’s very simple maths. In fact, if you are using the Notion Template I provided, the maths will automatically get done for you!
The calculation is a simple one: Return on Investment = Expected Joy / Cost.
To take an example, you want to go for a nice meal, it’s going to cost you £100, you think it will give you, all things being equal, a return of 3 joy. The Return on Investment of the meal is 3/100 or 0.03 (I then multiple it all by 100 and round it if required to get a much more readable 3.)
Step 3 — Prioritise the things you want to buy.
Now all you need to do is order the items by return on investment, and there you have it, a neatly prioritised spending list!
This bonus step is just a little hack I developed to make sure I don’t overspend in a month, all it requires you to do is purchase items the day before payday, rather than payday itself (what I used to do!)
This means you will never run out of money for essentials in the month, as you will only spend the cash that is leftover on non-essential stuff.
I hope you find this system as helpful as I have done, and it helps you get the most your of your cash. If you have any tips for how you prioritise your spending, I’d love to hear them. Let me know in the comments.
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