What is life energy? It is essentially time; the time we’re alive. So, money = time. We trade our time for money. That sounds to me like it’s a means of exchange: I give my employer time, she gives me money. Our cultural agreement is that we get money for the time we spend on the job. The underlying premise of the program seems to be that we’re wasting our time at work to buy stuff we don’t need. And as soon as people see that by tracking every penny, their spending drops magically so that they can get out of debt and retire early. If this doesn’t happen after you finished the program, you must’ve skipped a step. Magic only happens if you follow each and every step religiously.
The idea behind the program is a noble one. I think many of us do overspend and buy stuff that we don’t really need. And despite all of our spending, happiness remains elusive. There is a lot to be said for simplifying our lives and decreasing our footprint on this planet. The program ignores though something very fundamental: why people consume and overspend. It’s not because they haven’t realized that they’re wasting their time at jobs (which is in itself a rather arrogant assumption: some people like their jobs). It’s because we have needs and wants that are not being fulfilled by our modern society. We fill these gaping holes with stuff. Sure, maybe if we spent less time at our jobs, we have more time to built community and enjoy our lives. But why do I have to waste my precious time tracking every penny I spend? Why do I have to figure out exactly how much I have earned over my life, including allowances and money earned watching babies? I think by ignoring the underlying issue – the unmet needs – the program has turned into a rather mechanistic process, boiling everything down to charts that show our spending behavior.
To lead a more fulfilling life, you have to track every penny you spend. Well, no, not really. To lead a more fulfilling life, you need to figure out what adds to your life and what doesn’t. Money is a tool, a thing. It is not time. It is not life energy. Equations like that put way too much emphasis on it. Dominguez touches on fulfillment but he again ties it to money: fulfillment is reached if the amount of money you spent on something was worth it. He becomes money-obsessed, too. Charts and tables are not going to change our attitudes toward money. We can simply ask after a purchase “was this worth the money?” (Or even better ask that before a purchase!) We don’t have to go through the convoluted process of tying this to life energy, which does not even exist. More importantly are those questions that Dominguez only briefly touches on: What brings me most fulfillment? What is “enough” for me? Did how I spent my time or money add to my life? Money and time are two distinct things. Money is a means of exchange – whether you put the intermediary “life energy” in there or not. Time is something less tangible but it is certainly finite for each and every one of us. Instead of writing down how much you spend on that cup of coffee, smell the coffee, taste the coffee, and enjoy it. And if it didn’t taste good, buy something else the next time. Or maybe, just sit in the sun and enjoy the warmth. Our society is already too money-obsessed, we don’t have to turn that obsession on its head because it will remain an obsession. Money is not that important to spend our life energy on! Time is the real precious commodity.