Saturday, March 31, 2012

YMOYL Book Club: Three Questions That Will Transform Your Life (Step 4)

Today we begin week four of the Your Money or Your Life Online Book Club, where we are tackling the nine steps of the YMOYL program over next nine weeks. Get more background info. and a complete list of the steps here.

Chapter four is all about asking ourselves what is enough for us. It starts out by asking some pretty heavy questions.
  1. What did you want to be when you grew up?
  2. What have you always wanted to do that you haven't done yet?
  3. What have you done in your life that you are really proud of?
  4. If you knew that you were going to die in a year how would you spend that year?
  5. What brings you the most fulfillment--and how is that related to money?
  6. If you didn't have to work for a living, what would you do with your time?
The grape hyacinths are in top form this week.
I love seeing the wave of purple in the yard.

Step 4: Three Questions That Will Transform Your Life

In this step, you will learn a method of evaluating how you earn and spend money and if it aligns with what you want to do and be in your life. You’ll achieve this by reviewing your monthly categories in the context of three life-changing questions:
  1. Did I receive fulfillment in proportion to life energy spent? 
  2. Was this in alignment with my values, goals and purpose? 
  3. How would this change if I didn’t have to work for a living? 
Using the fulfillment curve as a model (see introduction), these questions will help you adjust your current behavior so as to achieve maximum fulfillment in relation to money.

To complete this step, go back to you monthly tabulation from step 3, and write the answers to these three questions next to your totals for each category. You can use any scale you like to answer the questions, + 0 -, as suggested in the book; :) :| :( as suggested in the program guide, or make one up. Whatever gives you the most fulfillment!


  1. OK... well, I haven't done the exercises yet... I'm still digging out from the cat pee & dishwasher disasters. But I did get my taxes done and actually made progress on my deck repairs, so hopefully I'll be a bit less scattered and can catch up with these exercises.

    Anyhow, I do have to say that this chapter was fairly life-altering for me the first time I did the exercises. I'm sure it was partly because my real hourly wage was so low, but when I'd ask myself things like, "is 5 hours of my life a good trade for eating takeout at work instead of bringing my own food..." well, the answers became pretty darned obvious.

    I think one of the main things this chapter taught me was to value my own time more than I had been. After seeing how much of my life was just going down the tubes for things I really didn't enjoy, I started doing things like setting limits on how available I would be to my job when I was at home, and actually started taking my vacation time. I also started shifting my focus at work away from the touchy feely folk music will save the world approach and more toward how can I make this place more profitable so I can earn a bigger salary, and get some help so I don't have to work 80 hours per week?

    Most of the extra time that I salvaged from work was put to use trying to figure out ways to make money outside of work, to learn skills that I would allow me to do things for myself instead of hiring people to do them for me, and to create an escape path from the world of being an employee.

    I would add a few extra questions to the three they list... these were especially helpful with things that felt more like "have to's" rather than "want to's":

    Is this expense avoidable?
    If it's not avoidable, could this expense be reduced if I was willing to make some lifestyle changes and/or learn some new skills?
    Where would that approach put me on the time spent/happiness curve?

    Not sure if those make any sense, but here are some examples.

    One of the things our little music school desperately needed was a computer system to handle the registrations, schedules, memberships, mailing lists etc. So I volunteered to write it in exchange for having one day a week out of the office. This meant that I only had to go in 4 days a week (it worked out well because 95% of our classes & lessons happened M-Th). Fridays were my "geek days" where I took classes, learned how to program, wrote the database and caught up on other work that was really hard to do in the midst of the music school chaos. I ended up with a pile of marketable skills that I didn't have to pay to acquire, the school got a much needed upgrade to its systems, plus I saved the cost of commuting one day a week.

    Another thing that I did was to start doing some home repair & upkeep jobs myself. I saved a pile of money, plus I learned a bunch of skills that have proved to be invaluable. I determined that when I did the math and weighed the relative costs in terms of life hours spent, I generally came out way ahead doing it myself, rather than hiring someone to do it for me and working all the hours required to earn the money to pay said person! Plus it's really nice to be able to just fix things when they break rather than having to pay a boatload of money to have somebody else do it.

    I don't always do things myself... I consider working on cars & other mechanical devices to be somewhat akin to torture, but computer repairs, carpentry, painting, plumbing, gardening etc. are all things that I actually enjoy now that I have some ability to do them.

  2. Wow.

    Those are some huge and amazing changes.

    I really like your extra questions.

  3. I've always ignored this step whenever I've read the book before. But last fall, when I was really stressing out at my job, I decided to come back and attack this weakest link of mine in reading this book.

    What I found was that overall, I was very satisfied with virtually all of the spending I did. Most purchases seemed worth the money, they seemed to be in alignment with my values, and mostly they were also purchases I would be making if I were financially independent. That was disappointing; I was hoping I'd find a nice place to reduce my spending.

    I tried again with the spending for March. Again, except for one purchase, I was happy with all my expenditures.

    I've actually been paying pretty close attention to purchases I regret making and those I regret not making. So I've gotten to be in pretty good shape. I do, however, have two ideas for improvement:
    1) Get better at researching all my options. I can find room for improvement if I can find more options. For example, I was happy with my purchase of replacement cordless phones this month until I realized that it actually was quite easy to find replacement batteries for my old phone. (After I had already gotten rid of the box for the new phone.) This idea is a lot like EcoCatLady's second question - can I reduce this expense by doing something differently?
    2) Declutter my house. Decluttering requires a similar sort of judgment--for each item, you ask yourself if it is still worth having (at the very least whether it is still worth the space it is occupying) and can also ask whether keeping it is still in alignment with your values.

  4. OK, these are all very important questions. I think I need a whole night to answer them if they weren't about money because really I am not at all that into money. I don't have spending problems although I am sometimes attracted by pointless purchases which my husband resolves pretty fast (thankfully).

    Living in a dirty expensive country has taught me to re-evaluate my needs and wants simply because I don't want to live my life on credit.

    I would love to read that book though. I am sure there is a ton I can learn. Thanks for what you are doing, I think it is very, very useful!

  5. This was the hardest chapter for me. I couldn't really answer!

  6. I have been away on an overseas trip so have been quiet on the internet (& YMOYL-yikes!). I decided not to track my spending while away (I was staying with family in the UK for 2 weeks to attend a wedding). Before I left I started keeping a note of my spending every day to get into the habit of doing this. I intend continuing this and entering the spending record into categories at the end of the month. It’s a bit tricky because of the time ways as it straddles last month and this a little of this month. I haven’t done the life hours equation yet. It’s going to be interesting to see the spending patterns and to see what I’m making a dying for. As I am interested in working out the pattern etc I’m motivated to actually do it. I hope to catch up eventually. As it helps me to keep on top of the exercises I will keep you posted Ruth in WA : )


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