A 1992 book from the ‘personal finance’ genre that aught to enjoy some small renaissance is Your money or your life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin. Tom Hodgkinson recently praised it and so did Oliver Burkeman. I can also vouch for its canniness.
To my mind, the book’s most revelatory element is its insistence that you see money as ‘life energy’: as the reified fruit of your labour. It is the only way of storing ‘work done’. It is, as these authors write, “something we choose to trade our life energy for”.
It’s great when someone’s thoughtful book articulates something you’d already deeply suspected but never articulated. I’ve always seen money as ‘life energy’, though I kept this opinion secret and referred to it in my head as something like ‘youth juice’. (I usually switch off when hippies start talking about ‘energy’).
Seeing money as ‘life energy’ makes it relevant to the human experience rather than just an annoying administrative hoop. Of course money matters – it is the modern resource necessary for survival and dignity – but we often treat it as an embarrassing necessity, a conversational taboo, or a tawdry chore. But it’s your life energy: the sum of your labours, the only fruit of the temporal and spiritual commitment to a task. It has to be managed deliberately and passionately. It mustn’t be squandered or consumed haphazardly.
The kinds of exercise the book sets for the reader help to highlight this. Is the casual purchase of an entertainment product at £50 worthy of the ‘juice’ squeezed out of you in the workplace? It may be. But if not, it’s a tragic human waste. A waste of precious life.
Your money or your life also contains the following brilliant passage about life energy/youth juice in relation to thrift:
Shopping smart, saving money, following the adage ‘use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without’ isn’t about deprivation; it’s about loving yourself and your life so much that you wouldn’t think of wasting a second.