Imagine that every day you wake up with $10,000 in your hand, and from the moment you awake, the dollars disappear at an unchanging pace. You know that at the end of the day they will be gone—all of them. You can’t spend any more, but you also can’t save a single penny. Everywhere you go, no matter what you’re doing, the bills fall from your hand. They are magic bills, they vanish when they drop.
Every day of your life, you have awoken with another $10,000 in your hand and not a single dollar left from yesterday. Yet, as miraculous as this is, because it has happened so frequently, and because every other person in the world has the same experience, you start taking it for granted. Some days, you watch the entire stack of bills disappear into your phone screen, or into your bed, or into your pantry, and it honestly feels pretty good. Other days you spend a little on friends that don’t really care about you and more still on amusement that could have been free.
One day, without warning, someone you love spends their last dollar, and though you knew this happens to everyone at some point, you didn’t feel it until you saw it happen nearby. Then a thought arrests your attention: what is my remaining balance?
You scramble for an answer.
Google: “how many dollars does the average person have”
A half-relief assuages your anxiety just enough for you to sleep at night, and with sleeping and waking and the continual replenishing of the $10,000, you slip back into a fog and dream once again that your money is infinite.
Years go by. Suddenly there’s an area of work or study that begins to demand a portion of your cash, but you’re happy to give it. A little later, you meet someone, and they demand their share too. Then comes a child, and you watch as the biggest portion of daily bills yet begin to fall on that kid’s head.
By this point you’ve come to see something upsetting. Not everyone has the $200 billion Google mentioned. Your soul rattles under the realization that no one can actually know their balance, and that there have been many days when you spent every dollar recklessly, and though you couldn’t have known it then, you now have things you want to buy, things you wish you had bought already—expensive things that will require every remaining free dollar. A quiet frenzy takes over your mind.
You know you need a budget, so you make one and plan to watch it relentlessly but before the day is over you’ve deviated. You’ve heard there are ways to potentially increase your balance, like eating healthy foods and exercising consistently, so you set out to build the habits but they only last a month. Discouraged, and wanting a little daily therapy, you pour huge portions of your dollars into social media, Netflix, house projects, and friendships that make you worse.
Before you know it the kids are out of the house, the career is over, and you’re unable to do the things you once dreamed of doing. So you sit and watch the last bills drain from your hand, and you wonder when the glorious day will come that your balance finally runs out.
We wouldn’t treat money this way, so why do we do it with something infinitely more valuable? There is no “free” time. There is only time spent with purpose and time wasted.
It’s not a waste to do nothing if you’re doing nothing on purpose. On the other hand, some “productive” things are dressed up distractions.
Spend on purpose. You’ll never know your true balance.