Your Money or Your Life (Vicki Robin) - Book Summary, Notes & Highlights

Your Money or Your Life (Vicki Robin) - Book Summary, Notes & Highlights

Book

This book completely changed my relationship with money. I think everyone should give it a read. Even though it’s portrayed as a personal finance book, it gives answers to much deeper questions than just “How do I save more?”


Table of contents

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🚀 The Book in 3 Sentences

  1. Most people are making a dying instead of making a living - spending their life having a job that wears them out and leaves no room for personal development.
  2. By treating the money we spend as trading our life energy we can become more conscious about the things we buy and especially about those that don’t bring us fulfilment.
  3. Tracking our spendings is a gateway to a more fulfilled life where our purchases align with our meaning.

🎨 Impressions

This book completely changed my relationship with money. Society has been shaped around a more-is-better approach which means that money has become a thing that we endlessly chase which means we’re all running on a life-long hedonic treadmill. Vicki Robin offers an actual solution - finding the point of “enough” -  to get off that treadmill and start thinking about earning and spending money as trading our life energy which is the only resource that we should care about.

Who Should Read It?

I think everyone should give it a read. Even though it’s portrayed as a personal finance book, it gives answers to much deeper questions than just “How do I save more?”

As we grow up we all learn certain stigmas about money that then create unhealthy spending and earning habits. This book directly tackles all these myths and teaches us why and how we should treat all of our purchases as trading our life energy - that is, time we spend on making money. It’s really not about personal finance but about making our life more deliberate, meaningful and, in fact, more productive as after reading this you won’t be able to spend another minute on things that push you towards making a dying rather than making a living.

☘️ How the Book Changed Me

  • I found my point of enough so earning more was no longer the goal.
  • It made me more aware of the way in which I spend money.
  • It made me rethink future purchases - Does it align with my values? Is this thing worth my life energy?
  • It helped me find things that I was spending money on but didn’t really care about (decluttering my life and bank statements).
  • It made me realise that most money problems are really identity problems.

✍️ My Top 3 Quotes

  • If you live for having it all, what you have is never enough. In an environment of more is better, “enough” is like the horizon—always receding.
  • People don’t need enormous cars, they need respect. They don’t need closets full of clothes, they need to feel attractive and they need excitement and variety and beauty. People don’t need electronic equipment; they need something worthwhile to do with their lives. People need identity, community, challenge, acknowledgement, love, and joy. To try to fill these needs with material things is to set up an unquenchable appetite for false solutions to real and never-satisfied problems. The resulting psychological emptiness is one of the major forces behind the desire for material growth.
  • The real problem with work, then, is not that our expectations are too high. It’s that we have confused work with paid employment.

📒 Summary + Notes

👨‍💼 Your job doesn’t have to be your life

These days our jobs become much more than just paid employment. We’re often working a job that financially supports itself. In a way, we pay for having a job, both financially and mentally. Finding a job that aligns with your Why first instead of a paycheck, prestige, or some other pre-programmed notion can save us many dollars and hours thinking about the course of our lives.

“Most of us spend much more than 40 hours out of the week’s total of 168 hours earning money. We must take time to dress for our jobs, commute to our jobs, think about our jobs at work and at home, “decompress” from our jobs. We must spend our evenings and weekends in mindless “escape entertainment” in order to “recreate” from our jobs.”

🌱 Focus on making a living

As Vicki Robin suggests, most of us are making a dying instead of making a living. We have a job that, we think, supports our life when, in fact, it becomes life itself. Once we realise that we’re trading our most valuable assets - time and energy - we can start making a living by making choices that support our lives, not our day jobs.

“We Aren’t Making a Living, We’re Making a Dying For so many working people, however, from people who love their work to those who barely tolerate their jobs, there seems to be no real choice between their money and their lives. What they do for money dominates their waking hours, and life is what can be fit into the scant remaining time.”

🤔 Question the status quo

Most of our money (and then life) problems come from pre-programmed thinking that society has shaped as normal. So then when we get our first job and it sucks, we stick to it as “others do it too.” Yet, there’s no single rule that we have to follow so taking time to quit the race and rethink our choices can be the best decision we can make.

“If the daily grind were making us happy, the irritations and inconveniences would be a small price to pay. If we could believe that our jobs were actually making the world a better place, we would sacrifice sleep and social lives without feeling deprived. If the extra toys we buy with our toil were providing anything more than momentary pleasure and a chance to one-up others, we’d spend those hours on the job gladly. But it is becoming increasingly clear that, beyond a certain minimum of comfort, money is not buying us the happiness we seek.”

“We also put up with this “making a dying” existence because we think we have no choice. “Another day, another dollar.” “Everybody’s gotta make a living.” The “nine to five till you’re sixty-five” pattern, so recent in human history but so pervasive today, seems like the only choice for someone who is neither a sports nor entertainment superstar nor an eccentric. After all, there are bills to pay and an identity to maintain, and besides, what would I do with my life if I didn’t have a job?”

📊 Find your point of “enough”

That’s likely the most important takeaway from this book. Once we find our point of “enough”, meaning that less would make us worried about the future and more would only create more clutter, we can live life on our own terms. Not knowing what’s our “enough” is the #1 reason why we hop on the hedonic treadmill trying to upgrade our life and therefore grow our salary to support our new standard of living. Our enough is the point where we’re liberated from having to:

  • live paycheck to paycheck,
  • think about what’s the next step of our career,
  • worry about the next day, month, year,
  • put away our dreams in favour of a job,
  • trade our life energy for things we don’t need.

“If you live for having it all, what you have is never enough. In an environment of more is better, “enough” is like the horizon—always receding.”

“There is a name for this peak of the Fulfillment Curve, and it provides the basis for transforming your relationship with money. It’s a word we use every day, yet we are practically incapable of recognizing it when it’s staring us in the face. The word is “enough.”

🔄 Treat every purchase as trading your life energy

Spending money is much easier when you don’t track it and don’t have a benchmark for your expenses. Once we realise that we’re really trading our life energy and not money, we won’t be so careless about it. And we indeed trade our time and energy no matter if we buy a £1 milk bar or a £50,000 Tesla. Any purchase that makes us fulfilled and that’s aligned with our values is a huge win. But anything that creates unnecessary clutter should be cut out from our lives.

“Money is something we choose to trade our life energy for.”

🛍 Be aware of things that bring fulfilment to your life and of those that do the opposite

The process described in this book (adding +, -, or 0 next to every purchase to show our fulfilment level) can reveal hidden buying patterns that we’ve learnt to tolerate throughout the years. It turns out we buy way more unnecessary crap than it may seem without tracking our spendings. When we eliminate every “-” from our list we’ll arrive at a point of fulfilment - only buying things that add to our lives.

“The primary tool for developing this internal yardstick is awareness. The affluence that surrounds us has been called the American Dream, and with good reason: we’ve been asleep. We wake up by questioning the dream. Asking yourself, month in, month out, whether you actually got fulfilment in proportion to life energy spent in each subcategory awakens that natural sense of knowing when enough is enough.”

🏦 Be frugal

People often think that being frugal means you have to penny-pinch your way through life and get rid of all the fun stuff. Frugality, in the sense of Financial Independence that Vicki presents, is far different from that approach. Frugality means that we won’t buy anything that’s not worth our life energy. It’s about making a decision to not clutter our lives and purchase things that we can add a plus sign next to.

“Frugality is enjoying the virtue of getting good value for every minute of your life energy and from everything you have the use of.”

🤑 Don’t seek validation in external sources

A lot of bad purchases are caused by us seeking validation from external sources. The quote below perfectly describes why we buy unnecessary stuff. With things that clutter our lives, it’s always that internal battle to rationalise our own spendings. Once we decode the real reason for these purchases we might find out that (1) we don’t really need them and (2) we’re trying to satisfy deeper needs with physical objects.

“People don’t need enormous cars, they need respect. They don’t need closets full of clothes, they need to feel attractive and they need excitement and variety and beauty. People don’t need electronic equipment; they need something worthwhile to do with their lives. People need identity, community, challenge, acknowledgement, love, and joy. To try to fill these needs with material things is to set up an unquenchable appetite for false solutions to real and never-satisfied problems. The resulting psychological emptiness is one of the major forces behind the desire for material growth.”


If you’re interested in learning more about personal finance, managing money, and making money online, check out my Money Playlist on YouTube where I share:

  • How to make money online.
  • How much money I earn in a year.
  • How I built a million dollar business.
  • 9 passive income ideas.

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