Money is an essential part of our lives. If we don’t want to rely on someone else (or have someone else to rely upon), we need money to provide ourselves with the basic essentials of life: food, clothing, and shelter (in the simplest forms). In addition to the essentials, however, money also offers us the opportunity to:
- Eat a variety of foods
- Own an abundance of clothing
- Live in a fancy home
- Buy a car
- Take a vacation
- Start a business
- Stop working one day
- Give to others
And many other things!
Because most of us use money almost every day (buying gas, paying a bill, going out to eat or to the grocery store, shopping, etc.), I think it can become easy for us to forget the true value of a dollar and all that we are blessed with.
Instead, we expect a paycheck. It feels normal to buy ourselves new clothes, gear, and electronics when we want them. We focus on what we lack rather than all that we have. We may even stress about when our next paycheck is coming, if we’ll have enough to cover the bills, how we’ll ever pay off all our debt, and whether we’ll be able to retire at all.
But, think of it this way: Most of us, at least most the people reading this post, earn tens of thousands of dollars every year! Stop and really think about what that means. (Refer to the Global Rich List again if you need some perspective.)
Or, imagine counting – out loud – from $1 all the way up to the last dollar you earn every year. I’m not suggesting you actually do that – but it may remind us that we earn a lot of those dollars every year. And when it comes to money, we often lump things together: “After taxes, student loans, my mortgage [or rent], my bills, and some savings into a 401(k), I hardly have any left!”
But, I’m suggesting a different approach, perhaps just this week, in the spirit of Thanksgiving. What if instead of saying all my money seems to go to this and that, you viewed each individual dollar as a little employee of yours, which performs a job you are grateful for?
Sure, some of those dollars go to taxes just to help you avoid penalties, jail time, and a visit from the IRS. But, someone else’s tax dollars likely provided you with a solid public education. Your tax dollars also help pay for public parks, museums, the post office, etc.
I was driving one day, a few years ago, and saw a man on a large sit-down lawn mower mowing a very uneven, grassy area to the right of an exit ramp. For some reason, in that moment, I realized that my tax dollars go to so many things I take for granted. It made paying taxes a little easier.
Now, I’m not saying all of your tax dollars go to good use (they don’t!), but each one of them has a job that, if nothing else, allows you fulfill your obligation to the government.
Your mortgage/rent dollars are hard at work providing you with a place to live, rest, and peacefully sleep at night. The $10 you spend on Netflix or Hulu or Spotify each month have a job, too. If you like the job they’re doing, continue to let them do their thing. But, and this is important, if you don’t like their job, YOU CAN FIRE THOSE DOLLARS FROM ONE JOB AND PUT THEM TO WORK SOMEWHERE ELSE.
Each dollar is your little employee and you get to choose what it does. You’re in control.
And, to make it even better, while the dollars you spend on a shirt or item at Target are then spent (good for one time use only), dollars you save and invest work so hard they turn into even more dollars. It’s like firing one slacker employee and replacing them with a high-functioning machine! Invested dollars, over time, compound to earn you even more money.
Money can be tough, and everyone’s situation is different. Sometimes money is tighter than at other times, but every single dollar you earn has a job. While you probably can’t stop paying taxes or paying down your debt (please, pay it down!), you can give the other dollars whatever job you like. So be grateful for them! And, as you spend money, make sure it’s on the jobs you really want your hard-earned dollars to achieve (be it a loan repayment, a new outfit, a gym membership, a savings account, a retirement fund, etc.).
And, if you’re still feeling tight on cash, try these 50 things you can do without spending any money!
Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Here’s to Staying Grateful and Letting Luc!