A recent post on ProBlogger asked us what we would do if we only had one month left to blog. It’s an effective psychological trick used to reveal priorities and gain focus.
It forced me to reconsider how I would use my time and resources carefully to position an asset (a blog, in this case) to give me the best long-term returns without any future input.
Note that this isn’t the classic “live for one more year” exercise. That often leads to last-wish kinds of answers, like giving away all of our money or making peace with family. In this scenario, the asset has to live on for a long time after we remove our input.
It made me wonder about money and how we could best use this exercise to think about financial priorities. The whole idea bears a remarkable similarity to the concept of creating a truly hands-off passive income stream, what some say is an impossible dream.
A month seemed like too unreasonable of a time period for a realistic approach, but what if we instead asked:
“If you knew you could only spend money for the next year, what would you do?”
After the conclusion of the one-year period, we have to be able to survive, presumably at a fair degree of comfort, for another, say, 50 years. And assuming we’d like our world to continue, we need to think beyond that time period for our kids, their kids, and so on.
Is it doable? How would it change what you buy today and throughout the next 12 months? What would it take not only to survive, but to get what you want out of your own life and the life of the generations that follow?
It’s as much an exercise in preparation as it is priority-setting. Somehow, we have to get ready for what’s coming. What’s the best approach?
Here are a few of the things I would do, considered in the context of a hierarchy of needs:
- Survival is the first priority. I would consider the basics of life: food and shelter. How could we make smart purchases to become more self-sustaining? Can we plant a food garden in the back yard? Could we harvest natural energy from the environment, recycle our trash products, or modify our homes to operate more passively?
- Comforts are not necessary expenses, but they fulfill our desire for pleasure, entertainment, and a certain standard of living. What would we purchase or accumulate over the next year? Would we purchase a larger TV, or spend the money on sports equipment? Would we buy a lamp for the living room, or a 10-year supply of laundry detergent? The choices would be difficult, but I would focus on items that provide long-term benefits and the most “family value.”
- Wastes are different for everyone, but there are many things which we can often eliminate and still maintain the same standard of comfort. These might include excessive drinking, eating out, and similar activities. Without buying power, you’ll either have to stock up on your liquor or find a way to make it yourself! These would be easily to eliminate, especially with the extra motivation of a one-year limit.
With a one-year ticking clock, every purchase decision is suddenly brought into question. And it’s most likely the same question every time: Will we need this and/or will it enhance our life in some way?
I propose to you that it’s the same question we should be asking now, without doomsday looming on the horizon.
Our quality of life will thank us for it.
What are some of the things you’d buy in the next 12 months?
I’m the type of person that would stock up on every and all necessities. I wouldn’t just buy one good computer but 3 “just in case.” I’d buy 30 bottles of my favorite shampoo and stupid things like 20 towels. Then I would ban the use of all the things I had just bought and never let any one use them cause I’m saving them “for the future.”
Ha ha! I’m a weirdo like that. Once when I was a kid i got a new toy and I refused to play with it because I didn’t want to wear it out. (It was a stretchy bunny toy). My mom said it is better to play with it and enjoy it and break it then never play with it and never have any fun with it but I left it untouched. Old habits die hard….
Wojciech Kulicki says
Not weird at all! Your comment reminds me of “The Book of Eli,” which I just saw last week after writing this post. The movie definitely makes you re-evaluate what would be important in a “new world.”
Thanks so much for the pointer. I read ProBlogger off and on, but he posts so much, I can’t get to everything. I’d missed this one.
I love it, though. It’s something I’ll think seriously about… and add to me “bag of tips and tricks” for life in general.
-Marshall Jones Jr.
Hmm….that’s a very good question, and one I’m not sure I have the answer to. The fact that I have a 3 year old son would make me look towards what he would need down the road, since that would change year to year. Beyond the basics (food, shelter, clothing, etc) I would want something that allowed me to capture memories, so a computer and a camera would be high on the list. Other than that, I could go pretty spartan.
Wojciech Kulicki says
That begs another interesting question–what kinds of electronics would we buy when we only have one shot to get it right for eternity? 😉 It would definitely put a lot of weight on quality…and perhaps a relatively open-source architecture/construction?
Nothing electronic lasts forever 🙂 That being said, I’m partial to Toshiba laptops (I hate hate hate HATE Macs) and Canon cameras.
Mars Dorian says
Good question, Wojciech
and it makes me re-think how I’m going to tackle the new year. I’m moving more and more towards a minimalistic lifestyle, where I try to get rid of my physical belongings. The major part of my money is spend on digital goods and experiences (movies, food, clubs etc.).
My goal is to only work with my pc, and needing only the very basics to rock my life.
Wojciech Kulicki says
Given the question, I’m curious how your approach would change, since you’d only be able to spend on those experiences for another year… are there ways you could translate that lifestyle into the “new age” of non-spending? Just things to ponder… 😉