I’ve come to realize that the best indicators of what we care about can be found in how we choose to lose what is most precious to us – time and/or money.
For most, how we spend our money is the more significant and representative of the two. First, we have to work for our money, whereas time is accorded to us without stipulations or expectations. It requires action to acquire money while the opposite is true of time – inaction leads to acquisition and only through action can we end our possession of time. While we must seek money, time seeks us (and we all know it’s all about the chase, don’t we?).
Secondly, it seems that a defining human irrationality is the inability to accept the finite nature of our existence. Time, like credit, is an intangible commodity that our little brains have a hard time comprehending in concrete terms. As a result, time, like credit, is commonly expended thoughtlessly – credit cards are swiped and time ticks away without much notice.
Relatively speaking, the ‘wasting’ of money carries with it a heavier and more accessible reality – it hurts more when we drop thousands on bottles in Vegas than it does when we spend a hungover weekend sleeping and watching Breaking Bad in turn.
(Tangentially, the wise few know better. During a family trip to Gilroy Outlets during my high school years, I expressed astonishment at the endless line just to get into the Coach outlet store. My dad, characteristically professorial, commented that there are two kinds of people in this world – those for whom money is more valuable than time and those for whom time is more valuable than money.)
And so, it seems to me that what we choose to spend our money on is indicative, if not representative, of our values and our interests, what we care about in life. For example, a glance at my recent transactions on Mint.com includes two exercise tops from Ellie, a ticket to the documentary Girls Rising, lunchtime salads and weekend sushi – I’d say that’s pretty on point. Perhaps the next online dating enterprise should matchmake singles based on their bills.
Our expenses can also illuminate what we’re willing to forgo when we’re forced to choose; who we become when it’s a zero-sum game . For example, for someone professing a love for children and the ambition of reforming the public education system, it’s worthwhile to consider that a pair of Cole Haans could have funded all of one, maybe two, school projects on a platform such as DonorsChoose.org. As with all things, there is, of course, a balance – sometimes, you just gotta treat yo’self.
So, maybe actions speak louder than words, but in the words of Hannibal Buress, money over everythang.