What’s worth trading your life for?

Jonathan Haukaas
3 min readJan 19, 2021

Nineteen point six cents. Let’s round that to 20 cents.

There’s a trend, especially among folks my age to look with disdain at frugality. In an attempt, it seems, to buck the idea of being consumed by greed, they spend frivolously as though it’s a virtue.

So what does 20 cents have to do with that?

Next time you have 20 cents, take a minute to hold it and look at it. Aside from pioneering the final frontier that is the underbelly of our car seats, two dimes by themselves hold little value. I can’t think of a single thing you could buy for 20 cents. Even if you were to negotiate at a flea market or garage sale, you’d usually try to knock down a Beanie Baby (it’ll be worth hundreds one day!) from 50 cents to 25 cents. Two dimes buy nothing — well, at least for us coin layman.

Twenty cents in the hands of an employee of the Federal Reserve could buy something of great value with those 20 cents — $100.

Why is this dichotomy worth pondering? Because it’s the easiest path toward grasping what money is — a mere physical representation of time.

Your employer doesn’t give you money, they give you a cheap piece of paper with a dead president on it that represents a portion of your life you’ve dedicated to their service.

And thanks to direct deposit and various forms of plastic we might carry around, we usually never even see the Time we earned. We’ve already established how cheap the actual bills are. That’s not what we’re spending. It’s a portion of our life — a portion we will never get back.

This is by no means a condemnation of anyone’s spending habits. Trade hours of your most finite resource exactly how you want. I use my expendable income eating at new restaurants, traveling, and golfing. Chasing a little white ball around for four hours on a Saturday probably seems ridiculous to a Marvel action figure collector who enjoys picking up each of his still-boxed toys and admiring them. Likewise, I find the act of collecting action figures very odd and I can’t imagine deriving any joy from it. But more power to him. He can spend his money exactly how he wants (and probably has a lot to spend since he’s likely single).

It’s not the item or amount that bothers me, it’s one’s mindset at the moment of purchase. If our collector friend was being mindlessly guided to buy his next toy via not-so-subtle Instagram ads and put very little thought into how he acquired the funds in which to purchase a vintage model of The Phone Ranger… that’s a big issue.

The federal minimum wage is $7.25. The new iPhone 12 Pro is around $1,000. Is the new iPhone worth 138 hours of your life? There’s no right answer. The only right thing to do is ask yourself that questions each time you spend money.

Realize that you are a unique individual and can offer tremendous value when you apply yourself. Give your time the respect it deserves by being a conscious thinker and spender. When you buy something, ask yourself a simple question:

“Is this worth trading my life for?”

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Jonathan Haukaas

I was sent from the future to save you from becoming a cyborg. Put down your phone and go outside—unless you’re reading this blog.