The relax tax: the Wisdom of Wasting Money
Part of mastering money is knowing when to throw it away.
It’s happened to all of us: That moment we realize we just spent 20 minutes to save a buck or two– looking for a cheaper parking place, driving to a slightly cheaper gas station, or hunting for the slightly better bargain- and we wonder, “Was that really worth my time?” Of course, conventional wisdom is a penny saved is a penny earned, every little bit counts, save your pennies for a rainy day, and money doesn’t grow on trees. And there is obviously wisdom in being conscious of spending. But part of intelligent spending is being the master of our money, rather than letting our money master us. And part of mastering money is knowing when to throw it away. It isn’t really throwing it away, of course. It’s trading it for a little less stress, a little less hassle, a little more time and a little more enjoyment.
If you lean more towards being a penny tosser than penny pincher, you are probably already a little too adept at paying a relax tax, and it may be beneficial to try experimenting with using more restraint with spending for a month. But for those of us who lean more towards penny pinching than tossing, whose programming is to watch every dime (not selfishly or even ungenerously, but certainly cautiously), trying a one month program of paying a relax tax may be a very liberating and enjoyable experience. Here’s a simple way to get your feet wet: The one Month Relax Tax Experiment.
The One Month Relax Tax Experiment
1. Take a look at your budget and decide how much you can afford and you are willing to allocate towards paying a relax tax for the month. It might be anywhere from $10 up to $100 or more. Even $10 is enough to fully engage in the experiment, but if you can, do at least $30. A good target is slightly more than your comfort range would want, but not more than you can afford. The idea is to be willing to use this money to find out for yourself if a relax tax fund is actually money well spent. Is it senseless waste, or could it be considered your “mental health support fund”? The intention of the experiment is for you to find out.
2. Put the allocated money, including some coinage, into a separate envelope you can have with you in your wallet (or put the coins in a small coin holder in your pocket). For the next month, commit to having it with you any time you leave the house.
3. If you can, imagine different little ways you might dip into the fund, and think of how nice it will be to have those little conveniences. For some of us, the pattern of saving money nearly every way possible is so strong, it may be hard and even uncomfortable to dip into the fund those first few times. But do it anyway, at least for one month, and see how it feels by the end.
4. When you find yourself considering driving across town for cheaper gas or cheaper groceries, or considering booking a flight at an inconvenient time because it saves you $20, or passing on a food or drink item at a restaurant because it’s $5 more, pull out your relax tax envelope, and enjoy- guilt free! The relax tax fund can also be used for those inevitable times money is actually wasted or thrown away, and you would normally be upset with your mistake. Instead of “That was stupid! I just spilled a $5 fricking frappuccino!”, take $5 from your relax tax fund, stick it in your wallet, and forget about it.
5. The next month take a look at your budget again, and even consider increasing your relax tax allocation if you can afford to do so. Also consider building up a larger relax tax fund, for bigger things like parking tickets, better flights, unexpected expenses and so forth. Let any money that is used from that fund be used lightly, and without concern. That’s what it’s for.
6. The next time your friend or coworker watches in amazement when, after the Coke machine eats your money, you simply whistle calmly and drop in some more coins, smiley sagely and tell them, “Hey, it’s no big deal. Relax tax”.