Your Money Or Your Life

by Joe Dominguez, Vicki Robin

Troy Shu
Troy Shu
Updated at: March 04, 2024
Your Money Or Your Life
Your Money Or Your Life

What are the big ideas? 1. The Unique Budgeting System: This book introduces a unique budgeting system where every cent is accounted for and tracked, helping indivi

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What are the big ideas?

  1. The Unique Budgeting System: This book introduces a unique budgeting system where every cent is accounted for and tracked, helping individuals gain awareness of their spending habits and make informed decisions. It goes beyond the traditional monthly income and expense tracking by converting dollars to hours of life energy and evaluating each expenditure based on fulfillment, alignment with values, and future Financial Independence.
  2. The Power of Voluntary Action: The book emphasizes the significance of volunteering as a powerful form of self-expression and a means for deep connections and contributions to society. It suggests that Financial Independence provides the freedom to choose how and what we work on, enabling us to align our actions with values and passions.
  3. Converting Dollars to Hours: This book offers an innovative concept of converting all expenses into hours of life energy based on your real hourly wage. By doing so, individuals gain a clearer perspective on the true cost of their spending choices and can make more conscious decisions that align with their values and long-term financial goals.
  4. The Crossover Point: The book introduces the concept of the "Crossover Point," where individuals reach Financial Independence and have the freedom to choose how and what they work on, enabling them to live a life of purpose and fulfillment. This unique perspective challenges traditional notions of work and volunteering, redefining their roles in society and offering an opportunity for individuals to contribute in meaningful ways beyond paid employment.
  5. The Long-Term Income Producing Investments: The book emphasizes the importance of educating oneself about long-term income-producing investments such as real estate or stocks to build wealth for the future. It offers practical advice on managing taxes efficiently, staying informed and adaptive in financial management, and maximizing income through knowledgeable and sophisticated investment strategies.

Chapter Summaries



  • The book outlines a program for achieving Financial Independence through Financial Intelligence and Integrity.
  • Financial Independence is defined as having an income sufficient for basic needs and comforts from a source other than paid employment.
  • The program is based on nine steps: (1) Relating to Money, (2) Record Keeping, (3) Categorizing Expenses, (4) Creating a Spending Plan, (5) Saving and Investing, (6) Eliminating Debt, (7) Understanding Insurance, (8) Getting Control of Your Taxes, and (9) Building Wealth.
  • The program is not about retirement or getting rich quickly, but rather thinking in new ways and gaining control over one's financial life.
  • FI thinking has helped individuals from all walks of life improve their relationships with money, lower expenses, retire debts, increase savings, and have more time for personal growth and contributing to their communities.


“We shift from comparing ourselves to others to considering our real needs and desires. We shift from “more” to “enough” and ultimately get more of what money can’t buy. Priceless.”

“One day a young girl watched her mother prepare a ham for baking. At one point the daughter asked, “Mom, why did you cut off both ends of the ham?” “Well, because my mother always did,” said the mother. “But why?” “I don’t know—let’s go ask Grandma.” So they went to Grandma’s and asked her, “Grandma, when you prepared the ham for baking, you always cut off both ends—why did you do that?” “My mother always did it,” said Grandma. “But why?” “I don’t know—let’s go ask Great-grandma.” So off they went to Great-grandma’s. “Great-grandma, when you prepared the ham for baking, you always cut off both ends—why did you do that?” “Well,” Great-grandma said, “the pan was too small.” Just as we can get caught in outmoded habit-patterns passed down through generations, we can also get trapped by our habitual thinking just as much as—and just as erroneously as—people who maintained until recently that the earth was visibly and verifiably flat. We also get stuck in unconscious and invisible boxes that limit our ability to think in new ways.”



  • Conduct a thorough analysis of your lifetime earnings by collecting all available financial records, including income tax returns and bank statements.
  • Create a personal balance sheet to determine your net worth by listing all your assets (liquid and fixed) and liabilities.
  • No shame, no blame: Be honest and impeccable in your calculations, focusing on discrimination rather than recrimination.
  • Understand that net worth does not equal self worth.
  • Use the results of this step to assess your financial situation and make informed decisions about increasing savings or reducing debt.
  • Remember that material possessions do not define you; focus on gratitude for what you have and let go of attachments to intangible assets.


“Along with racism and sexism, our society has a hidden hierarchy based on what you do for money.”

“Along with racism and sexism, our society has a form of caste system based on what you do for money. We call that jobism, and it pervades our interactions with one another on the job, in social settings and even at home. Why else would we consider housewives second-class citizens? Or teachers lower status than doctors even though their desk-side manner with struggling students is far better than many doctors’ bedside manner with the ill and dying?”

“National Opinion Research Center surveys reveal that the percentage of Americans who describe themselves as “very happy” has been steadily declining since the late 1950s.”

“If you live for having it all, what you have is never enough.”

“As people and as a planet we suffer from upward mobility and downward nobility.”

“Americans used to be 'citizens.' Now we are 'consumers.”

“Instead of leisure being simply “relaxed activity,” it was transformed into an opportunity for increased consumption—even consumption of leisure itself (as in travel and vacations).”

“Government institutions such as the progressive income tax and the GI Bill fostered a growing middle class and a sense of social cohesion.”

“It is easier to tell our therapist about our sex life than it is to tell our accountant about our finances.”

“We hit a fulfillment ceiling and never recognized that the formula of money = fulfillment not only had stopped working but had started to work against us. No matter how much we bought, the fulfillment curve kept heading down.”

“Once you catch on to what clutter is, you’ll find it everywhere. Isn’t meaningless activity a form of clutter? How many of the power lunches, cocktail parties, social events, and long evenings glued to your screens have been clutter—activities that add nothing positive to your life? What about disorganized days full of busyness with no sense of accomplishment?”

“Find out how much money you have earned in your lifetime—the sum total of your gross income, from the first penny you ever earned to your most”

“put your life in service to your values rather than putting your time in service to money.”

“Statement of earnings from Social Security”

“So much dissatisfaction comes from focusing on what we don’t have that the simple exercise of acknowledging and valuing what we do have can transform our outlook.”

“Once we’re above the survival level, the difference between prosperity and poverty lies simply in our degree of gratitude.”



  • Establish an accurate budget by determining your hourly wage based on your annual income and number of hours worked per year.
  • Keep track of every cent that comes into or goes out of your life to gain awareness of your spending habits and identify areas for improvement.
  • Use a system that works best for you, such as rounding up or down to the nearest dollar or using software to help you keep track.
  • Be impeccable and avoid judgment or blame; instead, practice discernment in distinguishing between necessary and unnecessary expenses.
  • This step is essential for developing Financial Integrity and moving toward Financial Independence.


“But hey, what’s another $20,000 when I have a full-time job?”

“happiness increases heart health, strengthens the immune system, combats stress, reduces aches and pains, reduces chronic illness, and lengthens our lives.”

“Money is something we choose to trade our life energy for.”

“Money is not really the thing you’re after—after all, would you lock yourself in a dark, silent box forever in exchange for becoming a billionaire?”

“So what if you’ve been blowing every paycheck on “rewarding” yourself for surviving another week?”

“Money is something you trade your life energy for. You sell your time for money. It doesn’t matter that Ned over there sells his time for a hundred dollars and you sell yours for twenty dollars an hour. Ned’s money is irrelevant to you. The only real asset you have is your time. The hours of your life.”



  • Set up a Monthly Tabulation form that reflects your unique spending and income categories and subcategories.
  • Enter all money transactions in the appropriate category.
  • Total monthly income and total monthly expenses, balancing all bank accounts.
  • Convert dollars spent into hours of life energy using your real hourly wage.
  • This step provides insight and empowerment, helping to maintain a friendly marriage and stay on the program.


“four rules for getting off the diet-go-round: Eat when you’re hungry. Eat exactly what your body wants. Eat each bite consciously. Stop when your body has had enough.1 Very simple. All you have to do is be conscious”

“training away the money-wasting habits”



  • The three questions to ask for each spending subcategory in your Monthly Tabulation are:
    • Did I receive fulfillment, satisfaction and value in proportion to life energy spent?
    • Is this expenditure of life energy in alignment with my values and life purpose?
    • How might this expenditure change if I didn't have to work for a living?
  • Mark your answers with + (or up arrow), - (or down arrow), or 0, and write the estimated change on the Monthly Tabulation.
  • Review and make a list of all subcategories with the – symbol (or down arrow).
  • This step helps you align values and behavior by adjusting one or the other, leading to synergy and fulfillment.
  • No shame or blame, it's an information-gathering process that brings unconscious spending patterns to light.
  • Valuing yourself by focusing on what really matters and not frittering away life energy on things that bring only passing happiness but don't support your values.
  • Integrity and synergy through alignment of vision, values, and action.
  • Defining 'enough' accountably, with an internal yardstick for fulfillment, a purpose higher than satisfying desires, and responsibility to yourself and the world.


“Truly maximizing their potential, some students do two years of college in high school through the Running Start program.”

“Having an internal yardstick for fulfillment is actually one part of what we call Financial Integrity. You learn to make your financial choices independent of what advertising and industry have decided would be good for their business.”

“For so many people, the stronger the evidence of failed strategies, the deeper they cling to their ways.”

“remember that there is no single act of greatness, just a series of small acts done with great passion or great love,”

“Passion, pain, what’s at hand—these are doorways to finding a purpose beyond material acquisition.”

“He who knows he has enough is rich.”



  • Create and consistently update a Wall Chart to monitor your income, expenses, and savings.
  • The Wall Chart serves as a reminder of your commitment to improve your relationship with money.
  • It provides clear feedback on your progress towards your financial goals.
  • It can be an inspiration and motivation to keep you on track.
  • Putting your integrity on the line by displaying it publicly adds accountability.
  • The Wall Chart helps honor your life energy by stewarding your time and resources wisely.
  • Continuing support from friends and family can be enlisted through sharing your Wall Chart.


“As you take your eyes off the false prize (of more, better, and different stuff), you put them on the real prizes: friends, family, sharing, caring, learning, meeting challenges, intimacy, rest, and being present, connected, and respected. In other words, those best things in life that are free. Like all things natural, building this wealth takes time, attention, patience, and reciprocity (that volleying of giving and receiving that builds relationships).”

“Did you ever think about that?” Joe would ask. “That you have a relationship with money?” He’d get on his knees, begging money to love him. He’d exhibit mock terror, shrinking from the evil hundred-dollar bill. He’d hold it out like a carrot and run around after it, reaching but never grasping it. “This is what your relationship with money looks like! Think about it. If you were money, would you hang out with you?”



  • Lower your total monthly expenses by valuing your life energy and increasing your consciousness in spending.
  • Choose quality of life over standard of living.
  • Learn to say "no" to things that don't bring fulfillment.
  • Research value, quality, durability, multiple use and price before making a purchase.
  • Find creative ways to meet your needs differently.
  • Follow the steps of this program.
  • Be conscious of your thoughts and desires, as they can lead to unnecessary spending.
  • Save money while saving the planet by being mindful of resource consumption and externalities in every purchase.


“Frugality is enjoying the virtue of getting good value for every minute of your life energy and from everything you have the use of.”

“Waste lies not in the number of possessions but in the failure to enjoy them.”

“To be frugal means to have a high joy-to-stuff ratio. If you get one unit of joy for each material possession, that’s frugal. But if you need ten possessions to even begin registering on the joy meter, you’re missing the point of being alive.”

“You’ll flatten your debt and develop a natural resistance to spending more than you have for things you don’t want to impress people you don’t like (to paraphrase Robert Quillen).”

“Consumption seems to be our favorite high, our nationally sanctioned addiction, the all-American form of substance abuse.”

“What ideas—practical to wild—do you have about how you’d pay off all your debt?”

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. —Howard Thurman, philosopher and theologian”

“human happiness buttons that can be pressed—the same basic factors such as friendship, health, community, overcoming challenges with your own ingenuity, and feeling in control of your life. These work for everyone. At the same time, most of us are tempted by the ideas of convenience, status, and luxury, and buying ourselves treats to satisfy these temptations. And we’re really good at justifying some of these trinkets as our true passions.”

“sustainably produced. A less obvious suggestion includes creating a “price book.” Kept by thrifty housewives for decades and made famous by Amy Dacyczyn, author of The Tightwad Gazette,10 a price book enables you to recognize quickly the cheapest”

“Getting Away As your handling of money gets clearer and your life becomes more satisfying, you will have less of a need to “vacate.” Consider”

“No matter how much you have, that voice of “more would be better” drives you to make acquisition the name of your game. Greed is one of the many strings in the human heart, and it can be pro-survival, but unchecked by a sense of fairness, balance, and love, it can gut our capacity for joy.”

“The key is remembering that anything you buy and don’t use, anything you throw away, anything you consume and don’t enjoy is money down the drain, wasting your life energy and wasting the finite resources of the planet. Any waste of your life energy means more hours lost to the rat race, making a dying. Frugality is the user-friendly and earth-friendly lifestyle.”



  • Understand that the primary purpose of paid employment is getting paid.
  • Clarify the meanings and motivations behind your larger purpose for working.
  • Set a clear, specific goal for how much money you need to sustain yourself at the lifestyle level you choose.
  • Be active in your job search and look for a job that meets your criteria.
  • Stay conscious during the journey and be willing to adapt as opportunities arise.
  • Recognize when you have achieved your goal of finding a job that pays enough for you to reach FI.


“The push for full employment, along with the growth of advertising, has created a populace increasingly oriented toward work and toward earning more money in order to consume more resources.”

“karoshi (death by overwork).”

“A 2015 US Federal Reserve Board report found that 47 percent of Americans would have to borrow money or sell something to cover a $400 emergency expense.”

“The world needs you to show up and follow your dreams.”

“You want more money so that you can have more freedom to be yourself without worrying about the money. Likewise, you don’t want more money to boost your self-esteem. You want more money as an expression of your self-esteem, of valuing your life energy.”

“To be successful, cultivate positive attitudes of self-respect, pride in your contribution to your workplace, dedication to your job, cooperation with your employers and coworkers, desire to do the job right, personal integrity, responsibility, and accountability—and do it just because you value your life energy.”

“Not satisfied to just learn the ropes, he analyzed the game,”



  • The Fulfillment Curve shows that there is a maximum point of fulfillment in work, and beyond it lies the potential for even greater fulfillment through service and voluntary action.
  • FI provides the financial freedom to choose how and what you work on, enabling you to align your actions with your values and passions.
  • Volunteering is a powerful form of self-expression that can lead to deep connections and meaningful contributions to society.
  • The choice is yours: consume or create, focus on yourself or others, continue working for pay or pursue voluntary action.
  • FI offers the opportunity to redefine work and volunteering, moving beyond traditional notions of employees and volunteers as secondary contributors to society.
  • Your post-Crossover life will be rich and varied, following the promptings of your heart and mind, allowing you to live a life of purpose and fulfillment.


“it isn’t the stuff. It’s what the stuff means.”

“What kind of society turns its young people into a profit center for the debt industry? I”



  • Understand that financial independence is not a one-time event but an ongoing process.
  • Create a cash reserve for unexpected expenses and emergencies.
  • Use excess income to build a cache for future use, such as major purchases or investments.
  • Continue to apply the principles of Financial Integrity and Financial Intelligence in your post-FI life.
  • Be open to new sources of income if they align with your values and contribute to your overall financial security and freedom.
  • Educate yourself about long-term income-producing investments, such as real estate or stocks, to build wealth for the future.
  • Manage taxes efficiently to maximize your income and cash flow.
  • Stay informed and adaptive in your financial management to ensure that you maintain a sustainable income over the long term.


“Endless desire is one of the pitfalls of human nature, and one of the first things you need to cure if you want to get ahead more quickly.”



  • Calculate your total lifetime earnings and net worth to gain clarity and confidence in managing your finances.
  • Determine your real hourly wage by tracking all expenses related to maintaining your job.
  • Create a Monthly Tabulation to monitor income and expenses, converting dollars to hours of life energy.
  • Use three questions to evaluate expenditures, ensuring fulfillment, alignment with values, and future Financial Independence.
  • Display a large Wall Chart to visualize progress and inspire you toward full Financial Independence.
  • Minimize spending by asking the three questions monthly, defining true needs, being conscious in purchases, and researching value and durability.
  • Maximize income by examining your purposes for employment and breaking the link between work and wages to increase earnings.
  • Reach Financial Independence by applying the equation of total capital, projecting expense and investment income lines on a chart, and celebrating at the Crossover Point.
  • Manage your finances wisely through knowledgeable and sophisticated long-term income-producing investments.


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