Most of us are unconsciously aware of the relationship between work and play: work gives us enough money to play. People spend 8 hours (or more) everyday for a promise. The promise that when payday comes, they’ll have enough money to play their way. Note that “play” here means recreation and indulgence in general. From someone on the assembly line to an executive seated in front of his desk, workers commit to a daily schedule so that they can pay for what they want to enjoy during their spare time. Like a tour of a national landmark, or a trip to another country. And the rent for a basketball court or a golf club membership. Or even a new phone or car.
The same applies to freelancers. A reason why we market our skills and work hard to submit projects on time and to spec is to earn the payoff. This—work for enough play money—is the ideal setup. Too often, we find ourselves with too little money to pay for the play we really want. That’s because while everyone is aware of the work–play relationship, not all realize its ramifications.
Wanted: A Long-Term Play Plan
We tend to approach play haphazardly, at least from a financial point of view. We usually go for what catches our fancy, and that’s the problem. Just as we take a long–term approach to work, the same should apply to play. Instead of buying the new gadget we saw while walking down the mall, we can delay our gratification a bit. While we won’t get what we want right away, the benefits will be long–term and much more lasting.
Personally, whenever I earn money, I don’t spend it all in one weekend. A percentage immediately goes to my savings, which I protect at all costs. The only time I dig into the reserve is when I use to create a money–making asset (investment), to pay for a significant (yet well–considered) purchase, or for emergencies. The long–term benefit here is that while I won’t be able to play whenever I want to, the times when I do are more meaningful. A single day spent purchasing that dream laptop feels definitely better than a daily regimen of going out, which involves frequent—and ultimately greater—payments for food, drinks, and transportation.
In other words, if you play too much, then you won’t be able to play when you really want to. But there’s nothing wrong with playing short–term. If there was, then you wouldn’t be going out with your friends, treating a loved one to dinner, or taking roadtrips to near (or far) places. Which would make for a boring and miserly life. Yet, to cite conventional yet relevant wisdom: spend only within your means.
Playing Within Your Means
Spending within your means makes it easier to save, which is important. The savings generated by putting off your indulgence also represents the gains from your hard work. If you make $99 million, but nothing’s left at the end of each month, what’s the point? When I totaled the net income of the pay checks from my first job, I was surprised at how much money I earned. And I wondered where it all went, since I only had a few dollars left in my bank account.
In short, the secret to maintaining a great relationship between your work and play is to play only as much as your income will allow. A long–term outlook on your future spending is also a necessity. If your earnings aren’t enough for the life you want, then work towards making more money with less effort. And at the same time accepting the fact that you won’t be able to pay for everything you want right now. At least not yet.