You are about to die. You have but a few precious moments—perhaps, if you’re lucky, years—before all of your life can be described in the perfect tense. Your accomplishments are about to be finite, your expenses numerable.
Given that your resources are limited, it’s worth taking a good deal of time to think about how you will be spending them. To everyone with even a few dollars to their name, to anyone with a few minutes to spare, I would advise you to seek out what matters most in the world and then invest your time and money accordingly.
Debt. Perhaps foremost in any advice on spending is a caution against debt. Never permit your loans to restrict you more than they enable you. How you choose to spend your money should be up to you, not the bank. Freedom is a prerequisite for living a life you can be proud of.
Necessity. There’s a certain kind of money that greases the adult world (e.g. bus fares, restaurant tips, coat check). There’s a special sort of time that you have no choice but to spend (e.g. waiting in grocery lines, walking home from class, etc.). It is only to your disadvantage to begrudge the world these necessary expenditures. Yes, your long-term savings will be statistically significant, but I highly doubt it’s worth being forever known as a miser.
Luxury. It’s $12 for a bouquet of flowers and $25 for the ones that you know your boyfriend will actually enjoy. No one has ever come to the end of their life and said, “I’m so glad I didn’t get that better gift for my roommate’s birthday. There’s no way his smile would have been worth the 13 extra dollars.”
The joy of living in a first world country is that we have the means to offer frequent physical signifiers of our love. Let’s enjoy this privilege while we have it. I would apply this attitude to time as much as to money. Spend liberally. This is the price we pay for the privilege of encountering the ones we love.
Aid. In a time of crises big (Nepal, Baltimore) and small (break-ups, grad school rejections), it’s worth asking whose tragedy warrants your attention. I have yet to donate to earthquake relief efforts, not from a lack of opportunity or means but because it’s outside of my routine. I also doubt I’ve grasped the scale of the destruction to any degree. It’s insidiously easy for vastly important events to fly under our radar.
Were she living, Ayn Rand would insist that need does not entitle anyone to take what is yours. Perhaps I agree. Giving out of my abundance of resources isn’t something I consider an obligation so much as a realization of the uncountable grace God, my family, and my friends have shown to me. I encourage you to ask not what portion of your savings you owe to disaster relief but what portion you can spare in light of your blessed condition.
That Last Dollar. Giving where it counts winds up benefitting you in return. Who you spend time with when there is no time to spend speaks volumes about what matters to you most. Are you blowing off a paper to hang out with those friends of convenience who will totally check out of your life after you graduate, or are you blowing off a paper to grab coffee with the woman who will fly cross-country the next time you need a friend?
I think a lot about what it would be like to give an account for my life: Every YouTube video I watched, every hungry man and woman I walked past in the Square, every phone call with my mom. I don’t know how it would all add up. I know I could do more. We can always do more. In an effort to galvanize a species plagued by procrastination and forgetfulness, I’ll say this: Spend wisely while there’s still something left to spend. Once it’s gone, there’s no getting it back.
Veronica S. Wickline ’16, an ancient history concentrator, lives in Kirkland House. Her column runs on alternate Mondays.
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