I’d like to do A with the cost of B

As a woman, Ms. Happy has learnt early on that women don’t usually negotiate. That applies to almost everything: salary at workplace, housework at home, etc. I was taught that women should always ask for something when someone makes a request to you. And a useful trick to learn is that you always say “I’d like to do A if B”. For example, when someone asked whether you can give a talk at an event, the most intuitive thing to do is “Sure, why not?”. But a good negotiator would always say: Yes, I’d like to give a talk if you can get me connected with xx at the event.

I have been using the same technique to negotiate with myself for every penny I take out of my pocket. For example, when I really want to buy a nice pair of shoe, instead of asking my friend whether this looks nice on me, I ask myself “do you want to own this if it costs you three hours family time”.

I strongly recommend you break down your salary based on both working hours and work-related hours. If you actually do that, you will see you probably earn much less than you thought. For example, if one has to spend 1 hour commute to work, and you spend 8 hours in the office, your daily working/work-related hours is actually 10 hours. Or if you have to go to a few work events each week, you need to add these hours to your calculation too. In the end, you may find that you work more than 8 hours per day. In other words, you earn less than you thought. Keep that number in mind and let’s continue our self-negotiation practice.

Now, when you see a nice pair of shoes (or the newest iphone), do the following:

  1. How much (in terms of my time) does it cost? 3 hours? 50 hours?
  2. Think about all the things that you want to do with this amount of time and ask yourself again whether you still want to buy it.
  3. If the answer is yes, think about the scenario that what if you put this amount of money in your investment account to compound for 20 years. Use the most conservative strategy (with 7% annual return), calculate how much would this money generate by then. Think about how much would this pair of shoes (or iphone) worth at that time.
  4. If you still want to buy it, buy it.

This is the practice that you should do for every penny you take out of your pocket. It doesn’t matter how small the amount is, it trains you to be mindful about your money. More importantly, your energy! Most of us exchange our time and energy for money, and these resources are limited!

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