Imagine that dying isn't a "someday" thing. That eating healthier, getting fitter, and taking better care of yourself in order to increase your longevity can't be put off until "someday."

Instead you know, with absolute certainty, that you only have 100 days to live. Would that change how you live each one of those days? Would that change the decisions you make, the actions you take?

Of course it would.

Now imagine that Ben Franklin was right and that a penny saved is a penny earned--and that you know, with absolute certainty, exactly how much money you'll make between now and when you die.

Down to the Franklinian penny.

Would that change the way you look at money? Would that change what, and how much, you spend? 

For my friend Jacob, it has. (And, as he brought to my attention, it also has for at least one Lifehacker commenter.)

After years of self-described "financial stupidity," Jacob decided he needed an entirely new framework for making spending and saving decisions. He'd tried budgeting, credit card detox, a series of "expert" systems...but nothing worked.

Then he realized he eventually would only make a certain amount of money over the course of his life. Sure, he could try to earn more...but that amount would still be part of his total lifetime income. Which meant "someday" getting a raise was already factored in. So was "someday" making a smart investment.

Or "someday" starting a side hustle, however lucrative.

In short, he couldn't count on making more money tomorrow in order to be able to afford something he wanted to buy today. In his mind, he already "had" what he was ever going to have.

Which changed his whole relationship, if you want to call it that, with money.

"To me, the only way I will ever actually have more money is to spend less money," he says.

If you only have 100 days left to live, you wouldn't waste even one of them. The same applies to money: Always seek to maximize the benefit of what you do spend--or, as he puts it, "Always solve for awesome." That doesn't mean never spending. It just means optimizing spending.

Granted, his is a fairly abstract financial perspective. But it also works.

And it's also a philosophy that can apply to bootstrapping a business. You can hope increased revenues will come along to cover a "nice to have" expense. Or you can decide that your company will only generate a certain amount of revenue over its lifespan--and therefore it only makes sense to incur "need to have" expenses.

Because, since that increase in revenue is already "accounted for," you're spending money you can never get back.

Just like a wasted day is one you can never get back.

Try it. Just for a week. Before you make every discretionary purchase--and keep in mind that many of your "fixed" expenses are actually discretionary expenses--remind yourself that the money you spend will be withdrawn from a fixed total, and can never be replaced.

If nothing else, that should give you pause.

And it may, over time, create a shift in how you spend and save that no amount of budgeting, tracking, and self-discipline has helped you accomplish.

Published on: Sep 18, 2019
Like this column? Sign up to subscribe to email alerts and you'll never miss a post.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.