What The “Better-Yourself Tax” Is & How It Can Help You Live A Better Life

I know it’s no longer the sexy time of the year to be thinking about self-improvement (hello, New Year’s), but I’m still chipping away at the goals I’ve set for myself and recently had an aha moment. I’m trying to be better, and yes, most of my goals are somewhat tangible, but it’s so easy to slip into apathy. I work 8+ hours a day with my regular job, and honestly, sometimes I get home and just want to pour myself a glass of wine and put on the next episode of The Magicians.

And I’m sure I’m not the only one. Maybe it’s not The Magicians for you – maybe it’s social media or reality TV. Maybe it’s junk food. Whatever it is, it’s time that isn’t going to do Future You any favors. But that doesn’t mean you should deprive yourself! We need to find the balance between feeding into comfortable time-wasting habits and continuing to make ourselves better people.

Enter the Better-Yourself Tax

So, okay – back to that aha moment. I was recently reminiscing about my favorite startup, and something the CEO said popped back into my mind. He said that if people had to power their own devices (think your tv, smartphone, laptop) through physical work, such as running on a treadmill and generating electricity, some of the nation’s health problems would disappear.

Unfortunately (fortunately?), I don’t see the world going off the grid and onto the gridirons in the near future, but that doesn’t mean we can’t adopt the methodology for ourselves. In order to indulge in my self-gratifying luxuries, I have to earn them – and not just through my paycheck. I have to do something productive for my personal wellness. I’m essentially “charging” myself for the time that doesn’t serve me.

Think About the Time That Doesn’t Serve You

The first step is to take an honest look at how you’re spending your time. For me, this is obviously my favorite SciFi show and spending hours on Pinterest, dreaming about my future garden. But think about which hobbies might only provide easy instant gratification:

  • Social media
  • Reality TV
  • RomComs and slasher films alike
  • Online shopping
  • Lazing around with your furry friend
  • Fluff podcasts, talk shows, magazines…
  • Desserts/junk food
  • Drinking
  • Smoking legal things (if you’re so inclined/located)

And don’t get me wrong: downtime is important. And damn it, everyone needs to recharge a bit! But let’s be honest and admit that it’s easy to go overboard.

Give Yourself Something Back

There are probably a lot of better things you can do with your time, so do one of them!

  • Clean one space in your home
  • Stretch
  • Complete one full workout
  • Finish one chapter in the book you still haven’t finished (no judgment!)
  • Tackle one outstanding project from work
  • Do one thing to boost your side hustle
  • Catch up on what’s new in your industry
  • Finish one language lesson on Duolingo
  • Call your grandparents and plan a day together
  • Meditate
  • Sign up for a service to stay politically informed
  • Clean up your finances or open your first investment account
  • Complete one DIY or home improvement project

Pick one thing that serves Future You, and complete the task before indulging in your favorite time-waster. Your future self will thank you for taking one thing off of her to-do list, and it’ll make self-indulgence feel so much sweeter.


Life is all about balance, and anyone who says they spend every minute of every day working towards their goals is either full of shit lying or crazy. Give yourself a break, but also give your future self a little something as a thank you. Today You and Future You both deserve it.

Tis is a 20-something recruiter, startup enthusiast, finance blogger, and proud feminist-slash-crazy cat lady. Find her on Twitter or check out the blog for lifehacks and musings on personal finance, professional growth, and enjoying the journey to early retirement.

Image via Unsplash

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This