My New Year’s Resolution: A Luxury Tax for 2019

I am writing this largely for myself, both to help me sort out the details of the plan and to keep myself accountable to it throughout the year. If anyone else finds it at all interesting, that’s a nice bonus.

I tend to keep pretty busy in this down week between Christmas and New Years, planning the year ahead. I’m not a huge believer in yearlong resolutions, because a year is both a long and arbitrary span of time. Most of my resolutions actually come around my birthday, because that seems like a more natural time to reflect and make changes, but this year, I’m going to try something.

I am an absurdly lucky person. We live comfortably, with a nice house and all the food we need, and though we’re far from rich, we have a lot. Some of that we use for day to day needs, and some of it I spend on myself, as we all do. I’m not a fancy person, and I’m not talking about cars and vacations here. More like movies, books, and occasional pot stickers. As I look back on 2018 and the myriad problems in my city, state, country and world that both arose and continued this year, although that number was never obscene, I feel like it was too much. Simultaneously, the amount that I spent on causes and charities, on improving the world toward what I want it to be and believe it can be, could have been higher.

For both of these reasons, I’ve decided to donate to charities and causes next year an amount at least equal to the amount that I spend purely on myself. For lack of a better term, I’m calling this a luxury tax.

Here are the rules:

  • Every two weeks, I will make a donation, equal to either my personal non-necessary spending over that period or $20.00, whichever is higher. That’s 26 payments, with a minimum total of $520.00 over the year.
  • Non-necessary spending means anything I spend purely on myself, beyond bills, groceries, and other costs of living. Eating out by myself, going to coffee shops, train trips into the city, entertainment, etc. Anything that benefits my wife or step-daughter or anyone else can be exempted. This is about me, and I want it to affect anyone else as little as possible.
  • I will record all amounts and recipients in a spreadsheet, and announce all recipients when I make the donations on Twitter and here on the blog. I will not publicly announce amounts donated.

I go into this with full realization and acceptance that this is an act of privilege. I may not be rich, but I have extra money to spend, and that’s a luxury. I don’t think spending money on yourself is a bad thing. Self-care is important, and I get enormous value out of the occasional hot chocolate or tea at my local coffee shop. But for me personally (and with no expectations or obligations to anyone else), I will feel better about those little luxuries if I know that each one will benefit someone other than myself and the vendor I buy from. It’s an attempt, maybe a slightly ham-handed one, to introduce more intentionality into my consumerism, and bring my walk slightly closer to my talk on the issues that matter most to me.

The donations so far:

  • #1 (Jan 1-14): Oregon Food Bank
  • #2 (Jan 15-28): Portland Rescue Mission
  • #3 (Jan 29-Feb 11): Oregon Public Broadcasting
  • #4 (Feb 12-25): Southern Poverty Law Center
  • #5 (Feb 26-Mar 11): Books to Prisoners
  • #6 (Mar 12-25): Define American
  • #7 (Mar 26-Apr 8): Renewable Northwest
  • #8 (Apr 9-22): Planned Parenthood
  • #9 (Apr 23-May 6): StayWoke

As I write this, it’s late in the evening on December 28th, 2018, so the period covered by this plan will begin in 3 days. I expect to update this post or write more as the plan goes on. I hope that sharing it publicly will help keep me on track throughout this long, arbitrary year to come.

Happy holidays. Happy New Year. Be well and be as good as you can. I have some work to do on both of those, but here goes.

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