Quit Window Shopping

Let me sketch a scene out for you:

Bordem has struck your heart. Perhaps you are enjoying the company of your friends, maybe it’s a Tuesday and don’t have work or school.  The air conditioner is set at a cool setting of 6, the sun sits high in the sky as you look out the window.  You’ve had enough of binge watching The Office, you want to seize the day, you want to do something.  Something, anything.

You grab your keys, you get in the car and set your compass to the mall.

It passes as an activity, after all you have to put on clothes to do it. You park in parking lot which is essentially a large tarmac for the all the consumers.  You feel as if this place is now the new public square.  You shuffle through the large parking lot and open the glass doors, the blast of cool air welcomes you to the mall.

You start to walk around, you walk to your litany of stores and you spy signs, advertisements, stuff to influence you.

You go to Trendy Planet and do a couple laps.

Oh wowzers these shoes are like $15 off, I’d be clinically brain dead if I did not buy these!”. 

Now you’re walking around Trendy planet with shoes in your hand and a few cool minutes later you are now an ambivalent owner of Kevin O’Leary brand running shoes.

Window shopping is one of the biggest conduits of unplanned buying.  One of the simplest ways to cut down on unplanned purchases is just simply not being in that situation where you can buy stuff. The next time you are bored, go for a walk instead, geocache, or visit a friend you haven’t seen in awhile.


Letting Go, The Storage Unit Gambit

Last fall I crossed off a long held goal of clearing out my storage locker.

It took some wrangling to get it done, a consortium of friends and family, a situation to where I ended up with more days off than usual, and the proper logistics in place.  But it’s done.

A series of events left me with a storage locker filled with my wordily possessions and I lived without them for over a year.  I paid them $130 a month for the privilege of parking my stuff there.  Insane I know, and it was also the cheapest place in town.  My storage locker will filled with my stuff, everything, furniture, my decrepit coffee maker that I never used, end tables, a collection of junk. It made no sense to keep it, considering I could replace everything with a couple months worth of rent.

I ended up moving and had to leave my storage unit,  6 hours away.  Too far to causally withdraw things.  It started bugging me, there were a few things I needed at my new digs, but most of it I didn’t need.  Once I started cleaning it up, I even realized that there was stuff that I had forgot about it.

What did I do with most of my stuff?  If it didn’t fit, it didn’t ship, I donated most of it.  Donating a mattress is tricky, because everyone is concerned about bed bugs.  What I could fit in the car went to my new temporary digs.  No more $130 monthly rent, no more stuff that made no sense to keep.

This was a nice lesson from minimalism.  This stuff was just there sitting and waiting and now I don’t have that burden anymore and it feels good.



Used Books are the Best

Ever stroll into a new book store?  Ever read the prices on these things? Thomas Piketty’s Capital is like $40, most paperbacks are like $20-30.   Hey, I get it, publishing cost money, paper cost money, distribution, the authors’s time, whatever, it all costs money.  But forget it, used books let you sidestep all that.

In some circles, buying used things is the ultimate confession to being poor.  To be avoided at all cost.  Other circles don’t really care if it’s used or not, perhaps they just care that it is in working order. Books shouldn’t carry that baggage though, this isn’t about a mustard stained T-shirt from the thrift shop, it’s about the ideas that books convey.

Used books are cheap: Used books in thrift shops often suffer from a lack of variety, but enough trawling and you can usually build up a robust library.  Hell, where do you think I get all the books I review on this site?  If you are looking for a very specific title, then it may be hard to get what you’re looking for.  Actual used book stores, are more expensive than the couple dollar affair down at most thrift shops, but, they typically offer more variety.

Used books are often in good shape, but not all the time.  But if you’re paying $1.00 for a book that retailed $30, I don’t mind some creases.  Some people might find marginalia as offensive, I think it actually adds to the reading experience.  It means that someone before you, in this very book took the time to read it and add their thoughts to it.  I have a hard time reading a book without a pen or pencil in my hand to add my thoughts.

I was reading an introductory book to personal finance, I remember the first chapter had highlighted sentences.  But it was only the first chapter, I kept thinking about how a middle aged person probably bought this book, read the first chapter, put it on the night stand for a couple months.  It eventfully made it to the bookshelf and then to the donation box.  Then it went to me, I finished what they couldn’t.

In short, used books are one of the greatest items for the thrift shopper.


User Product Reviews, How Far Do They Take Us?

Let’s say you’re looking for a new blender.  Why do you need a blender?  I don’t know, something about “healthy smoothies” or something.  You go on Amazon you look up blender and because you want super duper crush technology and “total annihilation mode” you find the XF-8756 Samurai model.   The blades were fashioned by ancient Japanese Samurais, curved blades that look like katana blades. The Samurai blender slices up bananas and protein powder like ancient Samurais did during the  Sengoku period.    So this blender is like $200, while most other ones are $30, but again, you want that total annihilation mode.  So you get this one, you read the reviews because you a smart, independent consumer who ain’t need no salesman.  Basically 90% of them are 5 star, now you can rubber stamp your purchase and be on your way.

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Experencies vs. Things

I think it’s time to talk about the experience vs. things dichotomy.

If you’re unfamiliar with what I’m talking about, here’s the cliff notes:

Forgot guns vs butter from the econ classroom, this is about vacations versus iPads.  It’s about consumer goods from big box USA versus a rum fueled night at the beach in Cuba, or a stroll around the Eiffel Tower.

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