How to spend money

If you have some money but not all the money, I ask you to consider how you choose to spend it. What things are worth splurging on? What things you should buy as cheap as possible? Here are a few questions to ask yourself before spending money:

Where do I spend the most time? 

We can get a lot of value out of money if we spend it to enhance the places where we spend the most time. You should spend an average of 8 hours a day on your mattress; make sure it’s a good one. The side effects that come from poor sleep can literally wreck your entire life. Spend a little bit more and sleep well.

We recently had an energy audit on our house. Aside from wrapping water heater pipes and replacing light bulbs, one thing they did was offer to install a water-efficient shower-head. Sure, I said without thinking. The next morning, I was treated to a Seinfeld-like shower with no pressure. NO PRESSURE. I immediately emailed my wife and told her not to stress, that a new shower-head was on the way. I believe my exact words were “We are not going to live like savages.”

DeltaI soon installed a Delta 75152 and it was the best $23 I ever spent. Now we are still seeing a noticeable decrease in water usage while getting a better shower than we ever had before. Fifteen minutes a day in the shower is over 91 hours every year. Money well spent.

You probably spend an awful lot of time at work. Why not spend a couple of bucks to reduce the misery of your workday? A nice plant or decoration can make a huge difference if you have a dedicated workspace. If you are on your feet all day, get quality shoes. These things matter in your life.

What do I see/hear the most? 

Screens. The good ones usually don’t cost much more than the crappy ones. You can’t tell by looking in the stores b/c the lighting and displays are not the same as your home. Check out a site like The Wirecutter and trust their research. You will be thankful later.

Get the biggest screen you can with the highest quality you can. This will pay off for years when you do not feel the urgent need to upgrade again quickly. It’s far better to save and get the right one rather than settle to get one immediately.

Remember that screens now have multiple uses. I bought a large 27″ display for my home computer. I like having it in a dedicated space with a big screen. I also use it to watch Netflix or stream sports in a pinch. This makes it much more versatile than saving a few dollars and reducing my options for using it in different ways.

Between my television and computer screens, I spend a lot of time looking at them. My life is greatly enriched by having a terrific experience in those hours instead of watching mediocre screens. Also, a decent soundbar can make a huge difference in the quality of your home viewing experience without all the hassle of a surround system.

What do I touch the most? 

Spend money on things you touch the most. Even if it seems silly, this will make a huge difference in your daily life. It’s much better to spend money on a shoe horn you use daily instead of a tie you wear once a month. It’s better to have a well-fitting undershirt you wear daily that makes you feel good than one that is too short and irritates you constantly.

A great towel can start every day off on the right foot. If you love to cook, get some decent pots and pans. Love coffee? Spend a weekend upgrading your skills and drink better coffee every day.

How many times will I buy this item? 

We recently replaced our furnace and central air unit. We chose to spend more money on these because even though they are not highly visible, a more efficient furnace will save us money on future energy bills and add value to our home. We also hope this is the only furnace we buy in the next 12-18 years.

Our garage door also recently broke, splintering the wood (it was an old door) beyond repair. Again, we only plan to buy one garage door and felt that a really great door would add value to our home and give us a feeling of pleasure when seeing it daily versus a door that was poorly matched or saved a few hundred dollars over the course of our lifetime.

What should I not spend money on? 

Think about how many times you use a given item and spend money on the things you use the most. Avoid so-called luxury items that are for special occasions only. Odds are, you can rent or borrow one if needed for far cheaper than buying one and you won’t have to maintain or store it.

Do I care what other people think? 

If the most important thing to you in deciding how to spend your money is that other people know how you spend your money, you are going to make poor decisions. You might have a house that’s too large for no reason and a car that costs too much. You will have a lot of things on display for others to see that you rarely interact with yourself. You will wonder why these things do not make you happier.

Don’t do that. Look at your own life, ask the questions above, and spend your money accordingly. If you spend 3 hours a day in your car, by all means, get the best and most luxurious ride you can afford. But make the choice consciously, knowing that you are doing so because it will bring you joy, not just because the neighbors will see it.

Film Recommendation: The Silence

the silence

The Silence is recommended for those who like the recent wave of Scandinavian thrillers, such as The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

The Silence is a film of astonishing depth and grief. At first, I thought the title referred primarily to one character in particular, but over the course of the film I came to realize that each character, and each interaction, is expressed almost entirely by what is not being said rather than what is. It is a riveting, amazing film for those willing to give it a chance.

The plot begins with a brutal rape and murder. I was actually stunned by its violence.The graphic nature of the act is necessary to demonstrate how each character in the movie is subsequently affected by it. Even though the attack lasts only a few seconds, its ghost haunts every remaining frame of the film.

Twenty-three years later, in the exact same place and manner, the crime is repeated. What does it mean? Why now? These questions will be answered in heartbreaking fashion.

One more thing that makes this an interesting movie is the absence of a score. Natural sounds fill the void and the movie’s title takes on additional resonance as a result.

I can’t recommend this film enough. While it’s not action-packed, it has so much truth. This is a great movie. Don’t miss it.

Note: As with any decent film, but especially those revolving around relationships and nonverbal interaction, you have to put your phone/tablet down and actually watch the movie. 


The Silence is available for streaming on Netflix.

John Oliver discusses Step 2 of my plan to fix America

You might remember that I have a 2 step plan to fix America. Step 1 is redistricting reform (exciting!) and step 2 addresses income inequality. Well, John Oliver must be reading my blog, because he tackled the topic brilliantly in the most recent episode of ‘Last Week Tonight with John Oliver‘ on HBO.

This show has become must-watch television. Each week John Oliver takes all the time he needs to provide context and deconstruct a complicated issue. He does it with incredible wit and humor, yet his points are almost inarguable. Just watch the video above. Can anyone deny we have a problem here?

I’m grateful to John Oliver for taking up my cause. He didn’t acknowledge me publicly but that’s ok; I know he’s thinking about me.

Fixing America in 2 Easy Steps: Step 2, Income Inequality

Note: Step 1 of the plan addressed redistricting reform. Read it here. 

Step 2: Income Inequality

Why we need to address it:

  1. By one measure, U.S. income inequality is the highest it’s been since 1928. (Pew Research Center)
  2. 6 percent: That’s how much wages grew for the median worker between 1979 and 2011. Earners in the 95th percentile saw their wages grow by 37 percent over the same time period. Earners in the top 1 percent saw their wages balloon by 113 percent. (The Washington Post)
  3. The top 1 percent pocket more than 20 percent of the nation’s income, and the 400 richest people in the country own more wealth than everyone in the bottom 50 percent. (NPR)

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The Plan:

Limit total compensation of CEO and other management to a certain percentage of the overall company average. I’m not sure what that percentage should be, but any reasonable number will be an improvement. For instance, at Whole Foods, the highest compensated person cannot earn more than 19 times the average for all.

Why it will work:

The system is currently broken. Many companies and their leadership no longer worry about long-term outlook. The only thing that matters is the next quarter’s earning report, which leads to short-term magic tricks with the books to justify ever-larger management bonuses. That person leaves with a golden parachute regardless of performance and someone else gets paid even more to clean it up. Repeat.

This is only possible because our representatives continue to modify the rules to increasingly benefit those who have already made it big. There are few, if any, penalties for outright criminal behavior, which only encourages even greater risks in search of a quick profit.

However, I believe this plan accomplishes two things:

  1. It gives the entire company an incentive to add profit.
  2. It maintains the principle that any individual can make as much money as s/he wants; however, unlike now, everyone that contributes to their success shares in the profits also.

Conclusion:

I believe this simple two step plan of addressing redistricting reform and income inequality would have positive ripple effects in more efficient and responsive government and economic growth. These effects would then lead to tremendous opportunities for our communities at all levels.

While it’s overly simplified here, it will never actually be implemented in any form. The reason is simple: there is no incentive for those who control and benefit from the current system to change it.

Essential Reading: 

The Pitchforks Are Coming… For Us Plutocrats by Nick Hanauer