On Spending Money
What are things (for fundamental reasons) for which you are unwilling to pay?
This essay organized from thoughts originating in this facebook forum.
Drinks. I typically am against buying drinks, unless as a symbolic gesture of respect to make others more comfortable during a meeting or to secure work space. The reason is mostly fiscal conservation -- the average person drinks around half a gallon (8 cups) of liquid a day. Assuming a drink is a dollar, this has an upper bound of $2120 a year. Many drinks are more than a dollar (granted most of these drinks need not be purchased). Still, I can think of better ways to invest $2k and many of the drinks I would purchase are not good for my health. I do not purchase drinks at bars (partially because I infrequently drink to begin with and dislike bars)
Premium Services & Media.In general, I am not a huge fan of premium services (when an acceptable or comparable alternative to the service exists). I do not like paying for movies (theatre). Renting a movie is fine by me and I'd rather not make an event of it*. I'd rather a (wave a flag and name your favorite affordable American vehicle < $25k here, for political reasons) than a maserati. I've changed my mind slightly on the stance "should maserati exist" (I used to be staunchly against, now I somewhat see this as a comparable argument to inefficient farm watering -- the water or wealth makes it back into the system, inefficiencies and externalities (positive and negative) granted.
Also, my mind has been changed on "premium" services by Mark Carranza and CR Saikley (documented in my https://michaelkarpeles.com/curations/life-lessons). Mark feels investing in a motorized scooter has made a big difference in his life in terms of enabling him. Enabling is the key. Someone might argue a Maserati enables them, maybe to close a business deal (whether it should or not, I can't argue the outcome). Here's CR's story:
"Several years ago my wife bought me a very nice guitar - much nicer than I would have considered buying for myself. After a bit of playing this transcendent instrument, my playing went to an entirely different level. I realized a couple things. The first is that my old instrument was holding me back. The second is that life is far too short to spend any time in that state." -- CR Saikley
I am a musician who buys used and cheap instruments -- many of them -- and so this especially resonated with me.
**This is sarcasm.
Books. One of my biggest hypocritical stances: I ideologically don't like the idea of paying money to lease books (within out existing system) because I would like to live in a world where general knowledge is something which is shared and not only available to the privileged. If I can pay for a book to be added to a library for the community to then access, or contribute towards a book being published in such a way where everyone would eventually have access to it, I would purchase so many more books (and thus I try to purchase books and donate them to Open Library). I feel similarly about education and educational lessons. Educators and content producers deserve to be compensated. And meanwhile it is also true we have some obligation to support our community, especially those least well positioned.
Responses & Reflections
Elise Liu's answer was:
"Sex. Non-financial advice. Diamonds.
I do pay for cleaning, housework, etc, and it makes me feel guilty."
I can't stand the idea of sexual trafficking (which I think is on the spectrum and impacted / scaled by policy on such questions as paying for sex). The idea of selling sex is unattractive to me but, I on principle try to support peoples' choice to use their body how they wish (though I have trouble reconciling this in cases where people are put in situations where they effectively don't have any alternative -- e.g. almost the trafficking case, or being pimped out and unable to escape the cycle). I think if one does enough analysis (and one is afforded enough liberties) one might find many sexual encounters to be something other than an purely consensual exchange -- i.e. they would not still participate, all things being equal -- (e.g. that a form of payment could be discerned in the form of money, a meal, drinks, emotional security). Economics gets tricky when these units are coalesced to dollar bills. It's almost a form of social encryption and indirection -- a social silk road.
I like Elise's answer of not purchasing diamonds or other conflict resources (given it doesn't put me in an unrealistic financial disadvantage -- to be evaluated on a case by case basis)
I don't feel guilty about house cleaning / house work so much as I often feel uncomfortable (like an oppressor). For me I acknowledge it as both a luxury and a valid means of work -- because I have discretionary income, I am willing to let myself become more time constrained than responsible, until I don't have time for housework. I am willing to trade money for someone else's time if they are amenable.
This said, in the last five years I made a lifestyle decisions to re-evaluate the discrepancy between the amount of things I owned and my willingness to maintain them and elected to get rid of many of my belongings -- both making upkeep manageable and making it unreasonable to merit hiring help. Most my important belongings fit into a backpack and a jacket. It required me to make sacrifices to align my goals and lifestyle with my belongings. It also has consequences, likely in the form of people respecting me less for my presentation.
What makes me very uncomfortable is when people are not sensitive to the power dynamic of such situations as house cleaning and treat people as workers first, rather than humans first. The same goes towards waiters at restaurants, anyone in the service industry, or workers in general. I'm willing to complain if I pay for something and it is broken or not as advertised, but I try to keep a clear mind to evaluate whether the fault is in the purview of the service person. The exception is for a service (like health insurance) where I effectively don't have a choice but to participate and feel extorted. And to be honest, this is how the house-cleaner might feel. And is even more reason to be mindful.
Jessamyn West raises a great point:
"credit card fees"
Jessamyn's point resonates with me. I make it a policy to avoid any sort of debt I cannot be prepared to immediately write off. i.e. I participate because there is some monetary incentive to, and not out of some need. I also try to avoid recurring payments. Where I have recurring fees, I use these services excessively (smart phone, internet, gym membership, rent), the exception being insurance (which feels more like an obligation). I do not have a membership to Amazon prime, to netflix,
Things on which I am happy to spend money
- rock climbing (This makes something I enjoy more accessible)
- computing equipment enough to sufficiently enable my person and satisfy my curiosity)
- people / others (I like treating people to meals and events)
- transportation (I think public transportation is great)
- taxes (I like subsidizing the public services I use)
- internet access and library infrastructure (though I wish this was a human right, paid for by taxes, and that there were regulations which required it to be a subsidized highly competitive service)