Musing About This And That – Part 3
Some unexpected costs came up. I had to fix a couple of things in my apartment and I also had to use parts of my savings. However, since I was really patient and saved a nice sum, it did not hurt a lot. I do always save money for something, but the recent saving box was set up when I dreamed of a 600mm tele lens or a decent macro lens. Before that, I always wanted to get a decent guitar, which means I realized that this should be first on the list. I was so patient that I was able to afford a really nice one, but it was problematic to try and purchase a guitars. Eventually I realized that even if I split the amount and take something out, I would be still able to afford one of the larger items on my wish list, for the example a 100mm or 150mm macro lens, or even a 600mm tele lens. A week ago I decided to split the amount and took 700 Euro out and left 1000 Euro in the box. I thought, as patient as I am, it’s no real issue to put the 700 Euro back into the box, it would just take a few months depending on how frugal I live. But frugal living, that’s really what I am good at because I don’t constantly add new things to my wish list nor do I throw around with money out of boredom.
Anyway, now I wanted to get myself something and purchased the Samsung Galaxy Tab A10.1 and the Google Chromecast Stick. That did cost me almost 250 Euro, but unrelated to this I also had some costs to fix something in my kitchen. I first thought I would need to call a craftsman, but as curious and determined as I am, I tried to get the job done on my own. It didn’t look good, but I focussed so much on it and tried so many things, that it was suddenly fixed, perfectly fixed. It was one of those “Yeah, you got that right” moments, a feeling as if I won a war. I have two left hands as we say in Germany if someone is not good with his hands, but I have the mindset that is needed to solve issues, and that alone can sometimes be enough to venture on new things, to learn something new. In other words, if I want to understand something, and if I start to focus heavily on the issue, I get it done. Fixing the issues did cost me 50 Euro because I needed some material, but that’s way better than giving a craftsman about 300 Euro or even more.
Next I repaired the front of a drawer in my kitchen, because it was loose. But that was easy and without costs because a friend is carpenter and gave me special wood glue. Then I was bored and got the idea to tidy out my apartment. When I opened my cabinets, I found so many things and wondered why I don’t throw certain things away. I went through all rooms and tried to find things that I don’t need anymore. I don’t collect everything, but in some cases I put things into the cabinet because I think it could be still useful in the future. But when I do for example find product boxes of three years old graphic cards that have almost no resell value anymore, why do I still have the product box in the cabinet? It just because you think “In case I want to sell it on Ebay, it’s better I have the original box”. Although, I barely sell something on Ebay because I am always sure that I myself need the things before I purchase them. Anyway, there is a point where you don’t need certain things anymore and I found a lot of worthless or old things, and during the “seek and destroy” process, I could also clean areas that are harder to clean on a regular basis. All that did cost nothing, but then I noticed my walls…
Now I did still have 400 Euro of the 700 Euro in the hand, but with the difference that I was now totally in the mood to improve more things in my apartment. The walls don’t look good anymore. It’s been a while since I painted my walls, I guess it was three years ago. I had one room where I smoked some cigarettes when I was still a smoker. This room definitely needs a new paint while the other rooms look somewhat fine. But I don’t like the idea to finish just one room, I need to do the other ones anyway at some point. And out of my experience, white is not equal white, and all it takes to recognize that is to move a picture frame. I got the idea to do it all at once within the next two weeks. It’s the perfect season to do it, because it’s moderate or cold weather, and I would definitely hate to do the job during summer. I went into one of our large DIY markets and did spend about 200 Euro on tools and material. I could have been fine with just 100 Euro, but I wanted white paint buckets with the best covering power and a friend suggested a brand, which means I did not want to save money here. When this friend heard about my plans, he offered to help me, which is great because then it takes less time. We will do this soon.
I did still have 200 Euro left but currently there is nothing else I would like to purchase. I decided to put the remaining 200 Euro back into the savings box, which means I went back up from 1000 Euro to 1200 Euro in the box. Until spring I should be back to the initial amount of 1700 Euro unless I take it easy with the savings. No matter what, I could afford tele lens or one of the more expensive macro lenses tomorrow if I make the decision. And if I really want a new guitar first, it should be possible to find one at the same price range, or I save until spring and get myself one of the high-end guitars. I would need to purchase one in Hamburg anyway, and with bad luck I might even need to travel to Frankfurt where there is more choice. Of course, unexpected costs can always get in your way, but in theory my plan is fine. I told grandma what I did with my money, and she was happy because she thinks apart from monthly utility costs, I am living way too frugal. She’s right with that, I usually just take care of my monthly costs, and I take care that there is food in the fridge and that I have clothes, but that’s mostly all I do. Since she does know that I often do pinch pennies, she asked how I would feel now and I said that I don’t feel bad. I also said that the tech gadgets are worth every cent and that I use the stuff a lot now. I also said that I am happy that I could repair some things in my apartment, and that I am excited to give my apartment a new paint soon.
However, she does also understand that I have dreams, for example how important a better guitar would be for me, and that I like security as well. Taking a look at my circles, I’d say we don’t have the greatest income. The reality is that many people barely get through the month. Especially those that have additional monthly and yearly costs, for example because they own a car to name just one example. The reality is that many people just can decide to either get a certain living standard (which would include owning a car and other examples), but then the budget in Germany gets really tight or they decide to go without certain things that are seen as standard and it would open the possibility to put something to the side. So, you either decide to live what seems to be the standard, or you decide what is most important for yourself and skip other things. Depending on the income, which doesn’t vary a lot in my circle anyway (I don’t have doctors or lawyers as friends), that decision alone makes sure if you can or can not save money. If you manage it so save 100 or up to 300 Euro per month in Germany with the low-income I am talking about, you probably live very frugal in other parts of your life. Getting an idea what you want to purchase today, and doing it tomorrow is for me basically the exact opposite of living economical.
That’s where my fear of spontaneously spending money comes from. That’s why I don’t do it very often. I don’t like impulses, and I don’t allow someone else to exploit any of my impulses. An impulse should not decide if I need something, it’s much better if I sleep seven nights over it, better more, and when I afterwards still think it’s a great idea, it’s not an impulse anymore and it’ll be a great purchase and nothing what I want to sell within the next years on Ebay. I know if I always would do it like some other people with the same income do it, there would be no way to put something to the side. I don’t like to live on a way that I have to count the days at the end of the month, because things in my wallet getting scarce. If that is what “living today” instead of “living tomorrow” means, then I prefer to live tomorrow. I also don’t like to own or do things just because everyone else is owning or doing these things. I don’t care about everyone else, I only care about my own needs. I follow some trends, but not the trends of other people. We’re not rich, but when I manage it to save at least a small amount each month, I get the feeling of security anyway. So, in the recent case, I don’t feel bad that I did spend money, because I know there are still 1200 Euro left. I feel more secure if I save more money than is needed for an item on my wish list. In other words, I feel better if I have two strings in a bow instead of just one.
I do agree with my grandma, that you sometimes should treat yourself with some purchases, like moving some smaller items on your wish list to the top, making them a priority, even if you have bigger plans. Just to motivate yourself, to show yourself that saving money makes sense. But it shouldn’t happen regularly, because then you never you achieve your big goals on the list. There are also things I don’t agree with. I respect everyone, because “to each his own” but there are things that I would definitely not apply to my own life. A friend told me once that he could save 200 Euro per month but he always finds something that he can purchase with it. Within the sentence I could spot the issue already, because it seemed as if he was constantly on a search for something new. Days later he told me how mad he is that he can’t afford a used car. When we speak about used cars, we’re probably speaking about 1000 but no more than 2000 Euro. I thought it’s not that he can’t afford the car (not factoring maintenance costs in here to be honest), I thought it’s because he’s not willing to put a bit of cash for the next 5-10 months to the side. In other words, he’s not patient, he thinks it takes too much time, and thus he’s spending the remaining money at the end of the month on things just because they look shiny on a shelf in a store, to eventually sell the items with a loss on Ebay a few months later. I didn’t tell him, at least not to the degree I am writing it here, but this is the reason why it’s not possible for him. This is the reason why it is not bad to be afraid before you spend 100 here and 50 there. If you regularly walk into the stores to find inspiration where to spend your money, it’s probably not a good recipe to have something left over.
Let me move away from the personal level for a moment and let me ponder about a question that is often asked in small talk, or when people start to dream. You probably know the lottery question. I assume you barely play the lottery, but imagine you do it once and you win a couple of millions. Have you ever heard the answers when someone is dreaming about it? I find that so funny. I am not sure how often I heard it, but I probably don’t lean myself too far out of the window if I say in every third case the answer will be “I’d get myself a really nice villa!” or “Well, then I could finally drive a Ferrari!”. Why is that? I think the answer is the same. People pay way too much attention to the things that other people own. They’d go broke for the exact same reason why some people with moderate or low-income can’t even save 20 Euro per month. I saw it a couple of times in documentaries where people won 5 million and went broke after just two years. You’re kidding me I thought, but it seems to happen. Well, I think the answer is, it doesn’t matter what kind of income you have, if you can’t stay afloat with an income of 1200 Euro net per month, you will also not stay afloat with 5 million on your bank account. Because if you choose an apartment that costs you 800 Euro per month with the 1200 Euro net income, just because some other hipsters in your company did it to look good, you will probably also spend 3 million on a villa if you won 5, just because some other rich people do it. In both cases, the money spend on the roof over the head is disproportional to the money on the bank account. Let’s be honest, there is absolutely zero chance that I could spend 5 million in my remaining life time. The only way I would be able to do it, is if I would be diagnosed terminal ill. But even then I would make sure that my family would inherit enough money to stay afloat for their whole life.
Don’t get me wrong, I am no financial advisor nor is it a real trick to put a bit of money to the side, especially not the small amount I put aside. And there are even cases where it’s definitely not possible because the person is under financial pressure, because yes, we all experienced it at some point in our life. The point I wanted to make is that some (not all) people have no clue how they can keep themselves busy over the course of several months without buying new toys. I am not even against purchases, because if that would be the case, I would have no wish list. I just think that some people have no clue what they really want, maybe they don’t even have special interests at all, which means they are caught in this wheel of constantly buying random new things that sit on the shelves in stores, things that end up at Ebay sooner or later because they realize it was just a mood, an impulse purchase again, and nothing what they really needed. Then there are also those that do spend like 300 Euro on headphones, because a certain brand did tout the headphones would be more special than those for 50-100 Euro (No joke, you get headphones for 50-100 Euro that blow your brain out of your head if you’re not careful, and that are far superior to the overpriced alternatives). There is a reason why marketing and promotion works, because there are people who are responsive to it. The only way to get around this is to know what you want, to do your own research, and to wait until you feature out that it’s not just one of those temporary “I want something new” impulses. There are things that are worth larger money, but not because a promotional sign told you so. There are things that are better than what you own, but not because a marketing campaign told you so.
Do I really need a new phone every year? Back then I was pretty surprised how some companies could get away with the fact that they release new products regularly that are just slightly faster, maybe with a new colour or a slightly different appearance. Today I am not that surprised anymore. It works because people have no idea what they are buying, and they also don’t realize how irrelevant it is that someone else just got this shiny new phone. The most recent and most exploited customer base are now gamers. Holy mother of all pixels, this is a market I saw transforming from a totally legitimate creative field with products that constantly became better and better, to a greedy industry that does squeeze every last penny out of their customers while releasing products that are no more than just unfinished and technically worse templates of previous released games. They don’t even try anymore to come up with new or improved gameplay features. They just polish the graphics and release the same stuff that was done a decade ago expect that the gameplay was far better back then. However, what they improve is the way to shove stupid stuff in your face that costs real money, in other words, they improve to monetize the products that you already paid for. Right, you paid for it, but they want you to pay more during your play sessions. Today, they have whole store fronts in the games where you can buy content, no more than pixels on a screen, and there are people spending money on it. Hey or this, “Do you want to be a real GAMER?”, when I saw this message on my screen during GPU driver update, I did cringe so hard that I did almost fall from my chair. What exactly is a real gamer? I was afraid to click the link because I didn’t want to lose my brain cells. I can’t tell you what kind of product I would have found. I am just sure that the message will attract buyers, if that’s the case, stupid buyers.
Don’t worry, I did not fall from the chair. By the way, it’s a normal office chair and it did probably cost no more than €50. Did you know that you can spend six times as much and more on a chair just because it is labeled as “Gaming chair” and does look like it was stolen out of a sci-fi spaceship movie set in Hollywood? Have you ever heard of mechanical keyboards where every key can blink in colours due to integrated LED’s? I don’t want to argue again if it makes sense or not, because if you think that is a luxury item you want to purchase because you have enough money left over, that’s fine. It’s just these or similar items are touted to the world with marketing speech like “Be a real GAMER” as if the term “Gamer” is some kind of rank that you need to acquire by purchasing fancy looking hardware. The gaming niche is now professionalized, not that the products do improve, rather the way they shove them into your face. It’s nuts, and here is my point again. Some markets are hammered with new items, some make sense some not so much, but there will always be people who think they need the latest stuff just because it’s touted as an item that makes you become a gamer, a better being or what not. There is stupid money all over the place, and business learned how to collect it, otherwise you would not see such stupid slogans. There are people who purchase everything as long as they still have money, not because they need it, not because they can afford it but rather because they are totally brainwashed by marketing divisions, or deluded by a marketing campaigns. My point is again, there is always something new, and if you need everything new, there is no way you will ever save a single penny to get the things that you really need.
Maybe this is also something that you learn the older you get. And I am sure marketing agencies can’t play games with you either, but the sad truth we’re the minority. To be honest, I believe I was more responsive to stuff like that too when I was 20 or so. There was also a time where I tried to hop on every trend, simply because it was trendy. I eventually got tired of it, because as I said, when purchases are driven by impulses or influences by everyone else but not yourself, the things you get make you more unhappy than happy, and the stuff ended up on the second-hand market. Maybe I can speak of luck that businesses still tried to feature out back then how to find new customers. Today they don’t just know how to find customers, they even know how to transform people who are not interested in the product into people who spend big money on it without questioning if it makes sense for them. Maybe not you and me, but there are enough sheeple where it works. Say hello to “behavioral economics”. If you now think, this dude tried to save 2 grands and wanted to spend it on a guitar, how can he give financial advise? Then you absolutely did not understand my point. I don’t give advise, I share my observations. I don’t care if you purchase a gaming chair for 500 Euro because you the particular chair is comfy or looks great, but I feel concerned that these companies managed it to delude people to the point that it’s today possible to find users in forums claiming that it’s impossible to play computer games while sitting on an office chair. I played PC games while sitting on a kitchen chair, and that worked for three years until the chair broke. Also I play guitar since over 15 years, it’s probably more crazy that I play on the same average guitar since 10 years without buying a new one. Also fixing certain issues of the guitar would cost half of the money compared to getting a decent new guitar.
If you collect stamps and if you would purchase rare stamps for I don’t know how much money, I don’t care. My photography hobby is equal, just that I collect pictures and sometimes also new lenses that do cost something too. If you have a hobby and you spend money on it, that’s fine. I am talking about people who run into the store to purchase a new phone even if the last one was purchased three months ago, and then they wonder why they can’t save a single penny. I even would understand it if something broke, but industries managed it to take an architecture, then they improve the performance by let’s say 5% and give it a new case to sell it to people as new product. It’s about TV’s, phones and all kind of gadgets you can think about. I am even fine with that since it’s a free market, but anyone who tries to keep up with the speed of freshly released products, is nothing else but influenced, if not even controlled by these businesses. And often these are the persons that complain that they can’t save for something they always wanted get their hands on. It makes a real difference if you purchase something that keeps you amazed for a very long time until you want to get something better, compared to buying new things every month to eventually grow out of the products after weeks because marketing or someone else told you there is something newer, allegedly better. When my friend told me that he isn’t patient enough to keep his fingers still for at least 5 to 10 months depending on how much he wants to spend on a used car, I could just reply “It takes longer if you don’t start”.
My reply would probably different if we talk about building a house or about something else that would take decades if not even a half-life. But waiting 5 or 10 months for something that you could afford within a year, that’s a very realistic and reasonable goal. It’s actually more reasonable than fishing for the latest products as said. I won’t die if I skip several years of smartphone development, in fact mine is from 2012 and has a large crack on the screen. But I can call people, and I can receive calls, and apps are working too even with the old Android version. It would probably be reasonable to put a new phone on top of the wish list after so many years and I will probably do this at some point, but here we are again: It is all about your or my own needs, and what is more important to each of us. It’s not possible to own everything, and sometimes it takes time to get certain things. It’s however possible to set priorities, and to be patient. What is also possible is to give materialism less importance. I can’t live completely frugal, because I can’t just go outside and create a campfire on a street, but I can try to consume less and I can try to want less, I can focus on a few things. And I can do things that don’t cost money at all. And we should appreciate these things.
Let’s take blogging as an example. I started my blog around 2011, and I somehow found joy to share words, thoughts and photos. Blogging did not really cost me a lot of money, it was something I could start with something everyone owns anyway, a computer. You can spend a bit of money to get this or that, like getting a domain, but if you choose to, you can absolutely do it for free. It’s one of these activities that make it easy to enjoy the time without spending large amounts of money. Or let’s talk about playing an instrument, you might need to pay for it once but as I said, if you are hooked you can enjoy it for over 10 years with one and same instrument until you forget how much you paid for it. Ok, there is still materialism visible in this example but let’s talk about other important things. I can have a good time by just visiting the family and or friends, I can go outside and walk through the park or nature in general. So, the question is, do we regularly need new things? At some point I realized that this is not the case. You can have a good time with the things you have, and you can even have a good time without anything at all. When someone constantly needs to spend money to be able to enjoy the time, then I’d say it’s a first world problem and nothing else.
I realized this earlier as said, but when I was in Reinfeld and when I sat on a rotten bench in a forest with all the colourful plants on the ground, I realized this even more. I remember days when I sat there alone in the forest, for two hours on the bench, leaned back, listening to the birds and getting a few sunbeams on the forehead because they got through the trees and I’ve been just lucky in these moments. I wouldn’t say that I am unlucky now that I am back in the city since a while. But I learned even if there is less to do in a small village, you can be equally and sometimes even more happy than in a city where there is more to do. The irony is that a bit of materialism got me to this point, because when I started with photography, I also started to pay more attention again to the things around me, like flowers, plants and animals or what not. There was a point where I literally walked blindfolded though the life. When we all were childs, we could be excited about small things and had stuff in our mind like “Oh, look this snail on the ground!” but it’s like you lose it. It’s maybe not the same, but I got that back with photography, and now I don’t even need the camera to have my eyes opened again. Today it’s probably a bad idea to be as frugal as Robinson Crusoe, but trying to consume so much that materialism eventually consumed you, that’s equally bad. I think it’s like with everything, find the middle. There are “forces” that want to push us into a hamster wheel. I don’t want to seek the latest greatest, I want focus on a few things that make me happy. That’s why I am patient. It’s not difficult to wait for something if you are already happy without it.