Page 4 of 5

Posted: Sat Apr 20, 2013 4:24 am
by secretwealth
"However, you're still arguing that spending money is the only serious option"
Not exactly.
I agree that I'm looking for a sweet spot between consumerism and the Renaissance man ideal, but more importantly I'm looking to move away from an ideological and proscriptive judgmentalism against "consumerism" that is, I think, disingenuous.
To take another example: I once read on a blog a post where the writer was mocking a group of cyclists for wasting money on expensive gear, bikes, etc. This blogger had a separate post bragging about the "sweet" gaming PC he had built.
The problem is one man's consumerism is another's investing in quality. I think the real difference is in the eye of the beholder.
Sure, being able to solder and work wood is a value-added skill that will help fix some problems. But not all problems. Money fixes some problems too, and I don't think there should be a moralistic suspicion against buying any more than there should be a moralistic worship for making stuff.
Likewise, tolerating taking orders to be on a ship is a skill that can open some doors. But tolerating that some people would prefer to just buy a ticket could open some other doors, too.


Posted: Sat Apr 20, 2013 5:20 am
by jacob
This is why there's an ERE Wheaton scale.
I'm guessing we're sufficiently far apart to border on mutual views that the other guy is somewhat crazy.
The point of this thread is that, like with permaculture, there is a scale; and, like with permaculture, there is a top and a bottom; and it's logarithmic.
And it goes like this ... there's a diagram in chapter 3 that shows the salary man, the worker, the businessman, the renaissance man. If you draw a line from the top left corner ... that=least ERE and to the bottom right, which is most ERE, you have a scale.
What it comes down to is that people who are one level above are inspirational. The reason is that you kinda think the same way, the one ahead just seems to know something more. And you want to know what it is.
However, go two levels ahead and the person starts thinking differently---sufficiently differently to be considered crazy. That's the difference in kind.
It's not just that I seem to know something that looks like a bunch of survival tricks. It's that I know how to put them together and do so regularly ... which I think I just demonstrated, twice. That's a difference in kind. I'm not just compiling tricks. I'm synthesizing/putting them together.
I submit that this view, that two levels ahead = crazy ... or in the ERE case "austere"/"sacrifice" ... is incorrect.
This goes for anything. It's a far better assumption that people two levels ahead see something you don't.
In particular, I just showed, twice, how to apply the principles to avoid paying $50 for the same/similar experience/product that was invented specifically to show that it was impossible to do so.
Whether you want to go there is entirely up to you. In particular---and this is important---where you want to be is also up to you. However, if you want to go beyond the working/FI--buying model, then you must stop thinking in terms of sacrifice, etc. Because that's not how the higher levels work---that's simply the lower level's perception of the higher levels---and incorrectly believing so will prevent you from getting there. And saying so will perhaps prevent others from getting there. But if you don't want to go, that's fine. Say incorrect stuff is just not helping anyone.
So back to the dojo example... I'm trying to be a little bit for everyone, but people have different goals. You have people who want to go deep into the art. You have people who want to learn self-defense. You have people who are trying to get in shape.
Which results in this problem

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blind_men_and_an_elephant
So what is boxing?

Is it swinging your arms in front of you while breathing hard?

Is it about hitting hard enough to win a bar fight?

Is it the/a sweet science?
It's really all of the above. However, if you don't like breathing hard, you should probably not keep insisting that it's only/all about swinging your arms in front of you while breathing hard.
Similarly, for ERE, I think there's sometimes too much focus on "sacrifice" around here.
PS: The reason the crew takes orders on boats is that nature dictates a certain procedure of releasing and trimming sheets. If this does not proceed in an orderly fashion, the ship goes down. As such, you're not really taking orders from the captain as much as the caption gives the signal for everybody to begin. The reason the boat is not run be committee is that conflicting actions also sinks the ship. It's better to do the wrong thing right than to do the right thing wrong when it comes to line work. It is of course acceptable to pay to sit on a bench and watch the crew sail the boat.


Posted: Sat Apr 20, 2013 6:54 am
by KevinW
In general the serendipity strategy works better for mass-produced goods where "made in China wins," and the renaissance strategy works better for more capital-intensive ones.
In-ear headphones are in the first category. IIRC I have 3 sets of headphones and didn't pay for any of them. Two were given to me on business flights and I kept them for future use. One came from a friend who bought two iPhones in quick succession and wanted to get rid of one set of Apple earbuds.
I'm currently overstocked in free shirts, wifi routers, keyboards, mice, firewood, ballpoint pens, paper notepads, black tea, DVD players, and saucepans for similar reasons.
This has a taoist wu wei flavor ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wu_wei ). I just sit here with a receptive attitude, and all this stuff flows into my life and solves my problems for me.
Alternatively, I also own a pair of Grado headphones for serious listening. Those are "classics" and when they broke it was easy to repair them.


Posted: Sat Apr 20, 2013 7:43 am
by Felix
Yes, there are workarounds and savings opportunities for many things and the more you know, the better you are at finding and using them. I also get that this potential for replacement of money with smarts and elbow grease is an advantage in terms of savings and stretching your dollars.
But you still simply become a better consumer. Instead of buying food, you buy a plot of land, learn how to grow your food. Instead of buying headphones, you buy a soldering iron, learn how to solder. Instead of buying a ship cruise, you take sailing or singing lessons and try to get a job with that. You buy different stuff that gives you more value - the life-energy thing.
It's always a trade-off, though. I have little ambitions in sailing or singing. Not to the degree of being hired on a luxury cruise. There may be other solutions. But still, something's got to give. The time investment in building these skills can be quite large. The 10.000 hour figure for building expertise comes to mind.
I would still think that a lot of the freedom is not the mindset/skillset but the asset. Not having to work for a living is a major tipping point, I think.
And the equation goes the other way around, too. The more assets you have, the less skills you need. If you're a trust fund kid, you simply pay for the cruise, problem solved and you get an entertainer who sings for you and a crew that does the sailing.
For the middle-class lifestyle with two cars, a house in the suburbs, cable TV, cell-phone plans, restaurant visits and regular vacations you would simply need a certain degree of money.


Posted: Sat Apr 20, 2013 1:57 pm
by J_
@Kevin: "I'm currently overstocked in ... , mice...."

Rent a cat for some day's :)


Posted: Sat Apr 20, 2013 2:19 pm
by jacob
@Felix -
"But you still simply become a better consumer. Instead of buying food, you buy a plot of land, learn how to grow your food."
Maybe that's a question of word-choice, but I wouldn't define:
Buying food in supermarket: A consumer

Growing food in garden: A better consumer
A consumer is someone who PAYS for goods and services. PAYING is the defining characteristic.
Pays $10 for food: A consumer.

Pays $5 for food: A better consumer. A difference in degree.

Pays 50c for seeds: Not a consumer. Paying is the no longer the primary input. The sun and the soil is. A difference in kind.
"For the middle-class lifestyle with two cars, a house in the suburbs, cable TV, cell-phone plans, restaurant visits and regular vacations you would simply need a certain degree of money."
There are two things where I have been unable to create a similar experience without money/consuming. Paying RE taxes and paying health insurance. I think we have examples of people getting all of these middle-class lifestyle things at the same quality for far less money than the average middle class consumer.
Maybe I should reemphasize that I'm not talking about NO money at all. I'm talking about replacing 75% of the spending with other means.
Consumer: 100% paying

ERE: 25% paying, 25% substituting/freecycling/trading, 25% fixing, 25% making... depending on your skills and prefereces.
The higher the non-money replacement factor, the sooner the FI, the less risky the FI, the less focus on "how can I get higher investment returns" and the less sacrifice. This is why I think it's important to look at other means than money.
Money is a substitute good with lots of possible substitutions---and consumers have forgotten all of them.


Posted: Sat Apr 20, 2013 2:44 pm
by anomie
@jacob

And it goes like this ... there's a diagram in chapter 3 that shows the salary man, the worker, the businessman, the renaissance man. If you draw a line from the top left corner ... that=least ERE and to the bottom right, which is most ERE, you have a scale.

minor editor type comment - the direction is reversed? is your description here opposite intent? Is this the scale to which you refer?

So more ERE is top left?


Posted: Sat Apr 20, 2013 2:55 pm
by J_
In the OriginalPost Jacob posits that it may be worthwile for starting ere's to study a bit of the musings/topics of after ere's, especially because the savings/money aspect with the "after's" get's less accent.
Of course there is not a really "after", one learns always and one can always improve. As I am a "after" I am interested if anyone agrees with Jacob.
From my perspective I learn from "starters to ere". The joy I read from some of them grasping the idea and implementing them is inspiring me too. And many thing's I have done in the last couple of years found their origin in ere forum-posts (repairing laptop, using internet, participating in this blog, beeing polite to each-other, finding inspirational books, the look inside one's thoughts before choosing a new way, consoling others some-time, it is for me also a kind of socialising, learning the teaching skills Jacob has, and his patience. So I learn from both groups in the sense of this thread


Posted: Sat Apr 20, 2013 3:09 pm
by secretwealth
"I submit that this view, that two levels ahead = crazy ... or in the ERE case "austere"/"sacrifice" ... is incorrect."
I don't see it in terms of levels, though. The examples I keep bringing up--headphones versus woodworking, gaming PC versus expensive bike--demonstrate to me different consumerist priorities that are essentially on same or similar scales.
I've never thought anyone living on $7,000 per year or $70,000 per year is crazy, austere, or sacrificial.
The headphones example really drives this point home for me. To quote KevinW: "IIRC I have 3 sets of headphones and didn't pay for any of them. Two were given to me on business flights and I kept them for future use. One came from a friend who bought two iPhones in quick succession and wanted to get rid of one set of Apple earbuds."
I do too. I have 3 or 4 free Apple earbuds and could probably have saved 6 in-flight headphones from the past year alone. But their quality is absolutely terrible, and you cannot compare them with the $60 earbuds I bought. Indeed, that's why I bought them (I had been using a cheap pair for months and got sick of the terrible quality).
For me, talking about ERE in terms of a Wheaton scale is a profound red herring. The real issue is the proscriptivism in what is considered savvy skill-based consumption (getting free earbuds on a plane, soldering earbuds, working for free for a rich guy on his yacht, building your own gaming computer) and what is considered being a "sheeple" (paying for high quality earbuds, buying a nice mountain bike, paying to go on a Carnival cruise, having a Mac).


Posted: Sat Apr 20, 2013 3:37 pm
by jacob
@anomie - Yes, that diagram and I had the axes reversed. My mistake---I was going by memory (I must have sketched that diagram a dozen times.)
@secretwealth (and Felix) - I think as long as you keep seeing ERE as degrees of consumption, you're going to miss the production (creating goods out of resources) and the decomposition (creating resources out of waste) aspects. You're not closing the cycle. (Maybe you are, but you don't seem to be thinking in that way (or demonstrating it in this thread anyway) and to me that seems like it would result in more efficiency (in the efficient market sense) if you saw it that way---you're leaving value on the ground.)
So here's what I'm hearing:

1) You spend $30,000 (some number) on a set a goods.

2) You say it's impossible to get those goods without buying them.

3) You don't want to sacrifice these goods.

4) You ask about how you can get a higher return on your investment so you don't have to work longer.
Here's what I'm saying and I think demonstrating.

1) You can get the same goods for $15000 (some number)

2) It's possible to get those goods by other means(*)

3) You don't have to sacrifice the goods.

4) You don't have to get a higher return or be concerned about sacrifice if you look at those other means.
(*) What are you looking for when you buy earbuds. What's the end goal? To buy those exact earbuds at Best Buy? To get the same quality sound? If it's the former, I'll stop arguing now. If it's the latter, I think there's lots to learn.


Posted: Sat Apr 20, 2013 3:59 pm
by secretwealth
Of course it's the latter.
So let's roll with the earbuds example: what alternatives can you recommend? Let's take a blank slate. Human being has a music player and good quality in-ear earbuds aren't available on Freecycle (which, btw, is horrible in NYC, sadly) or any other free stuff resource. There are free Apple earbuds and free airline earbuds aplenty.
What can the Renaissance man-oriented EREr do to get the same or better quality experience that the non-Renaissance man average consumerist can get by spending $60 or $100 in a shop?


Posted: Sat Apr 20, 2013 4:11 pm
by George the original one
Food production analogy:

0 = buy vegetables & fruit at the store

1 = annually plant vegetables from purchased seed

2 = single planting vegetables & fruit from purchase, but propagate future plantings

3 = collect seed & rootstock rather than buy

4 = breed new varieties
Soil amendments:

0 = buy potting soil & fertilizer annually

1 = buy compost/sand for soil texture once and fertilize as needed

2 = buy own compost/vermiculture bin

2.5 = build own compost/vermiculture bin from purchased material

3 = build own compost/vermiculture bin from castoffs

4 = ???


Posted: Sat Apr 20, 2013 4:12 pm
by secretwealth
One more thing.
I'm really trying to point out that ERE is not exempt from the law of entropy. Producing is harder than consumption. That's just how this universe works. Any time you produce instead of consume, you are going to be expending energy, working.
I do plenty of ERE types of production to maximize value. In 2013 I'll have rented out both of my two properties part-time enough to make one of the properties almost cost free. This is amazing and I'm grateful for ERE opening my eyes to think in this way and to squeeze this extra value out of my assets.
But to call this anything but a sacrifice or work is disingenuous. I had a disastrous tenant that I wrote about a while back, and I have to clean the place up both before and after every tenant--plus I have to worry about whether they will damage the property. Also, renting places out has been a strain on my personal life as well.
To call renting these properties an "adventure" or dismissing people who choose not to do this as absent-minded consumerists is, in my opinion, needlessly dishonest and moralistic. I don't think this moralistic bent is necessary for ERE, which is all the more powerful without it.


Posted: Sat Apr 20, 2013 4:19 pm
by jacob
@secretwealth - Since I hear you have some broken earbuds, I'd probably get or buy them very cheaply from you and fix them up.
This is a pattern I've used quite a lot. Getting a slightly broken item from someone who doesn't know how to fix or repurpose it and making it good as new or at least "good as used".
That's an example of decomposition. It keeps stuff away from landfills and garages.
Examples: Free weedwhacker (the guy didn't know how to change the line). A Singer sewing machine. Free steel frame bikes (horizontal dropouts even) with frozen brakes. A music collection of 200+ CDs. Some times/often you can get working stuff simply by taking it off people's hands because they want it to go to a good home.
Freecycle (and craigslist) suck in Chicago too. I had a lot of social capital/good reputation in my previous freecycle network and would often get first dips. It was a sad loss.
Of course getting the earbuds from you wouldn't work if I didn't know you had some broken ones. This approach doesn't work all the time but it does work often enough to lower the need for money by quite a bit.
Another solution is to know enough about construction to buy things that don't break.
Once you have them, you can just keep repairing them. I find the stuff around me getting older and older.


Posted: Sat Apr 20, 2013 4:21 pm
by George the original one
@secretwealth - Ah, that's where your missing the connection! Align the ERE activity with your own inclinations.
For instance, you're discovering you're not inclined to the short-term landlord role. So outsource some or all of that role.
In my case, I hate exercising just for the sake of exercise. To me, that's a waste of energy. I like nice gardens, I like fishing... okay, I do those activities in a way that provides exercise benefits.


Posted: Sat Apr 20, 2013 4:31 pm
by secretwealth
"Of course getting the earbuds from you wouldn't work if I didn't know you had some broken ones. This approach doesn't work all the time but it does work often enough to lower the need for money by quite a bit."
This goes to the core of my point.
Going back to my example of the human who has no earbuds, a music player, and even the savvy to repair broken ones--if he doesn't have a pair of broken earbuds at hand, then a sacrifice is inevitable. He will have to wait until a broken pair appear--involving a time delay when he loses out on the joy of listening to music. While you can rightly dismiss that sacrifice by saying the person should be patient, there is still a sacrifice involved.
@George - it's not really that bad, to be honest; it's just not as easy as not renting either one out at all.


Posted: Sat Apr 20, 2013 4:38 pm
by jacob
@secretwealth -

"Producing is harder than consumption. That's just how this universe works. Any time you produce instead of consume, you are going to be expending energy, working."
Nah, that's how you work. To me consumption is harder than production. Too much time going through countless options and vendors none of which are quite right for what I want. I'm good at production, so it's easy for me. I'm bad at consumption, so it's hard for me. Production is energizing. Consumption is draining. I feel failure when I have to buy something. I feel success when I manage not to.
Like GTOO said, it's best to align your activities with your preferences and your preferences with reality. It can be done in a smart way with Web of Goals. Animals are good this. Their preferences match reality and their activities reflect their preferences. Humans are generally not. Their preferences might not match reality (I want to be a actor!) or their activities might not match their preferences (I really want to cook, but I have to work this management job to pay the bills).


Posted: Sat Apr 20, 2013 4:47 pm
by jacob
"Going back to my example of the human who has no earbuds, a music player, and even the savvy to repair broken ones--if he doesn't have a pair of broken earbuds at hand, then a sacrifice is inevitable."
I agree with this.
I recently bought (consumed) a ukulele new. This was after trawling on ebay and craigslist for quite while (nobody apparently sells their used ukuleles in the sub $100 price range) and looking into making my own (too hard relative to my skill level) and not having any music connections who might have been able to hook me up ("I have this instrument that I never use. I didn't bother to list it but you can have it for $50). So because of that I had to buy or do without. So I bought.
It does happen. But it happens after trying other means and failing. Not because it's inevitable.


Posted: Sat Apr 20, 2013 4:57 pm
by secretwealth
"Production is energizing. Consumption is draining."
Sometimes, yes. Sometimes, no. Eating a hamburger is more energizing than cooking a hamburger.


Posted: Sat Apr 20, 2013 5:28 pm
by Seneca
@dragline, you an attorney or para in biglaw?
There are a lot of ways to have 2 cars and a house in the burbs.
I have a diesel pickup I grudgingly bought new 11 years ago, with a plan of 20 years ownership. I didn't want to wear out my truck driving to work or on non-truck errands. So I started casually watching C-list beaters. One day I found a 1985.5 Mustang SVO. I've always wanted to own a turbo car to modify and learn with, and love mustangs. The owner had started his listing at about $3000 and was down to $2000. I showed up to check it out, severely oxidized paint and no turbo boost. I bought it for $1500. I fixed the boost with a $0.05 c clip on the waste gate actuator and used my skills from some part time detailing work in college to make it shine. I owned the car 5 years. I got hit by an RV to the tune of about $3000. It was still very drivable, only necessary repair was a junkyard mirror and door, which I found in the right color in a junkyard, and replaced myself. When it was time to move it on I sold it for $1700, definitely worse for wear.
My current car is paid for by my employer. Our house in the burbs is in part a tax write off due to the fact we both work at home, and starting next week the Mrs will be self employed improving this aspect more. It is where we play, and we have space to grow any food/livestock and build any sort of shop facilities. Pay wise we enjoy geo arbitrage. But it took quite a bit of thought and activity against the regular ideas of many we associate with.