A sound of metal giving out... weight off my shoulders, and an unpleasant ker-thump!-crash!
I'm confused. Thieves? Bag snatching? What's going on?
I glance around, kind of kneel down and secure my things, and figure out that...
...the metal on my computer bag finally gave in to wear and tear and snapped.
I gather up a few pieces of the metal, grab my bag by the handle instead of strap, and check it out in the cafe I'm heading to. All works, no damage. Good.
This gets me to thinking.
I don't like spending money for consumption. Actually, I really dislike it.
Spending money to increase production, to invest, to learn, to train, to grow, to serve - okay, cool.
To consume? Oh, I don't like that at all.
Most of the time you live austere, you wind up looking like you're "good with money." I don't know that I'm good with money. I try to get some, and then not spend it. That gives lots of flexibility.
But it's pretty plain to see that if I'd been on the back of a motorcycle or crossing the street or in the Beijing Subway, my things maybe get broken there.
It seems to me that delaying purchases, delaying gratification, and investing in learning/skill-development/investing... these mean gradually moving up in the world and being able to do more. More freedom, more options, more choice. And if you were to live on 10% of your income and invest 90%, how long until your 10% of income is higher than the person who spent 100% from the start?
But I think you can get in trouble when you refuse to spend in a way that breaks your ability to produce and keep growing and do what you want to do. Even when I've been broke, I've tried to do right by people who do right by me... even if you can't afford to buy someone lunch who did you a really nice thing, I think you really can't afford not to.
Finding the timing is tricky, though. You could rationalize anything you want to buy as saying it would help you produce and do more and achieve more if you wanted to... and I guess some mindless consumption is okay, but really, there's so much free consumption that's as good as racking up expenses. There's so many wonderful parks and beaches and museums and temples and places to sit and reflect and architecture to walk around and look at and books that are out of copyright and websites with great content on them and, and, and...
But my views shifted more recently when I was reading a couple books by Donald Trump. He put forward a point that's obvious - austerity doesn't motivate and inspire. Flash and spectacle and style and presentation can all lead to much more things happening.
Here's the basic tradeoffs, I think:
1. If you invest a larger amount towards investing/producing/learning than consuming, you'll reasonably quickly be able to consume more on a fraction of what you've got.
2. But you can destroy your ability to produce by being too austere... if your gear breaks at inopportune times, if you eat too low quality food for extended periods, if you've got a work environment where you're constantly distracted and can't get things done.
3. And, austerity doesn't really inspire people. The vast, vast majority of people are much more impressed by things happening now than the prospect of gradual, compounding growth over the next few years.
4. Regardless where you fall on the austerity scale, taking good care of people who take care of you seems like it's always a worthwhile way to spend money.
I haven't figured out where a balance is to be struck. Books and learning seem like they're always worth it, as does getting good tools to work with, a good work environment, and taking care of people. But then there's lots of borderline calculations to make... figuring out where to go austere and where to go a little more extravagant is a tricky thing. It's probably largely dependent on preferences and style, but figuring out the right balance is tricky. I love the freedom and growth, but it's not good when your things break for being replaced a little too late.