Time, Money, and All That Good Stuff: Part 1 of ∞

I had this 5,000-word draft, but I half-abandoned it for being sappy, boring, pointless, and impossible to rewrite to be satisfactorily un-cringeworthy. Instead, let me just tell you a couple random stories and anecdotes that went somewhere near the start. Maybe posting them will motivate me to salvage something from the 4,500 words that go after it and post it. Eventually.

Some time ago, Namecheap had a discount, so I bought a domain name for 88¢. Unfortunately, the discount only lasted for one year; afterwards, it would cost $29/year to renew. Even though I bought it on a whim and didn’t have much use for it, I found myself wanting to keep it more and more and had a huge mental struggle over whether I could afford it, because wow, $29 is a lot!

Meanwhile, during the same school year, more or less:

  • I paid $20 in maintenance fees on my savings account because I thought I had set up auto-transfer but didn’t.
  • After I lost my umbrella (which I got at IOI 2014), I bought a new one with one of those fancy open-close buttons for $23… then promptly lost it too after 1½ months.
  • I’ve spent ~$40 on boba alone in SF this summer…
  • I was a teaching assistant at IDEA MATH on the weekends and randomly got $50 bonuses whenever we were short on actual teachers and I had to lead a class on my own. This happened about half the time and I am now metaphorically sitting on this pile of random bonuses.
  • I placed 105th in a HackerRank contest where the top 100 places received $75 Amazon gift cards, because I was too lazy to get partial credit on the last problem.
  • I’ve spent $120 on escape-the-room games alone in SF this summer…
  • I bought a Nexus 5X for $300 so I could use Project Fi, Google’s mobile carrier that nobody has heard of unless you’re really deep into tech circles like me. A few weeks later, I randomly happened to visit the Nexus 5X site again, learned that they had just started a discount where Nexus 5Xes cost $150 if you bought them while signing up for Project Fi, and was pretty miffed that I had just missed it, but filed it away as something I couldn’t do anything about. A few days after that, I randomly happened to visit /r/nexus5x and learned that others had been getting the discount retroactively by contacting customer service, so I did that and got $150 back.
  • Remember the $20 maintenance fee? I could have paid a lot more if I hadn’t accidentally noticed it while figuring out if I gave somebody the wrong account number to wire a ~$200 reimbursement for. (Which I had, I think; but fortunately I figured it out, told them the right number, and got the reimbursement anyway. Still…)

I write this having returned from a trip to UC Davis that cost $55 (and 30¢) in terms of transportation only, and somehow I barely hesitated in spending that. I definitely have no doubts about it now.

Something’s changed, I guess. And yes, there are a few really obvious somethings that changed, but I think there were also a few rather subtle somethings.

Um. Stay tuned…?

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5 thoughts on “Time, Money, and All That Good Stuff: Part 1 of ∞

  1. Banks are evil. It used to be that they were satisfied with “the float” (the interest they earn on keeping your money for you) back in the old days. And this is how they existed and of course it never cost any per-month charges.

    Not so, now. Somehow they started to think that it was their job to steal as much of your money as you’ll let them get away with. They charge fees to cash a check if you don’t have a checking account. They charge monthly fees if you do have a checking account.

    When ATMs first came out they charged you to use the human teller. Now they charge you to use the ATM to get your own money out.

    Go to cash. Withdraw all your money from banks and purchase those gift cards to pay for things online. In some cases, you’ll need to buy a money order but that’s getting more rare these days. In the end you’ll have more control over your money.

  2. In 2016, there were probably 25 paychecks at $7.50 ($187.50) plus perhaps 5 Vanilla Visa cards at $4.95 ($24.75) and maybe 12 months of money orders for rent ($15-ish) so decidedly, no.

    What I do gain, however, is an absence of tracking from countless entities like Visa, the government, marketing agencies and the like. What I mostly gain from doing so is a change in mindset: out with the pay-it-in-the-future credit mentality and in with the save-for-a-future-purchase mentality which is decidedly more fiscally responsible if you think about it.

    In the event of something global and tragic, I’m convinced that the banks wouldn’t continue to operate their system and your so-called savings would be utterly unavailable to you or anyone else who believes that they have wealth. Would several envelopes of cash still be worth something in this eventuality? Perhaps. If it did have value it might even undergo a reverse-inflationary effect of being worth more (since nobody can get an ATM machine to work).

    • For what it’s worth, I usually keep the amount owed on my credit card negative. You can adopt a save-for-the-future mentality and see its benefits, without avoiding credit cards.

      While I can imagine a global and tragic event happening that wipes out my bank accounts, I don’t think it’s likely enough to justify the very real costs (lack of a credit history, opportunity costs of physically buying online gift cards for every online purchase) and likelier risks (muggings, burglary, fire) of keeping money as cash. Sort of the same reason I don’t prepare for a nuclear disaster by stashing food in an underground bunker. I can’t live risk-free and I’ll take the risk that my “so-called savings” continue to exist.

      • With respect to risk, for perhaps 10+ years I wrote stock market portfolio analysis software. To be honest, the mathematical models for risk are probably wrong, to be honest. It feels to me like our current economic system in the U.S. is teetering on cheap oil, cheap corn (and wheat/flour) and cheap energy production. Secondarily, cheap transportation is part of the equation and cheap oil then is directly related.

        I can’t see our current oil-based model continuing to play out decade after decade. If you’ve ever looked into the declining honey bee populations as I have it looks like they’re screwed and right after that, us. Those bees pollenate the corn, of course and all our other food crops. http://scientificbeekeeping.com/scibeeimages/fig-023.png

        As oil prices increase with the eventual drop in resources, transportation costs will as well which means that food prices will increase. As the honey bee populations continue to decrease that makes food more scarce, leading to higher food prices.

        Honestly, I don’t think there are enough safety measures in place to guarantee a smooth transition into alternative fuels and so that something else can pollenate the food crops. Seems like the future is a little shakier than we might think.

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