Holidays, Commercials, and Consumerism

Watching TV, we see commercials.
Listening to radio, we hear commercials.
Surfing online, we see online ads.
Driving on the roads, we see billboards.

What do most of these commercials and ads have in common?
They are telling us to spend!

This past weekend is memorial weekend. Along with New Year, Valentines, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and all the other special days and holidays, what do they have in common?

All the stores will be enticing us to spend money with deals on those days!

I am not against spending. Hoarding money is not our purpose. I believe in spending money to reach a certain quality of life that bring us and people around us happiness, so long as we follow the simple rule of spending less than what we make, distinguish want from need, and/or really understand that the things we are purchasing WILL increase the quality of life. For example, I love music, so mp3 brainer is a no brainer. It is okay to spend!

But observing all the ads/commericals and holiday deals, I am amazed at what these marketers are doing. In this age and days, they have associated the idea of spending with saving. If you pay attention, most of these ads basically say something like “Spend $x to purchase [item] and save $y” or “Get this deal and you will save x%”. Obviously, they want to manipulate/brainwash people into thinking that buying these things will save them money. It would be true IF all those items are a necessity in life.

Maybe I am pointing out the obvious, but I think it is important to point it out in order for all of us who are in pursuit of financial freedom to be clear and understand not to fall fow it :)

Bottom line is, Spending does not equal saving.

Originally posted 2007-05-28 22:32:12. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Few More Afterthoughts and Revelations from Japan Trip

I don’t know how to organize them into coherent information so I am doing bullets:

- Be prepared to pay for lodging and transportation. It’s true for all foreign travel, but definitely more so in japan and especially if you want to run between the bit cities. Just the Shinkansen ticket from Tokyo to Kyoto costs 25,000~ yen, and that is after I happened across street vendor that sell at a 1000~ discount. I think that is close to a 2-way plane ticket half way across U.S.

- The other taxi fares, bus, and metro rides will eat you up pretty fast too. If you are also going to shop in Japan, oh boy, good luck with your wallet.

- Allocate extra time to figure out your transportation for bus, metro, and train ride. Unless you are a local or with a local peron who is from that particular city, I’d say you will be reading a lot and asking around a bit. Or you can pay the premium for taxi…

IMG_3534- Food is delicious and not that much more expensive. In fact, ramen is really cheap, yet still very very yummy. The only bad-tasting food I had was a plain yogurt on the side for one breakfast. On the right is eggplant with 2 kinds of miso on top.

- Total expense out of my own pocket is $700~ including the Shinkansen tickets, 3-night hotel, some food and parking in Kyoto. Not bad.

IMG_3554- If you like fruits, definitely eat their produce there. If you don’t like fruits, eat their produce anyway! It’s that good. The melon on the right is called Yubari Melon. It’s the best I’ve ever eaten, and it came from the town, Yubari (duh!), in Hokkaido.

- Japanese are polite and friendly people, especially if you can speak a little Japanese, then they open up more. However, Tokyo is observably less so probably because of big-city-people-syndrome.

- On average, more of them know how to dress suitably and fashionably.

- If you want to know what fat or obese means, do not go to Japan.

- Following that thought, I hypothesize that obesity and many other of our social problems in America have a lot to do with our wastefulness, versus Japanese non-wastefulness (partly because they must on less land and therefore resource, and I am not saying they don’t have their short-comings). Wastefulness has to do with the willingness to understand how to do things effectively, resulting in quality. Conversely, majority of Americans have no genuine desire for quality for their own bodies. I am talking about true intention here. Topic for another day?

- I was lucky and got spoiled on the trip by my friends and their family. They were very hospitable. That reinforces the idea of sharing with others emotionally, mentally, and materially in my mind. It is one of the best gift we can give, and it must come from the heart. And that, I will do.

- Once again, I know that it doesn’t matter where I am. I will be okay, and that I can get used to any place. Of course, I have preferences and things I am used to, but that’s besides the point.

- Finally, I need to take another trip to Japan to go to Okinawa!

Well, because I heart the food in Japan, here’re a few more pictures.

IMG_3523
Best miso ramen ever! And it’s only around 600 yen. Plus, it’s not like I haven’t tasted plenty in California.

IMG_3476
My favorite dish at Yaki-niku (grilled meat?) — some extremely tender raw beef at Yaki-niku. This place only serves cow related meat. Mmmm, organs.

IMG_3496
Even the waffle looks awesome, at a random small restaurant at Kyoto station.

IMG_3603
Now look at the cake! You know you want it :) Japanese are using their innovative energy in the right area, me think.

Originally posted 2009-07-22 00:15:15. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Debt and Conspicuous Consumption Speak Fundamental Problem

2007111850020101.jpgDebt and conspicuous consumption are symptoms of a much fundamental problem.

The subprime crisis, consumer debt issue, and negative national saving rate don’t happen together out of sheer chance like giving birth to triplets. They demonstrate the change in people’s values and perception from past decades. What is the difference?

It is a fact that life can be a bitch and some are very unfortunate to be much handicapped to begin with. However, it is also a fact that they are the minority of the population who have no choice being in poverty. Here today, let’s focus on the majority of the population who has the luxury of the freedom to choose.

At the end of the day, people deep down know what they need to do for themselves regarding their finance, but somehow somewhere along the timeline, people stop admitting to reality and ignore what they know. They prefer to be denial, and may even do their best to stay in ignorance, so they can justify themselves. Ah, ignorance is a bliss… but not really. There is always a choice, and people choose to be ignorant so they can be superficially happy through materialism and instant gratification. They like taking the easy way out, though it is only temporary, but they don’t care if it’s only temporary.

Being in denial, people try to become something they are not. And whether they know it or not, that builds up a void within… you can think of it as a spiritual void or a feeling of emptiness. Call it what you want. As this void gets bigger, people try to fill it with external things, which are paid for with money or credits — money they don’t have. These external things provide instant gratification and the perfect noise to mask that void. As time goes on, they lose a great deal of responsibility, integrity, discipline, and compassion with such behaviors.

I don’t think people should blame credit cards. Credit cards are merely financial tools and dead object. Like subprime mortgage, like all other forms of intelligent(dumb)financing program. Like money. They are all dead objects. How can they be held accountable? Companies make them available, and people choose to use them.

I think life is structured a way that allows us to make many mistakes. We can make a lot of mistakes at different times, as long as we recover from each. And frankly, we all make mistakes in life. We need to do our best to stay aware and catch and correct mistakes as quickly as we can. I cannot fathom that it is one big mistake that brought everyone down to their knees. Humans are tough and adaptive creatures. The key lies in being aware and always learning — the opposite of being in denial and ignorant.

It only becomes the big issues today as people remain in denail and continuously make the same mistakes, until one day — WHAM!!! — they found out they are holding on to a thread hanging off a cliff. They tried to chase after the something that they vaguely see and believe that will bring happiness but won’t and now they need to catch themselves before they fall. They need to recover from their mistakes, and they will if they choose to.

Indeed, we need external things for survival and for pleasure. It’s a part of life. But when you look to ONLY externals for happiness, you are chasing after shadows.

I believe happiness happens when you look within yourself first. When I said to look within yourself, I mean to find the values in life that are important to you. You need to get to know yourself. Know what you want in life. To each person, there are many important values, so you must prioritize, and I dare claim that no one should have money and fame at the top of the list. With such a list, you shall know what is “enough” and hence, be able to distinguish between “wants” and “needs”. You can then simplify your life and not have excessive externals yet be content, though remember being content does not mean being satisfied and complacent.

Problem happens when people never stop to find out their values. Again, they try to become what they are not. I don’t believe it is entirely the people’s fault because of how they become conditioned the way their are — constantly being distracted by advertisements, bombarded with information, and conditioned about money/appearance/fame. As a result of those: They think they will be happy when others see them as rich. They think they will be happy when they have that next-best-thing. They think they will be happy when they beat their neighbors.

However, there comes a time for each of us to come to understand that such a culture doesn’t work and therefore, learn not to buy into such a culture. It is not easy, but it is what we need to do. This is where discipline comes into play, and where we take responsibility for ourselves.

So at the same time you are learning and reading about all those “methods” on how to get rid of debt or to build your wealth, why not take a pause to learn about yourself and get your values straightened out? Because if you don’t, your changes will likely be short-lived because your character has not changed.

You can shred your credit cards, but if you don’t fix the problem by fixing the fundamentals, the problem will come back as easily as it is to shred the credit cards.

Originally posted 2008-03-28 10:22:28. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Wisdom Results Not in Process, It Results in Outcome

We humans tend to think of wisdom as a top-down procedure. A powerful mind gathers information, measures it against the lessons of accumulated experience, and makes a rational decision. But really, wisdom is not a process but an outcome; it’s the ability to live well, to antipicate and be prepared, to avoid disaster, to navigate troubles. It came through experience and pattern recognition or it can come through instinct and feedback loops, as it does with bees. Either way, it’s a process of trial and error, of learning from mistakes. One method emphasizes the individual’s role, while the other relies on genes and evolution. Our species tend to recognize only the former method, but nature seems to favor the latter.
Rowan Jacobsen

Originally posted 2011-04-26 16:48:56. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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