Cooling Down an Overclocked World

Polar ice is melting. Our world is overheating. Maybe humans should take a page out of Intel's playbook and start thinking more about efficiency than raw speed. People don't want loud, hot, obnoxious computers. And people don't want loud, hot, obnoxious planets either. So how about trying to live a bit more efficiently? Repair instead of buy. Shop used. Telecommute. Carpool on road-trips. This mostly corresponds to "living like you're poor." Except if you're not really poor, you can spend the money on items that last, perhaps even generations (in other words, avoid Wall-Mart).

Skip the kick-ass home theater. Go to a REAL theater instead. Get out of the house and get rewarded not just with a screen larger than you'll ever be able afford and loud sound that won't annoy the neighbors, but be happy that you don't have to worry about upkeep, and even at $10 a ticket, it will be cheaper in the long run. (I also find that the reaction of people around you can really add to the experience.)

Why buy DVDs? They're going to be outdated anyway, and you may as well do Netflix.

And for God's sake, don't buy stuff until you really need it. For example, your cooking and realize you can't slice through a tomato anymore, and you really need a sharp knife. And you can't slice cucumbers either. So you decide to buy a knife sharpener (and learn how to use it). (As opposed to going to the store and seeing a knife sharpener and thinking "gosh, that might be useful" and buying it. That's an impulse buy and bad bad bad!)

One way to live more efficiently is to use cash for everything. It hurts paying for stuff in cash, especially expensive stuff like flat screen TVs. I promise that you'll think more about whether you need a thing when you start counting out that stack of $100 bills. I highly recommend paying in cash for cars (and always pay in full for cars - no loans). You may think twice about buying that shiny new BMW, and that maybe that used Corolla wasn't such a bad deal after all. (When I get my Tesla I will pay in cash, promise!)

We are so wealthy (speaking of the west in general and Americans in particular) we've lost track of what is necessity and what is luxury. That's unfortunate because there is a certain joy in maintaining the distinction. In this season of giving, to be able to give and receive luxuries would be much more pleasant. It seems like gift-giving today is driven mostly by obligation and precedent. We know that the recipient could afford anything we choose to give them. The gift becomes more an expression of how we view that person rather than an act of generosity. (At it's worst gift-giving is a sycophant's attention-grabbing tool). However if the recipient is frugal, or genuinely poor, then we can truly give them something special - something they simply would not possess otherwise. To provide something that was wanted but denied either by circumstance or self-control is the best sort of giving. By not controlling our consumption we deny this pleasure to others (and heat up the planet, too).

[Update: just ran into this wonderful blog, to which I will subscribe. I really like this post about giving fewer gifts too, although I would add "gift exchange" to the list. This blog is written by someone named "Penny Nickel" of Washington DC.]

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