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In a recent TED Talk, Tim Jackson talked about conspicuous consumption. I really liked this quote:

"This is a story about us, people, being persuaded to spend money we don't have, on things we don't need, to create impressions that won't last, on people we don't care about."

Link to Tim Jackson's TED talk (~20 min): http://www.ted.com/talks/tim_jackson_s_economic_reality_chec...


Anti-Consumerism was a main theme in the movie Fight Club. This scene, where Norman describes his "perfect" apartment, will always be memorable to me (partially edited):

Like so many others, I had become a slave to the Ikea nesting instinct. Like a coffee table in the shape of a yin-yang, I had to have it. The Klipsk personal office unit. The Hovetrekke home exerbike. Or the Ohamshab sofa with the Strinne green stripe pattern. Even the Ryslampa wire lamps of environmentally-friendly unbleached paper.

I'd flip through catalogues and wonder "What kind of dining set defines me as a person?"

I had it all. Even the glass dishes with tiny bubbles and imperfections, proof that they were crafted by the honest, hard-working, indigenous peoples of...


If your 26, and saving 20% of your income why not spend the rest however you wish?

At some point spending money now is going to be more fun than spending 10x that much money when your in your late 50's. So, yes plenty of high income people buy nice things, but even if I had invested every cent I had ever revived I would not be a millionaire because I am still to young.

I absolutely advocate spending money but spend it smart. Don't buy e.g. a BMW. They cost a lot, are expensive to fix and don't last any longer than a cheaper brand. They are incredibly beautiful (to me anyway) but the value just isn't there. Instead, I would spend it visit another country or buying something that is expensive but either saves money in the long run or lasts a very long time.

I've always been in the camp you seem to be in, but having just started driving a BMW (not mine, my girlfriend's), I can say there's a lot more to it than just its looks. It's one of the sportier variants, and it is a significantly better driving machine than any of the japanese cars I've owned (I've only ever owned), to the point where it changes the way you drive. I think this is because you're much more confident in its abilities to handle things, and that it actually makes driving fun.

It's different from other cars I've driven like Macs are different from the windows boxes I've used.

I joke that getting a .com job and a bmw was my rebellion, hippie parents, you see. in '99 or '00 I bought a '92 bmw 325is. I'd rate it in my top 10 financial mistakes. You are right that the things handle significantly better, but the other guy is also right, saying they are significantly more expensive, especially to repair. I ended up getting rid of mine in favor of a Japanese car, mostly because I didn't want to limit myself to living places where I had a garage to work on the thing.

Actually, if I had the time and space for the auto repair hobby, I'd probably get another BMW and maintain it myself; The things aren't any harder to work on than a regular car. You do take a reliability hit, but eh, I could probably live with that. The parts are more expensive, but after market parts are a small fraction of the cost of dealer parts (or what a garage will charge you for parts,) so if you look around for deals, you don't end up paying that much more.

(the auto repair hobby has a lot to recommend itself; It's an easy $90/hr post-tax for doing something that is not very stressful at all.)

Still, in a situation where you are paying someone else to maintain the thing, if you aren't willing or able to pay for a new BMW, (which comes with free maintenance for a period) you probably should also avoid a used BMW. too. This is why used 7 series bmws go for so little.

I don't think I ever got the BMW out of the shop for under a grand. Part of that is the BMW has excellent breaks, and excellent breaks wear faster than mediocre breaks. (apparently the metal dust coming off the pads and rotors are actually an important way to vent heat.) and for some reason, replacing the pads and rotors on a bmw was north of a grand by itself. (It was $250 in parts to do it yourself, and maybe two hours of work.) so I think a lot of it is just "oh, he has a bmw, he must have money" Also, well, the BMW reliability just isn't up to the same standards as the Japanese cars, so you'd have little problems that sometimes required a tow.

>the auto repair hobby has a lot to recommend itself

I knew a guy who said "I like older cars because I can work on them". And he did. Every weekend. I vowed I would purposely never learn how to work on cars so that I would never be tempted get involved in such a tremendous time sink. The worst thing about the hobby is it tends to insert itself exactly when you don't want to do it.

eh, the old car issue aside (I fail to see how working on older cars is easier than newer cars... quite the opposite, really. the newer stuff is full of computerized diagnostics. I mean, the computer won't solve all your problems, but good god, have you ever tried to rebuild a carburetor? adjusting the 'richness' of your fuel air blend? oh yes I like the computer, and the OBD system.) it really is a straight time for money play. For the basic stuff, it's pretty easy to get to the point where it takes you as long as the mechanic will charge you for (most mechanics charge 'book rate' - e.g. how much time the book says a task will take rather than how much time it takes them. It's not too difficult to get up to that speed.)

So really, for any given car, if you work on it yourself, you shouldn't be spending much more time than what the shop would charge you for the same work, and, uh, like I said, $90/hr post-tax isn't something most of us sneeze at. (Of course, if you can sneeze at that, good for you!)

that said, right now I'm taking my vehicle to a professional. the thing is, sure, the car only needs something once every 6 months, if you don't count oil changes (which I usually take in, just 'cause it's worth twenty bucks to not deal with the oil) - the thing is, where I am now, maintaining a garage would cost me more than just paying to take my car in. So yeah, it doesn't always make sense.

I'm sure it is just as amazing an experience to drive as it is to look at. The problem is that owning a car is a money-losing proposition. If you buy it new you lose up to 40% of the value just driving it off the lot. Another strategy might be to just buy the vehicle and keep it until the wheels fall off. That wont save you from losing on the transaction but at least you wont have to lose money every 3 years like you might with a cheaper car. Except that wont work with BMW. According to all stats I've been able to find (and I really looked for this because I wanted it to be worth owning one) they don't last any longer than their cheap counter parts but they cost a lot more to fix. The warranty isn't any longer. So that means I'd still have to do the same "piss away thousands every 3-5 years" but with numbers 2 or 3 times larger.

Yeah, she bought it 2 years used, for about 60% of it's original sticker price. They may not last longer than their cheaper counterparts, but while they last, they're extremely different. It's not a great value except in the fun/$ category, in which case I would say a used one blows most cars out of the water. Driving time/$, not so much.

My solution to this problem wrt cars was to buy a low-mileage used BMW off lease and learn to replace my own brakes (highest cost routine maintenance task). I'm making use of someone else's wastefulness (the previous owner) to subsidize my fancy car ownership, and paying less for the car than I would have paid for a new Ford or Toyota.

Yeah, this is what my girlfriend did, and it knocked about 40% off the new price, while still being only a couple years old and very low mileage.

I'll probably need to replace the brake pads myself after the warranty runs out, but for another few years, maintenance is supposedly comped.

That depends on the car. A low end Acura or BMW will only lose around 40% over the first 3 years and IMO knowing that you don't need to worry about repairs for 4 years is worth a fair amount by it's self.

    It's different from other cars I've driven 
    like Macs are different from the windows 
    boxes I've used.
OT, but am I the only one who doesn't see the appeal of os x? I have had a mac with os x for over a year now (also had macs before it in the system/os 7.x-8.x generation) and I still prefer ubuntu or windows 7 (although not by much).

The hardware is top notch tho.

For me the appeal is that I don't have to mess with it. When I get a new windows machine it takes about 2 days to get every thing how I want it. Linux is much longer. I got my first Mac about 2 years ago and it took my a grand total of about 2.5 hours. Part of this might be that some things I wanted to change I couldn't, but a big part of it is just that Mac tends to pick the defaults I want so I don't have to mess with it.

The other thing is that on Mac if I install a new program I don't feel like I've just taken N number of months of the life of the OS install (Linux is even better here).

Basically, I'm older now and I don't have time to use a computer for anything other than what I have it for. Every second I have to spend doing administration is a wasted second.

Easier said than done.

BTW, if you've never driven a BMW, test-drive one. They drive like nothing else in this world.

Maybe this has something to do with environment. When I lived in the states I bought the cheapest stuff I could get and somehow didn't notice that I had to replace the stuff fairly often. I'm not sure if it's the fact that I've gotten older and lost patience for dealing with things breaking or if living in a country where people really consider quality and long term ownership, but I don't shop for short-term cheap anymore. I care about owning experience, lifetime cost and how painful will it be to me to get it fixed if it breaks.

It's funny but you even have to consider this with consumables like toilet paper. If you get the cheap stuff it's practically half-ply so you have to use 3 times as much. Better to get the 3-ply that costs twice as much.

I answered your BMW comment here: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1779306

I think the problem is not spending the other 80% of their income, it's spending the income they never had, or spending all of it and not realising that there can be unexpected hiccups.


"The things that you own end up owning you." Tyler Durden

Since I'm creating a wedding startup, the insane amount of money people throw at one event has been in my mind lately...

It's a brutal cycle — the weddings featured in magazines and online are almost always out of the average couples budget, and what those stories do is create the idea of "this is what you should have". Couples then concern themselves with having the best card boxes, the perfect playlist, hand making favors that will be thrown out the next day by the majority of their guests, because this is what they're told is the right way of throwing a wedding. A one day event that people spend way too much money on because they're persuaded to by this industry.

This calls for another startup -- the funeral startup.

Weddings and funerals are businesses with huge markups. There is a lot of emotional attachment involved in both, and people will be willing to shell out enormous amounts of money on such events.

Oh my goodness, I totally agree.

Did you know they sell decorative boxes to be cremated in? Nevermind you're never going to see the box, nor will the deceased care which box they're in, all it's going to do is _burn_ but the funeral people are all, "what, you'd burn your father in a cardboard box? How horrible."

Put me in a cardboard box, bury me and plant a tree above me.

I tell my wife all of the time, "if I die first, get the cheapest funeral possible. A cardboard box is fine. If you spend too much I will come back and haunt you."

And of course baby showers and the like as well.

The ladies play bingo at baby showers. I was similarly ignorant about checks stats ten thousand dollars ago.

What is "checks stats"?

he checked his stats to see how much he (presumably) made selling babyshower bingo cards.

Fantastic way to gain insights into the everyday lives of people :-)

There's one in the current YC crop, isn't there?

Somebody posted a write-up not to long ago. 1000memories, I believe.


I was actually responding to @rdtsc's comment above: "This calls for another startup -- the funeral startup."

Sorry, didn't read carefully enough.

My wife is involved in the wedding industry. Both she and I have commented at various times that if people invested less in their wedding day and more in their ongoing relationship after the day, they'd often be better off.

I find that very interesting as well. I'm getting married in May and quickly figured this out... its about the union of two people and what makes them happy, not how many layers the cake is or how expensive the party favors are... we opted for a destination wedding with the closest people to us - instead of 200 people in a giant, expensive, impersonal function hall

It's an advantage to marry young, then. The older the get, the more friends have invited you to their own wedding. Maybe I worry too much, but I feel uneasy about not returning the favour.

Then again, maybe attending another person's wedding is the actual favour. After all, it usually costs a lot of money to attend a wedding, too.

I think that's one influence, but a great many people do it to impress their friends. You don't want to be the couple that had that bland, short wedding where there were no hook-ups, the dancefloor didn't go nuts, that one person didn't embarrass themselves, no one kicked on afterwards until 4am and people still weren't talking about it years later, do you?

To facilitate most of these things you don't need to spend loads of money, you just need abundant alcohol.

A wedding need neither be bland nor short to be cheap; hook-ups, dance floors, embarrassment and kicking it until 4am don't require that much money.

You know that and I know that, but I don't think a lot of people realise it (certainly not in the flurry of planning). Every chick says "I don't want it to be over the top, I just want it to be more like a party where everyone has fun." Fast forward a few months and the bill includes chair covers, marquee, crockery and cutlery hire, catering, lighting, and the list goes on and on.

One of the few episodes of Friends that I watched was where Chandler and Monica were planning their wedding. Chandler told Monica how much money (cash) he had and she said something like "Now we can go with my Plan A wedding" and Chandler said "We're not spending all my money on one party", to which Monica responded "Don't call my wedding a party!"

It'd be nice to think that this was intended and took as a spoof of the conspicuous consumption that big weddings are, but I suspect that, considering the target audience, there was a lot of nodding all around.

This is true. We had a cash bar, and opted for the cheapest chairs and people had to use paper napkins and plastic utensils to eat their BBQ off of paper plates (gasp!).

But the part friends & family still talk about years later is, "Hey, remember when your German Shepherd was your ring-bearer at your wedding, and you sent her running down the aisle? That was great!"

Doesn't take money to be entertaining.

Yes. Many of us don't give a rats ass about impressing anyone, that's not the point of a wedding.

The problem is a cultural narrative of "this is my perfect day!" This is what creates bridezilla out of otherwise very nice (but, not self-aware-enough) women.

That's the female narrative, we're on hacker news, I was assuming he was asking the male point of view. I certainly don't know any men who thought "this is my perfect day".

It's a wedding. In the majority of cases, the male point of view is irrelevant.

Also, as I said elsewhere in this thread, what a woman might say in theory or outside of planning mode is often quite different to how they'll act once things get real.

(Recently married for the second time, FWIW.)

> It's a wedding. In the majority of cases, the male point of view is irrelevant.

Which is probably why so many marriages end in divorce. If she's not mature enough to know the real purpose of a wedding and thinks it's about having her day to show off to her friends, then she's just not mature enough and she's selfish.

Catch her the second or third time around and see if she hasn't smartened up a bit and if the man's point of view doesn't carry more weight now.

> Recently married for the second time, FWIW.

Good luck with that!

Are you suggesting that a woman being obsessive about her wedding day is a character flaw?

I understand that they want the day to go well, since it is significant. But there's no need to step on people to achieve it.

Yes, one they outgrow with each wedding.

Yes it is!

I think the best advice I ever got from my parents about weddings is that you have to have really good food. Nobody hardly remembers anything else, even the bride's dress, but if you have incredible food, people will talk about it for a decade. This may be biased, being from a southern Italian family, but I think it's good advice.

The sad thing is that money problems are a major cause of divorce. Starting out with a bunch of wedding debt is not helpful.

As several folks told my wife and I, "the marriage is more important than the wedding." Our wedding was wonderful, but simple and cheap - I think about $3,000 (with lots of help from friends). But from the start - from dating to pre-marital counseling to continued investment in our relationship - we've been focused on our marriage itself.

Very close to the fight club quote: "Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don't need."

It's possible it's even older than this, but the earliest mention I can find of that quote has it being attributed to a Reverend T. Garrott Benjamin, Jr. in 1987: http://books.google.com/books?id=2bMDAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA16

I think the first occurrence is in "Design for the Real World"s preface (Victor Papanek, 1971):

... And possibly only one profession is phonier. Advertising design, in persuading people to buy things they don’t need, with money they don’t have, in order to impress others who don’t care, is probably the phoniest field in existence today.

Interesting chain of "inspiration" :)

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