Weekend reading: I shopped til I dropped

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What caught my eye this week.

I would have had this post to you much earlier on Friday, but for consumerism. You see I got totally distracted trying to get the best out of my new Sage Barista Express:

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Real life: Messy.

Having done a barista training course a few years ago, I improbably fancied myself as pretty hot stuff with a coffee grinder.

I’ve enjoyed flat whites knocked out by a friend on this well-reviewed model many times, too.

But it turns out I didn’t know my friend as well as I thought I did!

I’ve discovered he’s great at making coffee – but perhaps more shockingly that he’s modest about it. (What other talents does he boast, I now wonder? Or rather does he not boast?)

Seriously, I know it takes a while to get the hang of DIY espressos on new kit, so I’m not too perturbed. It’s only eaten a couple of hours so far, and that includes washing the bits and bobs, figuring out how it fitted together, and collecting beans I spilled on the floor.

No, the other reason why I fell behind was because as soon this new toy finally arrived from Amazon, I went out for a three-hour hike around West London.

Did you sign for it, sir?

You see I’ve been in all week waiting for deliveries – and it drives me crazy.

I’m on edge all-day, until the deliveries do (or don’t) arrive.

A laid-back friend who doesn’t understand my hair-trigger control freak personality asked me what the big deal was.

“Imagine waiting all day to be slapped in the face,” I said. “You don’t know when it’s coming, but you will be slapped in the face. That’s me waiting for the door buzzer.”

It’s not even that I can’t do the social interaction bit. It’s worse: I usually talk the delivery person’s ear off. (A common failing among those of us who work from home.)

Rather it’s the waiting and uncertainty that kills me – and the unexpected and unscheduled state change.

Years before the Millennials I kept my mobile on silent always, for the same reason.

A totally unexpected phone call to my mobile feels like being tapped on the shoulder by a suddenly apparating supernatural nosy neighbour. I hate it.

Now at this point you’re either nodding along (a very few of you) or you’re aghast with incomprehension. Which is fine.

(I’ve said before when explaining why I invest actively and nearly everyone reading shouldn’t that I’m wired differently. I didn’t say it was easy!)

Economy class

Anyway, the reason I’m sharing these asides – and the rare from real-life picture above – is to give a quick update on my embrace of consumerism.

The story so far: You’ll remember I bought a flat, I still haven’t written up why, and I set about spending some of my 20-odd years of winnings (well, savings and winnings) to make it fancy.

This got off to a good start. I’ve always loved nice furnishings and so on – from afar. But by the middle of the hot summer I was bored of spending money.

I’d lost enthusiasm, I’d lost my girlfriend (she said she didn’t like my sudden interiors obsession, but perhaps she just didn’t like the sofa I finally selected?), and I’d lost (/spent) more money traded for matter than I’d spent on things in the previous two decades combined.

I didn’t even go crazy! It’s just that living like a graduate student even as your earnings multiply is pretty low-rent.

For most of that long era I used to opine to my more normally spendy friends that buying stuff only produced problems. Which in my experience was almost always true.

Stuff didn’t work, or you had to upgrade something else, or it broke, or you felt guilty, or you had to wait in for days to get it delivered, or you were worried it’d get nicked when finally you did get hold of it – or any one of a dozen other woes that people who buy stuff all the time think is just the way the world is.

Only two things hit the spot for me without fail when I splashed the cash. Black cabs – which I almost never took, and felt so luxurious in those pre-Uber days – and the first beer with two poppadoms and all the sauces and other gubbins.

Obviously I did a gazillion other things over the decades. I didn’t just taxi around London from curry house to curry house! And often it was money well spent.

But never reliably so.

Well, this whole flat buying and furnishing thing has proven my younger self right.

Through the keyhole

Don’t get me wrong. It’s coming along. It looks beautiful, to me if not my ex. I feel lucky to live among all these things I chose in my still-new flat, even knowing luck is only part of it.

But, oh! I guess I secretly thought the universe would notice The Investor Is Finally Throwing Money At The Problem and the rules would change. But they haven’t.

Stuff comes broken. Trades people don’t show up. Some of them are great, but some are – well – yet to find their true calling. Deliveries don’t arrive. I made a final push to finish my flat before Christmas, and caned the Black Friday offers. But only three of the seven resultant purchases that were scheduled for delivery have actually made it here so far. A new record of rubbishness.

Coffee machines are harder to use than you expected. Analine leather sofas stain if you sneeze near them. Complete automatic watering systems require add-ons to water completely. Your boiler is already up for a service – and that’ll be £100+ with VAT please.

I feel sometimes like Robinson Crusoe, finally back on the mainland after a long sabbatical away catching fresh fish with his hands and brushing his teeth with a fragrant root. I can confirm 2018 has a lot of gorgeous stuff on offer – but as we all know it comes at a price and doesn’t really solve anything.

Still happy I did it, but pleased I’m mostly buying things that will last.

Once I’m done the hedonic treadmill is going back into storage!

Note: Yes, it’s an expensive coffee machine (though one of the cheaper good ones). I’ve always liked a few quality things in life, I’ve just tended to get them cheaply. I saved about half my income for 20 years, so while the Frugal Police are welcome to give me a caution, keep in mind that I wrote the (racier) pages of the book you’re throwing at me. 😉And beware Buffett’s Folly…

From Monevator

From the archive-ator: Death, infirmity, and investing – Monevator


Note: Some links are Google search results – in PC/desktop view you can click to read the piece without being a paid subscriber. Try privacy/incognito mode to avoid cookies. Consider subscribing if you read them a lot!1

Here’s how much fund managers are paid [to lose to the market] – Institutional Investor

Houses prices down on fundamentals not Brexit, research suggests – ThisIsMoney

Property slump could cut number of affordable homes built by 25% – Guardian

UK migration: Fewer EU arrivals, but overall figure stays the same – BBC

Do you live in one of the happiest places in the UK? – ThisIsMoney

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The inheritance tax mess, where richest pay a lower percentage rate – Simon Lambert

Products and services

UK rail fares to rise 3.1% in January – Guardian

Shawbrook tops table with a 1.65% one-year cash ISA rate – ThisIsMoney

Ratesetter will pay you £100 [and me a bonus] if you invest £1,000 for a year – Ratesetter

New breed of elite dating apps for wealthy singletons [Search result] – FT

Comment and opinion

How to own all tomorrow’s winning stocks – The Evidence-based Investor

John Bogle needn’t worry about index fund dominance – Pragmatic Capitalism

The proliferation of indices isn’t all it appears – Abnormal Returns

In praise of old jobs – Young (Mrs) FIGuy

Spend more: The most ignored piece of financial advice [Search result] – FT

How to retire forever on a big stash [US taxes/insurance] – Mr Money Mustache

FIRE Day! – Retirement Investing Today

You would not have invested with Warren Buffett – Behavioural Value Investor

Anti-FIRE: The YOLO train wreck edition – Simple Living in Somerset

Juggling six-figure margin debt [Don’t try this at home!] – Fire V London

The top 20 Personal Finance questions answered – Guardian

Morningstar gets into the finance-meets-food-pyramid game – Morningstar

Five things parenting and (active) investing share – The Value Perspective

What can we do about over-confidence? – Behavioural Investor

An attempt at estimating the true ‘global market portfolio’, including all the unlisted assets in the world [Research] – Alpha Architect


Government finally admits UK will be worse off under all Brexits – New York Times

Leave voters statistically much likelier to believe conspiracy theories – Guardian

A Daily Mail EU scare story debunked [Again, people believe this crap] – Tom Pride

The French village that fears for its British community – BBC

Romania has lost 16% of its population to rest of EU in a decade – MSW via Twitter

Brexit TV Debate: A former Remainer will argue for her Brexit deal, a closet Leaver for a better deal or Remain. What a time to be alive! – BBC

I’d like to Exit from these homegrown cretins. Where do I vote? – BBC

Kindle book bargains

Why You? 101 Interview Questions You’ll Never Fear Again by James Reed – £1.99 on Kindle

Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations by Thomas L. Friedman – £1.99 on Kindle

The Spider Network: The Wild Story of a Maths Genius and One of the Greatest Scams in Financial History by David Enrich – £1.99 on Kindle

Tiny Budget Cooking: Saving Money Never Tasted So Good by Limahl Asmall – £1.09 on Kindle

Off our beat

Internet: The end of the beginning [Video/Presentation] – Benedict Evans

Watch how just a few self-driving cars prevent traffic jams [Graphics] – Science

Nike and Boeing are paying sci-fi writers to predict their futures – Medium

Woman who names daughter ‘Abcde’ is upset when someone finds it funny – ABC News

A man actually ticked the US Visa form ‘Are You A Terrorist?’ box – via Twitter

Maps showing how we’re divided by more than Brexit [Funny, old-ish] – Ink Tank

And finally…

“Why should we look to the past in order to prepare for the future? Because there is nowhere else to look.”
– James Burke, Connections

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  1. Note some articles can only be accessed through the search results if you’re using PC/desktop view (from mobile/tablet view they bring up the firewall/subscription page). To circumvent, switch your mobile browser to use the desktop view. On Chrome for Android: press the menu button followed by “Request Desktop Site”.
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