Blog

Short blog posts, journal entries, and random thoughts. Topics include a mix of personal and the world at large. 

I almost bought a car

Last week, that is.

I already have a car, obviously, but the GT3 is used exclusively for weekend fun only. During the work week I take the bus, which has been and continues to be wonderful because I don’t have to stress over San Francisco’s notorious traffic. That said, the changeover to the month of July and its subsequent developments had me looking at cheap lease deals last week.

For the past year I’ve been paying for my brother’s car insurance, because he was still in his last year of undergrad and therefore his income can’t possibly afford to insure a 2018 Golf GTI for his 20 year-old self. I, a maker of decent money, and a proper Asian big brother, stepped in financially for until he graduates and finds a proper job.

Well, those two events happened within the last two weeks, and I suddenly find myself an extra $200 dollars richer per month from now onwards. Coincidently, my own insurance on the Porsche dropped significantly (some $400 less on the six months renewal), so cumulatively I had enough to cheaply lease a second car that will get me to and from work, and also, to and from the GT3 on the weekends. Not caring one bit in how luxurious a car is or whatever amenities it’s got, I zeroed in on a poverty-spec 2019 Honda Fit, leasing for just over $230, with first month’s payment and government fees as down-payment.

I would essentially be swapping an expense for another expense, with zero increase in monthly spending to accommodate the new lease. I was completely ready to execute the plan on Fourth of July (one of the biggest sales days for dealerships), but I made the mistake (?) of thinking it over more deeply, and ultimately decided against getting a second car for commuting.

As mentioned, I have no qualms with taking the bus, so the Honda Fit would’ve been a luxury item, even though I wouldn’t necessary be spending more money per month. Conversely, by not leasing the Honda, I’m pocketing the $250 in savings, and that will first help replenish my emergency fund (see: GT3), and after that, keeping it for some fun experience later on.

Suffice it to say, the early twenties me would’ve bought the Fit, no hesitation. Older and wiser now, allegedly.

Encountered an old-school American hooptie during Sunday lunch.

I bought nothing on Black Friday

A mainstay of Thanksgiving week is the ever popular Black Friday. Remember when we actually had to wait in lines until the clock strikes 12am on the Friday after Thanksgiving? I personally don’t because I’ve an aversion of lines, but nevertheless what used to be an Olympian effort just to score that television for dirt cheap prices (only five available at this price!) is now a leisure stroll through your preferred Internet shopping sites. Heck, most of the discounts were already available before Thanksgiving.

This Black Friday I spent absolutely zero dollars because I’ve implemented intense austerity so to have sufficient funds for an 911 next year. Otherwise I would’ve totally bought that LG OLED television I’ve been eyeing for many years now, plus the just-released new Apple Macbook Air was looking tasty as well. Smart people take the opportunity to do their Christmas shopping during Black Friday, and I’d do that too if not for the fact I simply make personalized photo Calendars to give out to everyone.

In the social media age, Black Friday is not replete without people commentating on the sad state of consumerism and how people are spending money they wouldn’t have otherwise if not for the steep discounts. I saw many tweets to that effect on Black Friday, high-horsed people lamenting the decay of human logic and decency. The few videos of customers physically fighting over a piece of merchandise is always entertaining. Seriously, is it really worth hurting a fellow human being to save a few dollars? Remember: it’s Thanksgiving!

Indeed I don’t doubt that a significant chunk of the population is foolishly induced by Black Friday price-cuts to spend (more) cavalierly. Our United States does have a consumer debt problem after all; it remains too bloody easy to simply put purchases on credit cards and procrastinate the worry of paying to much later (or never: hello bankruptcy!). That said, there’s also another significant chunk of the populace who are financially responsible and leverage Black Friday to buy items they’ve been wanting to at the best possible price. Therefore one shouldn’t use a broad brush to paint the entire consumer base as degenerates of the capitalist system.

Speaking of prices, I do enjoy how Black Friday shines a light on how overpriced items during other times of the year. For example the Google Pixel 3 XL phone that was released only a month ago at $899 can be had at an $200 dollar discount. Anybody buying that phone at full price afterwards ought to feel quite shortchanged.

Overall I think Black Friday is a good time and we all have our idiosyncratic ways to celebrate the occasion. This year I happen to buy nothing but perhaps next year will be different. I’ll certainly be looking at 911-related products for sure.

Rays of fire.

Rays of fire.

Quality is worth paying for

I’m in the camp of hobbyist photographers who seldom do actual prints. It’s not that I don’t want to, it’s just that the initial investment to procure the necessary equipment is relatively enormous. Why spend thousands on proper photo printer and paper when I can put that towards a new lens instead? Therefore the scant few times I needed to print something out, I outsource to the typical online printing platform (I use Mpix).

Tangent: now that Apple have shuttered their printing service, I’ll need to find another place to print my annual photo Calendars.

I recently went on a family trip, and we took a rather lovely group photo together. Figured it’d be wonderful to hang in the living room, I went on Mpix to order a framed 8x10 print. Even without going too crazy on the options (standard mat board and glass, cheapest frame material), the total price for the single photograph came to around $50, not including shipping. For some reason, I was surprised at how expensive this is.

Me, a photographer, can’t appreciate that a custom framed print ought to cost more than, say, 10 dollars. For shame; I should to be banished from ever selling prints of my own.

Perhaps the low prices of online retailers like Amazon have indoctrinated me to expect things to not cost a lot of money. It has certainly done so to the price of shipping, as in there shouldn’t be any. Adding to my frustration with the price of the print was that I had to pay another 13 dollars to have it delivered. I’ve been so acclimatized to not paying for shipping - and items arriving within two business days guaranteed - that honestly I had second thoughts about completing the purchase, on principle.

As I’ve written before: free shipping is not free, because there is no free lunch.

So I did end up buying the framed photo, because items of quality and craftsmanship are worth paying for. As an artist myself, that is the kind of sentiment I hope everybody carries with them. A race to the price bottom hurts everyone: ask musicians for their thoughts on streaming services. We must fight against the desensitization of online shopping and easy price comparisons, because more often than not, we indeed get what we pay for.

Now  this  is my kind of tranquil living.

Now this is my kind of tranquil living.