Search Results for: war on stuff
How to save a ton on Amazon without falling into the online consumption spiral.
By Brad Beckstrom
Is Amazon getting too good? We’ve been happy with Amazon Prime, especially the perks of membership like two day delivery, unlimited movies and music, even unlimited photo storage. If you’re going to pay for Amazon Prime membership, make sure you take advantage of all the included services.
Unfortunately, over time we’ve started to see Amazon creep up as a higher percentage of our spending, showing up more frequently on our credit card bills. Usually just as a single line without much information about what we purchased or which Amazon service we purchased it from.
3/20 Amazon.com AMZN.COM/BILL WA 44.27
We use Amazon to price check most purchases, especially any household staples that we have dropped off at our doorstep using Amazon Prime. I usually compare against Costco prices I’ve saved in Evernote or on Google Shopper so we’re not only getting better price on many items, I get to stay out of stores that give me hives. Staying out of stores is a good way to avoid impulse purchases. This was always a problem for my wife at Target, or myself at the hardware store. We’ve dialed back on impulse purchases over the years.
The issue now with Amazon is that they’re making things too easy. They just started offering same-day delivery in our area on many items. They’ve gotten good at making recommendations based on our purchase history. I find myself jumping on the site to do a quick price check, or reordering a case of paper towels etc., and seeing something I remembered we could use.
There are a lot of these lately. At first Amazon was great, we could quickly reorder household items and simultaneously check the price, online. Amazon would also save all of our purchases so we could go back and remember what kind of furnace filters we used. For example, furnace filters should be replaced every three months. Years ago I remember actually running to the Home Depot and buying three overpriced furnace filters whenever I needed to. By doing some research and ordering a case of these filters on Amazon, I save about 30 to 40% and can switch brands depending on what’s the best deal. I also saved myself a trip to Home Depot. How much is an hour of time worth? Think about that on your way to and from a store for a single item, make sure you include, time to park, gas wasted, time searching for the item, and standing in line to purchase it.
It’s better on Amazon or is it? [Read more…] about All the stuff we didn’t buy.
My wife Kelly and I have started a new tradition. The Costco Date. Kelly actually coined the term and I jumped on it. I was recently complaining about our grocery bill that two growing teenage boys have something to do with. We had bailed on Costco a few years back primarily because the times we usually went, weekends, it was usually a zoo. I have better things to do with my time than visit a big-box store on a weekend. We also started ending up with oversize stuff we didn’t need like giant jars of olives and other questionable clothing and gadget purchases.
We’d started using Amazon Prime for paper products, pet food, and lots of other items so we decided not to renew our Costco membership. That was before I decided to declare war on our grocery bill. [Read more…] about The Costco Date. Declaring War on your Grocery Bill.
The average U.S. household has 300,000 things.
Let that sink in for a second. Okay, how about this one: Children in the United States make up only 3.7% of children on the planet but have 47% of all the world’s toys and children’s books.
Who comes up with these stats? As it turns out, quite a few people. Anthropologists and archaeologists, sociologists and economists are all studying our addiction to stuff. When you think about it, it’s fascinating. Writers and academics want to document this phenomenon so that thousands of years from now when an archaeologist comes across 750 plastic toys at a single family dwelling dig site she will be able to explain why.
Life at Home in the 21st Century
The UCLA Institute of Archaeology Press recently published a book called “Life at Home in the 21st Century.” The book is filled with U.S. stuff statistics, but what I found more interesting was the thousands of photographs from families who bravely opened their doors to researchers. [Read more…] about Big Box America. Maybe our middle class is vanishing because they’re buried under a pile of stuff.
Separate happiness from owning stuff
by Brad Beckstrom
You would think someone who writes about living lean and minimalism would not have a stuff problem. Think again.
It’s the start of a holiday weekend and I just spent a over an hour on the phone with Apple support. Turns out I have too much stuff on one of my two computers. I have too many extensions on my Chrome browser. One of these extensions, or other apps, are creating issues, causing the browser then the computer, to hangup.
Apple was nice enough to help me with my out of warranty iMac. I’d imagine there’s some reason for this. Maybe they looked at my support file and got a glimpse of how many Powerbooks, Macs, iPhones and iPads I’ve purchased over the years. I’m embarrassed by this number. When you add in my wife SuperK, my two kids, and various ventures I’ve purchased Macs for, I am very embarrassed by this number.
Mo Stuff = Mo Problems
See the problem is not really the Mac, it’s the number of Macs and the number of apps. Mo Stuff = Mo Problems. Rapper Notorious B.I.G. famously said Mo Money = Mo Problems and things did not end well for him. Shot dead, likely due to some money problems with other rappers. [Read more…] about Mo Stuff = Mo Problems
Will this _________ simplify my life? Go ahead, fill in that blank with anything. In this country, we live with an abundance of stuff. You can walk into any big box store and browse upwards of 150,000 different things. We have millions of apps available with one click and many of the good ones are free. Often with things that are free (especially with things that are free), you need to ask the question. Will this “free _____” simplify my life?
As someone who writes about living lean and working lean, I need to ask the simplicity question often. As an entrepreneur, I need to ask this question about any piece of software, new gadget, health plan the list goes on.
Sometimes the answer is yes, but you don’t really know that until you’ve already purchased it. I had no idea my iPhone would replace over 20 things until quite some time after I purchased it. So often you need to ask other people – How’s that __________working out for you?
“Perfection is achieved, not when there’s nothing more to add, but there’s nothing left to take away”
I repeat this quote, as I look at my cluttered basement. You can apply it to anything. Bruce Lee did when he was learning the perfect kick and the perfect punch. He said, “It is not daily increase but daily decrease. The height of cultivation always runs to simplicity.”
Steve Jobs and Jonathan Ive aspired to this when working on the iMac, the iPod, and the iPhone. These devices were revolutionary, not based on what was added, but what was taken away, like excessive buttons, bells, whistles, and keyboards. They were asking the simplicity question over and over, not just about the device but about every element of its design.
Bloatware. Something as straightforward as creating a document or a spreadsheet is often ruined by bloatware like Word, Excel & Powerpoint. The bloat comes from developers trying to best the competition with features and add-ons. Simple wins. Check out Google docs before Google ruins it with feature creep.
Keeping up with the Joneses. Things that start out as something simple, something that just works, become bloated with too many features. For example, cars with talking digital dashboards trying to sync with your phone and laptop. Will that simplify your life or maybe help you end up in a ditch somewhere, because you weren’t looking at the road? At some point you will definitely end up at the dealer amazed at the cost of repairing your talking digital dashboard.
Examples of when to use the simplicity question:
That presentation you’re working on — Try getting rid of some bullet points. Give it a 50% haircut for starters. Use images instead of words.
Working on an app or a piece of software — Start making a list of features that can be removed.
Creating some copy for a website or writing a blog post — Try to remove every other word. See how much you can cut.
Traveling — Use a website like Kayak.com to sort available flights by total travel time. Always include time in the value equation.
Cleaning out closets and garages — Ask the question “Will keeping these things make my life simpler?” You probably already know the answer.
Buying a car — If the owners manual is the size of a textbook, that should be a warning sign. Always go for quality and simplicity over features, especially electronic ones.
Making a big purchase like a new home — Ask the question about your commute, the condition of the home, how much space you really need, the type of loan.
The utilitarian item — Look at quality first, features last. Is it something you’ll use every day? What will it replace?
Exercise — Complex, backbreaking routines often found in programs like P90X, Crossfit others. See what you can cut out and get your workout down to something you can complete in 20 minutes and enjoy. You’ll stick with it a lot longer if it’s simple.
Looking at shiny displays in the big-box store — Ask the question.
So try asking the simplicity question more often. Picture yourself as Bruce Lee executing a perfect kick as you eliminate stuff from your life.
Life can be simple again.