Get Rid of Your Money-Attachment

raffende_haende

It is in your own interest not to become the owner of this hand.

Every human strives to life a live as happy as possible. Much, if not most, of what we do, is geared to make our lives better and to increase happiness.
However, most people do not really seem to progress in their pursuit of happiness.
Why is this the case?

I think it has a lot to do with the means that people want to use to increase the quality of their life.
In our outward looking and materialistic western cultures, and in our religion-stripped consumption focussed times, the view – more than ever in history – is focussed on material things, on possessing, on body improvement and on other features of the physical world.

Most people constantly think about what they need. What they want. What they would like to add.

Interestingly, instead of looking for more to add, it is equally important to look for letting go to become happy.

There are several concepts out there describing the benefit of letting go, but the one phrase that describes it best is the word “Attachment” (German: Anhaftung) that is used in buddhist philosophy.

Attachment means the negative way that humans getting dependent on certain things, on feelings, on their position, on regard by others etc.

Attachment clearly produces suffering and has to be overcome.

To make things more clear I will revert to my own case that you can even reconstruct when scrolling back in this blog.

Five years ago, when I started the mission of downshifting, I was very much impressed by the ideas of massive saving, accumulating passive income, retire early etc. I introduced a strict savings plan (that worked out quite successful), and started to find ways how to consume less and to save more.

All fine and good so far. But after a few years I recognized (with the help of some hints from Mrs Woodpecker) that things somehow went wrong.
Instead of feeling more and more happy when looking at the growing savings account, I got more and more unhappy and impatient whenever small blow-back occurred (e.g. when a tax or the rent was raised, when a costly and non-sheduled repair came up, when I had to push my calculated retirement age back etc).
I was spending massive time with my stocks and personal book-keeping, in the order of, well, I’d say 15 hours a week. Hell! 15 hours! Yeah, yes, yes, it was all for the good thing, all for increasing returns etc. blabla, but still…15 hours of prima age life spend every week only to have more time later at a age where time is not so scarce anyway?!
At that time thinking about money was a second nature to me, it was always there, with every small spending the internal calculator was active, and that was finally the moment when I realized:

I am attached to something very pathetic. I was attached to accumulating money.

It was not more about doing a wise thing (saving still is wise, and stupid consumption still stays stupid), but money became the measure of most things, and thus an “obsession”. A mild sort of obsession only, but still this is what attachment is all about:

You are no more controlling the object (in this case money), but it controls you.

To cut a long story short, I think I was able to overcome that particular attachment until now. Woodpeckers still save, we still look for efficient deals, we still do not consume excessively but with care. But all of this is more natural now, with less force and with much less bookkeeping. With more acceptance of the tides of life and fate and with the knowledge that long-term plans are nice, but in the long run reality does tend to ignore them.

In parallel I looked around and found that so many people around me were attached to money! And they all fueled that negative trait in me.

Only a few of my friends, but a lot of acquaintances, some colleagues and many people in business life or in finance internet forums are clearly attached to their money, to their returns, to making the good deals etc.
Some of them to an extend that is ridiculous and sad at the same moment. I could add countless anecdotes here, but leave it to your observation skills to find cases in your life.
You identify a money-attached easily if you dig a bit deeper in any serious discussion. Let it be politics, refugees, the future, ecology, economy, the society etc. All of this topics are very very complicated I know, and very very often we are far from an optimal solution, but with the money-attached, in the end, all of their arguing always end up in their fear that they have to pay something or something could be taken from them.
There is a lot of hiding this behind moral, wanting the good, protecting others, but if you drill down it will boil down to:
“OMG! I might have to pay! This world is so unfair, this politicians are so bad, everybody around me is evil, corrupted or stupid. It would be much better if I was in charge! Because then, finally, I would take care that my two birth-rights will be respected: Not to pay more than now. Not to get less than now”

The effect often is the stronger the richer the person is. Maybe because the more you have to more you are obsessed with protecting it.

It is pathetic and stands so much in their way of leading a fear-less and happy live. And yet it is so difficult to overcome, because so many forces around us secretly whisper: “YESSSS. YOU NEED TO HAVE MOREE. YOU ARE ONLY WORTH SOMETHING IFF YOU HAVE A,B,C. YOU EARNED IT. YOU DESEERVE IT. YOU HAVE TO COMPEEETE TO STAY UPPP.”

But all of this is crap of course.

So I am asking you:

Do you see that pattern in your environment?
Do you even have a self critical moment and see it at work in yourself?
Nothing un-normal, as this is the disease of our time, most people are infected to some degree.
But once you recognize this mechanism at work within yourself, do me a favour:

Cling to it, observe it, scrutinize it, see how it beats you down, because, damn, the more you have the more you can loose. And damn, there are always forces out there beyond your control, no matter what you do!
Drill your thought and fears down to its source: The fear of loss.
And finally: Kill that fear!

Accept the world for what it is. Accept the risk it brings. Start to understand that you can never fully protect yourself against the world. You are part of it. Start to trust in your own power to handle future problems should they come up.

And your fear will vanish…your attachment to money will yield back. The fog of worries and threats around you will lift.

YOU will be the first to benefit if you are able to get rid of money-attachment.

And for the time being, avoid others that are money-attached.
They will try to comfort you in your attachment. And they will attack you as a naiv good-do-er, or a “Gutmensch” (stupid german derogative word for people thinking beyond their own benefit) if you do not follow their path anymore.

Later on, when you ended your struggle and erased your own money-attachment you can come back to these people.
On the other side: Chances are that you will not. Because they will no longer be interesting to you. They have nothing to say other than “I want to get as much as possible and I do not want to pay”. And you heard that often enough, right?!

Cheers,

Woodpecker

 

Merry Christmas – and how to handle the “gift question”?

How to have a nice christmas without surrendering to consumerism?

How to have a nice christmas without surrendering to consumerism?

A very quick Christmas post, before heading off for family business.

Topic is obvious: Presents!

It maybe a bit late now, but an ongoing discussion among all wanting to life more frugal is:

How do we handle Christmas presents?!

On the one side the idea behind a present is certainly a positive one, on the other side, todays culture forces many people into a blind flush of consumerism which is quite opposed to the christmas time idea to concentrate on the important things in life.

Thus, a good christmas / festive season should concentrate on the important aspects. Those are:

  • Spending time together with loved ones
  • Calm down a bit from the constant level of stress a stimulation of today’s world
  • Please those that you love, and also strangers and others around you
  • Creat a positive and feel-good atmosphere
  • Think of the not so fortunate people in the world (!)

Continue reading

Dhoo! Cars!

Why do we pay so much to end up here?!

Why do we pay so much to end up here?!

Dhoo!
Cars!

Unfortunately, if you have a family and you like travelling and outdoor activities, it is difficult to live without one, no matter how heavily you use your bike or public transport.

In Woodpecker’s case, we drive a Ford Mondeo station wagon, main criterium was a big rear trunk, limited costs, low fuel consumption.

To be honest, the car is great, but we could have done much more frugal. Unfortunately we bought the car three years ago, and that was before seriously entering the downshifting path.

I mean there is plenty of stuff around on frugal car choice and frugal driving, so I won’t go into detail here.

But let me highlight two issues from my own painful experience:

1) It goes without saying tha you must never ever buy a new car! But also never buy a “Jahreswagen” (a one year old car)

In Germany, “Jahreswagen” are heavily advertised as a reasonable compromise between enjoying an almost new and up-to-date car, that will run reliable and without hassles for many years to come, and the avoidance of the ridiculous high costs of a brand new car.

I owned a high variety of damn old junkers myself before:
First one was “Amadeus”, a nine-year old Ford Focus (a very economical car at low price in my view). However, the 3rd gear of the car was broken, so you had to switch from 2nd directly to 4th. And at startup, typically only three out of four cylinders were working with the 4th powering up sooner or later, dependent on the weather. In one word: It was a mess, but a lovely mess, like a living creature with bad moods, varying state of health and all – it was my first car!Another pearl was a 13-year-old, 60 PS Nissan Sunny, that I bought for 500 EUR only to drive it 3 more years. It was – often loaded with 4 grown up guys plus mountaineering equipment – reliably the slowest car among everyone on any mountain pass in the Alps.And same for Mrs. Woodpecker
So this time, now having a salary at disposal I would never have imagined normal 15 years ago – we decided: “No more bloody junk-cars, no more breakdowns on highways or during holidays. We want something that works!”

So we were taken in by the “Jahreswagen” idea: A car for about 19.000 EUR, half the price of a new one, yet only one year old! Great!

And what we would save now that we don’t have to do the repairs anymore! After all, each of the old cars before costed at least 1.000 bucks per year for repairs.

Sounds good?
…but isn’t. Because a “Jahreswagen” comes with its own very high running costs:

  • First, there is depreciation. OMG, the car lost about 2.200 EUR per year initially. Obviously, depreciation slows down later, but at second and third year, it is still that massive! No, I don’t want my Nissan Sunny back, but there depreciation was around 200 EUR p.a.
  • Second, for a car that new, you basically need “Vollkasko”-Insurance (comprehensive insurance, LDW). Obviously, for a car as big as the Mondeo, this is pricy. The best online rate I got (HUK24 insurance) was around 600 EUR p.a. (Cancelled it by now and reduced it to mandatory cover)
  • Third, and I really hate me for having overseen that point: The new car needs all this bloody regular service, otherwise your guarantees will void and resale value will decrease sharply. And this services are a genuine rip-off, at least here in Germany. The Mondeo “needs” one EVERY year, some around 350 EUR (the “small” one), and every second year around 600 EUR (the “big” one). No idea why this has to be that expensive, but I guess this is a cross-financing of a relatively cheap sales price.
  • And: Repairs, parts, oil, tires, tax, everything will be much more expensive for a big and more upscale car.

So let’s make a quick and rough comparison:

  Nissan Sunny “the Junker”, 13 years old, 60 PS, normal fuel Ford Mondeo “the luxury family carrier”, 1 year old, 130 PS, gasoline Ford Mondeo “the compromise”, 4-5 years old, 130 PS, normal fuel*
Pro No one would ever steal this car. Space for everybody plus tons of luggage or equipment. Lot of nice extras. Perfect family/holiday car. Same as to the “luxury version”.
Con Uncomfortability taken to a new level!Not really suitable for more than two persons. You start to care about really stupid things, like “this guy  nudged my car when parking in” You might find someone elses peanuts under the seats.
Depreciation p.a. 200 EUR 2.200 EUR 1.100 EUR
Repair costs p.a. 1.000 EUR 0 EUR 500 EUR
Tax 100 EUR 260 EUR 120 EUR
Insurance 200 EUR 600 EUR 300 EUR
Service+Oil 50 EUR 450 EUR 200 EUR
Fuel 20.000 km 1.8000 EUR 1.750 EUR 1.900 EUR
Opportunity Cost for Bound Capital (5%) 30 EUR 950 EUR 600 EUR
Annoyance Level Very high Low Still low
Total 3.380 EUR 6.210 EUR 4.720 EUR
*Gasoline in Germany is only interesting if you drive >20.000 km per year, as it’s price is lower than normal fuel, but the tax on gasoline cars and car price itself is higher. Woodpeckers come in around this mileage, problem is we do almost 1/3 of this during travels outside of Germany – and guess what, gasoline is NOT cheaper there.

Phew: Today we pay around 6.200 EUR annually for our luxury car!

This is competing heavily with our also luxurious travel budget for rank two in family spending (behind housing).

It is 520 EUR per month.
Hm. The compromise solution would be 390 EUR per month, a saving of 130 EUR. Being a family of four with many travel and outdoor interests, I would go for this one next time as a trade-off between low annoyance level and reasonable price. Invest a bit of the saved money in a general reconditioning of the car, and it will occur to you pretty new anyway.
Apart from that, I am not unhappy with the Mondeo, at least in Germany one of the more undervalued cars and no “sexiness price markup”. Also service, repairs, parts etc. can even be much higher for stupid “sexy” cars like BMW, Audi, Mercedes.

However, as a single, as a student or somebody seldom using his car or with no need for huge luggage, I’d move much further in the direction of the “Nissan Sunny Junker Solution”. Not quite to the Nissan mayhap, but given the saving: Who knows?!

2) Repairs / Spare parts / Service

Some days ago, coming back from a grilling events with the university sailing club (these mad guys grilled a whole saw for 4 hours): When parking I hit a little stilt that squeezed in the front fender. Half of the bump I was able to push out again with my bare hands.
With what was left of the bump I went to the local authorized Ford Garage, not expecting a great offer, but just trying anyway.

What did I get:
“Well, we can’t do much here. We strongly recommend to change the whole front fender. Including working time, this comes in at around 700 EUR”

What?! Do I have something with my ears, or did I hear right?!
700 EUR? For a small bump, half of which I corrected without the use of ANY tool?!
And if they say 700 EUR, effectively it’s going to by 800 EUR + tax, thus 1000 EUR are a likely outcome!!

Wait a minute, for 1.000 EUR I bought a whole car more than once in the past.

I dare say:

All major authorised car company garages are gangsters!

There is absolutely no attitude there to find a good and frugal solution for the client. The only goal seems to be: Replace and throw away as much stuff as somehow possible.
This is a nightmare for every sane person, from a financial as well as from an ecological perspective!

In that respect, the car industry now resembles most other consumption good industries:

Things are touchy, and if they break, throw them away!
Do not attempt to repair anything or even fix it in a provisional way.
Just buy new! It’s so great!

[/rant mode off]

Needless to sa, that we downshifters have to refuse and fight this trend decisively!

As with all other goods it is self-evident: you have to find a way to tackle your car more economical, as a tool that delivers transportation and less like a precious ancient chinese vase.

In the end your car is a bloody lump of steel that shall get you from A to B.

It is not your lover nor the face of a luxury celebrity or a football star’s knee that has to be pampered up and down no matter what cost.

Thus I’d advise:

  • Repair only at independent and practical oriented garages (the real car lovers will curse me, I know). Surveys show (at least for Germany) no difference at all in service quality compared to authorized garages while prices are 30-40% lower.
  • Or even much better, do it yourself or by friends in return for help you offer them.
  • Service intervals of one year are stupid. If you are planning to run down the car yourself, most people who are good at cars told me: Do only security relevant stuff, and some wear parts plus frequent oil changing, and brake fluids when needed. You can cut service costs by another half that way.
  • Do you really always need original parts? Even for non-critical, non-security relevant parts?
  • Never ever do one of these stupid holiday checks or whatever. Your car dealer will find something that you have to do “for the sake of security”.
  • You might even consider fixing things while being abroad. I had some fantastic car repairs in Turkey – great service, great fun, and incredibly cheap. I will save the bump in my fender for these guys!

Cheers,
Woodpecker

The library – the most profitable investment in your life!

Libraries are as old as civilization - though the selection of books available at this one might be limited...(seen at Pataya, Turkey)

Libraries are as old as civilization – though the selection of books available at this one might be limited…(seen at Patara, Turkey)

Like conventional families go to the mall shopping to have a good day, at Woodpecker’s we have the habit to visit our local library about once a week.

Boy, this is always good fun and sure for free!

The kids are so keen to go there, it always turns out to be a first class event for them, and an educated one as well! We started the habit about 2 1/2 years ago, when the older boy (he is now 3 1/2 years old) started to consume kids book by the dozen.
Actually these days we source 90% of our media demand from the library, but I am surprised that there are still people who never use it! And I’m in deep regret I didn’t discover it earlier.

At least here in Munich, libraries are spread out all over town, and they have kids corners for all ages, kids film, science books for all ages, board games, movies, music, travel guides, audio books, computer programs, you name it!

You just do a nice excursion there by bike, load in a stack of stuff while the kids happily and with a broad smile screen new books or search for their favorite DVD and you have a good time until your next visit.

A big hit to our Amazon purchases.

Let’s look at an estimate:

Item lend Per visit Per year (30 visits) Cost saved p.a.
Kids books 5 50 (very repetitive) EUR 500
Kids DVDs 3 30 (even more repetitive) EUR 450
Board games 0,2 5 EUR 150
Books for us 3 90 EUR 750
Music CDs 0,5 15 EUR 150
Audio Books 1 30 EUR 450
Movies 1 30 EUR 450
Travel Guides 5 EUR 100
Special Books (Science, Handbooks, coffee-table books 10 EUR 250
Total EUR 3.250
Healthy bike kilometers 6 km 180 km
Cost of 2 library cards EUR -40
Return on Investment 8125% !!

A return on investment of 8125% on our library cards!
Savings of 3.250 EUR per year by an investment of 40 EUR. That is 32.500 EUR savings over 10 years! (Or still ~10.000 EUR, assuming you’d have bought used books/media instead)

That’s what I call a good performance! I’d wish there would be more deals out there like this one.

But I’d guess the library card will stay the single most best investment in your life!

So go for it today!

Of course there are still a lot of occasions where we buy from Amazon. TV Serials e.g., as there is no TV at Woodpeckers. Or special books/movies/software not available at the library. In this cases we mostly order at Amazon UK which is much cheaper than Amazon Germany and you can actually log in there with your German user name!And later we resell the used stuff in Germany.
Quite often, I even made a profit out of movies or books that way!

Cheers,
Woodpecker

Cheap Presents and the Presenter’s Paradox

A cablecar (although a bit smaller and much cheaper version ;) ): Favorit present of the year. Foto: Alps, close to Munich.

A cable car (although a bit smaller and much cheaper version 😉 ): Favorite present of the year. Photo: Kampenwand, close to Munich.

1) Gifts: What you can learn from observing kids

You have kids?

They are a great chance to learn something about happiness, because kids express their feelings and preferences very straight forward and transparent as social expectations and courtesy are not yet part of their reaction.

One interesting observation after Christmas (or after birthdays) is how they react to presents.

Continue reading

How much consumption is really optimal?

Holidays creats a lot of satisfaction for Woodpeckers, so we spend a lot for them. But that might be different for you.

Travelling creates a lot of satisfaction for Woodpeckers, so we spend a lot on it. But that might be different for you. Photo: Périgord, France.

Hi there and a happy festive season (guess that’s the political correct expression for merry christmas, isn’t it?)!

Well, at least in Germany the consumerist part of Christmas is over (presents are exchanged on 25th of December), so it’s a good time to reflect a bit on consumption in general.

I guess concerning this issue there are two major opposing groups when I look around:

1) The more-and-more attitude

i.e. the materialistically driven group that is striving to maximize consumption ever more.
Consumption, materialistic gains, and all that belongs to it (like career, political focus on efficiency, perfectly trimmed CVs, status and it’s symbols) plays a major role for them. To different degrees they are consciously or unconsciously sacrificing many non-material pleasures in life (like social contact, idle-time, hobbies, travelling, chilling, creative work, benevolence) for the main purpose: “Getting ahead” and “achieving something”.
Whereas it seems to be pretty thinly defined what exactly the purpose of this “achievement” is in the end. Continue reading

How adsurd: An invitation to an A&F store opening in Munich

How stupid do you have to be to think this is an "event"?! (Opening of A&F store in Munich, Photo: Merkur)

How stupid do you have to be to think this is an “event”?! (Opening of A&F store in Munich, Photo: Merkur)

OMG, whatever it is worth or not worth apart from this, Facebook is always good for some fun / amazement about the world of the unfrugal common.

The other day I got an invitation of a distant Facebook-“friend”, celebrating the opening of an Abercrombie&Fitch Store in Munich which he went 200km (150mls) to Munich to see for.
What can I say? That might be excusable if the guy was a teenie of let’s say 16 years age, amazed and fooled in the same instant by the glamorous consume options of a modern world to which his parents have no access to.
But no, guess how old he is? Mid 30, like Woodpecker, and a solid man, working in an advanced position in an internationally well-respected consultancy firm.
I mean, what’s wrong? Spending a nice Saturday off in your car going 200km to crowded downtown Munich, just to cramp together with other stupid people and to wait for an super-expensive cloth shop to open its holy gates the first time?

Is this something you later tell your grand-children?

“Look you grandkids, those where the great old times, and your grandpa was THERE! I saw it! I was one of the few chosen happy ones who actually joined that great party in the magic November 2012, when we were so close to happiness. When the new A&F flagship shop in Sendlinger Strasse, Munich, opened it’s gates for the very first time! I was young and this was the GREATEST MOMENT in my life!! I wish I could go back and see it again!”

Continue reading