A few things I’ve learned over the years about saving money

  • No matter how low something is on sale, buying nothing is cheaper. The quickest way to save money is not to spend it — to mostly buy what you need, and rarely/barely buy what you want.
  • Anything that is likely to depreciate in value over time is probably a bad investment (e.g., cars, electronics, furniture, etc.), and should be minimized.
  • Regularly using a credit card, only if you pay it off every month, seems to increase one’s credit rating. Leaving unused credit cards open with a $0 balance also seems to be good for one’s credit rating.
  • When considering whether to buy or rent a home, don’t forget to consider the costs of mortgage interest, property taxes, property insurance, condo/HOA fees or maintenance, improvements, and the time required to sell it (could be many months or years). There is often a net loss over time, when investing in a house or condo. Renting a small place may be cheaper than buying.
  • At least in the US, the stock market tends to outpace inflation over the long-term. Choosing some funds that invest in mainstream companies, and just letting the money sit there for years, usually beats inflation and offers much better capital appreciation than savings accounts or CDs at banks.
  • As Warren Buffett recently showed, usually the way to make the most in the stock market over the long-term is to invest in index funds, but the most profitable index funds require that one values profit over ethics (i.e., include investments in war, oil, animal testing, tobacco, etc.). Socially responsible investment (SRI) funds usually make less, but may be more ethical. Probably the most ethical thing is to continuously do your own research of, and investing in, individual companies, but few people have time for that. I wish there were Buddhist SRI funds available in the US (if you know of any, please let me know).

How do you know who you’re talking to?

A few questions for theists: How do you know to whom/what you pray? Even if you feel that some kind of God exists, how do you know He/She/It isn’t a malicious, malevolent being misrepresenting Itself as a kind, benevolent being? If everything is left to faith in traditions, institutions, prophets, etc., how can you confirm the identity, nature, agenda, extent, etc. of what you call “God(s)”? If there is an all-powerful creator God, shouldn’t that being be able to make all humans clearly understand Her/Him/It, and what might it say about God that all humans haven’t been made to clearly understand Her/Him/It (e.g., is God not all-powerful, not always loving, etc.)? If God changes (i.e., takes actions to create or affect this world or people), to what extent can God be eternal?

Buddha statues as representations of nirvana

Buddha images and statues might be the best representation of the early Buddhist notion of nirvana that is possible in this world, namely: existence without causality, where one thing doesn’t become another, nothing changes, “inflows” (physical or sensory input) don’t result in “outflows” (thoughts, words, or deeds) — like eternal statues with minds.

How smart is the meat you eat?

By the same logic that it’s more ethical or moral to eat plants than animals, because plants are less cognitively complex than animals, shouldn’t people who need to eat meat for health reasons choose from among the least cognitively complex animals (i.e., small fish, birds, rodents, etc.)?