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).

What are the differences between humans and apes? Not many.

When I watch documentaries like these, I see beings who have cultures, languages, families, communities with both internal and external social structures and conflicts, technologies/tools, educational techniques, personal desires and attachments, who mourn their losses, and who have substantively the same body configurations as we do. There are a few key things they haven’t developed yet (e.g., preserving knowledge using artifacts, and using cooking to increase their calorie intake (hence brain neuron density) and to give them more free time), but those developments seem quite minor, and probably just a matter of time and opportunity, to me.


(videos)

Changing (how) the world (works)

People don’t really want the world to change; the world changes on its own incessantly, which is the cause of most/all suffering in the world (i.e., whatever one builds or gets attached-to in this world is inevitably destroyed). People want to change *how* the natural, psychological, and social worlds work. For example, the human body and mind are frail, susceptible to disease, and short-lived, so people want to find ways of overcoming those problems. Walking, running, or using carts are too slow/weak and painful, so people invent transportation technologies. Crop yields are too low, so people do genetic and other agricultural engineering. Certain social structures/regimes that are currently in power are destroying the natural environment, causing wars, or allowing prejudiced or unequal treatment of people, so people want to change those regimes. And so forth. Humans rarely want to live in their natural state.

Is life “good”?

Probably the biggest difference I see between Buddhism and the world’s other largest religions (i.e., Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam) is whether or not they consider worldly life to be “good.”

The other big religions usually say that worldly life (i.e., mass production and consumption, seeking pleasure and avoiding pain, cultivating attachments to people and things, developing a sense of self, etc.) is good, is connected to an eternal creator God and is itself spiritually meaningful, is worth spending all of one’s time and energy exploring and pursuing, etc.

However, Buddhism says that we are in an unfortunate state of existence (involving constant struggle and inevitable loss), that the physical details of this life are ultimately meaningless because they are very fleeting, that the only God-like beings one can see from here are trapped in impermanent lives like we are (they only live longer than we do), and that one should spend as much time as possible trying to permanently (i.e., without rebirth) escape from this prison. From a Buddhist perspective, perhaps the only things in life that are really good are people’s capacities to help themselves and others understand and undo their predicament.