Aardvark Advisor

TV

This experiment started on December 1st and lasted for the whole month, through New Year’s Eve. I gave it the (arguably, fairly terrible) name of “Make TV Watching Hard.” The plan was simple: move my TV down into the basement so it would be harder to watch and I could avoid binge-watching. I’d then be more inclined to use my time productively.

What follows is a somewhat-day-by-day review of my experiences. You can skip down to the bottom for some summary thoughts. Continue reading The “Make TV Watching Hard” Experiment Results

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I forget where I first heard the phrase, but I’ve become enamored with the idea of dollar bills as “Little Green Employees”. You see, there are a few different things you can do with every dollar that you earn:

  • Spend It– instead of a piece of colored paper (or more likely some numbers in a bank account) you trade your money for stuff, experiences, or services.
  • Save It– then the money will be available for future spending needs like emergencies or big ticket items (cars and houses).
  • Invest It– the real winner here. Use your dollars to create more dollars.

We’ve all got to eat, so some level of spending is inevitable, but economists will tell you that after a certain point, each additional dollar spent is going to give you less value back. Once you have your basic needs covered, you’re better off saving and investing the extra.

Now you could argue that this means some level of sacrifice; after all you’re not buying absolutely everything right now that you possibly could. However, future you is going to be pretty grateful when there’s plenty of money available for needed expenses instead of having to take on debt and live paycheck-to-paycheck. Continue reading Little Green Employees

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Grocery Store

In the Personal Finance community, a term that gets tossed around sometimes is Geo-Arbitrage: the idea that you can relocate to places with lower costs of living to make your money stretch farther when paying for the things you need on a day-to-day basis. This comes from the finance term, Arbitrage, which is essentially taking advantage of the same investment being priced differently in two different places. Investors can quickly buy it at the low price and sell it at the high price and turn an instant profit. Now, in efficient markets, arbitrage opportunities are hard to come by and quickly disappear. However, in the real world you’ll notice them all over the place, once you open your eyes to it.

For example, think about the last time you had to fill your car up with gas…In the wealthy part of town, or maybe by a highway exit, the prices are always a bit higher, but in the middle of nowhere the same tank of gas could be significantly cheaper. When you up the distance to cross state or national borders, the price disparities for equivalent goods/services become even more obvious. This is where the geo-arbitrage crowd takes advantage. From food to housing to medical services, looking outside your home country can mean significant cost savings. Continue reading Grocery Arbitrage

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Om

On November 4th, I began a 30 day Meditation Experiment. What follows is a day-by-day account of how it went. If you just want the summary, skip down to the bottom.

Daily Experience

Day 1: I found a random 10 minute long guided meditation video on YouTube and gave it a try. I don’t know if I have enough experience to judge the quality of the guidance, but it was decently relaxing, at least. A couple of times I realized my thoughts had drifted and I brought them back to the present, which I think is what I’m supposed to be doing. So, I’ll count it a win.

Day 2: I downloaded the Head Space app and then promptly deleted it when it required me to create an account to even use it. I then downloaded the Calm app and discovered they have the same problem. At that point, I sighed and gave in, creating an account, then started their 7 day free trial set of meditations. Day 1 was about 10 minutes focused on breathing Continue reading The Meditation Experiment Results

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TV

You may remember that in 2015, some dictionary made headlines by declaring “binge-watch” to be their word of the year. Now, if you’re like me you probably take issue with a hyphenated word being given such a high honor in the first place, but let’s move past that… Binge-watching has become a part of our lexicon because the action has become ubiquitous (now THERE’s a word worth honoring) in our society. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, HBO Go, pick your poison, but they all make it super easy to get sucked into episode after episode of whatever shows you happen to be into.

We made the decision to “cut the cord” and not pay for a cable subscription a few years back mainly because the value proposition seemed terrible. You want me to pay dozens of my precious dollars every month for a whole bunch of channels I couldn’t care less about? No thanks. However, I was raised on a steady diet of TV. Huddling up on the couch after dinner to watch the latest prime time hits was standard-fare in the Aardvark household growing up. So, you’d best believe that a lack of cable has not stopped me and the wife from binge-ing through dozens of hits over the years on the various streaming services mentioned above.

That brings me to today and to this experiment. I certainly still love television and movies and don’t necessarily want them gone completely from my life. I think they’re a cornerstone of our culture and I love seeing the ones that are really on top of their game and discussing with friends and coworkers. What I don’t want, however, is the binge-watching in my life. I hate the feeling that I got sucked into watching more than I should have, especially when there are a lot of ways I’d prefer to spend my time. For example, writing to you fine folks here on the interwebs! Continue reading The “Make TV Watching Hard” Experiment

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Fable

Pretty much as long as I can remember I’ve been big into the fantasy genre (starting, of course, with Tolkien) and role playing games (RPGs). They were both excellent forms of escapism for a shy kid that loved the ideas of magic and fighting monsters. So, when the game “Fable” was released in 2004, and its successors in 2008 and 2010, you’d best believe I was all over it.

These games had all the classic tropes and conventions for the genre. They were set in a pre-industrial society (at least initially) where the village-folk needed protecting by a noble hero wielding magic and weaponry to ultimately save the world. There was the classic system of gaining experience through battles and quests to “level up” and gain new abilities and spells. They also had less common features like the ability to become evil or good based on your actions- which had an impact on your appearance and how people would react to you.

Now, I’m not going to claim that the Fable series was the best thing since slice bread or try to bore you non-video-game-people with a recounting of all my heroic deeds. What I want to talk about is a neat little feature in the games that actually ended up tying in well with the investing strategies I use and recommend. Continue reading Video Game Investing Lessons

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Happy Pup

Last time, I talked through 5 different areas that have a big impact on happiness and how I’m working on improving or adding them in my own life. Today, we’ll round out the list with a few more key happiness boosters.

Remove the Unhappy

The Happy Philosopher has a great post about removing “alligators” from your life. These are the things in our lives that actually take away from our happiness and we’ve all got plenty, I’m sure. For me, the big ones that come to mind are Social Media and “The News”. There’s a consistent argument that people need to stay “informed”, which is used to justify this barrage of negativity in our lives. I don’t buy it. Anything truly “newsworthy” will end up making its way to my ears, regardless. Instead, what I’m filtering out is the 99% of “news” that is really about entertainment, fear-mongering, and click-baiting. Most of the content out there is meant to generate advertising revenue and/or push an ideological agenda that often involves partisanship and anger.

Continue reading Upping My Happiness Game (Part 2)

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One Happy Dog

Last post, I talked about the ways that we get stuck in loops of chasing hits of pleasure which ultimately end up feeling unsatisfying. Today, I want to get into some of the key things I’m trying to focus on to increase lasting happiness and contentment.

Practice Gratitude

This is first because I think it’s the best and easiest way to find happiness on a daily basis. I’ve seen plenty of successful people recommend taking a few minutes every morning to think about a few things that you’re grateful for and write them down in a journal. I don’t personally do the actual writing, but I’ve found that whenever I take a minute to reflect on all of the wonderful things and people in my life, I immediately feel better. It’s also a great way to get over feelings of jealousy, anger, or discontent. It’s hard to feel any of those things when you’re awash in gratitude for how truly blessed you are.

Continue reading Upping My Happiness Game (Part 1)

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Smiley Coffee

Happiness. I may be slowly becoming obsessed with it.

I think it’s kind of inevitable that once you get out of “crisis mode” and are able to cover all of your bills and get all the day-to-day stuff sorted, you start to look at the bigger picture and what you want for the long term. Either that or maybe it’s just an offshoot of getting older and falling into a stable life.

Either way, happiness is often an obvious place to focus. I think you can make a solid case for answering “What is the meaning of life?” with the simple “To be happy”. Sure there are lots of other valid answers, but I think most people would agree that finding real happiness is a cornerstone of a life well lived. Where this has led me is to the theory that too much of our culture and our experiences aren’t actually focused on happiness (although we may think they are), but instead on pleasure. The problem with this is that pursuing the latter is one of the best ways to never achieve the former.

So what’s the difference?

I think, intuitively, the difference between happiness and pleasure is fairly obvious when we take a minute to think about. Happiness in this context is synonymous with contentment; the kind of feeling you get when you’re sitting on the patio on a beautiful morning, sitting next to someone you care about, with a hot cup of coffee (or tea, no judgement) in hand and you sigh and think “Life is good”. Pleasure is more fleeting; it’s that hit of dopamine, that indulgence that you know probably isn’t great for you long term, but you do it anyway. Sure, it feels good, but it doesn’t last, and so, many of us end up stuck in an endless cycle of trying to find the next thing to chase after to make us feel good again and again. Continue reading Happiness Vs. Pleasure

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Buddha Meditating

This idea was inspired by David Cain over at Raptitude, who over the years has compiled a list of experiments that he’s performed in his own life to apply interesting ideas and see how they turn out. I’ve always found these to be entertaining and interesting and I think doing quick trial runs of potential habits is a great way to really test their value in your life. So, in his honor, and given that I’ve been reading a lot about it lately, I wanted to run an initial experiment in my life with establishing a daily meditation practice. I also believe meditation was the first of David’s many experiments and now it’s a huge part of his life; so, definitely a big inspiration.

The Meditation Experiment Terms

My goal will be 30 straight days with some form of meditation practice every single day. I’ll probably aim to keep each session between 5 and 10 minutes so that it doesn’t seem too daunting. If I’m feeling particularly ambitious or particularly rushed, I have no problem changing that up though. Continue reading The Meditation Experiment

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