Author Topic: Gotta spend money to save money, I guess...  (Read 10300 times)

atelierk

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Gotta spend money to save money, I guess...
« on: November 06, 2012, 01:44:52 PM »
Spotted today in the Petsmart parking lot: Woman sitting in her parked, idling car (for quite some time) thumbing through sales flyers looking for deals and coupons...so she can save money. Chilly day, yes - but brilliant sunshine so my car was actually uncomfortably warm inside. No reason hers wasn't too.

Mactrader

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Re: Gotta spend money to save money, I guess...
« Reply #1 on: November 06, 2012, 02:02:30 PM »
Spotted today in the Petsmart parking lot: Woman sitting in her parked, idling car (for quite some time) thumbing through sales flyers looking for deals and coupons...so she can save money. Chilly day, yes - but brilliant sunshine so my car was actually uncomfortably warm inside. No reason hers wasn't too.

Well duh, the radio needed to be on!

strider3700

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Re: Gotta spend money to save money, I guess...
« Reply #2 on: November 07, 2012, 10:55:02 AM »
there is a point on the ignition where if you turn the key to it the radio will work but the engine will be off ;)   about a week ago someone was visiting my neighbour.  Her husband sat in the car in the driveway and left it idling for over an hour while waiting.    It's actually against the law to leave cars idling unnecessarily here.  I've never heard of anyone getting a ticket but do see the idle free zone signs up around town.

Bakari

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Re: Gotta spend money to save money, I guess...
« Reply #3 on: November 07, 2012, 11:10:32 AM »
A lot of people still believe that it "takes more fuel to start than to idle".

Which probably used to be true back when cars had carburetors with manual chokes, especially before the engine was warm, if the idling was for less than one minute.  But that's too many caveats, its easier to just remember a quick one-liner.
Times change, and in a modern engine starting takes about as much fuel as 5-10 seconds of idling, so it makes sense to kill the engine even for stoplights, but very few drivers are aware of this.

Then again, there is also the fact that a lot of people are just plain stupid.

I once talked to someone who was planning to drive an RV 20 miles for the possibility that they had a paycheck in a PO box.  I pointed out that taking the bus would be cheaper than the cost of gas, to which she replied "but the gas is already in the tank; I'd have to use cash to take the bus"

Jamesqf

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Re: Gotta spend money to save money, I guess...
« Reply #4 on: November 07, 2012, 11:16:55 AM »
Chilly day, yes - but brilliant sunshine so my car was actually uncomfortably warm inside. No reason hers wasn't too.

Probably had the A/C running...

Mactrader

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Re: Gotta spend money to save money, I guess...
« Reply #5 on: November 08, 2012, 06:30:29 AM »
there is a point on the ignition where if you turn the key to it the radio will work but the engine will be off ;)   about a week ago someone was visiting my neighbour.  Her husband sat in the car in the driveway and left it idling for over an hour while waiting.    It's actually against the law to leave cars idling unnecessarily here.  I've never heard of anyone getting a ticket but do see the idle free zone signs up around town.

Of course, I know that!

Kamikaze Emu

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Re: Gotta spend money to save money, I guess...
« Reply #6 on: November 09, 2012, 08:22:06 AM »
I think a lot of people have trouble understanding the concept of expenses as they relate to revenue (or in this case savings).  It is fairly common to see people go to the casino with $100, leave with $40, and say they won $40, not understanding the actually lost $60. 

Friends of ours were thinking about reducing their housing expenses by selling their home and moving to a lower cost of living area.  They figure they could drop their mortgage by ~$100,000, but where they were moving so far away from work their commutes would have eaten up anything (and likely more) they would have saved.  It never crossed their mind to factor in those additional expenses into the decision. 

I see this often enough that there has to be some haywire brain function left over from our more primitive evolutionary period.  It cannot just amount to stupidity.

daizy744

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Re: Gotta spend money to save money, I guess...
« Reply #7 on: November 09, 2012, 08:59:56 AM »
Now that the weather is colder, I see so many people idling in parking lots as they're waiting for someone to come back from the store. I haven't had the guts yet to knock on the window and tell them to turn off their cars, but I've wanted to. It's not that cold that they'll be uncomfortable! I care more about the air pollution than the cost they'll save. I don't want to walk around and smell their idling car.

atelierk

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Re: Gotta spend money to save money, I guess...
« Reply #8 on: November 09, 2012, 09:10:03 AM »
I think a lot of people have trouble understanding the concept of expenses as they relate to revenue (or in this case savings).  It is fairly common to see people go to the casino with $100, leave with $40, and say they won $40, not understanding the actually lost $60. 

I see this often enough that there has to be some haywire brain function left over from our more primitive evolutionary period.  It cannot just amount to stupidity.

I don't think it's stupidity or some haywire brain function. I think it's a combinations of many things:

1) Money management is a learned skill, just like anything else. Nobody comes out of the womb knowing this stuff.
2) People learn by example, especially as impressionable children. If kids see broke parents perpetually mishandling money, that's probably how they'll do it too until they either get so frustrated that they actively seek out a better way, or accidentally stumble across blogs like MMM or books like Your Money or Your Life and something "clicks". I think in some sense, it's like a drug or alcohol addiction: people won't change until they hit rock bottom...and even then a lot of people won't because they don't believe an alternative is possible.
3) We do a terrible job of teaching basic personal finance skills in this country .
4) We live in a math-phobic culture and it's getting worse. I struggled with math as a kid, but I can tell you that I was a veritable Einstein compared to many kids today. I know basic financial skills don't require higher levels of math, but the vast majority of kids (at least in my experience working at a community college) graduate high school without even the most basic math competencies.
5) We live in a culture where a good percentage of the population seems to value anti-intellectualism at all levels. So you don't want to study math, science, or acquire critical thinking skills, lest you be labeled a pointy-headed elitist intellectual. Chances are good that if you don't value those other skills you're going to bumble around with your money too.
6) This is all complicated by the fact that we are bombarded with zillions of advertising images every hour/day/week. Everyone believes they're immune...but no one really is.

Jamesqf

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Re: Gotta spend money to save money, I guess...
« Reply #9 on: November 09, 2012, 11:09:09 AM »
I don't think it's stupidity or some haywire brain function. I think it's a combinations of many things:

1) Money management is a learned skill, just like anything else. Nobody comes out of the womb knowing this stuff.

Sure, it's a learned skill, and I admit it took me a couple of adult years to learn it.  But isn't an inability to learn from observation & experience the very definition of stupidity?

atelierk

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Re: Gotta spend money to save money, I guess...
« Reply #10 on: November 09, 2012, 11:40:26 AM »
I don't think it's stupidity or some haywire brain function. I think it's a combinations of many things:

1) Money management is a learned skill, just like anything else. Nobody comes out of the womb knowing this stuff.

Sure, it's a learned skill, and I admit it took me a couple of adult years to learn it.  But isn't an inability to learn from observation & experience the very definition of stupidity?

You assume everyone has an opportunity to observe frugal people "in action". That's not the case. When I was a kid growing up, I observed people - friends of the family, in fact - that I suspected were quite comfortable. But they didn't flaunt it, nor was there any way to tell from the outside "how it was done". It was all very quiet and low-key, so in the absence of any other information I just assumed they "had money". Or made a lot more than my family did. In other words, just luck.

I do recall lamenting to my mom once or twice: "I make $XX,000 a year. How is it I have no money????" So I had this sense that there should be a different approach but I didn't know what it was until I stumbled upon Amy Dacyczyn and her Tightwad Gazette books, which led me to Your Money or Your Life. But I do consider that to be pure happenstance.

It also helped that I never really liked shopping. I bought crap I didn't need because, well, that's what everyone does...but in looking back I enjoyed it a lot less than a lot of people seem to. So maybe it was inevitable that I eventually found my way out of the maze.

But in this society, if you're broke and you look around you to find an example of what you're doing wrong - and all you see are people spending money. You don't see people not spending money. That's invisible. If you can't see it, it isn't even going to occur to many (most?) people to even look for it. It's like Amy Dacyczyn said about the media coming to her house and wanting her to show them what she did to save money for "film at eleven". Should she show them the laundry on the line in her attic? Zooming her grocery cart past the potato chip aisle in the grocery store? How to you make not spending money exciting enough to get people to notice?

Jamesqf

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Re: Gotta spend money to save money, I guess...
« Reply #11 on: November 09, 2012, 03:06:16 PM »
I don't think you need to observe frugal people in action to learn about cause & effect in your spending habits.  You just need to observe your own cash flow.

atelierk

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Re: Gotta spend money to save money, I guess...
« Reply #12 on: November 09, 2012, 04:25:30 PM »
I don't think you need to observe frugal people in action to learn about cause & effect in your spending habits.  You just need to observe your own cash flow.

In a perfect world it would be that clean and simple. But not everyone has your inherent talent for this sort of thing and besides, I've noticed people are not very adept at finding the cause. They do indeed observe their cash flow (observe it flowing out) and more often than not, conclude that it's not their fault. They're just victims of a tough economy, or Obama's a socialist who's taking all their money and giving it to people who don't deserve it, or their boss is a jerk who won't give them a raise or any one of a million other excuses. Remember the debtors' union?

I don't necessarily believe that all these people are stupid, however. On the contrary I know some otherwise very intelligent folks who are just abysmally bad at handling money. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. I think many others are ignorant, naive, immature, spoiled, and/or convinced that they must keep up with the Joneses. (Otherwise, what would people think?) I've also come to believe that a fair number of them - for all their kvetching about their money problems - really don't give a rat's ass, at least not enough to give up the lifestyle to which they've become accustomed (broke as that may keep them).

Sylly

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Re: Gotta spend money to save money, I guess...
« Reply #13 on: November 09, 2012, 05:45:24 PM »
These days, with the prevalence of credit (at least in the US), there's also a layer of obfuscation that hides a simple "I have no more money in my wallet/accounts" behind credit card statements. In addition to needing to know when you have a case of expense > income, you also need to realize that cc balance needs to be added to your 'negative' column. Call it stupidity or something else, it's something I can't understand. I'd actually be very interested if someone has an explanation of it. Nobody needed to tell me carrying cc balance is a bad idea, or that I shouldn't spend more than I make or have. It just.. makes sense. So I really really can't understand people with absolutely no financial management skills (or what in my view as 'common sense' which I keep hearing isn't so common).

Jamesqf

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Re: Gotta spend money to save money, I guess...
« Reply #14 on: November 09, 2012, 08:53:44 PM »
In a perfect world it would be that clean and simple. But not everyone has your inherent talent for this sort of thing and besides, I've noticed people are not very adept at finding the cause.

So we circle right back around to the definition of stupid, no?

For the intelligent people who're bad at handling money, could it be that they just don't care?  It's the difference between being ignorant and being stupid.  As for instance I might appear stupid to some people because I've chosen to maintain nearly complete ignorance about many aspects of popular culture.  It's not that I couldn't easily learn if needed, I just don't want to.

atelierk

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Re: Gotta spend money to save money, I guess...
« Reply #15 on: November 10, 2012, 05:18:09 AM »
In a perfect world it would be that clean and simple. But not everyone has your inherent talent for this sort of thing and besides, I've noticed people are not very adept at finding the cause.

So we circle right back around to the definition of stupid, no?

For the intelligent people who're bad at handling money, could it be that they just don't care?  It's the difference between being ignorant and being stupid.  As for instance I might appear stupid to some people because I've chosen to maintain nearly complete ignorance about many aspects of popular culture.  It's not that I couldn't easily learn if needed, I just don't want to.

Exactly. So...?

I guess I just have a problem with cavalierly blowing off the financially illiterate with the broad brush of "stupid" or having some "haywire brain function". Yeah, we can have a chuckle when we see someone sitting in an idling car looking for deals and coupons in a sales flyer. But I don't know if that woman is "stupid" or not. She may be very accomplished in a number of areas, and has plenty of money so saving gas $$ just isn't a high priority for her. As you said, it's not that she couldn't easily learn if needed, but for whatever reason, she has chosen not to. Who knows? I prefer to look at the issue a little more closely with the understanding that human behavior can have a number of complex motivations behind it.

If the true intent of Mustachianism really is to "save the world", then it would be a shame if all those "stupid" people out there came to see Mustachians as "Those smug pricks who think they're so damned superior to the rest of us because they don't [insert "stupid" financial decision here]."

Bakari

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Re: Gotta spend money to save money, I guess...
« Reply #16 on: November 10, 2012, 08:32:29 AM »
Actually, it really is a "haywire brain function left over from our more primitive evolutionary period."  Most literally.

Its not just people doing what they see around them, or not consciously thinking, the human brain makes certain irrational economic decisions instinctively and automatically.  In fact, the same errors of economic reasoning have even been observed in some species of monkeys.

Dan Ariely studies these cognitive errors extensively.  If you are interested in or want to understand individual human psychology, or why economic theories fail to match up to the real world, or just want to learn to notice and avoid these errors in your own personal life, I highly recommend his book "Predictably Irrational".

For just a brief primer on the concept and his research, he has a TED talk, here:
http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_ariely_asks_are_we_in_control_of_our_own_decisions.html

It is really interesting - entertaining as well - and only 17 minutes long (and free), I highly highly recommend it

At the very end, when he suggests that "we" (society) could potentially acknowledge humans natural mental limitations, and attempt to accommodate it, I think that (unintentionally) illuminates why society is how it is - the people who actually understand this stuff the best (cognitive scientists not-withstanding) are advertisers, and their intention is specifically and deliberately to exploit that understanding for personal gain.
« Last Edit: November 10, 2012, 08:53:44 AM by Bakari »

Jamesqf

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Re: Gotta spend money to save money, I guess...
« Reply #17 on: November 10, 2012, 12:28:41 PM »
Actually, it really is a "haywire brain function left over from our more primitive evolutionary period."  Most literally.

Its not just people doing what they see around them, or not consciously thinking, the human brain makes certain irrational economic decisions instinctively and automatically.  In fact, the same errors of economic reasoning have even been observed in some species of monkeys.

The question then is, if it's human nature, why don't I do it?  Am I not human?

unitsinc

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Re: Gotta spend money to save money, I guess...
« Reply #18 on: November 10, 2012, 08:34:39 PM »
Actually, it really is a "haywire brain function left over from our more primitive evolutionary period."  Most literally.

Its not just people doing what they see around them, or not consciously thinking, the human brain makes certain irrational economic decisions instinctively and automatically.  In fact, the same errors of economic reasoning have even been observed in some species of monkeys.

The question then is, if it's human nature, why don't I do it?  Am I not human?


Just because something is in our nature doesn't make it irreversible.

I'm human, and I know I ought to want to have kids, but the thought of having them only conjures images of Dante's Inferno. Does this make me unhuman?

Bakari

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Re: Gotta spend money to save money, I guess...
« Reply #19 on: November 11, 2012, 10:44:03 AM »
Actually, it really is a "haywire brain function left over from our more primitive evolutionary period."  Most literally.

Its not just people doing what they see around them, or not consciously thinking, the human brain makes certain irrational economic decisions instinctively and automatically.  In fact, the same errors of economic reasoning have even been observed in some species of monkeys.

The question then is, if it's human nature, why don't I do it?  Am I not human?

Of course as individuals we can learn to override instinct.  But chances are you do make some cognitive errors without even realizing it.  If you read the book, and ask yourself what you would do in an example he gives - well, I at least, who think of myself as pretty guided by logic and not emotion, would probably have made the same mistakes that everyone does, at least sometimes.  And you find them here on the forum all the time - in questions about insurance, buying new cars, sunk costs in homes that are no longer wanted, fears of things that are statistically unlikely and lack of fear of things which are likely.  But the upside to it all is that we are intelligent and have free will, and we can learn to avoid these sort of things, if only we learn about them first.  That's why I think the www.mrmoneymustache.com/forum/welcome-to-the-forum/idea-extreme-financial-literacy-curriculum-for-poorlow-income-families/ is a really good idea and would be effective.  And why we should go back to the ancient greek system of education where you learned basic logic - including common fallacies - at the very beginning, and you had to be versed in all areas of knowledge to earn a doctorate.

Jamesqf

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Re: Gotta spend money to save money, I guess...
« Reply #20 on: November 11, 2012, 08:39:51 PM »
Of course as individuals we can learn to override instinct. 

Yet as far as I can tell (the view's from inside, you know), I am not, in most cases, overriding instinct.  It's as though I am provided with a different set of instincts.

Quote
But chances are you do make some cognitive errors without even realizing it.  If you read the book, and ask yourself what you would do in an example he gives - well, I at least, who think of myself as pretty guided by logic and not emotion, would probably have made the same mistakes that everyone does, at least sometimes.

Perhaps, but judging from similar things I've read*, quite often the errors aren't so much errors, as they are the assignment of different subjective values.  As for instance the typical case of political pundit claiming that voters who rejected his candidate were voting against their own interests - the pundit presuming hubristically that s/he knows what people ought to want.

*And I do wish those TED talks came as text, since I refuse to waste my time watching/listening to a video when I could absorb the information in a small fraction of the time by reading.

unitsinc

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Re: Gotta spend money to save money, I guess...
« Reply #21 on: November 11, 2012, 09:46:09 PM »
*And I do wish those TED talks came as text, since I refuse to waste my time watching/listening to a video when I could absorb the information in a small fraction of the time by reading.


TED talks are about the only videos I'll watch. I do agree though that there needs to be transcripts.

Bakari

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Re: Gotta spend money to save money, I guess...
« Reply #22 on: November 12, 2012, 09:08:31 AM »
Like I said, the TED talk is a brief summary of the book.  Which I recommend.  It will not, however, take less time to read the book than to watch the video.

The TED talks have transcripts.  Just click where it says "Transcript" right below the video, and pick your language.
Of course, optical illusions really don't work in text.  (But you can skip ahead to that part of the video by clicking on the words)

If you want to skip the introduction, humor, and storytelling, here is one example from the book and talk by itself: http://danariely.com/the-books/excerpted-from-chapter-1-%E2%80%93-the-truth-about-relativity-2/

And, no, none of his examples are subjective.
An example from the book that is not in the talk: Lets say you have decided to get $40 tickets to a show.  When you arrive you check your pocket and find you have lost the ticket.  Would you buy another ticket at the door?
« Last Edit: November 12, 2012, 09:12:13 AM by Bakari »

Jamesqf

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Re: Gotta spend money to save money, I guess...
« Reply #23 on: November 12, 2012, 10:40:24 AM »
An example from the book that is not in the talk: Lets say you have decided to get $40 tickets to a show.  When you arrive you check your pocket and find you have lost the ticket.  Would you buy another ticket at the door?

Depends.  Do I have an extra $40 to spare?  Do I want to see the show badly enough that I will spend the extra $40?  Will missing the show piss off my date so that any chance of getting laid tonight goes out the window?  As far as I can see, it's all (save actually having another $40) pretty subjective.  Or perhaps I should say it's more a case of applying logic to what my personal values happen to be at the time.

Bakari

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Re: Gotta spend money to save money, I guess...
« Reply #24 on: November 12, 2012, 06:02:44 PM »
But wait, there's more: suppose you hadn't bought the tickets in advance.
You get to the door, open your wallet, and find that some time earlier today you somehow lost $40 cash.  You still have enough to buy the ticket though.  Do you buy a ticket to the show?

Jamesqf

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Re: Gotta spend money to save money, I guess...
« Reply #25 on: November 12, 2012, 09:44:29 PM »
Still depends.  How disposable is the $40 that I have?  Will spending it to buy the ticket cause me to miss a few meals, or is it a trivial amount to me?  (Though of course, being frugal by nature, I wouldn't have planned to attend the show unless the cost was trivial, or I was expecting to get some "hot date"-type benefits.)

I'm still having a problem seeing how this is an example of cognitive error, rather than just an assessment of subjective values.

okits

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Re: Gotta spend money to save money, I guess...
« Reply #26 on: November 12, 2012, 10:02:49 PM »
LOL.  This thread, now involving discussion on what Jamesqf will do in various theoretical spending scenarios for a hot date, has become a lot more interesting.  There are, of course, additional factors surrounding the aforementioned hot date (how hot?  How much potential for future hot dates?  How long since the last?  Any possible introductions to other hot dates?) that should weigh in on the decision-making process.

(I have yet to check out the link, just getting a fair amount of amusement out of the example in your  discussion.  :)

Bakari

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Re: Gotta spend money to save money, I guess...
« Reply #27 on: November 12, 2012, 10:09:02 PM »
Well, I was asking you.

$40 won't cause many Mustachians to miss a meal, but its not an amount most of us would spend on entertainment every week.

Here's the point:
most people, given the first scenario, will say "I'm not going to spend $80 to see a $40 show", and won't replace the lost ticket. 
In the second, most will say "It sucks that I lost the cash, but what does losing cash earlier have to do with buying the ticket now that I was already planning to buy?"
However, but situations are objectively equivalent.  The only difference is that one form of currency was replaced with another at a different point in time.
What your reasons for spending the money may be subjective, but whatever you decide in one case should be the same decision in the other.

Perhaps you specifically, James, really wouldn't choose differently based on whether you lost a ticket or cash, but you can perhaps at least see how this example has nothing to do with subjective values, nor with stupidity or susceptibility to ads.

Jamesqf

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Re: Gotta spend money to save money, I guess...
« Reply #28 on: November 13, 2012, 10:57:57 AM »
Well, I was asking you.

And my answer, of course, is "It depends." :-)

Quote
$40 won't cause many Mustachians to miss a meal, but its not an amount most of us would spend on entertainment every week.

I've been at both extremes: where $40 was meals for a week or more, and where it's just a small fraction of what I might spend on entertainment (loosely defined) in a week.

Quote
Perhaps you specifically, James, really wouldn't choose differently based on whether you lost a ticket or cash, but you can perhaps at least see how this example has nothing to do with subjective values, nor with stupidity or susceptibility to ads.

Sure, I can see how those things work for a lot of people, but that wasn't where we got into this.  You appear to be saying that these things are basic human nature; I say that I don't seem to do most of them, and therefore ask if I am human.  Or conversely, whether such things are not in fact natural instincts somehow hardwired into the human brain, but are the result of learning, and so could be unlearned or not taught in the first place.
« Last Edit: November 13, 2012, 03:01:20 PM by Jamesqf »

Sylly

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Re: Gotta spend money to save money, I guess...
« Reply #29 on: November 13, 2012, 11:01:06 AM »
Thanks for the links, Bakari.

I've only read a chapter-by-chapter summary of the book, but some of the ideas put forth certainly sound interesting.