This was the first week in a long time that I seemed to have the most recent copy of the New Yorker in the right place at the right time. Normally, it’s the thing I never quite get to reading, despite it being my favourite magazine.
One thing that was different this week was that, while flicking through to see the cartoons (I read it for the articles, honestly) I kept seeing headlines that really caught my attention. A new generation of airships, a look at the leadership industry, a profile of Justin Peck (a rising star in the world of choreography), Edvard Munch, and an article of a guy calling himself Mr Money Mustache.
You have to read that one, don’t you? Mr Money Mustache. Really?
His real name is Peter Adeney and he retired at 30. Well, retired isn’t quite the word, but he did manage to spend, save and invest in a consistent manner that allowed him (and his wife) to leave their paid jobs. These were no millionaires. They just chose to spend less money than most of us and build a lifestyle consistent with that. I browsed through some of his website, laughed a fair bit, thought “yes, but” a few times, but found that I agreed with the principles of what he was saying. Why spend more than you need to? Think of what you need, not what you want. And have some fun along the way – as you cycle instead of driving a car all the time.
My generation has grown up being told all the time that what we need is the newer, improved version of what we already have, even down to our washing up liquid, and if we don’t have something, we ought to have it, and preferably the best there is. But as Erich Fromm said, “Unrestricted satisfaction of all desires is not conducive to well-being.”
We, however, have grown up in a “growth is good” world and growth means buying more, even if we don’t need it. And even if having that new possession has larger consequences on our planet than satiating our current desires. It’s worryingly like an addiction, the need to buy more and more. And it’s neither sustainable for our little planet nor beneficial for us.
Here’s a recent example of the temptation that is presented to us. I have a few cameras. I like my cameras. By and large, each has a specific purpose, but maybe I just tell myself that. All right, I just tell myself that, although in my defence, most of them are second hand and I do use them. And then I got an e-mail from Olympus. Nothing wrong with Olympus, they make some great cameras. They wanted to let me know about a new camera, naturally inspired by an old one, the Olympus Pen F. The old ones look great. So does the new one. The thing which stood out for me – aside from the price tag of £1,600 with a lens – was the new feature that emulated Tri-X black and white film. And I do love my Tri-X.
So there it is. A must have. A digital camera that can emulate black and white film. For £1,600. And the film-emulation thing is a big marketing feature.
I already have an Olympus. It’s about fifty years old, cost about £50 last year, and it is simply amazing.
It also emulates black and white film… no, wait, it USES black and white film. That comes out like this:
Not bad for its age – the camera, not the musician, he was great.
That film costs about £5 a roll. Add in some developing costs (seriously cheap if you do it yourself, pennies per film), and I reckon I can burn through somewhere around 300 films before I get up to the cost of the film-emulating-camera. 300 films – that’s over 10,000 photos. And if you really want to drop £1,600 on a camera, you can get a beautiful (old, of course) Leica with a stunning lens for that much, and in a year, two years, ten years, it will be worth as much. Actually, it might even be worth more. The digital camera? At best in a corner somewhere, maybe even binned.
So I am never going to need to replace my ancient Olympus that is super easy to use, super simple, and just a lot of fun to use. Because to do otherwise would be to confuse consuming with contentment.
I learned this from my dad. You can only spend money once. Now or in the future. Some we have to spend now. But often not nearly as much as we choose to. And what we don’t spend now is still there for the future. We don’t have to go as far as Mr Money Mustache, but then he’s the one who retired at 30. Reading some of his website reminded me that he’s really just got back to something we all knew, if in a more extreme way. Money does not buy us happiness. Time well spent does.