Monthly update: Throwing money at problems and watching bad movies

Sep 05, 2020 9:06 am

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Here's what had my attention in August...

What I've been up to

πŸ€‘ I haven't always had a healthy relationship with money. Not in an exciting "get paid and blow it all on partying that night" way, but a "frugal to the point of insanity" way (a girlfriend once nearly broke up with me after I refused to spend Β£1 on the bus because it was only a two-mile walk carrying multiple bags of groceries).

I've got a lot better in recent years, but I know my default is still not to spend – so I've started challenging myself by deliberately asking "how can I use money to solve this problem?". This month the question has produced a couple of useful answers.

Faced with an hour-long round-trip to collect a small package, I hit on the idea of sending a courier – and got it done for Β£7. Β£7 for an extra hour to do productive work or something I enjoy seems like a great trade.

Faced with a toddler who's basically amazing but was being highly annoying in a couple of specific ways, my wife and I spent Β£70 on a session with a parenting coach. Β£70 to make hundreds of future hours more enjoyable for everyone is an incredible deal.

As my friend Ali pointed out recently, it's better to spend money to remove problems than to add luxury. The amount of life-improvement that Β£77 bought me far outweighs any luxury I could imagine getting for that price – and in a breakthrough for me, also outweighs the satisfaction of seeing my bank balance being Β£77 higher.

πŸ’Ύ The crazy thing about technology is if you stop paying attention for a year or two, everything has completely changed and there's so much new stuff to learn. This is true even for reasonably mature categories like mobile phones and TVs, but even more so for cutting-edge fields like cryptocurrency.

I got into Bitcoin early (sadly not in a big way financially), then lost interest in the 2018-19 period of ICOs and pure speculation. Recently I started paying attention again, and something totally new has come along while I wasn't looking: DeFi, or "decentralised finance".

DeFi is basically a way of performing normal banking operations – lending, borrowing, insurance, exchange – in a totally peer-to-peer way, with no centralised institutions (like banks) getting involved. These aren't possible just using Bitcoin (which is basically limited to making simple transactions and being a store of value), so more innovation has been needed to open up the possible use-cases of crypto.

I've been watching some videos on the subject by Chris Blec, with this one being a short and easy intro. The space is highly geeky and technical at the moment, but I plan to write a "non-geek's guide" article about it soon.

What I've published

– How I use Trello to stay effortlessly organised. A system so effective it's stopped me trying out other systems – which used to be one of my favourite pastimes.

– Clearing out life's junk. Doing less, but doing it better.

– Why I take a photo every single day. It's become a rewarding habit – but as you'll see, it very much hasn't made me a better photographer.

What I've enjoyed

🎡 I have dreadful taste in films, so you probably shouldn't watch Eurovision Song Contest: The story of Fire Saga on Netflix. If you're not a fan of Eurovision and cheesy rom-coms, you definitely shouldn't – but I am, so I loved it.

πŸ€” I think I recommended The Missing Cryptoqueen podcast series (an investigation into the disappearance of a woman who fronted a huge pyramid scheme dressed up as a cryptocurrency) when it first aired last year. Well, they've just released an update episode – and there have been developments...

❓ For some reason, my wife and I have become thoroughly obsessed with US game show Jeopardy!, which has been running for the last 35 years. It's probably most famous internationally for IBM's supercomputer Watson beating past champions a few years back, which was seen as a breakthrough for Artificial Intelligence. But I'm currently watching James Holzhauer's dominant run from last year, in which he pioneered a new technique (explained here) that wiped the floor with his competitors and saw him averaging more than the previous record high score. Not that anyone else will care – I have no idea why I love it so much.

πŸ‘‹That’s it for August! It'd be great to hear from you if you've got news or recommendations to share.



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