On ChrisHallquist's post extolling the virtues of money, the top comment is Eliezer pointing out the lack of concrete examples. Can anyone think of any? This is not just hypothetical: if I think your suggestion is good, I will try it (and report back on how it went)

I care about health, improving personal skills (particularly: programming, writing, people skills), gaining respect (particularly at work), and entertainment (these days: primarily books and computer games). If you think I should care about something else, feel free to suggest it.

I am early-twenties programmer living in San Francisco. In the interest of getting advice useful to more than one person, I'll omit further personal details.

Budget: $50/day

If your idea requires significant ongoing time commitment, that is a major negative.

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I think money prevents certain types misery more than it buys happiness.

For example, flights with stopovers and shitty public transportation make me miserable and usually sick. By spending money on direct flights and taxis, I save myself many days of life that would otherwise be lost (I have to travel a lot).

Similarly, knowing I can afford good medical care if I get sick, or find a new apartment if mine becomes unpleasant, or send my kids to a private school if public schools are too useless... these things don't make me deeply happy, but if they were not true, that would make me constantly anxious.

Money is a cushion against disaster. If something goes awry, you can use it to buy medical or legal or technical assistance. However, for me personally it does not cause an actually happy or joyful affect, nor does it seem to buy the things that do (except very indirectly).

Since you didn't spell it out this aspect of it: one aspect of this would be to invest in better insurance policies.
0Jonathan Paulson10y
The studies on income satisficing (past 75k, more money doesn't correlate with more happiness) certainly suggest that this is true. But I'm still hoping it's not, and most people just haven't figured out how to buy happiness efficiently. Seems worth trying, at any rate.
And other studies suggest that it isn't.
2Jonathan Paulson10y
I think I saw that on LessWrong quite recently. That study is trying to refute the claim that income satisficing happens at ~$20k (and is mostly focused on countries rather than individuals). $20k << $75k.
1Jonathan Paulson10y
OK, I believe there is conflicting research. There usually is. And as usual, I don't know what to make of it, except that the preponderance of search hits supports $75k as satisficing. shrug
Certain people know how to spend money right and other don't, and for some reason different studies are biased towards different types of people?

If you spend more than 20 minutes on your commute (one way), consider moving to somewhere closer to where you work. Walking distance is ideal, biking distance a good second-best. Commutes literally kill; you will not only get more time daily, but also your expected lifetime will increase.

In certain places, biking is probably even more dangerous than driving.
Seriously, citation needed; all the claims I've seen are that cycling is dramatically safer.
Morgan et all (2010) (http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2458/10/699/) estimate 11.1 cyclist deaths per 100000 cyclist-km in London. Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_traffic-related_death_rate) estimates 8.5 road fatalities per 1 BILLION vehicle-km. http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2012/sep/28/road-deaths-great-britain-data claims 125 motorcyclists died in road accidents for every billion miles travelled - the highest rate for all road users but also a year-on-year fall of 11%. At 41 deaths per billion miles, the mortality rate for pedestrians was just above that of cyclists (35), with the former a year-on-year rise of 10% and the latter a fall of 6%. Car occupants had by far the lowest mortality rate at four deaths per billion miles travelled.
London is an exceptionally unsafe place for cyclists. I doubt it's anywhere near so unsafe as to make up all the difference between cycling and driving in those statistics, but I would guess it's at least 10x worse than the average, maybe quite a bit more. ... Ah, wait, I see you have other statistics saying 35 deaths per billion miles cycled, which would be about 21 per billion km, versus 11 per 100k km or 110,000 per billion km in London. So, apparently London is nearly four orders of magnitude worse than average. That's ... more than I expected. Have I misunderstood or miscalculated something? That "11 per 100k km" figure says that if someone has a 2x5km commute in London that they do 200 days per year, they expect to die about 0.22 times per year; in other words, their life expectancy is a bit less than 5 years. I repeat, London is exceptionally unsafe for cyclists, but I think I'm going to defy the data here. Can it really be that unsafe? [EDITED to add:] Some other figures I've seen suggest that serious injuries are maybe 20x as common as deaths. That means that my hypothetical 10km/day London cyclist should expect four serious injuries per year. Really? There are some statistics on the Wikipedia Cycling in London page. For 2014 they report 13 deaths from 610k "daily journeys". Even if a "daily journey" is as short as 1km, that would be 13 deaths per 610k km, which is a lot less than 11 per 100k km. (Though still scandalously large.)
FWIW (a year later) I read the statistic the same way you initially did, but didn't do the comparison. Sorry! Thanks for doing the maths below and in the edit.
The paper is doing some weird things. To quote from it: Note: cyclists per kilometre.
No, per 100k cyclists per kilometre; that is, per 100k cyclist-kilometres, which is dimensionally correct. Or am I misunderstanding what it is you find weird?
I only glanced at the paper, but my suspicion is that they are using something like 100K cyclists per kilometre of road, not per kilometre actually cycled. They admit to not knowing the miles cycled, but if you guesstimate the number of cyclists and you know the length of roads in London, you can produce a "cyclists per kilometre of road" metric. I am not sure how meaningful it is.
Bloody hell, you appear to be right. What a ridiculous figure to be publishing. I am quite sure how meaningful it is: not meaningful at all.
Paging Tony Stark! :-) Cyclists per kilometre of road is a measure of cyclist density. To do a proper density estimate you also need to know how long (in hours) does an average cyclist spend on the road, but conceivably you can handwave it away as a near-constant. Given this, their approach is to look at the fatalities as a function of the cyclist density. They are still missing too many variables to produce a useful estimate, but it's not prima facie insane.
Yes it is prima facie insane, because the number of fatalities should look like f(density) times quantity of road (or quantity of cycling or something). Maybe they kinda get away with it when comparing fatalities across years, because the quantity of road doesn't change much -- but that would equally justify measuring quantity of cycling as, say, "number of cyclists divided by latitude" or "number of cyclist-kilometres times number of letters in city name". So, good try, but I still think it's obviously bonkers.
Funny how the usual roles reversed: I get charitable and you go THESE PEOPLE NEED THEIR HEAD EXAMINED :-D
A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of PEOPLE WHO NEED THEIR HEADS EXAMINED -- GJMerson. [EDITED to add:] Anyway, unless I'm misunderstanding your "Tony Stark" comment I don't get the impression that you really find their use of that statistic very defensible.
The actual explanation for this is your desire to argue with your current interlocutor, whoever that may be at the moment.
Should I argue with this or no? Ah, a nice Catch-22... :-) However there wasn't much arguing in this thread. I didn't tell gjm that he was wrong. Instead I offered more of an alternate explanation (to the "prima facie insane" hypothesis :-D) as I am generally interested in finding alternate ways of looking at things.
Once someone was saying that "you always say I'm wrong," and I said, "I said you were right on occasions A, B, and C," and they responded, "See! you're doing it again! that proves you always say I'm wrong!"
Deaths per cyclist per kilometre of road is a crazy unit of measurement. I mean, sometimes you have to report the statistic you've got rather than the statistic you'd like, but I don't see what possible practical significance this has. The statistic we'd like to know is deaths per kilometre cycled. The average person in the UK cycles about 60 km a year (source: Department for Transport) and the population of London is about 8.5 million (source: Wikipedia), so the 19 deaths in 2006 correspond to about 3.5 deaths per 100 million kilometres cycled. This is slightly higher than the UK average of 3.1 deaths per 100 million kilometres cycled, and on the high side for Western Europe (compare Netherlands: 1.0; Germany: 1.8; France: 3.1; Italy: 3.4).
Mile for mile, biking is significantly more dangerous than taking a car (as is walking), though not as dangerous as riding a motorcycle. (See here, or here if you're willing to tolerate older data and worse formatting.) You're trading off for physical fitness, though, and the life expectancy gained from increased fitness -- especially if expressed in terms of QALYs -- generally outweighs that lost from increased accident risk. This undoubtedly varies by location but I haven't been able to find any good data on how. The waters are also muddied a bit by the fact that bike advocacy organizations like to promulgate the life expectancy data without the accident data -- not that I can really blame them, statistical literacy being what it is.
The one study I've seen that looks at the net health effect of cycling came to the conclusion that cycling is a net benefit. Loads of bicycling advocates promote this to suggest that cycling is in general a net benefit for you health. Unfortunately for North Americans, the data in the study came from Europe. Cycling is much safer in Europe. I am not aware of any analysis using data from North America, and I'm unsure whether such an analysis would come to the same conclusion. With this being said, I ride a bike for transportation. I read studies on safety and actively try to minimize my risk. This includes minimizing my mileage, as the risk is per unit distance. So far, so good. I haven't been in a real crash yet in 4 years of commuter cycling, though I've had plenty of close calls. Worst I can say is that I did once hit a pothole and fall over, but there were no lasting effects.
SF in particular has been working hard on bike infrastructure improvements that should help with safety. Especially if your commute involves Folsom St.
See http://lesswrong.com/lw/awm/how_to_avoid_dying_in_a_car_crash/62jy

Improve the ergonomics of your computer situation:

  • Better chair
  • Better desk
  • Keyboard without a numpad so that the mouse doesn't need to be so far out
  • Bigger monitors/multiple monitors
  • If your computer is at all slow or annoying-to-use, consider whether better hardware could help that (and thus reduce the stress of using it). E.g. getting an SSD could decrease load times if you find those problematic

Buy nice clothes

Strongly seconding the SSD recomendation. I can't think of anything else that's given so much enjoyment for the money. A SSD dramatically increases perceived performance of a computer beyond what you'd expect from benchmarks. Adding extra ram can hide the latency of a mechanical HD by caching, but it does nothing for worst case performance, and worst case performance is highly salient. I'd much rather use a low spec PC with a SSD than a high spec PC with a mechanical HD. Predictably mediocre performance feels faster than high average performance with high variance.

That really depends on what you are running. In the general case, if you get a LOT of performance increase from an SSD, this generally means your disk cache is way too small and you should start by buying more RAM.
Not losing data when the computer is dropped or mishandled is an important performance feature if you're clumsy.
I'm still really happy with buying a massage cushion (not this one but about this type and price). I bought it shortly after I got my first job, and wanted one, noticed it wasn't too expensive (per massage), and went for it. It's a nice treat that still feels luxurious and indulgent, so I also desire other indulgent things less. Plus, I named mine "Adulthood" since I could buy it because I was an adult and my money was mine to do with as I wished. Thus my roommates and I were prone to say things like:

Other people in this thread have gone down the obvious "spend money to pay people to do things you don't like doing but want done" route. My suggestion is to get hobbies. Awesome, awesome hobbies. Sure, there's a time commitment to continue with a hobby, but they can be put down with little ill effect.Here's what I'd start with:

Archery. Buy a bow and some lessons and perhaps a range membership.

Sailing. Sunscreen, clothing, and a Sunfish or other small dinghy. Maybe get lessons as well. I'd start at a lake.

Blacksmithing or welding. Take some fun classes along those lines at a community college or trade school or the like. Alternatively, you can get pliers and some metal wire and make chain mail (this, however, is much more time intensive, but cheap in terms of money alone).

Racing. You'd probably want to start with go-karts and the like.

Sports. Generally cheap and enjoyable.

As far as programming, writing, and people skills go, a big part of improving is spending time on it. Getting paid feedback can probably help as well.

For life-optimization in general, moving to a place closer to work and cutting down on your commute is worthwhile in general. You'd have to do the math to ... (read more)

choose your hobbies wisely. take ecstatic dance in oakland, for instance. its not very expensive, it will make sure your body stays a little fit, there will be great cahances to socialize and flirt. and you wont die.

compare that with motorcicle racing. it is competitive, male oriented, hard to find time and a place to do it, way more expensive, there are no women, it pollutes the earth, and you have to keep a motorbike in good conditions. not to mention you'll live 15 minutes less per hour ran, according to tegmarks old website.

The advice above of getting hobbies is a good one, but choose activities that are physical, social, and will make you healthy and sexy, unless you really, really, really love playing magic the gathering, like i do, then just nerd your money around and leave the other things to another time.

I completely agree with dance lessons as a worthwhile hobby to consider. The point I was trying to get at is that if you have disposable disposable income and free time and your hobbies are "books and computer games", you've probably not done worthwhile exploration as to what hobbies you enjoy.

When doing the exploration it makes sense to analyse the hobby beforehand. Motorcicle racing might be as fun as the ecstatic dance suggestion but it's still a worse alternative because fun isn't the only factor.
It depends on the relative costs of analysis versus just trying it, really. If it takes ten hours to figure out which hobby you want to try first, you could have already tried the top three gut-feeling hobbies out for three hours each.
How much do you learn about the value of motorcycle racing by trying it out for three hours? I don't think that provides much valuable information for a decision whether or not to engage in motorcycle racing. It doesn't provide you any information about accident risks. It doesn't even provide you any information about whether it's fun once you developed a decent ability at it.
I get that some hobbies are better than others, and you can use analysis to figure out costs and benefits. I have a tendency to over-analyze things instead of actually going out and doing them, so I tailored my advice for someone that likely has the same issues (since they've got a list of hobbies that indicates not going out and trying things). Some people need to spend more time figuring out what hobbies they want and their relative costs or benefits. The people that need this branch of advice have already tried several of the hobbies listed and aren't asking for advice along these lines.
I don't remember the exact figures, but the risk of getting a persistent dry eye problem from laser eye surgery was significant enough to make me forget about it. My eyes are already pretty dry, and it's a very annoying inconvenience to have.
A friend of mine got Lasik and deeply regretted it. So you should do lots of research and be sure to get it from someone competent.

Well, hindsight is 20/20.

Why does she regret it, specifically?
Since we're already at the anecdote level: A friend of mine saw a LASIK surgeons conference at his university and he says they're all wearing glasses.

To get away from the anecdote level and bring in an empirical source, LASIK satisfaction rates are at 95.4%. [non-paywall pdf]

Thank you for a very interesting read, and especially for thinking to provide a non-paywall link. That's the most impressive list of declared conflicts of interest I've ever seen.
That is good evidence, but I'd disbelieve its reliability a bit because it is so funny. Like obese dieticians, or non-rich investment brokers, or divorced marriage counselors.
Excellent point. I'd have difficulty believing this guy too, if he hadn't predicted millimeter wave full-body scanners wouldn't work before anybody in the media knew they wouldn't, based on the fact he'd been building them. He says the main problem with LASIK is that when you correct myopia with it, your presbyopia (inevitable hyperopia from being over 40) is going to be worse by the same degree that the operation made the myopia better, and you're going to be stuck with it for much longer. Glasses or contacts for myopia you can just take off when you reach that age, but LASIK for myopia will need to be countercorrected. He didn't object to LASIK for hyperopia.
One possible reason is that (reputedly, among opthalmologists) one of the side-effects of Lasik is thought to be fractionally worse colour discrimination. Which might be fine for Joe Public, but very bad for people who spend their careers identifying and manipulating sub-milimeter structures.
How much of that is age-related? LASIK doesn't remove the need for reading glasses - it pegs your eyes to 20/20 if done properly, but as you age you lose the ability to alter focal distances, so you're only 20/20 at a particular distance(usually far-field).
Because my myopia is too high, laser surgery was deemed unsafe. I had permanent implants instead (they call them phakic intraocular lenses). It has much fewer secondary effects. It cost me 5x what the laser surgery would have, but I had recently got a windfall and it was the best of all things I did with that money.
What else did you do with the money? (If the answer is 'I blew it all on a Vegas weekend I can't remember', I will be much less impressed by the implants.)
Two words: book fair. Also, I lived three months without working and helped a roommate with her share of rent during her rough spot (she eventually paid me back). I bought furniture and cold-weather clothes that I needed.
Why? Archery isn't a sport that builds muscle, fluent body movement or produces a high heart rate that helps the heart. To me it seems a suboptimal hobby for a rationalist. That's pricing the risk that it messes up your eye at zero. I don't think that's the right way to go about it.
Because it's neat! I took glassblowing in college, and (a) it was fun, (b) I get to see glass objects and puzzle out how they were made, and (c) I get to tell people I took glassblowing which makes people do a double take. (I mean, c'mon, I get opportunities to tell people that one of my final exams in college was making a Hero Engine). Archery seems similarly likely to make you feel awesome.
Opportunity cost. An improv comedy course does this as well. Years ago I heard an audio book by Jim Rohm in which he made the point that even people without near-death experiences have intersting stories to tell. I said to myself: "I do have had sort of a near-death experience but I still feel like I have no intersting stories to tell." After that day I stopped making that excuse. I do have plenty of stories that signal much more uniqueness because they are not easily reconstructed. Everyone can imagine just signing up for a college course or an archery class. If you want to signal specialness experiences that aren't easily simulated are better.
I don't recall the exact numbers, but the risks were sufficiently tiny that I was not concerned about them. Anything that laser eye surgery can do to the outer layers of the eye I fully expect to be fixable in the ~30 year future before age-related eye issues become a problem for me. A great deal of the remaining "messes up your eye" scenarios are fixable by the surgeon. The truly horrific stuff means a malpractice lawsuit (or settlement under threat thereof). I did some more reading on the risks from the website and handouts from the place I got my eyes done. 7% have their eyes over or under corrected and get re-correction in the first year. Serious complications are much more rare. It goes without saying that you should do your homework and go to the best place you can find.
Persistent dry eyes is probably the most significant risk. Sounds minor, but isn't.
The risk of dry eye is because LASIK cuts a flap in the cornea, severing many of the nerves that sense irritation and dryness. Other procedures like epi-LASEK or PRK don't involve cutting into the cornea, so their risk of dry eye is much lower. Unfortunately, those procedures are more painful and take months to heal. They involve scraping the epithelial cells off of your cornea, zapping your eye, and then letting them grow back. On the bright side, there is no flap that can be dislodged by a blow to the eye. I got wavefront-guided epi-LASEK a few years ago. My vision went from 20/200 to 20/15. It can be pricey ($5k), but it's definitely the best money I've ever spent.
My eyes have gotten noticeably drier since I got laser eye surgery, and I consider it minor - it's significantly less annoying than glasses. I may not have as severe a version as some, though.
Reading novels, playing bridge, or playing the harmonica do none of those things either; would you recommend against these activities too for the same reasons? Hell, even commenting on LW does none of those things! ;-) Well, what choice is optimal depends on what one's goals are, “rationalist” isn't a narrow enough category for this purpose, and in any event it's not like each person is only allowed to have one hobby at a time.
Than I'm happy to hear about which goals you achieve better by taking up archery than by taking up martial arts. For what goals does archery happen to be an optimal solution or even a good one.
We're kind of kicking at different goalposts here. You're trying to show that archery isn't the best possible use of time (presumably for fitness) and I'm skeptical of your specific claims about it. A couple things to consider. * Archery, by a formal reading of the term, is a martial art. * Not all forms of archery and martial arts are made equal. There's considerably overlap in physical requirements. Compare a sport crossbow to an English longbow; compare tai chi to muay thai. * I practice martial arts, but not archery. When I had a chance to spend an afternoon firing a longbow with a measly 45lbs draw, I ached in all new places in my neck, arms, core, and thighs. I also needed to coordinate my body in novel ways. * Archery is not nearly as demanding for time as martial arts; it can be done in addition to other sports fairly easily. Hopefully that gives you some idea of why I don't think it's fair to dismiss archery as suboptimal.
Given that the whole thread is about ways a rationalist can spend money to improve his life, if archery isn't a good use of your time buying a bow probably isn't good use of your money either. To the extend that I have used strong words to dismiss archery as suboptimal it's because I dislike the idea of people recommending activities like archery, sailing or go-kart racing without any thought about secondary benefits. I do think it makes sense to think seriously how about one spends his time. I think I get around 8 separate benefits from dancing. 1. Fun 2. Physical Confidence with women. It both provides heavy reaction therapy and an enviroment where it's socially expected that the men leads the woman. 3. Physical exercise that improves body coordination. I think that leads to more expressiveness in my body language in tasks such as public speaking. 4. It's a general sport and fits the recommendation that one should do sport to be healthy. 5. It trains sensitivity of perception what happens physically inside other people. 6. Practical understand about human physiology that I can't get from a physiology testbook. A limit space to experiment and check theories. 7. I'm in an enviroment with woman that are potential romantic partners. 8. I learn to listen to music on a deeper level (but compared to the other points that's not really useful in other stuff I do) That doesn't mean that I think everyone should take up Salsa. I don't even argue that it's the perfect dance but I do think I have much better reasons for it than were provided here for taking up archery. I don't care for the semantics. Even if it does grow some muscles, it doesn't grow them symmetrically. Good muscle training should train both sides evenly. Having uneven muscles distribution isn't good.
For certain people the former might be more fun (and for other people it might be the other way around).
Do you think that's genetic? I think its mostly learned behavior. If you hit a state of flow both will feel fun.
I don't know; I'd guess it's both. Why are you asking? Sounds like the fallacy of grey / a fully general counterargument against ever enjoying one pastime more than another other than for its practical benefits. I mean, if you hit a state of flow cleaning toilets will feel fun, too, but for certain people it's easier to hit a state of flow with certain activities than with others.
That basically means that you don't take up hobbies that need a few months of learning before you are able to hit flow. I think the average level of fun that a person who's into the hobby for a bit is more important than the level of fun you have when you start a hobby. I also have control over what I feel. To me it seems much easier to simply choose to enjoy an activity by having control over my own state of mind than to sample a large number of hobbies, hoping that I accidentally find one that's fun. I admit that the way I gained the belief that I'm in control was highly manipulative NLP but it's now real for me. I guess it's like the issue of believing in ego depletion. (Make a mental note to find someone sooner or later to remove my belief in ego depletion)
I'm not sure I understand this reply -- these two paragraphs appear to contradict each other. Also, it seems orthogonal to what I said. How long it takes before the average person is able to enjoy X and how much people vary in how much they'll eventually enjoy X sound like different questions to me.
How do you decide whether archery is fun for you?You could use the first lesson of archery to make the decision. You could make that decision after a month. I don't think either of those tell you how much you will enjoy it after a year. To the extend that you can't predict how you will feel after a year you can look at what the average person who takes it for a year feels. That means you don't get to base your decision on how different people enjoy different hobbies.
So what? If in a year's time I no longer find archery fun, I'll still be allowed to stop doing it. And in any event it's none of your freakin' business. (I don't actually do archery in real life BTW, though I do have a few hobbies that don't build muscle, fluent body movement or produce a high heart rate that helps the heart, such as for example commenting on Less Wrong.)
If we have a discussion about the value of engaging in activities and spending money for it, why is it not my business to discuss that value?
Tapping out. (EDIT: I didn't downvote.)
Well, okay, so you're a highly unusual individual and on the basis of this, you're arguing about the advisability of various things for other people... Your advice kind of boils down to "become like me", doesn't it? Which, of course, is a whole other issue. What's wrong with that? First, I have no good evidence that I would, after a couple of months, be able to hit flow with it. Second, I can't and am unwilling to take arbitrary hits to my well-being even for restricted periods of time by engaging for a hobby that makes me miserable for the first couple of months. (Sounds a bit exaggerated, to be sure, but it was exactly what I thought when I read your salsa example somewhere else in the comments here.)
No. My advice is to look at the various possible usages of your time and rationally access which benefits they provide. To the extend that challenge is "please become more like me" I find it surprising that someone raising that objection against myself at lesswrong. Maybe I take some ideas about rationality too seriously? I don't do martial arts classes (for complicated reasons that don't generalize well to the general population). I don't to improv comedy classes yet you will find that I recommend both of those activities because I consider them high value. If you aren't a person who's good at telling jokes your first improv comedy classes might not be very funny for you. They might be highly challenging. If you take that to conclude that improv comedy classes are the wrong thing for you, then I think you are missing an experience that will bring you forward.
Well, your whole argument seemed to me to be: certain hobbies have various benefits, so you should change yourself to be able to engage in them to reap those benefits. That struck me as a bit far-reaching, hence the "whole other issue" remark.
When I took up Salsa it was exactly for the reasons I use here to advocate it. At the time I was an unfit person who wasn't having much social contact spending most of the time in front of the computer. I think doing something that changed me was the point. I'm not the person who took up Salsa because a girl needed a dance partner and dragged me along. I did make the decision to take it up after rational analysis and I think in retrospect it was the right decision for myself at that time. I think the whole idea of rationality is that you should change yourself to engage in behavior that makes you more likely to win. If you don't think that's what rationality is about, than what is?
I'm not saying (or thinking) that your decision to take up Salsa wasn't perfectly rational. What I do think is my decision not to do such a thing is also perfectly rational, which is probably why I had a negative emotional reaction to your very... vehement advocacy. In the case of archery, the structure of the discussion I gathered is: you said it was much inferior in health benefits to other activities - somebody brought up that it was simply fun - and you replied essentially that, well, then you should learn to find better things fun! That struck me as somewhat bizarre, because you were so forcefully condemning hobbies that were not optimal according to your metric without taking into account that other people may have other metrics and/or be constrained by various circumstances. At this point, it's become pretty clear to me that the reason I voiced this objection was that I perceived you as arguing so vehemently that I felt essentially I was being told that I'm irrational because I like the wrong things.
That's a frequent LW mode :-D
This is a discussion. If I argue against something being wrong by a certain metric X but the person thinks metric Y is more important and has an argument for why the activity fulfills metric Y then I'm happy to hear that argument. I'm happy to get such an analysis because it might tell me something about archery that I don't know. It might also tell me something about fun I don't know. If someone believes in God because he likes believing in God more than he likes being an atheist would anyone on LW object to calling that person irrational? The issue involves so much mind-killing that I'm not allowed to judge things as right or wrong? If you can't provide a utility analysis for why you do the activities that you do then I do think that qualifies as irrational by LW standards. We all know that people are frequently irrational in their day to day decisions. If you don't have a utility analysis that backs up your decision, why should I assume that it's a rational decision? I'm happy to hear an utility analysis for archery (or sailing and go-kart racing) that makes sense, where I would say, if you have the metric that you have, than it makes sense to make that decision. As far as advocating Salsa for fun, I haven't seen anyone argue seriously that playing card games like MtG is a good way to escape depression. I did hear people argue that sport is a good way to escape depression and physical contact with other people is as well. Given my theoretical idea of how happiness generally happens Salsa checks more relevant marks then MtG, archery or sailing. I'm not simply generalizing from one example of myself and my personal experience that Salsa is fun. The hobbies we chose has a significant effect on our lives and therefore I do think that it's much more important to make rational decisions about which hobby you have than it's about whether you call yourself an atheist or theist.
Well, I intended for my above comment to have a conciliatory flavour, but apparently that didn't quite come across... That's not comparable because the truth-value of "God exists" is a function of reality, whereas the truth-value of "archery is a good hobby" is a function of reality and a utility function. You're not allowed to judge other people's terminal preferences as rational or irrational because that's a category mistake. You're kind of not allowed to vocally judge them as right or wrong because it's impolite and pointless. This, incidentally, is also impolite. I said no such thing. Salsa: Not taking this up may be a perfectly rational case of risk aversion. One might basically be avoiding psychological bankruptcy, depending on how detrimental the fact of the first few months of infelicitous and awkward interaction would be on one's mind. Archery: Well, maybe some people just find it very fun, are not good at retraining themselves at finding new things fun (you even admitted that you are probably special in that regard), and telling them to first learn to find arbitrary things fun is kind of besides the point when the discussion is about what are reasonable hobbies. You're also not taking into account the possibility of temporal discounting. Why should it be impossible for a person to have simply too high a discounting rate, which need not be irrational, in order for this whole suffering and personality-changing to be happier in the far future to be worth it? (In particular, someone might value health benefits much less than you do. This alone means that while you can make a conditional argument that if you value health benefits a lot, there are much better options than archery, you're not entitled to assert that taking up archery is irrational because you're missing out on all those health benefits from other activities.) And then one's value structure doesn't have to be such that changing one's emotional reactions to various things makes sense. This
Believing that God exist is an activity and activities do have utility functions. It also has a lot to do with priors and it makes sense to choose your priors based on a heuristic that you evaluate with an utility function. I'm not arguing that it's theoretically impossible for people to have a high discount rate. Someone at the last lesswrong meetup argued that smoking is rational for him because he doesn't care if he loses 10 years of lifespan. On the other hand if that's your position answering: "You should take up smoking" when someone asks for a good way to spend his life to improve his life on a lesswrong thread doesn't make any sense without talking at all about the fact that you have a high possibility of temporal discounting. That's probably right, but doesn't have much to do with the argument I made. I spoke about health benefits because archery is sort of a sport and the secondary benefit that comes to mind for most sports is health benefits. Finding archery fun is quite superficial. It not like valuing saving human lives or preventing the world from being destroyed. I do think that it's quite okay to change around how much happiness things bring that you do for higher purposes. I do find it strange to value being happy tomorrow but not valuing changing around associations in your mind to be happy tomorrow because engaging in certain activity fulfills a long term purpose. That position seems to me very constructed and I would doubt that many people seriously hold it. Again if that's your position and you give suggestions on a thread of how a rationalists can improve his life by spending money I do think you have the burden of being explicit about your abnormal utility function. I would also question whether that suggestion has any value for the person who started the thread as I would predict that they value the happiness they have in a year and don't just want to improve how happy they are tomorrow. You brought up me wanting other people to take u
Well, okay. But can we at least agree that epistemic activities are special and remove them from the discussion? Right. So you just assuming that it's low enough for your argument to be applicable to them... How does it not have much to do with your argument when you say that archery should be disprefered because, despite being a sport, it does not get you much in terms of secondary health benefits? It is superficial, and I'm not suggesting that anybody would have performing archery as an actual terminal value. The terminal value may be closer to "do something cool by my present definition of cool" (as opposed to "do something cool by whatever definition I happen to have, so I'll self-modify to find useful things cool"). That's closer to an aesthetic preference - and then the happiness would not be the actual goal, but a side-effect of getting what you want. People can be structured in ways so that they value other things than or besides happiness and health (I am). Also, we're not talking about it being okay to change your happiness function - we're talking about whether it's essentially obligatory, which you seem to be asserting. Do you hold the same position about aesthetic preferences? Because frankly, trying to change your aesthetic preferences to fit your surroundings, instead of the other way around, strikes me as bizarre. That's all very well. I guess if you haven't seen by now how that still makes your categorical assertions somewhat inappropriate, that point won't come in the future, either. Also, what's your basis for the assertion that the general structure of my utility function is so abnormal? Do you see people going around trying to change themselves to find things okay that they don't find okay, instead of trying to change those things? I suppose you would say that's the rational thing to do. Do you think everybody who doesn't do that is just being irrational?
As far as aesthetic preferences go, learning to appreciate the subtleties of high culture isn't something that's generally considered bizarre. Yes, you can enjoy pop culture but I do think that changing your aesthetics by learning to perceive fine details is worthwhile. I'm not a high culture snob you listens all the time to classical music that the average person can't appreciate because they didn't develop the required qualia. You can probably guess the reason ;) I do have a project running to develop finer ability to distinguish colors and that's likely to change my aesthetics. I do think that developing finer qualia to perceive more depth of reality is worthwhile. As a programmer I do want to develop aesthetics that make me shun bad code that's likely to produce bugs. I think that if you want to hold on to the aesthetics of a beginner programmer that will hold you back in developing your programming ability. The same goes for most expert domains. Developing good aesthetics for a field can be very worthwhile. Physicists distinguish beautiful theories from one's that aren't and developing the aesthetics to make that judgement will take time. I strive to increase information inflow by being able to perceive finer distinctions of reality and I strive to develop aesthetics that make me more effective in the fields I want to have expertise. For me that would still be a pretty superficial goal. But if we would look at that definition we could have a least a decent discussion whether archery optimizes that goal or whether there another hobby that would be more cool given that definition. I think that something like life purpose is the core thing towards which to optimize. I think most people would agree that investing burrow money with 20% interest rate to enjoy an experience in the present when you have to pay it back in a year is a bad way to discount future utility. That sentence is quite complicated to answer. Trying to change yourself is the opposite from c
I'm ending this discussion. I'm finding it unproductive and, frankly, I'm getting annoyed by it because I feel like I have to expend too much energy on rectifying mischaracterisations and preventing you from derailing things with what I perceive to be silly word games (like that thing about "trying").
Trying is a very real word. It has a specific meaning. If you try to have fun you won't have fun. If you give a suggestion in hypnosis for someone to try something that means the person exerts effort on the task and doesn't focus on a result. Ideas like that are central to how to change how you feel about an activity. To the extend that you don't want to understand what it takes to change how you feel about an activity you aren't going to be in a position to judge it. This is inherently a discussion in which getting clear about what terms means matters.
Whether you believe it or not, some people fully intend to do X and fail for some reason, whether external or internal. The proper English phrase to describe what they did is "try to do X (and fail)". "You should not try to do X" entails "You should not X". "You should not try to do X" with strong focus intonation on "try" is an entirely different thing - but then you're not talking about trying, you're talking about the expression "try". You're making such metalinguistic statements, which are entirely besides the point that I was making. That's what I call silly word games.
If you think that changing around utility functions has nothing to do with metalinguistics I think you miss core of what it's about. The things you can say about changing around utility functions without addressing metalinguistics are superficial. In the framework in which you operate it's not easy to change around utility functions. To the extend we want to discuss changing around utility functions you should open your mind to learn to make distinctions that you aren't used to make. Yes. And sometimes that reason is that they are engaging into "trying". Often the opposite of trying is "waiting". You set an intention and allow the necessary process to happen. That not all of it, but it's necessary. I did spent a weekend trying to not try to get into a trance that's deep enjoy to produce amnesia for numbers. It doesn't. It's not something that you can do from that state of mind. It will just fail. On the other hand if you set an intention and let go and don't try phenomena such as that are easy to produce. It very annoying but it's the way the human mind works. If you are used to trying and shoulding it might take you a year of practicing meditation to leave that mental framework. It's however not something that necessary for learning to enjoy Salsa. Instead it's much better to go Salsa dancing and focus on why dancing Salsa is good for you. If that's where you mental focus is you utility function will change. If you constantly tell yourself: "I should enjoy Salsa.", "Did I succeed in enjoying Salsa a bit more than last week?", you botch up the whole process by trying to change your utility function. I never said that you should be happy. You are allowed to be as miserable as you want and cement that status by trying to change it. I think that's an unwise choice but you are free to engage in it. I don't want to take anyone's misery away against their will.
and and You're really in a judging mood today, aren't you..?
Still, you cannot just learn at will to find arbitrary things fun. So what's your point?
Actually, I can if I put effort into it. Especially if the activity has a purpose for myself. But even if you can't, you won't know how an activity will feel after a year by taking a lesson in it. My first month of dancing Salsa was horrible. In the Salsa community the first months for males get called "beginner's hell". If you only engage in hobbies that are fun the first time in which you engage them I don't think you optimize happiness and more importantly you probably won't engage in activities that challenge your weak area's in a way that makes you improve on a more general level.
Are you sure? Archery requires a lot of strength and full-body coordination. Archers that I know have to do strength training for it. I'm not going to make any claims about how optimal it is, but that seems untrue on its face.
Exactly. Archery doesn't provide strength training if you have to do strength training to do archery. If it would be good at strength training than archers wouldn't need separate strength training. Yes, there might be some effects but if your goal is strength training I would guess that there are better ways. As far as full-body coordination goes, archery forces you into being still in a quite unnatural position. I don't think that's what you want to train. A good martial arts or a good dance class provides you with better training.

Exactly. Archery doesn't provide strength training if you have to do strength training to do archery. If it would be good at strength training than archers wouldn't need separate strength training.

That's incorrect. Every sport requires additional strength training in order to perform at a high level. Even in strength sports, supplemental strength training is required beyond practicing the sport itself. This doesn't mean that the sport itself doesn't provide a strength adaptation response. Yoga counts as strength training for the sufficiently weak.

In Olympic weightlifting, the contested lifts are the snatch and the clean and jerk. Even minimalistic weightlifting programming involves squatting, and most programs include pressing, rows, deadlifting, and other strength work as well.

Powerlifting is a much simpler sport, testing only the squat, bench press, and deadlift for one repetition. Just practicing the sport would involve doing single reps with squats, bench presses, and deadlifts. Virtually no successful powerlifters train this way. Basically all of them do multiple repetitions on the main lifts, and the majority do other exercises as well.

That still doesn't seem right to me, but I should point out that a good motivation to do a thing is as valuable as the thing itself, if otherwise you wouldn't.
Taking a hobby costs a lot of time. For me I don't see any reason to prefer archery over a martial art. The martial art does provide a bunch of secondary benefits.
And there might not be any reason to do it for you, but other people might be uncomfortable with hitting other people, concerned about their hands (much easier to break a finger or twist your wrist if you're doing martial arts than archery, I imagine), be looking for a relaxing rather than exciting hobby, etc.

If you wake up before the sun rises (or have blackout shades), would recommendI this gradual-wakeup light alarm clock. I bought it after seeing someone link it on LessWrong. If your morning wakeups are abrupt, I highly recommend this. For the 30 minutes before your set alarm time, it gradually brightens the light. Then if you're not awake yet by the time the sound comes on, it's birds chirping VERY softly that slowly gets louder. I usually actually mistake them for real birds in my half-asleep state. Its a much more pleasant way to get up in the morning and personally, I feel a lot better when I do.

I also have a Vitamix that I use usually twice a day and I absolutely love it. Great quality and really easy to clean.

4Eliezer Yudkowsky10y
Countersupport: I bought a very similar model, but didn't find it helpful.
Just bought a different model of this last week, because my bedroom is blissfully dark at night, but also dark in the morning, making it more difficult to wake up when I'd like to. I can confirm that it's made a really big difference for easing me out of bed. I don't need the usual snooze routine, or to set a second alarm in a different room anymore.
I use a set of bright lamps with a timer in the socket. I doubt the graduality would add much benefit, and I get much brighter light a lot cheaper than I would with any wakeup light. These days I also use a set of red lights in the evening before going to bed (melatonin suppressed mostly by blue wave length).
I just use two cheap alarm clocks - one set to radio at fairly low volume, two minutes before the alarm on the other one goes off. The former wakes me up and lets me transition to consciousness, the latter kicks my ass out of bed. I find it works well. (This is something you should tailor to personal preferences, of course, but I figured I'd throw another idea in)
Another possible work-around; I found that my radio alarm became much more tolerable, and that I woke more gradually, once I started sleeping with a white noise generator (actually an air purifier). This was less intrusive and more effective than simply waking to a very quiet alarm.

Time is probably the best thing you can buy for the long term. You could consider investing that money and at 5% you'd have almost a million dollars in 25 years - that may sound like a long time, but it would mean you could be financially independent in your early forties and would allow you spend an additional 8-10 hours a day on things you enjoy if you didn't have to earn a salary.

Think about the things you use very often and/or for extended amounts of time. Buy the highest quality version of that that you can afford. For example shoes, chairs, beds, at any one time you will be in one of the three, so buy the best you can afford. Donating to a feel-good charity might also improve your happiness. The exact amount seems to be irrelevant.

Edit: Another possibility is to buy more than you actually need of items you use, like having multiple nail clippers at multiple locations for convenience instead of having to carry out one specific nailclipper.

Additional note: give yourself opportunity to make sure that "high quality" is actually "high utility"; I have failed to sleep well on some very expensive mattresses. Paying extra to buy from a company with a good return policy or trial periods is often worth it.

Your last line is a good hint to the direction you should be thinking. Find ways to spend money to save time, or improve your experience where you spend a lot of time.

Paying a housecleaner or gardener can free up some time if you don't get value from those activities but do get value from the results. TaskRabbit can get you out of some other errands that fall into the same category (you want done, but don't want to do).

Paying a personal trainer can make your health-improving activities a lot more efficient. Paying for classes is a mixed bag, but can give structure and motivation for learning that you don't get with self-scheduled time.

As a programmer, you may be able to have a more enjoyable and perhaps more effective time at your job if you spend money on equipment rather than limiting yourself to what your employer provides.

Depending on if you have them already, invest in a few tailored pieces clothing that go with a lot and you can wear regularly.

Offer to pay for your friends to come with you to do what you like (for instance if you like ice-skating and you all usually end up at bars, offer to pay for them to come ice-skating with you - they'll be happy to go for free, and you'll get better quality out of your time with them).

Give small amounts to charities you see along the street, if you identify with them (for the warm fuzzies).

Make a habit of buying something nice at a bakery or similar outside work once a week and bringing it in for your colleagues. Chat with them over it.

If you don't have dietary restrictions and are easy about what you eat, get one of those packages where they deliver you recipes and ingredients every week (cut down the time planning, buying and cooking and you can find one that's healthy and balanced - most are by design anyway).

Seconding spending more money on comfortable impressive looking clothing.

Get a massage every couple of weeks.

Go to some place to get some serious neuromuscula body work that focuses on posture, alignment, balanced muscular strength and tone. Feldenkrais, Hanna, Pilates, Alexander.

Have regular blood work done. Get basic dna testing, if not a full genome (yet).

Hire a cook to stock your fridge with tasty, nutritious meals for the week.

If you wear glasses, try switching to night&day contact lenses. I don't know about others, but it's one of the things I most gladly spend extra money on. They're much, much more comfortable than glasses -- you just put them on and forget about your vision problems until you have to change them. There have been days when I had run out of contacts and had to wear glasses, and the experience was horrible compared to what I was used to.

VERY strongly seconding this. I wear contacts I can leave in for weeks at a time and it's fantastically better than glasses. You only need to take them in and out rarely compared to regularly contacts, and you never have to worry about dropping or breaking them. You can wear sunglasses or google glass or whatever with no problems, you can go out in the cold without them fogging up, you don't have to worry about them falling off your head if you do martial arts or a cartwheel, and if you have a strong prescription (my contacts are -9) contacts distort your vision a LOT less than glasses of a similar prescription. You don't have to fumble for glasses when you wake up. You get way better peripheral vision. Obviously way better for sex. The list probably goes on.
To provide the voice of dissent; I found them irritating my eyes, more so than other contacts. But I'm from not-humid climate, results may vary on the coast. Also make sure you see your optometrist on schedule, mine recommended I stop using them after two years for eye health reasons. And to be fair, I second all of drethelin's comments about convenience.
This is a very important point, and part of the problem is you can't tell whether you'll get used to putting in and wearing contact lenses without trying it. The first time you do it at the doctor's office will be awkward and probably painful.
Confirmed. It also used to take an unusually long time to put them on and get them off my eyes. The doctor even let me know that after a while, looking back at how long it used to take me, I'll be surprised/amused by it, after having gotten used to the technique.

I brainstormed about this for a while and reflected on what past purchases I had made that I liked and hadn't liked. YMMV but here's what I concluded:

  • Incremental upgrades to existing items is rarely worth it unless the existing option is terrible; a nice mouse is only slightly nicer than whatever you're currently using, most of the time you don't really use the extra speed from a faster computer, etc.
  • Conversely, get things that open up new options for you; e.g. a smartphone lets you do computer things in places where you wouldn't before so is better tha
... (read more)

If you want to gain personal skills, a good avenue for spending money is removing distractions that decrease the time you have to devote to these skills. For example, hire cleaners or gardeners to free up the time spent on necessary chores.


The best ratio of happiness per Euro spent I ever got was from a shower with a rain shower head for about 120€. I imagine a full fledged shower panel with massage showers could give even more happiness but maybe with a smaller ratio.

Another example was spending about 400€ on a Saitek pro flight control and X-Plane 10.

Also vacations probably count. There was this seafood plate I once had on Mallorca ...

Seconding shower things. Also consider sex toys and sex-shop items. I carry thermic starbucks glasses around to keep my tea hot in winter and cold in the brazilian summer. Worth it. Depending on your age, big 5 personality traits, group of friends etc... psychedelic drugs (but not opiates or amphetamines) may be worth their price and time.
Aren't psychostimulators, such as amphetamine and its derivatives or modafinil¹, legitimate means for augmenting mood, cognition and productivity? Or are they seriously dangerous? Can you point out some relevant research? ¹ Can modafinil be lumped together with other psychostimulators?

The thing is, a lot of the advantages you get from money can be had on the cheap if you are reasonably resourceful. For example, it may be awesome to go out with your family to a fancy restaurant for dinner. But it's almost as awesome (and in some ways more awesome) to plan and cook your own nice meal for your family. At far less expense.

(Note I am referring to your typical middle class American here.)

I do agree that saving on commuting time and inconvenience is worthwhile if you can afford it.

Depends if you like cooking, and if you have the time to do it properly. There's a reason you pretty much only see childless folks Instagramming dinner.
I cook today because my mother taught us to cook as kids. Obviously, cooking with a 5 year old is a bit of a burden, but as kids get older they are more helpful, and then you get extra, productive, and positive family time. And then later, older kids can often be convinced to cook the entire meal on their own if they get to choose the menu. Barely relevant: neither I nor anyone I know instagrams their food. This may be a cultural artifact of your local population. Or of my local population.
I'm almost sure this is more a cultural/generational thing than a free time thing.
That's part of it, I'm sure. But the few folks from the same culture and generation who have kids don't seem to do it. (This is even more anecdotal than the initial observation, so don't take it too literally)
That's two separate but related issues. I definitely disagree as to the second issue, as I doubt there's much more time involved in preparing a nice meal than in dining out at a fancy restaurant. Besides, it's not too hard for your typical middle class American to find a couple hours on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon to cook. As to the first issue, I agree that there are probably people out there who hate to cook, even if it's an occasional special project. Still, those people have other options. For example, I have a family member who doesn't cook; is cheap; and enjoys fine dining. So he finds special deals like restaurant week in New York and enjoys fancy meals for a fraction of the normal price. To be sure, one could come up with a scenario where there are no special deals available; one hates to cook; and all other options are cut off in some way. And while I agree that may happen from time to time, it does not seem to be the general rule. In my experience, there are usually work-arounds available. What exactly is that reason, in your view? I can think of a lot of possible reasons which do not contradict my claim. I cook perhaps 30 or 40 meals a year with one of my children and it's never occurred to me to Instagram them.
You can generally keep the kids in line better at an Applebee's than when you actually have to watch the food. (Yes, I know Applebee's isn't a real fancy restaurant, but it's the sort of place most people think of when they think of dining out somewhere nice). And the real competitor to cooking is often pizza delivery or a drive-thru, not dine-in. IMO, the reason for that is that the meals you want to show off are usually the fancy foodie sort. To pick my most food-photo-friendly friend as an example, she posts things like "My take on wing night: grilled tare duck wings and sesame snap peas and carrot sticks" and "Chili lime chicken lettuce wraps and black bean cheddar quesadillas. #dinner" on a regular basis. One, kids don't know what most of that is, but will still tell you that it must be gross with a certainty that could not be shaken with nuclear weaponry. Two, they tend to prefer eating the same things over and over, which makes your photos really boring. Three, preparing food yourself is more time consuming than preparing it from a box, so lots of parents get out the Kraft Dinner and hot dogs, or the like, and that is again not worth posting photos of. Four, if you do try to get ambitious, usually the kids are involved in the cooking, which makes it more likely to be sloppy, and which is likely enough of a distraction that you don't want to be bothered getting out the camera. (And when you do, you're not showing off the food, you're showing off the kid)
I don't understand your point . . . are you saying that it's easier to control your children in a restaurant than at home? Assuming that's true, I don't see how it contradicts or qualifies my point. Can you explain?
I'm saying it's easier to control children when you don't also need to be cooking at the same time. And that last paragraph was expanding upon the point I was making above, not in direct response to anything you said.
Ok, so you are saying that it's easier to control children if you take them to a restaurant than if you prepare dinner and eat at home? Right? Well you seemed to be making the following argument: 1. If you have children, it's not practical to work around the expense of a meal out by preparing food at home because it's hard to prepare food while there are children around. 2. The lack of instagram pictures of dinner from people with children shows that people who have children face a time shortage while preparing food at home. I take it you are now abandoning the second point?
I'm not a parent, but it seems plausible. It meshes with what I remember of being a kid, certainly, and what parent friends say. Not entirely true. Most of my meals as a kid were home-cooked. But they're not the sort of thing that would generally be considered "nice" - they were mostly repetitive, easy to make, and uninteresting. Most families I'm familiar with, including my own when I was younger, are more likely to go out to a middle-class sit-down restaurant when they want something "fancy" instead of make something ambitious at home(aside from special occasions - Christmas and Thanksgiving are both big fancy-home-cooking events in most families, Sundays in some, but days like that are comparatively rare). I'm not referring just to cooking at home, but to a particular type of cooking - the fancy meal, not the "box of this, bag of that, and boiling water" stuff that so many families eat regularly. That does the job, but it's not the kind of awesome you were referring to when I made my original post.
Frankly it seems ridiculous to me. It's a lot easier to control your children at home than out at a restaurant since at home you have access to a wide variety of things the children can do including watching television. I have no idea what your point is here. Is it your position that if you have children, it's not practical to work around the expense of a meal out by preparing food at home because it's hard to prepare food while there are children around? Is it your position that the lack of instagram pictures of dinner from people with children shows that people who have children face a time shortage while preparing food at home?

How are your savings for retirement?

If you have no retirement savings, you can set some up at an easy to use online brokerage: Your early twenties is a great time to start, managing your retirement account doesn't really have to take a large amount of time, and 50 dollars a day should cover initial expenditures.

Also, at 29, I personally enjoy fiddling around with my retirement account... although it took me a while to figure out the right settings for myself and I did have some initial panics when it was smaller, I wasn't as familiar with the pros and cons of various investment types, and one of my stocks had gone down quite a bit. Now that it is bigger and much more well diversified, it's more fun.

3Jonathan Paulson10y
Yeah, this is a priority for me. My plan is to stick my money in a few mutual funds and forget about it for 40 years. Hopefully the economy will grow in that time :)
Don't forget to put some of it in a reserve fund that's invested conservatively and easily accessible, and ensure that you're covered in case of disability. Also, diversify between market sectors - an index fund is good and all, but the usual index fund is 100% US, and you want some international exposure.

IIRC, the most actionable and strong effect in happiness research is to spend much more money on others - giving people things, buying your friends food/drink. The effect does not intensify with price, so buy others lots of little things!

Lukeprog's excellent post on happiness summarized a lot of this research, and although money itself does not correlate particularly strongly with happiness above a certain level, there are a few things there that money could certainly help with - trainers for various things, social life (better clothes, going to more ev... (read more)

Or, if you want more directly related to money, read this. Abstract:

Random thought 2:

The next time you get a car, get one with a thermostat. It's an uncommon option and I don't know how much it costs, but the Ford Taurus my parents bought off the lot happened to have one. In other cars, the heat and air conditioning tend to overshoot, leaving me cold in the summer and hot in the winter on long trips.

Turn down the heat/AC once the car has reached temperature? It's been -10C or so here for most of the last month, and I turn the heat down halfway on any long road trips, because blasting it for more than 20 minutes is silly. It's really easy to get a thermal equilibrium with a traditional car thermostat.
I often don't notice it's okay to turn it down until it's already overshot. :(

One of the things that improved my life most after moving to SF was buying a good bike and using it for nearly all my transportation needs. More fun, less stressful, and much healthier than driving or public transit. You want a road bike, not a mountain bike, here, since extra weight makes a huge difference going up hills.

Strongly in favor of the mountain bike, I'll bet 50 bucks Kalium is just assuming the road bike is better without ever having the option, or he lives in a really flat area and is a very fit person. I've been biking for 8 years around the city, in a huge city. 1) First goal should be don't die. Thus you should actually use the sidewalk as often as possible (regardless of whether that is legal, or is the law worth all your future experiences?) Bikes are incredibly dangerous, but awesome fun. 2) Second goal should be don't strain your back and feel constant pain. Keep an upright posture with a mountain bike, you will (a) see more of the world around you (b) get more delicious wind in your face (c) require a lower activation energy to decide to bike, since you won't need any special biking shorts, gloves or things other than a helmet. 3) Third goal is exercise. It goes without saying that a heavier bike (which you will never, ever notice because no options will be there to be compared, so no hedonic onus) will exercise you more. 4) Fourth goal is look good: an upright posture will help you with that.
This may seem counterintuitive, but the riding a bike on the sidewalk is more dangerous than riding in the road. The reason why is that drivers tend not to check the sidewalk for fast moving traffic. Your probability of being hit in intersections increases greatly. See the "right hook" diagram on this website for an illustration. There are a number of studies that confirm this, for example, this 1992 study showed that cyclists riding on the sidewalk have 1.8 times as great risk as cyclists riding in the road.
Upvoted. A lot of cycling safety is counterintuitive. Being hit from behind is not as big a risk as people think while cycling, and behaving as predictably as possible (ie like a car) will keep you alive.
Who in the world would not check for traffic while moving fast on a crossroad? Jeez I keep forgetting how stupid people are. I wish there were statistics only with people who care about living and think. Thank goodness the "average person" is a 1st year harvard/Mit/Oxford psychology student.
You mean what kind of idiot driver wouldn't check the sidewalks, right? Sarcasm aside, you get places a lot faster if you're part of traffic and don't have to wait until all the cars are past to go through an intersection. Also by riding on the sidewalk you're being kind of a huge dick to pedestrians.
I don't think it's simply an issue of the cyclist looking, though that is probably a large part. I've been nearly hit by drivers who clearly weren't paying attention when I was being very careful. In particular, drivers breaking the law can easily catch you off guard. The worst near-hit I've had was from a driver who ran a red light, and my brother was hit riding a bike while he was coming off the sidewalk into the crosswalk from a driver who ran a stop sign. Also, cars are much faster than bikes, so you could easily be surprised by a car that seemingly comes from nowhere. With that being said, I do think that you can ride on the sidewalk in a way that minimizes your risk. Being careful near intersections would do that. However, given that the accident rate on straight segments of road is pretty low (not really higher than that riding on the sidewalk, as I recall, though I should verify), you can probably get more benefit by riding where you are most visible (in the road) and being careful. Doing other things to improve your visibility like using flashing lights or flourescent yellow helps too. There's also the issue of being a dick to pedestrians by riding on the sidewalk, as mentioned by kalium.
So, about that bet. Was that meant seriously, and if so what evidence would I need to supply that I either (a) have tried both a mountain bike and a non-mountain bike or (b) either (i) live somewhere not really flat or (ii) am very fit?
No, I actually brought a mountain bike with me when I moved to San Francisco this summer. It was a pain in the ass so I bought a road bike. 1. Riding on the sidewalk is incredibly dangerous and stupid. Despite being obnoxious about bike paths and such, the vehicular cyclists are right about a lot of things. 2. I do like my upright handlebars. More wind resistance but very comfortable. You can get these for a road bike. Though if riding a road bike with standard handlebars gives you constant pain you're probably doing something wrong. The distance between handlebars and seat, or the angle the seat, may be incorrectly adjusted for your body size. (Edit: So I guess my bike, which I bought used so I don't know as much as I should about it, might not be quite technically a road bike. The tall stem seems to be the only really non-road-bike-like feature though. And I certainly appreciate that it weighs about half what my mountain bike did.) 3. I don't want a heavier bike for more exercise. I want to get places quickly and comfortably and not arrive smelly or sweaty.
You are arguing for what Wikipedia calls a "European city bike". Mountain bikes are quite different and, in particular, you don't ride them upright.
I'm actually arguing for tall stem mountain bikes (yes there are many of those). I am also in favor of the European ones and would use the same arguments, thanks for the reminder. Stem being the part where your hands go (which I didn't know 5 minutes ago).

General information-getting (most of this is general "stuff I recommend to anyone", but some of it does require money):

  • Get a Kindle. Easily worth its price, if you can afford it.
  • Get books. Much easier to get buy them from Amazon than getting them from anywhere else.
  • Make a subscription to Audible.com and start listening to Audiobooks. Incredible life improvement to be able to turn moments I'm otherwise not mentally occupied, with more time to read.
  • Get stereo bluetooth headphones. These are headphones you can easily stick in a pocket, turn on
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Obvious, but: if you don't already, hire a cleaner.

This didn't work out well at my household as supervising them took more time than it was worth.
Theft? Inferior Service? I'm having a hard time guessing what this could be that you couldn't just look for someone with better references (or spend a bit more).

Other people have Wrong intuitions about Where Things Go.

They would ask questions and move things and we had to be home when they where here.
1Paul Crowley10y
Our cleaner just does the kitchen and bathroom, so we don't really have to tell them anything!

(Not sure whether $50/day allows you to do this in San Francisco, but:) Live within walking/cycling distance of work, grocery stores, nightlife, museums, etc. so you won't have to drive a car every day.

Not sure about specific details, but I have a feeling that it is easy to make a mistake of thinking about "what is easy to buy & would be convenient". Sure, it is great to pay someone else to do your dishes, but is that really the best way to convert money into awesomeness?

Instead I would recommend making a specific plan about becoming more awesome, and only then to search for a specific point of the plan where extra money can give me the greatest bonus. For example, let's say I want to become a rock star. I can pay someone to do my dishes, w... (read more)

Random thought 4:

Do you have any pets? It can be very nice to live with a cat or a dog.

That kind of defeats the "no longterm commitment" thing.
If you call a shelter they're often happy to have people look after one of their dogs or cats for a while. (EDIT: Julia and I did this for a while in 2010 when we wanted a cat but couldn't commit to keeping one.)
Be aware that giving an animal back to a shelter is often a very good way to kill it. Generally, they assume that there's something wrong with it, and it doesn't get much of a second chance before it's put down to give space to others that don't have a black mark.
I'm not talking about adopting a pet and then returning it; instead you explicitly ask them "would you like me to look after one of your pets for [time interval]?" This temporarily expands their capacity, and you returning it later doesn't tell them something's wrong with it. (Well, it does tell them the pet wasn't so awesome as to overcome your defenses and make you adopt it, but I think most people who do this really can't adopt.)
Fair. I've just heard horror stories, and I wanted to make sure those reading weren't inadvertently adding to them.
I had a couple friends who would foster kittens from the shelter and house-train and socialize them for a few months, and then either the shelter or some other agency would find a more permanent home for them. I don't know the details but this is a thing you can do.
It's still one of the best ways to improve your happiness. Hell, I'm getting a lot of the same effect from pet fish.

Random thought 1:

Get a 3-channel or 5-channel sound system for your TV and/or computer. My father didn't know what he was missing until he did, and now he thinks it's great. Cost: $1000-2000.

(The reason we got one in the first place is kind of weird: my father likes to watch Blu-Ray movies, but many of them had sound that was totally out of balance: the sound effects were blasting but the spoken dialogue was barely audible. Online research indicated that this was partially a result of converting from 5.1 surround sound to stereo sound; in 5.1 sound, the s... (read more)

For some years now I have had a Panasonic breadmaker, model SD-ZB2512. It takes less than five minutes in the evening, generating no mess and no washing up (if you use olive oil instead of butter, so as to avoid generating a fatty knife), and you can have hot fresh bread ready-baked as you wake up. The only downside to bread made this way is that you have to slice it. It tastes dramatically better than all but the most expensive shop-bought bread, and the ingredients store in a cupboard for literally months so it's even highly pandemic-proof. Bread that is... (read more)

A more ergonomic computer setup. It's highly surprising how very much it can do for both comfort, health, and performance. Tons of low hanging fruit that people miss. If you spend as much time as it sound siting in the same spot every day it really should be a no expenses spare kind of deal. For most applications I'd even consider it more important than the actual hardware in the box.

You really should look it up more in depth and/or ask someone who knows this stuff at a semi-professional level, but I'll summarize roughly some points.

The most important par... (read more)

I just put a small table on top of a bigger table. Switch the place of the keyboard/laptop/book. It seems to me that if you stand enough the expected utility of a super chair is pretty low, maybe even negative if it makes you sit more. I still dream about getting one to be honest though.

Turn your money into time; that is, purchase modafinil.

Doesn't work for me. I feel much worse for a about a week after using it.
My sympathies; I find it wonderful.
Or, if the legality is an issue because you need e.g. security clearance for your job, adrafinil.
I'm not sure if stimulants are adequately described as turning money into time. They generally speed up time perception, meaning that you experience the same period of time as subjectively shorter. Sure, you get more stuff done in it, but still... The formulation is perhaps misleading.
People on modafinil manage to get by with less sleep. Whether or not it's long-term healthy to cut down your total sleep with it is however another question towards which I don't know the answer.
I'm not a pharmacologist, but my understanding is that modafanil, while a stimulant in the technical sense, doesn't produce the kind of diffuse CNS activation you seem to be alluding to. I am a little skeptical about some of the more dramatic claims regarding the drug's capabilities, but this isn't a reason why.
It was a tongue-in-cheek suggestion to begin with (an amusing contrast to all the others saying 'turn money into time'), but modafinil has a unique claim to "buying time": it lets you function just as well and usually better than average, on less sleep. A more thorough analysis

fish oil supplements do not have the same efficacy as actually eating fish regularly. You can get sashimi grade salmon surprisingly cheaply delivered to your house.

Some ideas:

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Pepper spray is not a magic force field against arbitrary assault.

Arbitrary assault is (for most people) much less likely than you instinctively think. If a placebo adjusts your emotional reaction to something more appropriate to the actual risks then it's a good buy.
Thing is, there's lots of places in the world to explore that aren't sketchy. Unless sketch has appeal, why bother taking even a comparatively small risk?
Shrug. If you don't enjoy going such places then by all means don't. But my impression is that generally most LWers advocate seeking out "exciting" experiences rather than the safest possible hobbies.
This is pretty cool if it's legit, but something about it looks a bit sketchy to me. Particularly for the leather stuff; materials cost there is high enough that a $100 leather coat is pretty much automatically suspect. (Lower-quality and reconstituted leather can be that cheap, but they react very poorly to wear.) What's your experience with the site?
I have no personal experience with that site, but that's mostly because reddit's /r/malefashionadvice thinks they're terrible.
They are correct. I bought some jeans from them early in my fashion development and they're not very good. /r/malefashionadvice is great though.

If you save up a fair amount of money, you can take a substantial amount of time off from work (say 6-12 months), and use it to do something awesome like travel around the world or read the great books or both.

That's an enormous IF for many jobs.

I find it's well worth spending money on reliability and low maintenance for things you use regularly. I cycle as my main form of transport, and I spent extra money on a good set of internal hub gears. The only maintenance required is a yearly oil change. The time needed to clean and adjust derailuer gears probably isn't much, but the subjective feeling of reliability is valuable for me. Likewise, I use tires with strong puncture protection. I'm confident that I can set out to cycle at short notice and arrive at my destination at a predictable time.

The sam... (read more)

My favored option is buying durable goods, especially labor-saving devices. $50/day surplus is enough to make one significant purchase (say, a laundry machine or a good-quality item of furniture) each month, for a noticeable long-term improvement in comfort. I don't like spending money in ways that will have to be repeated regularly.

That's my own plan for the next year, anyway; until recently, I spent my surplus paying down debts. (which, incidentally, you should do first if you have any, but I assume since you're asking that you do not.)

2Jonathan Paulson10y
Do you have ideas for durable goods? My apartment has a laundry machine, and I can't think of a piece of furniture I would want.
Dishwasher? You can get portables pretty cheap.
Well, just going by our own list: king size bed, sofa, office desk, a good office chair (Aeron?), file server, office desktop. Not necessarily in that order. We live in an apartment that provides washers/dryers/dishwashers/etc, but if we had a house, those would be on it, at the top.
A cloud file service (Dropbox, Google Drive, etc) gives similar benefits to a file server with more use of money and less of time.
Correct. In fact for most people it's probably both faster and cheaper, going by my Googling of Dropbox's prices. I just don't have the sort of use profile such services were intended for. E.g. I do things like mount /home over NFS from multiple machines, and that's not something I want to do at anything less than local speeds, even if my files would fit in whatever the highest tier plan is. (which they don't) (I also run my own DNS, a VPN bridge between my home and a couple family members, and several other unnecessary but interesting things. I'm in IT; it's just what I do. The file server referenced above is actually going to be a homemade SAN if I have my way.)

The obvious thing is to hire a therapist. They're the experts, right?

Since I don't have $50/day type money, I would do these things if I had it:

  • Buy healthy food.
  • Buy exercise equipment, or a gym membership.
  • Put enough away until I could hire an accountant/start a business and/or nonprofit / etc, or at least hire people for the parts of my various projects I cannot handle alone or with too low charisma to amass an army of reliable volunteers.
  • Due to my disability, the amount of independence I have and the amount of money under my control are likely to correlate. I can't know for sure without being rich, but money would let
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Assuming this is a money issue and not a time issue, your local public library can get you almost anything via interlibrary loan.
And there is this thing called internet where you can get a lot for free - and in some jurisdictions and under certain conditions it is even perfectly legal.
Reading a novel on a computer screen sucks.
The Amazon Kindle is very cheap ($70-$210 depending on the exact model and features you want; assuming you buy one every 2-5 years, it is a trivial expense for all but the most destitute).
Cheap low end tablets cost around €30. Their parameters and battery life suck, but for indoor reading they are acceptable. And as a bonus you can do more things with them (such as using tap-and-search dictionary if you are often reading in foreign languages). Cheap e-book readers are a bit more expensive, from €40 up.But they weight less and their battery life is vastly superior. Still, if your genre preferences are somewhat "traditional", IMHO public library is the way to go.
My mileage strongly disagrees with yours.

Eat well, and go out often. Books and games are better as low-cost entertainment, but my experience is one comes to appreciate social entertainment more.

I don't know whether there a good way to purchase training for people skills in San Francisco for $50/day. I would guess that most seminars are over that price point. What you could buy for that budget might be improv comedy classes.

  • hire a tutor to teach you programming.

  • hire someone to search/ check out entertainment stuff that you might like. ( works best if the person likes the same stuff you do.)