The Nice Pencil Principle

I’ve spent a lot of time on this blog writing about saving money and living a lower impact lifestyle. But sometimes I find strange anomalies in my life worthy of sharing. It has taken some time, but as I mature, I’ve realized that I’m becoming much less “cheap” than I once was, and I’m starting to view objects, purchases and experiences through the lens of total value. I went though a period of my life always looking for the least expensive solution to any problem I encountered. And I still value that perspective. However, occasionally I would end up making purchases or repurchases of objects that provided both an inferior experience and cost more in the long run.


So what is the “Nice Pencil Principle”? I’ll define the NPP as: Buying and using a high quality item can often be the most rewarding and cost effective way to utilize an object (or experience) over time. By purchasing the object or experience with rearguards to its total value instead of simply its price or quality, one can often come out ahead in the long run. And I’ll add the idea that sometimes paying a little more up front can actually be a cost savings proposition. Continue reading The Nice Pencil Principle

Growing Expensive Things: The SE Garden Experiment

I love food. I enjoy eating it and I’m beginning to enjoy growing a little bit of it. My family dabbled in growing things when I was a kid and my grandmother always had an awesome garden. Before the organic and locally grown movements, many people would garden simply to supplement their food purchases or to have tasty access to the freshest produce. While I did have access to lots of fresh food growing up, for me it was a bit under appreciated. I never really thought too much about it and took for granted the abundance of fresh fruit, nuts and vegetables that we grew at home. Looking back, I’m glad I was able to see and eat all the delicious food my family made.

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Why Grow Your Own Food?
I’m not really sure why it happens, but for some reason we are more patient with ourselves, the things we own and things we produce. Have you ever tried to baby sit someone else’s rowdy dog or kid? Or have you ever helped a picky child cook something strange. They’ll often eat what they make but if the same thing was made by someone else they would be disgusted by it. And in the same sense, I believe growing your own food provides a small feeling of accomplishment and excitement knowing it’s yoursI clearly remember growing up having to mow the grass. It was a dreadfully steep yard and it took hours to mow with the push mower. I don’t recall it being too much fun. But for some reason now, I don’t really mind working in my yard. I’ll mow and weed, despite not being “fun” to most, with a nice little sense of personal pride. Continue reading Growing Expensive Things: The SE Garden Experiment

The Renaissance Man of Financial Freedom

Henry Ford popularized the notion of specialization and consistency when he developed his assembly line production for the Model T. Instead of having to spend weeks or years teaching an individual how to make and produce an entire vehicle, an expert could train anyone in a week or so to do a very specific task in the production of a car. Thus, individuals only needed the knowledge of a very specific task and they could rely on others to make the other parts of a completed vehicle.


Economists would argue that this specialization is actually quite useful. It can be efficient for a population to have individuals who are very good at specific tasks and then trade their goods or services for products developed by other specialists in their respective fields. Collectively, this leads to a greater range of products and superiorly crafted ones. For instance, someone who has spent six hours a day playing guitar for 25 years will probably be a bit more of an expert than my one hour a month dabbling. Continue reading The Renaissance Man of Financial Freedom