Conspicuous Consumption

I’ve been reading some Financial Independence (FI) blogs lately. The most interesting ones seem to be based in the UK, and are written by younger folks who primarily work in the IT business.

The goal as espoused by these blogs is to “make all you can while you can and get out as soon as you can.” That is: work your butt off early in your career and make the big bucks, while at the same time living like a Trappist monk. Cut your consumption to the minimum and save 75-80% of your disposable income. Acquire a shedload of financial assets so that you can retire at age 50 or earlier. Implicit in this assumption is that you’ll have no defined benefit pension or maybe no pension at all aside from your own savings.

I’m lucky I suppose that it didn’t have to be that way for me. Maria and I do have some DB pension income that always keeps the wolf away from the door. And yes, we were able to retire somewhat early.

However, I do agree with keeping the conspicuous consumption down a bit. We have never cared what others think about our lifestyle, so we haven’t needed the uber big house, fancy cars and fashionista wardrobes that Advertising Age would deem essential to life. It’s even less important now in our dotage, where having stuff is less important than having experiences (like vacations with grandkids.)

But I did indulge in a little conspicuous consumption lately. Yesterday I was down at the preschool where my granddaughter Susannah is enrolled and my daughter Sarah is the overworked and unpaid president. The school office had an old desktop computer system that ran Microsoft Vista (badly.) There were constant crashes on a computer that was needed for office work.

We went to the preschool and I provided an old Dell Optiplex GX620 (pic above.) This was the oldest desktop I had but it was an awesome machine back in the day. It can run a 64 bit stable version of Linux Mint, provide all the Internet and Office capability they need, and no crashes. That is the good news.

The bad news is that I was unable to get an old HP all-in-one LaserJet to scan properly with Linux. It printed just fine but the scanning software gave I/O errors. The office lady said that the scanner had not worked under Windows. She had an even older Lexmark all-in-one that scanned but didn’t print. Good luck getting that working with Linux – it didn’t even have a modern Linux driver available.

So after some consultation, Sarah and I went to the local Staples store where I bought a new HP all-in-one DeskJet, new cable, and cartridges and Maria and I donated it to the preschool.

I still had the problem that this bleeding edge printer was too new to be supported by the older HP driver package in the desktop. However I was able to geek it up a bit, install the latest driver collection manually. At the end of the day and about 5 hours of futzing about, the scanner and new printer were online.

So that’s my conspicuous consumption for yesterday. We are a bit out of pocket, but the preschool is back in business. They can even print the odd color flyer if they want. And I am sure we did the right thing, which counts for a lot.

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