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What are you surprised people don't just buy?

5 Post author: AspiringRationalist 13 February 2017 01:07AM

Two of the main resources people have are time and money.  The world offers many opportunities to trade one for the other, at widely varying rates.

I've often heard people recommend trading money for time in the abstract, but this advice is rarely accompanied by specific recommendations on how to do so.

How do you use money to buy time or otherwise make your life better/easier?

See also the flip-side of this post, "what are you surprised people pay for instead of doing themselves?"

Comments (33)

Comment author: korin43 14 February 2017 01:53:28AM 7 points [-]

Paying people to help with moving. I don't know why I waited so long to try this but it costs like $20 to $50 to pay 2 people to carry all of your stuff (and competently pack a moving truck). I will never do this myself again.

Comment author: Pimgd 14 February 2017 10:27:49AM *  4 points [-]

Are we talking about getting friends to help you for pizza or about a professional moving service? $20 seems cheap for movers but seems to be about the price for a couple pizzas.

Comment author: korin43 14 February 2017 05:34:06PM 4 points [-]

Both numbers are for hiring people on Craigslist. $20 was in Rochester, MN and $50 was in Baltimore, MD.

Comment author: Jiro 17 February 2017 10:09:57PM 0 points [-]

Paying people carries risks. "I paid $20 and it worked great!" just means you took the risk and got lucky. It doesn't mean that taking the risk was a wise thing to do.

Comment author: korin43 18 February 2017 04:11:59PM 0 points [-]

You generally pay movers when they're done, so the only risk is the status quo (they don't show up and you have to do it yourself).

Comment author: Jiro 18 February 2017 04:39:40PM *  0 points [-]

This was about paying people at the price level that requires hiring a random person, not hiring professional movers. I'm pretty sure the $20 guy off of Craigslist isn't insured when he breaks your vases, and there's also a chance that if the move goes bad he'll just disappear (no fixed business address). I'm also pretty sure that there's nothing in practice keeping him from saying "okay, now that it's all on our truck we won't unload unless you pay us $300", at which point you either pay, or sue him while they have physical custody of all your property.

Comment author: korin43 19 February 2017 03:15:54AM 0 points [-]

I'm not insured if I break my own vases, so how does this argue against my point that you should pay other people to move your stuff? If you also want insurance then you should hire a fancier moving company than I do.

Regarding the truck, I always rent my own truck and pay other people to pack it.

Comment author: Jiro 20 February 2017 04:59:03PM 0 points [-]

If you move your own vases, since any loss is borne by you, you are motivated to take all necessary precautions. Someone who you pay is not so motivated, increasing the chance of loss, but the insurance then mitigates the risk. If you just pay $20 to someone on Craigslist, neither of those is the case.

Comment author: gjm 13 February 2017 01:39:16AM 6 points [-]

Some relevant older LW articles: How to have things correctly, Low hanging fruit for buying a better life. I'm pretty sure there's at least one other that's a bit closer to what you're asking here, but I haven't yet found it.

Comment author: RomeoStevens 13 February 2017 09:41:49PM *  5 points [-]

Disposable dinnerware. I wash no dishes at my house other than the actual prep pans etc (and those are non-stick so it is a 30 second job) and the cost is negligible. Seems like a status thing.

Remove any and all impediments to eating better.

Comment author: drethelin 13 February 2017 10:42:18PM 1 point [-]

How much does it cost you a month?

Comment author: RomeoStevens 15 February 2017 05:07:59AM *  2 points [-]

~$12. Two estimation methods wound up around the same mark.

Comment author: gjm 17 February 2017 01:20:06PM 4 points [-]

So, the same order of magnitude as spending $1000 on a dishwasher that lasts 10 years. Though of course in that case you also have increased water usage. And time taken to put things in the dishwasher and back on the shelves, versus time to get new disposable things out of their packaging. And space taken up by the dishwasher and your crockery shelves, versus space taken up by boxes of disposable crockery. Etc.

So, I dunno how these things balance out for anyone else, but to me it isn't clear that disposable dinnerware is a win even if we completely ignore the fact that it's less pleasant to eat off/with. For me, the latter is the decisive factor. Disposable cutlery is horrible to use in comparison with real cutlery. Disposable plates are horrible to use in comparison with real plates. Maybe I think these things only because some bit of my brain thinks disposable stuff is low-status, but for what it's worth it doesn't feel at all that way to me. I find disposable cutlery horrible because it flexes and breaks, and because it's usually too small. I find disposable plates horrible because the paper ones flex and the plastic ones break, and because they're usually too small.

Comment author: Lumifer 17 February 2017 03:50:25PM 0 points [-]

Yeah, both the ergonomics and the hedonics of disposable plates/cups/cutlery are pretty awful, IMHO. And if you cook you need to wash things, anyway.

Comment author: gjm 17 February 2017 06:01:00PM 1 point [-]

Pretty poor environmentally too, if you care about that. (I expect plastic plates are recyclable ... if you wash them first.)

Comment author: Pimgd 14 February 2017 08:59:12AM 0 points [-]

... I dunno. Plates are easy to wash. There's a push to get rid of plastic plates and all that because it's a waste that's not necessary if you just used regular stoneware plates...

Plus I don't know what kind of disposable dinnerware you're looking at but here in the Netherlands we mostly have these shitty flimsy plastic plates, if you were to put a hot meatball on that it just might burn a hole through the plate. If you're living on your own, how hard is it to wash a plate?

Comment author: Good_Burning_Plastic 14 February 2017 09:26:11AM 2 points [-]

it's a waste that's not necessary

It's not obvious to me how that compares to the waste of water and soap in using disposable plates.

we mostly have these shitty flimsy plastic plates

Just stack several of them.

Comment author: Pimgd 14 February 2017 10:26:42AM 2 points [-]

You can use the water and soap you used to clean the plate for flushing out the first layer of crap out of the pan. Put the pan into the sink, then wash your plate. The water will end up in the pan. Your plate will most likely not be all that greasy compared to the pan.

Comment author: Viliam 14 February 2017 09:38:46AM 2 points [-]

Just stack several of them.

That would protect the table from getting dirty, but not your stomach from digesting melted plastic.

Comment author: shanfyr 17 February 2017 09:55:25AM *  0 points [-]

Come on, water is easily renewable and degradable. Plastic is definitely not and even though paper is recyclable, it costs a lot more energy than a fair amount of water and a drop of soap.

Comment author: Good_Burning_Plastic 17 February 2017 04:40:10PM 1 point [-]

Good point. This also helps me guess whether hot-air hand-dryers are more efficient than paper towels.

(I had read "paper towels save energy compared to hot-air driers" and I thought "what about the paper?", or was it "hot-air driers save paper compared to paper towels" and I thought "what about the energy?"? Or both?)

Comment author: RomeoStevens 15 February 2017 05:10:22AM 1 point [-]

I use paper plates, bowls, and cups. Plastic utensils.

Comment author: Pimgd 15 February 2017 08:43:08PM 0 points [-]

Paper.... cups?

Comment author: arundelo 16 February 2017 01:18:40AM 2 points [-]
Comment author: XFrequentist 13 February 2017 06:37:33PM 5 points [-]

Lots of things, but the biggest win is probably snow removal services.

For $200 a year I save several dozen hours of drudgery, there's no management/coordination overhead to speak of, and my plow guy does a better job than I would have.

Comment author: WalterL 13 February 2017 02:32:28PM 1 point [-]

I'm always shocked to see rich folks complaining about how long it takes to do various routine tasks/maintenance. Like, if you don't like mowing the lawn, hire someone. If you don't like picking stuff up, then leave it on the ground or hire a maid. Basically, once you have a lot of money, you shouldn't spend time in ways you don't want to.

Comment author: Viliam 13 February 2017 03:05:29PM 7 points [-]

Have you tried asking them why they don't pay someone else? Because I can imagine a few reasons (some of them rational, some irrational) for doing so.

Maybe some of them are richer than average, but not rich enough to start paying people for doing things for them. Some people may seem more rich than they actually are, if they optimize for showing wealth. For example, they may have a huge house and an expensive car, but also a crushing mortgage that consumes most of their above-average income. So you look at the house and the car and get the impression they must be super rich (which is exactly what they optimized for), but they actually have no cash left after paying their regular bills to also pay someone for mowing the lawn.

Maybe they were poor in the past, and didn't update (emotionally) yet. Maybe their income is large but uncertain, so they make saving the extra money the priority. Or maybe they just never did a market research, so they imagine that paying someone for doing stuff is more expensive than it actually is.

Or maybe the complaints are insincere and they actually enjoy doing the stuff, but for some reason want to appear as disliking it. Maybe they don't want to seem too satisfied with their lives, to prevent envy, so they make up artificial problems. Or maybe they are obsessive perfectionists, who would never be satisfied with how someone else does the job.

Comment author: Dagon 13 February 2017 03:14:31PM 12 points [-]

It's easy to underestimate the search and management costs (and the actual monetary costs in many locations) of finding, trusting, and paying people to do routine tasks for you.

Comment author: Lumifer 13 February 2017 03:46:33PM 0 points [-]


Comment author: NatashaRostova 13 February 2017 11:48:53PM 0 points [-]


Comment author: WalterL 13 February 2017 04:13:18PM 0 points [-]

I did, yeah. Isn't that what you do when you don't understand someone's decision? What does that have to do with a behavior being surprising?

Imagine you were getting to know someone. Then they reveal that they are devout followers of Scientology. You are surprised. You ask what's up. They give an explanation roughly on par with the stuff you wrote above. Are you surprised the next time you meet a person who turns out to be a Scientologist?

Yes, because it is weird. Things can be shocking and also explainable.

Comment author: Pimgd 14 February 2017 09:01:36AM 1 point [-]

And their reply was....?

Comment author: WalterL 14 February 2017 01:52:52PM 1 point [-]

Different things for each person. Security paranoia, 'always done it this way', perfectionism...