zen quaker

A self quanitified zen quaker statistical programmer stumbles through a blog

Tag: money

Money OOOO

Uh-oh, looks likes someone snagged my credit card. Went online to pay my bill tonight and found three charges that I had not made. Well, whoever you are, the account is locked, I’m calling the bank tomorrow, and I fart in your general direction!

Dream S

I screwed up at work so they have me working retail at a convention to make up for it. Our booth is like a yard sale table on the side of Rose Hill Drive, which everyone uses to drive out of the convention. I’m working there with the younger of my two sisters, my brother, and Possible Substance. It’s Possible Substance’s fault that I screwed things up at work, and I’m still mad at him.

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Charity II

I normally don’t like to do what I call nickel and dime charity. I prefer giving a bunch of money to a soup kitchen to giving a wino my spare change. I prefer giving money to a wounded soldier’s fund to buying a magnetic ribbon for my car. I prefer giving money to disease research to buying colored rubber wrist bands.

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Money III

I got my assessment in the mail yesterday. Around here, they assess a third of the county every year. Since I bought about three years ago, this is the first new assessment I’ve had since I bought the place. When I bought the place it was assessed at $195K and I paid $185K ($190K – $5K back for carpeting). The assessment I got today was $70K, not much more than my original down payment. So in the past three years my condo has lost 62% of it’s value.

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Habit XII

This evening will be one month working on the habit of studying Chess every night after dinner, using the Simple Method from the Habit Course. I’m glad I took the course, even though I don’t think it was really worth the money I spent on it. Thankfully, the money issue is not really bothering me much. So much for that concern.

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Money II

I bought 20 Powerball tickets yesterday at a convenience store I didn’t even get the name of. That took some effort. When I bought the Megamillions tickets I just walked in and bought them with no hesitation. This time, even though I was looking for a place to by lottery tickets, I saw the sign in the store and walked half a block past it. I had to force myself to turn around and go in the store to buy the tickets.

Today I bought $20 worth of scratchers at the grocery store, this time with no hesitation. Unfortunately, when I got home I only had $19 worth of scratchers. One must have come out of the pannier while I was riding my bicycle back from the grocery store. I wonder if anyone will find that lottery ticket, and what it’s worth. It might be worth quite a bit. I’m beginning to think this is all a scam. Okay, I’m beginning to think it is more of a scam than it appears to be. Out of $59 of lottery tickets, I have won nothing, nada, zip. Having a passing familiarity with probability, I was able to calculate the chance of not winning anything on that combination of lottery tickets: 5.4%. Pretty close to statistical significance, not that it means anything. I guess that ticket I lost was the one I was going to win with.

In any case, I am going to end this exercise. Not because I’m wasting money. That was, after all, the point. I am going to end it because I am not feeling the same emotional frisson that I get when I spend a significant amount of money on myself. I’m not sure if it is because $59 isn’t enough to trigger those feelings, or if it isn’t the money. Maybe it’s just the things I’m getting that are disturbing me.

So how do I explain the hesitation at one place but not the other two? I suspect it is a familiarity problem unrelated to the lottery tickets. The place where I got the first set of tickets I’ve been walking past five times a week for seven years. I used to go in there frequently because sometimes their soda prices are lower than anything I can get in the building where I work. (These days I buy my soda on a weekly basis from a Safeway ten minutes walk from where I work. Much cheaper.) Likewise, the grocery store I got the scratchers at I’ve been going to ever since I moved to my current residence. But I’d never been in the convenience store I went in yesterday. I have a well known aversion to new situations, and this fits the pattern.

Money I

I bought $20 worth of lottery tickets today.

I’m sure many of your are having a WTF moment. I mean, I’m a statistician. I know better than anyone the futility of lottery tickets, and gambling in general (except poker). Plus, Maryland doesn’t use the lottery funds for education, they go to the Maryland Stadium Authority. I’m subsidizing Dan Snyder, for crying out load.

So why would I do this? Because I’m trying to waste money.

Let’s go back to last year, when I took a trip to New York for the week. It was my present to myself for 20 years of not smoking. I just hung out and walked around the city all week, seeing cool things like the MoMA, the High Line, and Washington Square Park (I even managed to get in a Chess game there before it became illegal). I had a lot of fun, but my overall sense of the week was not enjoyment, because it cost so much.

For several years I have been working on toning down my possessions and being more careful with my money. I’ve gotten rid of 85% to 90% of the stuff I used to own. Along with that comes not buying more stuff. I’ve changed my eating habits, which has indirectly changed my spending habits. I’ve made retirement plans which changed my savings habits. All of this has made me a much more frugal person.

So this year is my 20th anniversary of quitting drugs, in some ways an even more important anniversary. I saved $1,100 to get/do something nice for myself. I couldn’t think of anything. Getting rid of all my stuff made me realize that I don’t need more stuff. My Zen practice has taught me to get so much enjoyment from walking to the bus stop in the morning that I’m not really worried about going to some exotic locale to have a good time. But beyond all that is that I don’t want to spend the money. Everything I looked at made me thing the same thing: that’s cool, but it costs too much.

I can’t seem to enjoy things anymore if I have to spend money on it. Maybe that’s always the way it’s been and I’m just noticing now. Either way I find it kind of disturbing. A couple months ago I got 75 $10 bills and just handed them out to strangers at the Shady Grove Metro station. I had no problem with that. I can happily give $750 to random people, but I can’t enjoy spending $750 on myself. I feel like I’m becoming a miserly tightwad, which is definitely something I don’t want to be.

So I forced myself to buy some of the things I was looking at. But some of the money I saved I am just going to waste. Lottery tickets. Burn it. Flush it down the toilet. Maybe I’ll find one of the slot machine places they supposedly have in Maryland. Maybe it won’t solve the problem, but I am hoping it will help me get a better sense of what the problem is and what I can do about it. I think it has something to do with the results. When I give the money to other people, I don’t see what they spend it on. But when I spend it I see what I get, and maybe that’s not living up to my expectations of the value of the money. I don’t know. We’ll see.

Habit I

I saved up $1,100 to buy myself something nice for my 20th anniversary of quitting drugs at the end this month. But I couldn’t think of anything I wanted (more on this in the next post). I had seen this habit forming online course that sounded interesting, but it cost too much. I finally said to myself “If you can’t think of anything to buy yourself by the end of the week, just take the damn course.” I couldn’t, so I did. The first part of the course is planning, so this is the planning I have done so far:

My new habit is going to be working on my Chess game every day. That is a rather vague habit, which I have been advised against, so I’m going to specify things a bit more. At the begining I will be doing five minutes of tactics problems every day. In the second week I will add five minutes of working on flash cards, both visualization skills and notes from two books I’ve read. I thought about adding more things, like playing games against the computer and then analyzing those games, but I wanted to keep it simple to start. As I add more time to the habit in the later weeks, I will add more time to both tactics problems and flash cards.

The start date for this habit is October 10th (Columbus Day). I am stopping all chess activities until then, including my online games and reading chess blogs and forums. I will still make moves in my games once the habit forming starts, but I won’t do any other tactics problems or book study.

I don’t think I need to do any research on this. I’ve been thinking about this and working on it off and on for quite a while. At my level, tactics are what I need most, so that’s the place to start. Visualization and positional play are the weakest parts of my game, and that’s what the flash cards will cover.

The daily trigger will be finishing dinner. This will also challenge one of my “sour” habits, which is sitting around doing nothing after dinner. I think if I can form the habit of doing something after dinner then in the long term I will be much more productive in the evenings.

The specific action I will take immediately after my trigger is to go to my computer and start working on tactics problems. I am going to reset the home page for my browser to go just to the two websites I will be using (one for chess tactics, and one for the flash cards).

The most likely obstacle will be getting upset when I do badly at the tactics problems. I have an emotional attachment dating back to my childhood of needing to do well. When I don’t do well I get upset. It’s been a major issue in developing my Chess game. I get to a point where I’m facing tougher opponents, and I start losing more than I’m winning. I get upset, lose motivation, and stop playing/working on my game consistently. To get over this, I need to keep the childhood sources of my attachment in mind. When I get upset I need to got through those sources and note how they just don’t apply any more, especially to how well I play chess. This is one area I’m not too sure on, and will bear watching for possible modification if it doesn’t solve the problem.

Another possible obstacle will be disruptions to my dinner schedule. If I go out to eat, I’m not going to be at home to go right to my computer. So I need to plan ahead and stop running errands after dinner, but rather run them before dinner. That way I can just drive home right after I finish dinner and go to my computer. That will mean no more combining dinner and groceries, but since I’ve been getting my groceries on my bicycle for the past couple months, that shouldn’t be a problem. There may be times when I just can’t get home after dinner. In those cases I can do the training on my phone. I have an app with Chess problems on it, and I also have an app on my phone that links to the website where I will be doing the flash cards.

The website I am doing the tactics problems on has a forum for training diaries. I will start a training diary there and see if I can get social support there. I will also be posting to my blog and the Habit Course forums. As the course progresses, I will try to shift my posting to the place I am getting more support from.

I’m not sure what I will use for positive reinforcement. I’m thinking Almond Joys, but that may be counter productive. I think the days I’m doing well will get me feeling good enough for reinforcement, and I may just save the Almond Joys for the days when I’m doing badly.

To keep track of my work I will create a spreadsheet to track the number of problems done, the number of flash cards created, and the number of flash cards read through. I will not track my tactics rating or success rates, because the important thing is to do the work. Besides, the websites I will be using will track that for me ;). I will make graphs and statisical analyses of my progress, because that’s the kind of guy I am.

I’m not sure what I will use for a support system. I’m not sure about the whole social support system idea in the first place, being a bit of a hermit.

My daily positive affirmation will be “I kick ass!” It may be non-traditional, but it’s worked for me in the past.