Valuable Things That Are Cheap

There’s this horrible graph which regularly shows up on my Twitter feed.

In it, you’ll see how inflation has screwed everyone for the past 20 years.

Take a look and see if you recognize it?

So many questions: Is college education a scam? Why do medical fees only go up? Will I ever be able to afford a good lifestyle for my kids?

As an eternal optimist though, my favorite part of this graph is at the bottom. Things like mobile phones, which have actually become way cheaper (and better) over the decades.

It reminds me of Monevator’s classic post: “How to Enjoy Life Like a Billionaire.” (Check it out — it’s one of the best things I’ve read this year, and 100% inspired this article.)

A billionaire might own an island, but they use exactly the same iPhone as many of us.

What are other examples of this? What valuable things can you enjoy just as much as a billionaire?

Valuable Things That Are Now Cheap

Everyone hates inflation, but in certain industries, things actually get better with time. Like:

Computer software & accessories. Toys. Televisions. Basically consumer electronics. Buy the same flagship phone one year from now, and it’ll be cheaper than today.

Yes, I know a new iPhone isn’t “cheap” if you purely look at the price. But instead, look at how much value it brings to your life and you might be amazed.

What else has technology made cheaper?

Next on my list: streaming services. Things like Spotify and Netflix. My wife streams HD Hong Kong dramas all day, and it only costs us ~$50 a year. Even for someone who did my share of illegal streaming file sharing when I was young, the ratio of quality content / price is astounding.

In fact, we spend much less money on entertainment nowadays, because we hardly go to the cinema anymore.

Finally, books. Books are astonishingly value-for-money because you can learn from the wisest people who’ve ever lived for less than a fancy dinner.

Reminder: it wasn’t always this way. For most of human history, you couldn’t even get access to books. Reading was limited to the elite. Only after the printing press was invented in the 15th century, did regular people start having them.

Cherish books. You owe it to your ancestors.

Valuable Things That Are Free

Following the thinking above, here’s another useful question: “What has technology made free?”

Easy. The Internet. Any song in the world on YouTube as long as you’re willing to watch some ads. Public libraries.

The more interesting question for finding hidden value:

What valuable things have always been free?

Here, we journey into the abstract.

I’ll always love the beach. Something amazing about sun, sand and the sound of the waves. You probably have your own favorite nature activity — whether it’s hiking hills or swimming in the sea.

Next: Volunteering. Doing a kind deed for someone else, with no expectation of return. Ironically one of the highest ROI things you could do for mental health.

Finally, no matter where you’re from — strong relationships with family and friends are the most important thing for happiness. What does that cost?

Of course, some money helps, but hugs, kind words, and acts of service are free.

Valuable Things That No Amount of Money Can Buy

Perhaps the most interesting question of all:

What do even billionaires long for?

Far from being one, but I can think of at least two:

Satisfaction. Having enough.

In one of Charlie Munger’s final interviews, he was asked if he would have done anything differently. Reading commentary from author Ben Carlson brought out an amazing angle:

Even at 99, with his billions, Charlie Munger thought about how he might have been a trillionaire instead.

I’m not saying that Charlie Munger wasn’t satisfied with life. Instead, all my reading suggests he was one of the most satisfied guys on the planet. What I’m saying is, even a GOAT like him sometimes thought, “What if I had gotten more?”

No matter how old you are or how much you have — if you’ve found satisfaction in life, you’re already rich beyond measure.

Lastly: Time.

Most billionaires are old. The median age of a billionaire is 67. Billions of dollars in assets, but on average, less than 10 years to go.

On the other hand, you’re probably already a time billionaire today. A brilliant concept introduced by investor Graham Duncan, being a time billionaire means you’ve got more than 32 years to live. (32 years ≈ 1 billion seconds.)

So powerful. So much value you already hold in your life.

How will you spend that billion?

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Pic from Pexels: Pixabay

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  • Excellent post–I loved Monevator’s list as well. It really is remarkable how productive we can be and how much content we can consume relative to previous generations–it’s a privilege, no doubt, but at the same time the instant-gratification of today can rob us of the satisfaction of doing something difficult. That’s where volunteering or some manual labor can help scratch the itch for some of us desk jockeys.

    Great stuff–happy holidays to you!

    • Thanks for dropping by sir!

      Indeed, it’s very easy to take our modern comforts for granted, but zoom out and many of us actually lead AMAZING lives. Happy holidays to you too, and wishing you a wonderful 2024 ahead!

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