Week 5 – Frugality

Frugality: Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.

As part of the Plan for Attaining Moral Perfection series,  I will be living one of the 13 virtues described by Benjamin Franklin in the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin.  You can read how all this got started here.  This week I’ll be focused on living the virtue of Frugality.

Last week’s virtue was Resolution.  As part of this exercise, I resolved to finally get to some of the items that have been on my todo list for a long time.  One of the older, but important tasks was doing something with my old 401K accounts.  There are lots of ways to “do something” with those accounts.  Perhaps my todo list item should have been a little more clear.  It’s difficult to figure out the correct next action for “do something”.  Depending on who you ask, there are several correct ways to accomplish this.  I’m choosing the easiest and minimalist approach of transferring my old accounts to my current employer’s plan.  Feel free to tell me why I’m an idiot for doing this in the comments.

To do this, there is a lot of process.  First, you need to make sure your address is up to date with all the old accounts.  This takes up to 10 business days in some cases.  Second, you need to request a transfer check to be mailed to your address.  In my case, the check must be made out to a very specific bank and include my social security number on it, which is against policy of my previous employer’s accounts.  At that point, there is some paper work to do, and the check can then be mailed back out with my elections on where to invest the money.  During resolution week, I got the process started, and have some checks in the mail.  We’ll see how it all turns out.

I’ll start this week’s virtue in a couple of minutes by shopping at the less expensive grocery store, only buying what we absolutely need and purchasing the cheapest items.  Lately, I’ve been shopping at the more expensive place, buying organic when available, and usually going to the store when hungry which leads to a lot of impulse buying.  This has also been a negative impact on the family’s grocery budget.

If you’re interested in the book that inspired this, it is available for less than $4 including shipping on Amazon.  If you buy it through my link, by clicking on the image, I get 14 cents for the referral.

Application Minimalism

I have been interested in, and practicing minimalism for the last five or so years.  One area I haven’t fully implemented this is with phone applications. Over the years, I have downloaded and kept around too many Android applications.  As you can tell by the lack of focus or theme to this blog, I’m interested in a lot of things.

Unfortunately in the world we live in today, individual specialized applications are the fastest way to access information.  If I need to access stock prices, I have an app for it.  The same is true with news, and sports scores.  It is possible to access some of these with a single browser, but it is not as fast.  Highly accessed information, such as weather, has a “widget” on android that makes accessing the information as fast as unlocking your screen.  In some apps, this information is even presented to the user on the lock screen.  I check weather often, at least daily in the morning.  The extra five user actions to retrieve the information(unlock screen, open searchable app, type weather, click search button, find relevant results) are a hassle.

Some applications provide a utility that uses phone hardware to help with every day life tasks.  The flashlight app utilizes my phone’s camera flash to provide a large amount of light.  There is a bubble level app that utilizes the gyros built into the phone to tell wether or not something is level on multiple axes.  Apps like Uber use location services/GPS to assist with finding your location.  I also have a compass and barcode reader installed.  I use these applications somewhat uncommonly, but they do have their uses.  Recently, I used the level to level the stand for a new aquarium.

Some applications are companion applications to an external piece of hardware that I have.  For example, the Fitbit application pairs with my device and is used to transmit data back to their service.  I have the DJI GO app which is required to operate my DJI Phantom drone.  I have a bluetooth enabled meat thermometer which can talk to my phone providing instant temperature readings.  The opposite is the Nest app that allows me to control the temperature in my home from anywhere.  There is also the Toyota Entune app which pairs with my truck giving it access to the web.  Several remote controls for TVs that I had at one time, and a remote control for my Fuji XT10 camera which is capable of wireless connections.  I can control the camera, see a live display, and even transfer files with the app.

I have a lot of apps that deal with audio/video.  The nice thing about these apps is that they are capable of sending data to external devices such as TV or stereo system.  I typically use the Chromecast and Chromecast audio for this purpose.

Games.  I have a lot of games on this phone.  They are great for passing time on a long flight or otherwise wasting a large chunk of time.

In the less useful category, I have a suite of apps that basically wrap their associated web content into an experience that is user friendly on the mobile device.  This content can be accessed in the web browser on the phone, but the experience may not be the same.  For example, this blog post that you’re currently reading has a different user experience on a traditional computer, tablet, or mobile device.  The mobile experience can also differ if you are accessing this on the WordPress application.  This is probably the most common category of application on my device.  In mostly all cases, the mobile experience is great on these apps when compared with accessing the information on a web browser.

The last category of apps are applications that provide a very specific purpose.  I have a meditation app, and app that tells me how many times I check my phone, as well as apps for keeping score in golf.  Other apps are meant to improve productivity, such as calendars, todo lists, and learning apps.

In all, this amounts to 142 individual applications.  This accounts for a lot of clutter on the device, and several of these can be safely removed.

In the first pass, I deleted applications that I downloaded as a trial, but never liked, or downloaded for a specific purpose that is no longer applicable.  These apps included things like remote apps for old TVs, the Nissan connect app for the car I rented in North Carolina two years ago, and Pokemon Go which was a game that had a lot of buzz online, but got pretty boring after fifteen minutes.  I was able to delete 20 apps this way.

In the second pass, I deleted apps that are rarely used and can be easily downloaded again.  These apps do not have any valuable saved data.  I deleted around 30 of these apps from Airbnb to Zillow.

In the third, and final pass, I took a look at the apps I had remaining, and deleted ones that I don’t use often.  Things that are just there.  In this category I was able to kill old games, and pretty much everything that I don’t use at least twice per month.

As a result, I ended up with a manageable list of 65 apps that I actually use.


Delete Your Photos

Delete Your Photos

I love my photos.  All of them.  I must have had some purpose in mind to pull my camera out, point it at a subject, and shoot a photo.  These pictures were meant to capture a moment in time, so someday I could go back and relive the experiences.  However, what I have found is that they are mostly sitting on a hard drive, taking up space.  As someone that practices minimalism, I’m very good at keeping only a minimal set of clothing, kitchen gadgets, books, and limiting all other “stuff” as well.  Adopting this lifestyle has made life a lot simpler.

The one area that I haven’t yet applied this practice of minimalism to is my collection of photographs.  I have been collecting a set of photos for over 10 years.  I rarely have the need to go back and look at photos that were taken at a random party in college, however I don’t really want to delete “irreplaceable” photos.  I have always thought of photographs as irreplaceable, since it’s impossible to go back and capture each image and guarantee that it looks exactly like the one lost.  This is especially true when it comes to capturing moments related to people and pets.  Are they really ALL irreplaceable though?  Will I care if I lose my uninteresting shots?

not interesting
Why have I been holding on to this photo for 10 years?

Since 2003, when I purchased my first digital camera, I have put together a cluttered top level folder of 88,192 photographs which are currently taking up 391GB of drive space.  This amounts to 22 photos per day over the years.  A large portion of these are either out of focus, uninteresting, duplicates or test shots.  I have photos from old cell phones, and even exact duplicate files from when I bought my first DSLR and set it to save in both raw and jpg.  Why keep everything?  My rationale has always been that drive space is cheap and nearly unlimited.

I want to reduce clutter and keep only a minimal set of photos.  I believe that less is more, and I’ll appreciate a smaller set of good photos over the full set of mediocre ones.  It will also be a lot easier to backup a smaller set of photos as opposed to backing up a larger set.  It’s nearly impossible to protect nearly 400GB of data without incurring a large cost for stuff that I mostly don’t care about.  It will also be easier to access and find photos that I care about.

Criteria for a photo to be deleted(one or more must be true):

  • The subject of the photo is out of focus
  • The photo is not interesting
  • The photo is poorly exposed (and not correctable)
  • The photo is of a person that is unflattering (goofy looking, has their eyes closed, etc)
  • The photo is of/or related to an ex girlfriend (or someone that I equally dislike)
  • The photo is a duplicate or looks identical to a photo that I plan to keep

The Result

It took a long time to go through each individual file, a very long time.  The process was completed, and I have successfully deleted a very large number of photos.  I applied the criteria to each and every file and came up with a startling discovery.  Most of my photos fit the criteria needed for deletion.  I was able to reduce my total number of photos to just over 8,000, a reduction of 90%.

This image is out of focus
This photo is out of focus
This image is not interesting
This photo is not interesting
I took a few hundred photos on this evening. This photo is a duplicate
I took a few hundred photos this evening.  This is a duplicate of a better one I took 2 seconds earlier

I’d guess that around 15% of the photos had the subject out of focus, 30% were as interesting as a pile of rocks, and the other 45% were duplicates of another image that looked better.  I’m very happy with my resulting set of photos.  This exercise also provided me a chance to go back and relive the last 10 years.  Each photo told a story, and now I just have a clearer and more usable picture of the events.  As an added bonus, I only have to backup around 50GB, when a 400GB backup was required before.

This is a repost of something I wrote a few years ago. Today, I still use this method to remove clutter in my library of photos.  I can say, three years later, that I do not regret my decision to delete photos.