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What is the Practical Utility of Money?

If you had access to unlimited food, coffee, entertainment, and if you already had a bed to sleep at night– what is the practical utility of money?

An unlimited lifestyle

Living on a cruise ship has been fascinating to me:

  1. Unlimited food (and also unlimited food at a sit-down restaurant)
  2. Unlimited coffee, drinks
  3. You have a place to sleep every night
  4. Free/open-access entertainment

Besides this– what is the practical utility of money?

cash hundred dollar bills money

On a cruise ship, things that cost extra:

  1. Alcohol
  2. More ‘fancy’ options at restaurant (for rarer/fancier cuts of meat)
  3. Gambling at casino
  4. Buying silly souvenirs/shopping items on-board
  5. Internet (wifi) access

But besides this, it seems that money doesn’t have much utility on-board.

1. Food

Eating at the restaurant on the cruise ship.

Obviously as humans, the most essential thing for our personal survival is food. Without food we will die.

The food on the cruise has been surprisingly good! There is a buffet which is pretty much open all-day, which has a wide variety of options, and there is a new menu every single day. There is a burger joint, which has awesome burgers. There is also a sit-down restaurant, where you can order unlimited entrees.

Based on my experiences, it seems that out of a scale of 10, the food is easily a very strong 8.5/10 (beyond this, the utility of food doesn’t seem to be very practical).

Marseille, 2017
Marseille, 2017

Certainly there is only a certain limit of food you can consume everyday. Even if I wanted to eat 10 pounds of steak a day, I probably couldn’t. And would I even want to?

To me, food tastes the best when I am hungry. When I eat food when I’m not that hungry– the food still tastes good, but it doesn’t bring me much pleasure. In-fact, I get negative utility from eating too much during the day (if I eat a very big breakfast or lunch, I get a very unpleasant ‘food coma’, which robs me of my vigor and energy during the day– whereas I would prefer to use that time and energy to do creative work).

Prague, 2017

The most I’ve eaten so far on the cruise is (after a day of fasting), eating two burgers with bacon, then eating 6 entrees at the sit-down restaurant (salmon fillet, seabass, 2 irons teaks, 2 prime ribs). I could theoretically eat more than this, but if I ate MORE than this, food would have a negative utility (it would actually cause me negative pain). If someone offered to pay me $100 to eat 20 steaks, I would definitely say “no” (because the pain associated with over-eating wouldn’t be worth it!) In-fact, I have discovered in my life, over-eating (by a massive amount) or having stomach pains associated with over-eating is 10x more painful than being hungry.

Marseille, 2017

Of course in life, we all seek to eat more ‘delicious’ foods. But most “delicious” foods are over-laden with sugar, simple starches, and things which cause us to gain excess body adipose (fat) tissue. And I don’t think anyone likes gaining excess body fat tissue.

So this is my conclusion:

It seems (for myself) the ideal is to do intermittent fasting (no breakfast or lunch, only dinner) in a manner that keeps my body fat percentage low, while also eating enough that I can continue to build MORE muscle mass (because I enjoy lifting weights).

Something I haven’t quite figured out:

How can I both gain muscle mass and lose body fat at the same time? And is this even possible at the same phase? Or do I need to do a ‘bulking’ phase and a ‘cutting’ phase that a lot of bodybuilders do?

My current theory is this:

To maximize gaining muscle mass (while minimizing body fat gain), it seems optimal to not eat breakfast and lunch, and only eat a MASSIVE dinner (high in protein and fat, very very low in carbohydrates and simple starches).

But I cannot say this for certain — I will continue to experiment on my own body.

Prague, 2017

Thus for food, here are some takeaways with money:

  1. Still good to go to new restaurants and places to eat food, not necessarily to eat ‘better’ food, but with the fun and novelty associated with checking out new restaurants and places. Also the joy of being a restaurant is to interact with the staff/waiters, and also to people watch other folks/be surrounded by other humans.
  2. Ideally, best to feed yourself on highly nutritious food that can be bought with the least amount of money (eggs, ground beef/pork, organ meats, pork chops/loins, chicken legs/thighs).
  3. It is not desirable to constantly be eating 24/7. There seems to be a negative utility with eating with too much frequency during the day, with too high quantities.

2. Housing

The best thing about living in a hotel or a cruise is that you have a simple room, that never changes– and for the most part, you cannot change. Thus it simplifies your living situation:

You sleep, shower in your room– but you don’t let your housing situation be a reflection of your own self-esteem.

A lot of folks seems to aspire to acquire a bunch of money in order to buy a home — ideally bigger, fancier, or in a ‘better’ neighborhood.

But what if you were “doomed” to live inside a small hotel room for the rest of your life. Would this improve or worsen your life?

For myself, the best benefit of living in a hotel/cruise room is that it simplifies your life. And to me, a simpler lifestyle is preferential because it is just one less thing to worry about, concern myself about. I don’t need to clean the room, decorate the room, etc.

I cannot speak for others, but it seems that having a fancy or expensive house/home is overrated in terms of ‘increasing’
your personal happiness.

3. Consumerism/buying new stuff

This is the interesting thing when I lived in Vietnam:

I couldn’t really acquire any new things, because I had no space to store it inside my hotel room, and because I didn’t have access to Amazon prime.

The problem with moving back home to America:

I have access to shopping malls and the internet/Amazon, which always gives me a temptation to theoretically want to purchase new things (phones, cameras, tech stuff).

Also the good thing about being on a cruise ship:

There is nothing really worth buying on a cruise ship, thus you don’t have the temptation to want to buy anything.

For myself, the best lifestyle seems to be one in which I don’t have yearnings or desires to buy new things. In theory I already have all the “best” digital tools for my own personal creativity and productivity (13” MacBook Pro laptop, iPad Pro, Lumix G9 camera). The only thing I could probably use is an iPhone or Google Pixel phone — but a phone seems to be more of an accessory item that doesn’t bring me that much additional utility.

I don’t think there is anything bad about consumerism except the fact that it distract us from achieving our personal maximum (creatively). If we always are thinking that our digital tools are insufficient or not “good enough”, we will never be able to focus on our own personal creative production.

So it seems the ideal is for us to REMOVE any sort of distractions which get in the way of our personal creative productivity.


This is the takeaway from all of this:

Once you have enough food to eat, a place to sleep at night, and the tools for your creative productivity, having additional money doesn’t have any meaningful gains in improving your life or your personal happiness.

To me, the ideal is:

  1. Having maximal free time, to focus on your creative productivity and work.
  2. Having the minimum amount of distractions and interruptions which get in the way of your personal creative productivity.
  3. It seems you actually have more freedom and flexibility by having fewer lifestyle options (not having to worry where to go to eat, not having to worry about what groceries to buy, not having to make ‘micro decisions’ throughout the day).

Takeaway tips

Thus these are some simple suggestions:

  1. Don’t focus on trying to acquire more money (if your goal is to live a better life/be happier in life). Focus more on your creative work and output.
  2. It seems that a simple lifestyle is the best lifestyle.
  3. Having more money won’t make you “happier” or more miserable: For myself, I feel a bit indifferent towards money (not pro or con)– once I have the basics of living.
  4. Use your money to maximize your free time, and not have to work a 9-5 job, in order for you to have more time/mental space to do creative work.
  5. Use your money to buy tools that will best enable your creative work.

Think on!