Archive for December, 2007

Experiential consumption

Psychologists found that people tend to get more satisfaction from experiential consumption than materialistic one. So dining out, travel, or going to a movie or concert might provide more lasting satisfaction than buying new clothes or gadgets. I find this sensible and have been shifting more of my consumption toward experience. Just as important is to know one’s own preference, and this is what I set out to do this week: expanding my experience to discover what I find satisfying.


Jazz Bar

Friday night after a quick dinner at nine, I went to a Jazz bar that’s famous for its live jazz. The music was good, and drinking alone in a bar brought the usual ‘feel good’ factor (Was it the ‘I’m special’ aristocratic feel? Or the MV/anime character identification?). But for my preference, the time would be better spend elsewhere, and drinking beer/cocktails don’t give me enough pleasure to counter its adverse effect. For me it’s basically drinking calories without nutrition, so foods and even desserts seem like a much better option.


Pop Concert

On Saturday night, I went to a concert by a Malay singer 梁静茹. This is the first time I go to a pop concert. Interestingly, expectation of the event seemed to be the most exciting part. It’s like going to a field trip for the first time. After coming out of the underground station and not sure how to go to the stadium, I just follow a bunch of red shirts wearing people (the concert theme is Valentine), most also have no idea where the stadium is and just following the crowd. The concert lasted for around 3 hours. Overall I found it a satisfying experience, but maybe a large part of it is because it’s my first time to this type of concert.



Eating is a major Sinaporean pastime (mine as well). My daily meal revolves around quick take-out in food court or hawker center (basically a food court outside the mall without air-con). In a hawker center, one can get authentic local foods at less than 5 S$ (about 2 US$ or 100 baht). Every weekend I’ll venture to a Japanese restaurant (7 different one so far). At this pace, I’ll try most Japanese restaurants in a few months time. But relative to Japanese food, Singapore probably has more good Non-Japan Asian foods that are at better price. Nevertheless, Japanese food tends to be my optimal choice if I were to dine out alone in places other than food court or hawker center. Perhaps I should expand my experience to try more different food as well.

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Tim Hartford predicts that “most readers of this column will eat and drink heavily over the next two weeks (as will its writer), and many of us will, on January 1, vow to do better in future.”


If we know what’s going to happen, why don’t we as intelligent being take it into consideration and act on it now. For instance, we could set our resolution during Christmas Eve and starts following-through so we don’t need to regret during the New Year.


This seems like a time-inconsistency problem: ideally we want to do something in the future (be good), but as the future approaches, our optimum decision changes (to be bad). One solution is to bind ourselves to a credible commitment. A few Yale academics built a website to help do it.


But it seems like few people want to make the commitment. So perhaps as Tyler Cowen suggests, most of us actually don’t want to change or feel like losing control. If that’s the case, then we shouldn’t need to feel bad or regret afterward.


Christmas appears to be a big event in Singapore. Lots of tourists came, events abound, and people seem to shop, eat, and drink like crazy. Seeing tons of people on the street make me wonder why people enjoy festivals so much. Perhaps we evolve to enjoy the festivals as winter’s the time of harvest and a good time to build social relationships. If festivals are enjoyable, why don’t we smooth out our consumption to treat everyday more like a Christmas or New Year: more dining out, more gatherings, and show more care to family and friends on a regular basis. Why do we need Christmas or other holidays as an excuse to feel a certain way or do a certain thing? Maybe this one-off pleasure during holidays has increasing returns, or it is an optimal thing to do given other people’s behavior (thinking of herd behavior and game theory). People’s behavior do change during this time: they’ve higher propensity to spend, tend to show more kindness, or feel more gregarious or lonely. So it’s possible that given this circumstance our payoff changes as well.


Since I’m trained as a forward looking agent, here’s what I did on Christmas (sort of doing what I might write on my New Year resolution list later):


  1. Went to office to work despite being a holiday.
  2. Find a small Japanese Isakaya for dinner
  3. Went for a jog and exercise
  4. Read books, poems, and whatever materials on my list for self-development
  5. Booked a few concert tickets for the coming months
  6. Catch up with friends.


It doesn’t appear to me to be an optimal choice and feels very much like any other day. Perhaps it lacks that special something that economics can’t provide. Instead of going out to party, I’m staying at home to analyze Christmas. I guess my miserable personality, not economics, is to be blame.

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Arrived at Singapore for about a month, I still haven’t get organize and settle. Later today I’ll be moving to a new apartment and hence won’t have internet access to msn/gmail for a while (friends could reach me through corporate email). I plan to get my house in order soon and restart updating my blog regularly. Will post more thoughts on my new jobs, life in Singapore, near-term plan, etc. But before that, I’ve to get my life organize and apply for an internet connection.

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