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What is Your Frugal Kryptonite?


frugal kryptonite weaknessIf your income is in the middle and lower class, then frugality is the first step to financial independence. When you are frugal, you can live below your means and invest the savings to improve your long term finances. Increasing your income is also very important, but it is impossible to become financially independent if you don’t know how to live below your means. However, we all have our weakness when it comes to spending money. Sometime, you just can’t say no to a frivolous purchase. Do you have a frugal kryptonite?

My 2015 Amazon purchases

Let’s take a look at my purchases from Amazon in 2015. That’s the easiest way to check what I spent money on. Locally, I mostly buy groceries, home repairs, and replacement items. I’m sure there were some frivolous purchases locally, but it’s just too much work to dig through the receipts. Why can’t the credit card company keep track of my purchases like Amazon?

February 2015

  • $9.97 LEGO Star Wars X-Wing Fighter – RB40Jr’s birthday gift.
  • $9.97 LEGO Star Wars Millennium Falcon – RB40Jr’s birthday gift.
  • $8.48 Easy Flex Heart 24-Cavity Silicone Mold – Valentine ’s Day gift for the missus (which she hasn’t used yet.)
  • $41 H&R Block Premium – Ugh! It is tax time again.

August 2015

  • $69 Fire HD 6 – Frivolous purchase detected!
  • $19.98 Atika Men’s sport sandals – I love these sandals. I got it to replace my old torn up sandals.
  • $9.99 Universal Gate Door Flip Latch – This replaced the broken gate latch at the rental.
  • $7.95 Panasonic Lithium Battery – Our car keys were running low on battery.

December 2015

  • $69.99 Garmin Vivofit 2 – This fitness tracker is perfect for me. I wear it 24/7 and it doesn’t have to be charged. This was a Christmas gift to myself. I’m trying to be lead a more healthy lifestyle this year.
  • $8.75 Plastic Ninja Chopsticks 12 pcs – This was a Christmas gift to Jr and other kids.
  • $29.97 Oral-B electric toothbrush – Christmas gift to my mom.

That’s not a lot of purchases, but we can see that my weakness is buying gifts. The only one that is really difficult to buy for is Mrs. RB40. I gave her cash to buy her own gift for her birthday last year and that worked out very well. It’s just easier for everybody. The other frivolous purchase was the Fire HD tablet. We don’t really need it, but it came in very handy during our Costa Rica trip. I left my laptop at home and was able to work minimally with the tablet. RB40Jr also loves reading/listening to stories on the Fire HD.

Going cheap

Another habit that continues to be my kryptonite is my tendency to go cheap. If there are two similar products, the deciding factor is usually the price for me. I could have purchased a better tablet (Google Nexus) for around $110, but I went with the Fire HD. It works fine for us, but the Nexus is nicer.

I’m still not sure which is better in the long term – going cheap or buying quality. The good thing about buying cheap is you don’t spend as much money right away. On the other hand, quality lasts longer and you get to enjoy higher quality products. However, if I invest the savings, I’m sure going cheap would come out ahead financially.

Mrs. RB40

Mrs. RB40’s weakness is shoes. I guess this is a common weakness among women. She goes shoe shopping every few months or so. That’s not very often, but it’s more than any other kind of shopping she does. Luckily, she is extremely picky so she rarely finds the perfect pair. I think she purchases about 1 pair of shoes per year. She used to buy purses too, but she stopped a while back. We have less disposable income now so she can’t afford those ridiculously expensive bags anymore. Well, she could, but we’re prioritizing saving and investing now.

Frugal Kryptonite

I used to buy all sorts of stuff when I was younger. I still have a bunch of CDs, books, and toys from the old days. I cut out most of my frivolous purchases out since I started my journey to financial independence and life is still good. These days, I borrow books and CDs from the library and I don’t need to store them. Our condo is pretty small and it’s full already. It makes sense for us to only buy replacement items. Mrs. RB40’s strategy is really good, too. You can be extremely picky and just buy the perfect thing. That will put off purchases because it can be quite difficult to find the perfect item.

What about you? Do you have a weakness for certain items? What is your frugal kryptonite?

Image credit: by Howard Dickins

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. He spent 16 years working in computer design and enjoyed the technical work immensely. However, he hated the corporate BS. He left his engineering career behind to become a stay-at-home dad/blogger at 38. At Retire by 40, Joe focuses on financial independence, early retirement, investing, saving, and passive income.

For 2018, Joe plans to diversify his passive income by investing in US heartland real estate through RealtyShares. He has 3 rental units in Portland and he believes the local market is getting overpriced.

Joe highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. He logs on to Personal Capital almost daily to check his cash flow and net worth. They have many useful tools that will help every investor analyze their portfolio and plan for retirement.
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{ 57 comments… add one }
  • Michael @ Financially Alert February 24, 2016, 12:47 am

    Hey Joe, I’m a huge sucker for deal sites. Not only do I purchase things that I don’t really need, I waste more time than I should!

    Most recently I purchased an extra pair of shoes I didn’t really need, a bluetooth FM transmitter, and a selfie stick (although surprisingly I’ve actually made use of this one more than I thought).

    Thankfully my wife is really good at not buying a lot of things. 🙂

    • PhysicianOnFIRE February 24, 2016, 6:51 am

      Slickdeals.net is the clearance aisle of all the best stores, but in the palm of your hand. That can be good or bad, but yeah… the frugalist usual defeats the minimalist in me when faced with so many deals “too good to pass up”.

    • retirebyforty February 24, 2016, 11:33 am

      I used to spend a ton of time on slickdeals and other similar sites when I was working. It’s just easy to check when I’m on the monitor all day. There are a lot of good deals out there, but I don’t really need those things. That’s why I don’t buy them anymore. We’re both very luck that our wives don’t buy a lot of stuff. whew… 🙂

  • Mr. Tako @ Mr. Tako Escapes February 24, 2016, 12:50 am

    My frugal cryptonite? It’s got to be the money we spend on travel. It’s completely frivolous, and at times when traveling we don’t even try to be frugal. Shameful isn’t it?

    We have a upcoming vacation to Hawaii that I’m kind of dreading due to the high spending. I will surely report it to the blog 😉

    • retirebyforty February 24, 2016, 11:25 am

      We love traveling too, but I don’t consider it frivolous. I want to broaden my kid’s experience. He needs to know what life is like outside of our cocoon. Enjoy Hawaii! I love it there and we’ll move there someday.

  • Petra February 24, 2016, 12:54 am

    Buying 1 pair of shoes per year? I generally go through a pair every 8 months or so; and they’ll be beyond repair. So I think your wife has a really cheap hobby: shoe-shopping-without-buying.

    Personally, I also have a problem with keeping my gift giving in check. Hard to not spoil your loved ones, in particular when you see a gift that you know would be perfect for them.

    • retirebyforty February 24, 2016, 11:26 am

      I’m a very lucky guy. 🙂 Can’t complain about the shoes too much. They are a lot cheaper than purses.

  • Ernie Zelinski February 24, 2016, 2:06 am

    My weakness (or strength, depends on how you look at it) is treating my friends and acquaintances to dinner and wine and tipping the beautiful waitresses at least 20 or 25 percent. I also often throw in one of my books as an additional tip.

    On a recent trip to Vancouver, I paid for the tickets to “The Power of Success” event for three of my friends, one of whom is a multi-millionaire and another a doctor. Then I took them to dinner at Taki’s Greek Restaurant. The house wine wasn’t good enough for me so I asked another friend to pick up two bottles of fine wine at a liquor store and have
    the restaurant apply a corkage fee. That resulted in 5 of us having dinner at my pleasure (not expense). Not a problem, since it was an enjoyable and productive evening for me, resulting in my discussing several of my book projects and getting some great ideas for the future.

    Incidentally, now that I have taken a multi-millionaire to dinner — and didn’t cheap out — I plan to take a billionaire to dinner. I would advise everyone else to do the same — and again, don’t cheap out! It will well be worth it if you want to achieve remarkable prosperity in your life.

    One last note: If you want to ever write a book and make it a highly profitable bestseller, don’t take books out of the library. Buy them instead. Plain and simple, if you don’t buy other people’s books, why should anyone buy yours? Trust me, prosperity consciousness
    dictates that individuals should spend money with the same enjoyment that they experience while earning it. In the same vein, the Universe will reward you for supporting others, particularly those in the same field that you are in. With over 900,000 copies of my books sold worldwide, I have the results to prove this true.

    • retirebyforty February 24, 2016, 11:36 am

      I used to treat my friends when I was making good money and they weren’t. Now I make less than most of my friends so I rarely treat them anymore. Someday… 🙂
      I need to take a multi-millionaire out for dinner sometime. Good note with the book. I need to change to prosperity thinking.

      • Ernie Zelinski February 24, 2016, 3:13 pm


        You won’t have to take my inspirational fable “Look Ma, Life’s Easy” out of the library once it is released in print edition in about three weeks. I am going to send you a copy. I have ordered a print run of 2,000 copies. I may have to give away 1,000 copies to influential people such as you to create the word-of-mouth marketing that gets a great book to sell. And rather than give your copy “Look Ma, Life’s Easy” to someone else once you have read it, you will want to keep it to give to your son to read when he is young adult.

        • retirebyforty February 25, 2016, 10:09 pm

          I’m looking forward to it.

  • Pennypincher February 24, 2016, 3:51 am

    That is so funny about giving your wife cash as a gift. I think this is smart & the way to go. She get’s exactly what she wants=everybody’s happy! I’m w/her on the shoes. They must be and look perfect from the side view as well as the front. My weakness is black suede ones.
    Joe, you sound like a people pleaser w/all the gift giving, but it makes you happy as well. You are a good person. Gift card$ are a good bet, especially w/kids, teens, young adults, anyone.
    Good thing w/the Fire HD tablet, it’s a tax deduction for your business. Good move!

    • retirebyforty February 24, 2016, 11:38 am

      I’m not very picky with my shoes. 🙂 I don’t like gift card, though. We always misplace them or just don’t use them.

  • Ashley February 24, 2016, 4:00 am

    My kryptonite would be gifts and eating out.

    We don’t eat out often because carting a small child along makes it a bigger hastle than cooking at home. However I haven’t thought of a good way to get folks to eat at our place for social dining.

    I’m trying to make more gifts this year because it is more thoughtful.

    • retirebyforty February 24, 2016, 11:39 am

      Our kid is 5 and we can bring him to casual restaurants now. He’s not the best behaving kid, but he’s much better than before. We like eating out too, but haven’t gone out much lately.

  • PhysicianOnFIRE February 24, 2016, 4:23 am

    Camera equipment. I switched to a micro four thirds system a couple years ago. All components are much smaller compared to their DSLR counterparts. So small that all your gear can fit into one small bag that can easily be left under the seat in front of you when you deplane while distracted by your young children.

    So after spring break last year, I was buying a whole new camera body, lenses, etc…

    • Justin February 24, 2016, 5:08 am

      The hidden cost of kids… 🙂

    • retirebyforty February 24, 2016, 11:40 am

      I still have the DSLR. It’s so bulky and I rarely take it anywhere. I’m going to take a photography class first and then see how it goes.

  • Maria February 24, 2016, 4:58 am

    Mine are: beautiful candles, soaps, coffee, chocolate and honey! I know, I know- I have a problem! Haha

    • retirebyforty February 24, 2016, 11:40 am

      Whoa, girl stuff. 🙂

  • Money Beagle February 24, 2016, 5:08 am

    I think for me it’s shopping for small items on Amazon. You figure oh it’s just a few dollars here and there.

    For my wife it definitely is shopping at Target.

    • Kayla February 24, 2016, 7:46 am

      I’ve frequently heard the expression “no one can escape Target without a full cart/spending $x00.00” uttered from the mouths of fellow girl friends, but it made me laugh the other day when my Fiance and I were leaving Target after picking up some groceries and basic household goods and after a moment of silence, he says “I hate Target.”, I look at him, a bit flabbergasted by his sudden declaration, and ask why, to which he responds in all seriousness, “no one can escape Target without a full cart”. ‘Tis true! 😉

      • retirebyforty February 24, 2016, 11:51 am

        We were just at Target and we got OJ, chap-sticks, ground beef, and a tomato. That was it, just what was on my list! We were walking so I didn’t want to carry a lot of stuff. 😀

    • retirebyforty February 24, 2016, 11:41 am

      Shopping on Amazon is fun, but they just raised the price of free shipping to $49. Now it will take longer accumulate enough stuff to get free shipping. I guess that’s a good thing because it will let me put off purchasing longer.

      • Ray February 25, 2016, 9:52 am

        Try Jet.com, min. $35 for free shipping. Pretty good site with decent prices and no taxes.

  • Justin February 24, 2016, 5:13 am

    The only real shopping I routinely do is grocery shopping, so I guess that would have to be the one area where I end up buying things I don’t really need. If there is a clearance special I’ll try all kinds of new things (for 50-75% off the regular price, it’s hard not to!). Usually I’m pleasantly surprised and find something new to enjoy. Very rarely whatever I get will be horrible and it’ll end up going bad or I’ll have to take the effort to return it.

    Fortunately Aldi (where I get most clearance stuff) takes back anything with a receipt for double money back, so I guess I actually come out ahead when I’m sorely disappointed.

    The absolute worst item I ever tried was the truffle infused olive oil. Sounds great but it tasted like garlicy motor oil. At least I got my $ back when it returned it almost completely unused.

    • retirebyforty February 24, 2016, 11:42 am

      I’m with you on that. We went to a Japanese grocery store and I picked up 2 new pickled vegetables to try. They were on sale so why not. I like trying new/weird food. Live a little. 🙂

      • Justin February 24, 2016, 1:09 pm

        I justify the cost by telling myself it’s cheaper than a $1000 plane ticket to somewhere exotic just to try a new food. I can spend $5-10 and get cheeses, beers, meats, seafood, dumplings, and all sorts of stuff imported from all over the world without ever leaving home.

  • Our Next Life February 24, 2016, 6:19 am

    Travel all the way. I would be happy never buying another “thing” again if we could travel as much as we want. But I’m okay with this being our kryptonite because we never regret spending money on travel — we get great life experiences, amazing memories, and lots of perspective on the world as a whole, instead of just our little corner of it. And over time we’ve gotten better at traveling less expensively, which is of course a good thing. 🙂

    • retirebyforty February 24, 2016, 11:43 am

      We love traveling too. Life is amplified when you’re traveling.

  • Mike Drak February 24, 2016, 6:36 am

    My kids are my frugal kryptonite. I spend money or maybe invest in them is a better word. I will not hesitate to spend money on experiences etc if I think it will help improve them and set them up for the future.

    • retirebyforty February 24, 2016, 11:44 am

      That’s great. What’s the best purchases for your kids? I’m going to enroll him in swimming class this spring. I’m thinking about a martial art class too. What kind of lessons are good?

      • Mike Drak February 24, 2016, 12:19 pm

        Sports are a great start, both team sports and individual sports like swimming and tennis. I like to take them on trips where they can learn things, Driving down to Florida from Toronto you pass through so many historic places and we make the trip a little like a history lesson. Exposure to anything that they can learn from and possibly add to their own skill set is a good investment and one I will not hesitate to make.

  • Mike H. February 24, 2016, 6:58 am

    You’re in pretty good shape. Star Wars legos are an absolute necessity, even if you don’t have kids. And 1 pair of shoes per year is nothing: I have friends who have a shoe shopping problem, and I’d bet they average 1 pair per MONTH.

    My frugal kryptonite is rough: music gear. Nothing can wipe out a budget like getting frustrated with your current setup, or switching from a country band to a hard rock band. Case in point, after my band’s Halloween show this past year (during which my guitar, amp, and pedalboard combined to produce the most horrifying feedback), I spent more than $1200 upgrading my rig. with more expense to come. And that’s just for middle-of-the-road quality and value…

    • retirebyforty February 24, 2016, 11:47 am

      We love those Star Wars Lego. It’s a lot of fun.
      Yeap, music gears are expensive. And you want to just buy more. I used to have 10 ukuleles, but now I’m down to 4. I’m just keeping my favorites.

  • Kayla February 24, 2016, 7:42 am

    Two words, “premium groceries”. When I was in my late teens, early twenties, going to college and working full time, I spent many months digging for pennies out of the crevices of cushions and under floor mats in my car to afford dinner during my shifts and class breaks. I knew one large fry and one plain cheeseburger would cost exactly $3.17 from McDonald’s. I usually ate one meal a day, and I won’t lie when I say it was the only time in my life I contemplated stealing food as I often had to work while trying to ignore the hunger pains in my stomach. When I finally made it to a point in life where I was making a reasonable amount of money, I promised myself I would never have to “go without” or say no to buying food that I wanted ever again. While I could and still can afford the grocery bill this sort of spending mentality creates, I’m finally starting to reach a place in life where I don’t feel so great about having a household grocery bill for two people that rivals that of a family of four, and emotionally, saying no to a $7 jar of Kalamata Olives no longer stirs up old feelings of deprivation.

    I’d also have to second Ernie in saying tipping is one of my weaknesses. I tend to let emotion, not logic guide the percentage I write down. If I think someone was having a bad day, was treated poorly by another customer, or just showed really good work ethic, I tend to throw in an extra 5-10% on top of my baseline 20%. Which, I feel good about, and still would never want to outright stop, but from time to time looking back at budget tracking, my empathy definitely gets the better of me sometimes and I wish I was better at keeping it in check.

    • retirebyforty February 24, 2016, 11:49 am

      It sucks to be hungry. Sounds like you’re in a good place now though. $7 kalamata olives sounds expensive. 🙂
      I’m terrible with tips. It’s just straight 15% unless the food and service were fantastic.

  • Jim @ Route To Retire February 24, 2016, 9:12 am

    Our frugal kryptonite would be travel (although that’s tapered a little bit over the past year or so) – we love going on cruises and they’re definitely not cheap.

    My own personal kryptonite tends to be gadgets. In fact, I ended up just getting my daughter the Kindle Fire 7 just because they dropped the price to $40 for a couple days. I’m getting better, but boy I do love toys!!

    — Jim

    • retirebyforty February 24, 2016, 11:51 am

      Heh heh, we all have our weakness. Travel is okay in my book though.

  • ER2019 February 24, 2016, 10:47 am

    I am not a complete frugal person but always set my budget for every item and service I buy. As long as I don’t exceed my budget, I know how much I can save for my future retirement. People who cannot save money tend to spend money without a budget and cannot track their spendings. I personally know a few individuals with a 100K+ salary and have a debt. Those people just keep spending on items that make them look fabulous… But that is what they chose and isn’t my business at all.

    • retirebyforty February 24, 2016, 11:53 am

      Oh yeah, if you’re in debt, you really need to budget. We track all our expenses, but we don’t really have a budget. We rarely buy frivolous stuff so a budget isn’t as crucial.

  • Chuck February 24, 2016, 11:27 am

    I guess for me it’s eating out and craft beer with the occasional fine wine. I like to eat and sometimes it’s nice to have other people do all the work even though I know I could. We try to keep it to once a week, but there are weeks when we don’t do well with the grocery planning and it might be two or three nights.

    My wife’s is definitely dogs. She’s a rescuer by nature. At one point we had four but are now back to two. Once they get older, healthcare can really add up and she treats them like family members.

    • retirebyforty February 24, 2016, 11:54 am

      I love craft beer and wine too, but I had to cut back due to my triglyceride problem. Now I rarely buy beer. 🙁
      Pets are definitely expensive. That’s tough.

  • middle class revolution February 24, 2016, 11:33 am

    I don’t think going cheap on the Fire HD was a bad thing. A lot of tech stuff cost more for bells & whistles that most people don’t even use.

    My frugal kryptonite right now is clothing and good ingredients for cooking.

    • retirebyforty February 24, 2016, 11:56 am

      I rarely purchase new clothes and I still have a closet full of old stuff that I don’t wear. I’m good with clothing. Not working full-time makes a huge difference. I can wear whatever I want.

  • amber tree February 24, 2016, 11:43 am

    My frugal kryptonite used to be crowd funding gadgets. I less than 6 months time,I have backed 11 projects for over 750 USD. The result: a lot of space filled up with gadgets. actual use… close to 0. A good thing is that I realized it at a given moment and from than on, It stopped. The kryptonite no ;-longer hurts me!

    As of today, I am still waiting for 2 lamps to arrive, one day…

    • retirebyforty February 24, 2016, 11:56 am

      Hah hah, maybe you can sell them on Ebay.

    • Erik February 24, 2016, 1:36 pm

      Just as amber tree, I’m a crowdfunding’s gadgets freak! :S that is ruining my Hippie de Land Rover [HdLR] lifestyle haha Anyway, together with Sra. HdLR we are becoming very discipline when it comes to expenses.

  • Sandy February 24, 2016, 12:08 pm

    Definitely experiences, concerts, art classes and travel. More “things” are just not a priority anymore, except an occasional toy or treat for my dog. It also seems like this gets easier as you get older, at least it has for us.

  • Andrew February 24, 2016, 1:47 pm

    It’s hard to say whether the Nexus is better quality. I bought a first generation one a few years back…barely used it (what a waste)…and it has stopped working. I have no idea why…so sometimes more expensive doesn’t necessarily mean better quality and lasting longer. Anyways, my frugal kryptonite is convenience…like getting take out when I’m too lazy to cook or paying someone to fix something cause I’m not handy and don’t want the hassle of figuring it out.

    • retirebyforty February 25, 2016, 10:09 pm

      My brother has a nexus and it feels better. The Fire HD is very solid, though. I dropped it a couple of times and it is still going strong. I like convenient too.

  • James February 24, 2016, 3:30 pm

    I don’t believe any purchase is actually frivolous if they decided not to return it. It was important enough to spend money on it, so why is it frivolous? Apart from shelter, food, and utility bills, nothing is really an absolute necessity. As long as you’re not masking some deeper problems and avoid facing them by constantly purchasing things or traveling constantly like a wanderer, occasional splurge on whatever purchase makes someone happier makes life much more fun. As long as someone doesn’t spend a lot more than earn over long periods and most people will do reasonably well.

  • Andrew February 25, 2016, 5:55 am

    Hey Joe, my krytopnite is definitely things on sale and cool new tech toys. I bought a drone two years ago and have used it a total of 1 hour. It’s fun but I never get around to using it. I tend to go over on what I need when things are on sale. (like buying 2 -3times what I need because it’s a good buy). Music is another one too, I’m a huge collector so when I hear a good song I need to buy it. Otherwise the earworm stays in my head and just won’t go away. Great post!

  • Stockbeard February 25, 2016, 2:06 pm

    I’ll just disagree with one point you made in the very first paragraph: if you’re in the lower class, the first step to financial independence is to boost your income. Frugality will help, but it’s not the main issue for lower class families. *Once* you reach middle class, is when frugality becomes the main parameter.

    Simply because it’s easier to boost your income when you’re in the lower class, than it would be to spend less than you make. Conversely, once in middle class it’s probably easier to spend less than to get a significant raise

  • Alan February 26, 2016, 12:27 pm

    Thanks for an excellent blog, but this got me thinking. Certainly retiring at a certain age is a great goal, but maybe there is the concept of retiring with a certain quality of life also. When you think about it, you CAN retire after a year of working but you will have no money and many many years in that state. You can retire at 70, with hopefully lots of money and many less years. And you certainly can retire somewhere between these points as is the premise of this site.

    For me 55 will work out good, and after reading this blog, I have to say I’m not sorry I didn’t try for 40. I understand frugal, I think I am frugal, but I think there is also a point past frugal that people need to fear. If my wife thinks she might need three reasonable priced shoes in a year, I can deal with that, and I’m happy that she can buy them without guilt. She has worked hard for her career like me, so I can’t deny that. Joe, if your wife is TRULY happy with just one new pair of shoes a year and no purse, she truly is a rare woman, and there is certainly nothing wrong with that if its true.

  • Linda February 27, 2016, 6:26 pm

    I’m like Mrs. RB40-extremely picky when it comes to clothes and shoes. I hate shopping because of it. As a result I have a very small closet of clothes.
    My kryptonite used to be cd’s. Then I realized exactly how much money I wasted through the years and stopped buying them. I’ve since been slowly getting rid of them, mostly through garage sales.
    I think right now, my kryptonite is probably stuff for the kitchen-appliances and gadgets. I’m always thinking how some gadget would make cooking soooo much easier. I have to remind myself that I really don’t need it, and it’s probably just a waste of money.

  • Ms. Frugal Asian Finance April 4, 2017, 11:57 am

    Ms. FAF and I must have spent thousands on Amazon over the past few years. We love Amazon Prime, but we’re also pushing ourselves to think long and hard about what we really need.

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