Sunday, August 30, 2015
living a minimalist life
I am fortunate to be in one of those industries that paid more when I was first starting out as a fresh graduate. About 10 years ago, my industry paid fresh grads about 3.8k, instead of the 2.5k which most fresh grads. It was a windfall for me. My dad, the sole breadwinner of the family, up till his retirement, only earned 2.5k maximum even after 30 years of slogging in the same company. Suddenly, my pay was about 1.3k more than his. I felt rich, really rich.
When I was an undergraduate, I often gave tuition and could earn up to 1k a month. Even with that amount of money, I was careful not to overspend. However, that 1k could give me a lifestyle that allowed me to keep up with my friends – think the usual clubbing, movies, eating at cafes, expensive coffee, taxis for the late night outs. When I started earning my first pay check, I was extremely happy. The hours were really long and to reward myself, I started taking more cabs, justifying the fact that I was too tired and money ought to be spend. I started having no qualms about purchasing $150 dresses, justifying it with reasons that I had no time to shop and if I found a dress that I really liked, then I should just purchase it instead of spending another 3 hours looking around.
However, even with my new found “wealth”, I guess frugality was already ingrained in me. I couldn’t bear to splurge on a $2,000 luxury bag (then, I must admit I have done so a few times since) even though all my peers were going crazy over reebonz.com at that time. I also could not bear to stay at upmarket hotels during my holidays or eat at michilin star restaurants. I rather use guest houses, bed and breakfasts and eat local cafes when I travelled. I was still a miser in clubs, much preferring to only go for ladies’ night than pay charges when I knew you can go in for free on Wednesday.
I assumed that the reason for my frugality was because of my past. As I have personally witness how difficult it is to earn money, and how the lack of money can constrained your lifestyle, I have no wish to splurge it unnecessarily. Funny enough, I realise that some of my peers who grew up in the same “lower income” group as me were the total opposites.
They grew accustomed to spending. Spending even more than those people who grew up among relative wealth. They thought nothing of buying a $15k watch, or a few $8k bags, or trying out fancy restaurants or going on luxurious holidays. When they got married, they felt it necessary to create the most romantic and fancy wedding ever, to don the most beautiful gown and throw an extravagant party. They wanted to make up for the lost times when they wanted to do such things, but could not do so.
I wonder. Why the difference between myself and them? Did we not grow up in similar conditions? Why was I refusing to spend for fear that I may one day lose my money? Why were they willing to splurge on everything – food, clothes, holidays, watches?
I think the key is in the upbringing. Even when my parents were poor, my parents never complained or commented that we were. They hardly mix with the rich crowd, they never crave brands. Whereas for some of my friends who fell into the latter group, their parents lamented their poverty, compared incessantly with the richer folks, and bought brands even though they could barely afford it. They desired richness and strived towards it, and put it as a goal to be achieved. What I wanted because of my poverty was financial security. What they wanted because of their poverty was luxury.