There are two ways to live: how the society expects you to live and how you actually want to live. If you are fortunate, your idea of living will match that of the society. Unfortunately there are not a lot of people whose ideals match up with the ideals of the society. We have our own priorities and wants and needs, which include being frugal, but since we do not live in isolation; we end up succumbing to social pressures and start living the way we are expected to.
While all else might just have a mental impact but one thing that has a mental, financial and every other kind of impact on us is the society’s expectation of how we should spend our money. Being social does not allow us to be frugal and we end up spending a lot of our hard earned money on things that we don’t want or need or don’t care about at the cost of our financial stability in the future.
Despite its intoxicating aura of economic prosperity, living in Singapore has its own fair share of drawbacks. The good part is unending and the bad part is very little, but nevertheless has a huge impact on individual lifestyles. That part being the fact that Singapore is growing expensive each day and a comfortable post-retirement life requires us to conserve our finances today.
Back in the ‘70s and ‘80s, having the financial capability to afford a car or a private condo was respected by people because it was considered a sign of a great work ethic. With more economic progress, a culture of self-centric decadence has emerged over the years that mirrors the dangerously over-indulgent values of the West. Fortunately, the power of frugality is being embraced by many citizens at the same time as they are beginning to bear the brunt of this poorly idealized lifestyle.
Frugality is not just about avoiding ravenously expensive items, but also monitoring your daily expenses. But frugality has a lot of social consequences, a few big ones being:
1. Fighting Mindless Consumerism
The world is becoming more materialistic each day and consumerism is spreading like wildfire. There are a lot of social ideals of how one should live their life and it usually involves a lot of spending power. The media is always portraying a kind of lifestyle that is expensive.
Gone are the days when people judged you for who you are; today, people are judged on what they own. While you might want to buy the latest iPhone because all your friends have it and can’t stop raving about it, you might just get the same utility out of your trusty Android.
The nature of modern day capitalism is such that it programs people to feel that they are missing out on happiness if they don’t subscribe to the lifestyle marketed to them.
What you need is a thick skin that prioritizes rationality over impulsiveness. It’s the only way you learn to weed out emotion out of personal finance management so that you automatically target your needs over your wants. This is something you need to constantly keep in mind – what is it that you need (the essentials) and what is it that you want (the non-essentials).
Write them down on paper, create a budget for them, and treat it like Gospel so you don’t have to go on an emotional rollercoaster with every “juicy” new offer coming your way.
It explains why the Singaporean youth crippled by education loans, home loans, and credit card debt, is beginning to wake up to the brutal truth – exorbitance is unsustainable. Sooner or later, the dream collapses, and if you aren’t a rich kid with a trust fund, you are going to be taken to the cleaners.
Choosing to go frugal in a high cost of living environment such as Singapore is certainly feasible. There are alternatives to the high cost lifestyle all around you. For instance, choosing the MRT or bus instead of traveling by cab, or favoring cheap cafes and hawker stalls over fancy restaurants can significantly cut down on avoidable expenses.
You can get the EZ-link card for use on public buses and trains to get cheaper fares and also sign up for credit cards that offer rebates and promotional offers that best suit your lifestyle instead of just subscribing to a random one.
Remember one thing – there is no end to consumerism. If you end up buying that expensive watch, there will be another one better than that, then another and then another.
There is no end to this cycle so you need to know when to stop because it is all just temporary happiness that lasts till the time the next iPhone comes out. It makes you greedy and unhappy.
Being frugal, on the other hand, keeps you happy always because there is no competition anymore.
2. Fighting the ‘Stingy’ Stigma
It is not uncommon for other people to think of you as a stingy person if you value your money and don’t throw it all away on items you don’t really need. Your friends and even your family refuse to understand you and instead, label you.
What they don’t understand is that being cheap and being frugal are very different. If you decide to use the public transport instead of buying a car, that is being frugal whereas if you load yourself with ketchup pouches at fast food joints, that is cheap.
Unplugging unused appliances, shopping online, using baking soda and vinegar instead of expensive supermarket cleaners, etc., is the mark of someone who is smart with their lifestyle choices and not blindly pandering to frivolous advertising.
This also does not mean holding back all the time because there are some expenses that have to be made. You need to think of your expenses as long term, whatever gives you ling term benefits are expenses that should be made without any hesitation. If your refrigerator has become too old and is beyond repair now, you have to invest in a new one without thinking twice.
So just because your priorities are different and people refuse to understand you does not mean that you are stingy. You are just money-wise.
This will also help you understand the true nature of your friends and family because good friends would respect your decision instead of making fun of you.
By looking at the big picture you will realize that being stingy has more benefits both financially and mentally because not only will you become a richer person, you will also become a happier person by surrounding yourself with your true friends and not getting brainwashed by the materialistic consumerism that today’s society is breeding.
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