In this age of instant gratification, it is quite easy to spoil our most rotten spending habits. Not having a good jumpstart to your day? Why not grab a stick of cigarette and pair it with your favorite frap from Starbucks? Weather too hot? Let’s go into a mall somewhere and see what good movie is on. Oh, and don’t forget a cup of your favorite frozen yogurt complete with toppings. Depressed? Why not swipe your self a little happy using your credit card to buy yet another pair of imported rubber flipflops? Too insecure with your looks for the upcoming company party? Why not visit the salon to get that nice shampoo, haircut and facial from your Korean stylist? After all, this is what you have been slaving for right? You deserve these treats.
All of these makes the world seem bearable, until you realize how far away the next paycheck is or until you get your next credit card bill. Most of these expenses actually cost at least three times more than the daily cost of a decent meal.
In 2010, the company I work for decided to “re-align” our compensation package. Part of the change resulted to a lower but more frequent pay. Another was that it totally eliminated our quarterly performance bonus. Bummer. I never completely felt the impact until now, December, when I look back to the year that was and realized that I cannot remember shopping for anything for myself at all, this year. Not even for a new pair of underwear. (OK, maybe that’s an exageration, it’s all about priorities you’d say. I know!)
But what were the trade offs? I realized, it really wasn’t as bad as it looks:
- Having a lower budget for lunch means sometimes having to bring food from home to work. This means, no more waiting in line at the fast food, no more waiting for food to be served at the restaurant and more extra time for other things during your lunch hour. For me, I have been taking more walks with colleagues around the area near the workplace. More conversations and laughter. And sometimes maybe a catnap.
- My budget cut also required that I downgrade my tastes when it comes to coffee. Now, either I enjoy the free coffee at the pantry or just sprint to the 3rd floor concessionaires where coffe is almost 50% cheaper. This means more productive time at work.
- Instead of taking at least two meals in a day at work. I now go home on time, no more overtime(since they don’t pay overtime anymore). This means that I have to be extra efficient at work. This means that I also take breakfast (I work nights) with my mother at home. The conversations we have is something that I missed sinced I started working 9 years ago. We have long given up on the routine family meals. But now, we are bonding over home cooked meals.
- My daily allowance can only afford one – way taxi fare. So I take the public transport going home. This allows me to ponder the lives of the “daytime” people as they ride with me on their way to work. Yes, ponder, for that is what you do while inside a jeepney with 17 other passengers sardine-packed to the brim. Instead of being coccooned in your cool cab ride home, you are actually getting in touch with the “real-world”, reminding yourself that you are still a part of it.
What about my weekends you may ask. Well, I still go to the mall, but only to run pre-planned errands. This ensures that I do not spend more than what I need to. Most of my weekends are spent at home, surfing the web, watching tv, catching up on the lates movies in dvd, reading and most of the time, catching up on healthy home cooked meals and sleep. No more alcohol on my weekends. I have also said good bye to the long nights of dancing and panting to nicotine-infused air. This means no more need to shop for the latest outfits too!
The budget constraints have also made me more creative in redirecting my energies. I rediscovered my cooking skills, I learned to appreciate the many beautiful yet free-of-charge local attractions and community events and I also discovered the joys of pouring my heart out to a blog just like this one.
With regular sleep and a healthy dose of free laughter from friends, who would need a facial or a massage just to feel good? With a warm, caring homelife, who would need the mall or the movies? Forget the designer coffee drink, I don’t need one when I am busy chatting with my closest friends.
Less money means more. More quality time for self, for friends and for family. More time to be healthy, to create fond memories, to nurture lasting relationships.
But ofcourse, I’d still welcome a raise or a bonus anytime! Who am I kidding?!