How are you financially? How’s your budget?
When was the last time you kept track of your spending habits?
When you purchase something: is it a need or a want?
These are some life questions we ought to frequently ask ourselves. According to tradingeconomics.com, consumer spending in Philippines increased to PHP 1,484,165 millions in the third quarter of 2017 from PHP 1,480,727 million in the second quarter of 2017. That’s a collective statistics.
But how about your individual expenses?
Last Wednesday, I attended another one of Plump.ph’s self-love meetings. This time, we focused on this one simple yet dreaded word – consumerism. We watched a documentary called The Trap of Materialism and had an open discussion after. It was an enlightening session because it was intimate (there were only a few attendees) and personal (we shared really personal experiences and takes from our individual spending habits). But above all, it made me realize that I’m not so much of a big spender like I thought I was.
But just because I have no spending issues right now, I’m gonna shrug off the entire session as just another event, no. I know some people who are currently facing problems with their spending habits, so I would like to take this opportunity to share tidbits of what I learned during the event and to share some personal saving hacks to help you consume less.
During the open discussion, Danah shared a particular bible verse and discussed how it was related to that evening’s topic. The bible verse went like this:
The Rich and the Kingdom of God
18 A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
19 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’a]”
21 “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said.
22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
23 When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. 24 Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! 25 Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
26 Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?”
27 Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”
28 Peter said to him, “We have left all we had to follow you!”
29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God 30 will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.”
Okay, so let’s focus on one word: MATERIALISM. The rich ruler didn’t want to give up his possessions for the Kingdom of God because a) he probably worked hard for it b) who is stupid enough to give up everything that he has?! c) his god is his money (and other wealth). d) all of the above.
Oftentimes, we focus on the material things; on the outside, and forget the real value of things. We buy things because we can. Sometimes we don’t even have to think about it. In extreme situations, we get credit card debts, we borrow money to make up for our losses, and even sacrifice the important stuff (starving ourselves for expensive stuff like gadgets and designer items) for mere.. materials.
At the end of the day, is it even worth it?
I leave you again with a powerful quote: “36 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? 37 Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”
I’m just tripping. That’s actually a Bible verse – Mark 8:36. See? Bible is not so old school as we think it is.
Do you remember all those typhoons that destroyed hundreds of houses in the Philippines alone? What happened to those expensive cars? The designer dresses? Flooded. All flooded. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that you should live in the slums to prove you’re not materialistic and have realistic spending habits. Like Danah said, there’s nothing wrong with owning things. What’s wrong is when things start owning you.
It’s like being addicted to social media. You feel you have the freedom to spend (waste) time online, but really, it’s the other way around. You’re no longer in control of your social media consumption; it controls you now.
As with spending, when you shop til you drop and go home with heavy paper bags and a lighter wallet, with just enough cash to last you until the end of the week (OMG, thank God for Payday Friday), then there might be a problem with your spending habits.
After watching the documentary, we had an open discussion on our own consumption. Where does our money go? What prompts us to spend? What actionable steps can we do to stop spending on unnecessary things? I’m no longer going to discuss what each of us said, but instead, I want to focus on sharing some tips on how to minimize your consumption.
I’m pulling all these tips from my personal experiences (I didn’t crowdsource, yay!) so I’m sure you’d be able to relate. 😛
TIPS ON MINIMIZING CONSUMPTION
B E V I S U A L .
There’s something powerful about seeing your items in the open. It gives you an instant, “wait, I still have this item?!” feeling without you trying too hard. Personally, I like to rummage into my things and put them out in the open where I can easily see them. But it’s also because I have this attitude that I want everything I need within reach – that they can be there at my disposal any time of the day.
Some weeks ago, I arranged my lipstick stash, removed the ones I don’t use, and displayed my go-to lipsticks. Now I can see them every time I go out of the room since it’s just near my bedside table (chair). It’s a subtle daily reminder for me that I still have all these things (and more that I don’t really use – hello, BLK!) and that there’s no reason/excuse for me to buy more lipsticks when I’m in the mall. I’ve already ingrained in my system that I’m not buying any more lipsticks, period.
If you can, avoid putting stuff in boxes where you can easily forget about them. This is mostly the number 1 culprit why we keep buying – we forget we already have similar items in our house.
A S S E S S O T H E R S ‘ L I F E S T Y L E .
This might be a weird tip, but trust me, it does a lot just by assessing how others spend their money.
Have you ever watched one of those “shopping hauls” videos on YouTube? It’s fun, right? It’s nice to see what others got and for how much. But deep inside, it makes me cringe.
Why? Because I see nothing but unnecessary things.
And before long, they’d probably forget about those stuff “they fell in love with at first sight”. Now before you judge that I’m just envious, let me say outright that I’m not. More so, I’m concerned for these people. Like, do you really need that? Sure, it’s cute, but it also has a cute price tag (read: expensive). For me, little treats is okay. But when you make it into a weekly habit and you barely have anything to actually pay for what you need, then that’s a huge problem.
Do I have to go any further? Rebecca Bloomwood, certified shopaholic, rings a bell?
A S S E S S Y O U R O W N L I F E S T Y L E .
So you’ve seen how other spend their money. Now it’s time to assess your own lifestyle.
What are you buying? Why? What for?
These are not simple questions. If you’re a shopaholic, it’s important that you face the elephant in the room. Take a moment and list your recent purchases.
Were they necessary?
For how long are you going to use these items?
If you didn’t buy them, what “need” could have been covered by the same amount you spent?
For example, instead of buying a PHP 300 lipstick that I’m only going to use 5x max in my lifetime until the color bores me, I could have just spent that PHP 300 to have water delivered to our house, which will last us 2 weeks or so. Now isn’t that more beneficial?
Again, there’s nothing wrong with buying stuff. What’s wrong is when your expenses start to control you instead of the other way around.
D I S C O N N E C T .
Ahh, the power of (digital) marketing. You subscribe to a website’s newsletter, receive a “discount code” for your purchase, and soon enough you’re clicking on the “checkout” button. Sounds familiar?
One word: disconnect.
You know those shops that just make your hands itch? – must. get. that. new. hot. item. asaaaaap.
DROP THEM. It also helps to understand how marketing works. Brands figure out your pain points. What do you need? What solutions will resolve your problems? Worse, they create these problems and THEN provide solutions – their own products and services.
And they they use beautiful and luring graphic design to catch your attention. They use psychology – the study of human behavior – to know what you WANT, to know how to GET you. That you just GOTTA HAVE their items or else you’re missing out.
TADA, INSTANT SALES.
So once you’re in your most logical self (sometimes you gotta force it, but that’s a different topic now), unfollow all those accounts online, unsubscribe from the newsletters, and let your bank account breathe once in a while.
Better yet, have someone do it for you.
We all have that kontrabida friend who makes us question all our life choices. S/he’s also great at nagging us when we buy something totally unnecessary. I’m sure s/he’d be honored to hold an unfollowing spree for you!
If you want to save time, filter the accounts into “shop” or “shopph”. That’s a good start.
Let our response be, “OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF MIND.”
And while you’re at it, you can also start unfollowing those style icons that make you feel baduy because trust me, those designer items won’t do you any good when you’re old and broke. (On the lighter side, you can sell them?)
If ever you also have “lust lists”, DELETE YOUR DIGITAL NOTES, BURN THEM PAPERS. I’m just kidding, that’s bad. Just throw away the paper – not need to burn. Just get rid of them. Because I’m prett sure that lust list is gonna change in a month or two.
You can’t lust over something when you don’t know what they are. *insert black man thinking meme*
D E C L U T T E R .
Personally, I believe this is the most logical thing to do. But don’t do it alone. Solitude loves temptations. Ask a friend to help you out. Two heads are better than one. And two heads are more reasonable than one (doesn’t apply all the time).
A logical friend, okay? Not someone who’ll tolerate you and even ask, “Are you sure you want to give away that bag you haven’t used in 3 years? You got that on sale, right? Shame if you give it away.”
- 6-month rule. Haven’t used your items in the past 6 months? No plans of using them in the next 6 months? Drop them.
- 30-day challenge. Every day, pick an item that you haven’t used and will no longer use or is simply a clutter in your home. It will most likely benefit someone else, trust me. Want to take it up a notch? Day 1, pick 1 item. Day 2, pick 2 items. And so on. By Day 30, you need to drop 30 unnecessary items from your stash – in ONE day. No collectively!
- Realistic consumption. Be realistic, you don’t use everything you have. Most likely, you’ve forgotten about that cute purse you bought 2 months ago because, be honest, you didn’t really need it. IT WAS JUST CUTE, THAT’S IT. Other than that, it has no LEGITIMATE PURPOSE for you. This is a bit extreme, though. Pick out the items that you actually use regularly and give away everything you don’t. You’d be surprised at how much clutter you keep in your house.
- Capsule wardrobe. Have you ever heard of this concept? Basically, it’s keeping your clothes to a minimum and only keeping/buying versatile pieces that you can wear again and again over a long period. You read it right, NO TRENDS. NO SEASONAL CLOTHING. NO HYPE. While culottes were a trend before, it’s a pretty versatile piece of clothing. Same with structured tops, tank tops, and plain colored shirts. You get the idea. You have this closet of clothes and you can wear them anywhere, any time. No problem! Also saves you time when you’re in a rush! No need to change your entire outfit 3x before leaving the house – big thumbs up!
T H I N K L O N G T E R M .
At the end of the day, it’s just really all about mindfulness. Be mindful of your expenses. Cliche, but I’ll say it anyway, deal with your non-negotiables first before you start spending for personal needs/wants. Better yet, save for that expensive thing you really need but can’t buy within one pay cut. This will help you ditch the “small, harmless” expenses that eventually pile up.
Think of the opportunity cost, just like what I said under “Assess your own lifestyle.”
What could you have bought instead with the same amount of money?
What’s the more beneficial counterpart?
What do you lose if you buy this?
What NEED can’t you buy for buying what you only WANT?
It also helps to find purpose in your every possession. Ballpens are cute, but do you need every color for your planner/bullet journal? Are you really able to save when you buy a bundle instead of one specific color that you actually need? Do you really need those celebrity-line cosmetics? What about your last haul which you were also dying to get?
Aside from being mindful, it’s also about being realistic with your expenses. You can’t just “not buy”. You also have to know why you’re buying or not. Starving yourself for an iPhone X is one story, skipping on buses to walk so you can save on pamasahe is another, but neither of them good.
Whenever necessary, put yourself on a shopping ban. And no, shopping is not the reward after – it only defeats the purpose! Have enough books to last you a couple of months? Until you’ve read it all, put yourself on a shopping ban. Made numerous trips to your go-to store already? Maybe avoid that store next time you go to the mall. And tell a trusted person for accountability!
When you start to see the value of things, that’s when mindfulness begins. I’m not preaching this because I’m the most logical spender ever, but I see people mindlessly spending their hard-earned cash and I don’t want them going down that black hole.
But I can only do so much.
At the end of the day, it’s ALL UP TO YOU.