Scrimping For Survival


                                                By:  Apolinario B. Villalobos

Nowadays, it needs resourcefulness to survive on a meager income.  Whether one is a struggling entrepreneur or a wage earner, the dictum is supposed to be living on what one can afford.  Foremost in this effort is resisting the temptation of the current trends – fastfoods, trendy trappings, cellular phones,  electronics contraptions, etc.

Blame the effective advertisements of fast food joints for inculcating in the minds of even the growing tots their seemingly necessity in our lives.  Imagine a mother using either the familiar golden arch of a popular burger chain or the bumblebee that symbolizes another, in teaching her child in identifying objects  instead of  other relevant things instead.

Another ill effect of what we call modernity of our time is the “must have” attitude for things that enhance one’s social status such as a cellular phone.  Not only once or twice have I encountered incidents of students being stabbed for this electronic contraption by not parting with it when snatched by a robber. Or, teenagers who run away from home just because their parents will not buy them a cell phone. It seems that for most of us, the much- coveted gadget spells high social status even for those whose take home pay is less than a quarter of the minimum pay.

Then, there’s the proliferation of electronics that give birth to the CDs, computer games, high-tech tv’s and syndicates with various talents in forgery. Suckers dole out hard-earned money for counterfeit CDs and appliances.   At the end, they bring home a fake status symbol instead of a kilo of fish  or  worst, they spoil their budget for the week.

The salaried grumble about the reluctance of employers to increase their pay, complaining that their wage is barely enough to cover their family budget.  But, have they ever thought of adjusting their spending capability to what they earn? Or have they ever tried to observe their attitude – leaving potions of food on the plate, throwing leftovers that can still be kept for recycling, and spoiling their children with junk foods?

Personally, it pains me to see big portions of food left on the plates every time I enter a fast food joint or restaurants.  Those who do this sinful act even look proud to show the world that they can afford to do such a thing. Imagine a half-eaten steak, untouched portions of viands or whole serving of rice on their plates collected by busboys to be thrown away.  But looking at them closely, I could surmise that these arrogant people are minimum pay earners who strut around with their cell phones bought after months of scrimping or through installments, thanks to the credit card or office loans.

These are also the very same people who cover their bodies with clothing and jewelry that they get on installment basis.  I know this because I have worked in several companies myself and have encountered the same situations.  Some would even skip meals just so they can pay for this extravagance every end of the week or every pay day.

Some still would regularly not report to work feigning sickness due to unavailability of money for fare.  Yet, they can  find ways and means to purchase cellular cards or spend for weekend jaunts with friends.

If only we can change our attitude, living affordably may not be difficult.  The following are suggested ways that can be done, though with difficulty at the start:

Try switching to less expensive meals consisting of more vegetables, just enough of fish, less meat, and you’ll see the difference. Suggested is a Sunday for meat, Tuesday and Thursday for fish, with the rest of the days for vegetables.  It takes discipline to muster this kind of routine until it becomes a regular and normal practice for the family. While still young, the children must be made to appreciate vegetables and fish not only for their nutritional value, but also for financial reason .  Most importantly, too, learn how to recycle leftover foods.

Bring a home-cooked lunch to work.  Do not ruin your budgeton pork chops, bacons, corned beef and other “show” food that you are trying hard to afford. While you may succeed in showing your friends that you have a richey lunch, such show-offness can make you suffer in the long run because it could definitely affect your finances. Be honest about yourself. In the office, do not show a kind of a person that is not the real you as they know your financial status anyway, by your take home pay .

Get rid of that cellular phone if you do not have an urgent use for it.  Accept the fact that you flaunt it just for status symbol.  The extra savings from not buying cellphone cards can go a long way in stretching your budget. It has been observed, that those who really can afford to have one do not flaunt it.  Ironically, those who really do not have the practical  use for it, are the ones who are showing it off. As an alibi they say it is for emergency to call people at home, when in  reality,  those at home do not have a single unit, because they cannot even afford pay the rent on time!

Avoid buying branded clothes.  Take note that most of the popular brands are being forged nowadays making it hard to detect which is the original brand or the fake one. It is funny to note that some try hard to play rich by wearing branded clothes even if they do not go well with their built or complexion.  It is suggested that when buying clothes in department stores, try the bargain section first.  If you cannot find one that suits you,  try the regular section, but pay attention on what you  select that mustfit you well.  Remember that it is how you carry the attire well and comfortably that others will admire you. You do not expect others to peek at your collar to check if what you are wearing is from a popular house of fashion!

Be honest to your children about your financial capability.  It will help them realize that some things that they want are not really necessary after knowing that you cannot afford them in the first place.  The happiness derived from giving in to the demand of your children for things which are very difficult to have is temporary, and has a greater effect on your family budget.  Try to think of the savings that you can set aside if  unnecessary purchases can be avoided. Parents should refrain from voluntarily giving money to their children to be splurged in internet games.

Forget about burger joints for family weekend lunch outs.  Instead, for weekend jaunts bring home-cooked lunch and juice  to  the nearest  public park for a happy bonding.  This way, you save electricity for not viewing TV or switching on the electric fan while staying at home the whole day.

Get rid of that credit card!  I used to have credit cards supposedly for emergency use.  I realized, however, that they just ate up a big portion of my budget so that I gave them up altogether. I had been a fool for so many years maintaining those cards during which I did not realize that I was actually paying up only their monthly interests and very little of the principal amounts. Not having a credit card will force you not to buy anything if you do not have cash.  That is what living affordably really means.  However, if the credit cards are charged against your company due to their official nature, it is another story.

Try to commute on regular buses or jeepneys by waking up early to catch up with them in the coolness of the early morning.  In this way you do not give yourself the alibi of comfort in taking an air-conditioned bus or shuttle van late in the morning.  Think of the several pesos that you can save daily that could add up to several hundreds at the end of the month.  If you have a car, you can help nature very much if you use it only when very necessary.  Leaving home early for the office to avoid the traffic is comfortable enough.

There are other things that we can do in order to live comfortably without spending so much, although it needs sacrifice and discipline.   The way we live our life depends on us.  If we live a dismal life, we have ourselves to blame because we refuse to do the simple and practical things that could be of great help to us.

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