Sunday, August 07, 2005

For a few cents less...

I just couldnt help laughing at myself. Had just come off a heated argument with my sis who wanted to get a tissue roll for $1.97 when i saw another brand for $1.57. Thought about my parents who squirmed in displeasure when I squandered imprudently and of moms regular taunts at me saying "ninakku kaashu ondaakumbam athe veruthe ozhukki kalayunnathinte buddhimutte manassilaakum" and my own inner voices which wanted to shout to them saying "enikke kaashu kittumbam njan kaanichu tharaam life engane jeevikkanam enne". Moving to the present like most of their words of wisdom this one rings true too. As every paycheck comes in I brace for doing a hundred meaningful things I wanna do and the rest to be saved and lo! it has disappeared even before I take stock of the situation. The feel-good part of it is that most of it went into repaying long-standing personal debt...a remnant of the struggling days, meeting far-away relatives, fixing my increasingly rickety car, helping pals out, tickets to India or running the house in style. Occasionally i sit staring at my right palm which has gaping holes between the fingers(my pops is well-versed with astrology and says it signifies all i make will leak through...what comforts me is that he has them too and yet manages his affairs well!).

Once I had this run-in at home when my dad gave me a fair scolding for pulling out crumpled rupee notes from my pocket and leaving it at his desk...it certainly must have hurt to see his hard-earned money treated in some dememaning fashion by me...my response was "spectacular" to say the least...i walked out of home...when i returned without even being apologetic all he did was leave a new wallet in my room. When my sis accidentally dropped my laptop on the floor, my mom and sis smiled as i ranted and raved at her for being so indifferent...the revenge of time! But fact is, she is a smart gal...though she earns much lesser than me, is a compulsive shopper and shares in our expenses when it comes to things i need like replacing a worn-out wallet of many years and a watch that hadnt run for a month...she went out and got stylish ones while I procrastinated and she beams at her bank balances while I look at mine's mournfully when we get down to our once-in-a-while who-beats-who sibling rivalry.

I have learnt valuable lessons in money management from my parents...their entire adult life they have lived on credit...improving their standard of life by taking out loans and investing instead of saving up their salaries and though I wondered when i was small why my sis and I had to wear tailored, old and ill-fitting clothes compared to my cousins who were always well-dressed but today i realize that their journey from a studio apt in kunnukuzhi to a small two bedroom flat at pattom to our present house and then to our both immigration to the US were all vectors that represented the upwardly mobile middle-class ambitions of the india of the eighties and the little things we all sacrificed then certainly played its part to get us here. Its just awesome...I talk to all my friends and they all have such tales of their parents to say...when we were kids they were in their struggling phases, yet put us through the best schools, got us most things we asked for while we never ever had to worry about all the financial worries they hid under a veneer of smiles reserved for us. My dad got his first job at the age of 29 and his current job at the age of 35...like most people then, while most of us yuppies are already at work and settled by our early 20's.

I look at most of my friends here and see a confused lot...some go out and get bmw's and benz's to signify their increasing social life, some absolutely crazed about the accessories the internet tempts them with acquiring, others worrying where to invest their money and squeeze out of the IT field and others abt sending money home for parents to take care of it...but we are all alike in one way, scratching our heads in bewilderment wondering how our parents made sense of needs and dreams and made intelligent spending decisions. Maybe its something we will all figure out as we go along...while we learn, earn, loose and live with these decisons, make mistakes, rectify them, then make other mistakes and finally get it right some day! ...and so we both continued our shopping...i passed the cereals section where I saw the brand i once ate 4 times a day for a few days to save money for a trip to vegas ending up with dysentry and a green-colored poop, then the one dollar rice grain which if boiled even a minute longer makes for excellent fevicol and on which i lived on once three days in a row eating as kanji coz of a paycheck that didnt arrive leaving my bank balance at nil(i bought that again a few months back only to see my mom trash it while giving me an atleast-now-go-get-a-life look) and while going home the one-dollar burgers at macdonalds, which wuz my life giving bread during the university days. We all do crazy things to save money at every point in our life and we all will have evenings like this when we think of those days fondly(and secretly in terror of their ever returing) and how much ever I deny the importance of the rectangular strips of paper my admiration just grows for people who know to spend their money wisely and unselfishly for their dear ones to be happy as i try to figure my way through this maddening maze that adulthood which I once foolishly craved for as a kid landed me in!

7 comments:

Jithu said...

hmm.. which is actually true.. coz there is a difference btn spending for a basic need and spending for a luxury item.. whn one starts earning money, i think he settles for a necessity item rather than a luxury item :-))

silverine said...

After scrimping and saving on pocket money, we tend to go berserk when we first start earning.I guess it is a passing phase and you soon prioritise you wants, necessities and that occasional luxury after a couple of months.It's those first baby steps as an earning individual which are shaky in money management. Though provoking post this. What beats me as you pointed out is how some people can manage money so well while others who earn more cannot.

Praveen said...

I think its just in the initial phases after getting the first job that we become spendthrifts. That was the case with me but I have started using my very limited business acumen :) and try my best to save some money now.

Arun said...

Nice post. We will all learn to spend wisely when our kids cry for a playstation or a nike shoe, when we are already saving for his education at harvard.

Anonymous said...

Mach, a good post indeed. Your post has inspired me to stop my lavish jeevitham where I make it a point to end up in a negative bank balance in the end of the month no matter what amount of money i receive!!... I stay with my parents, no expense with regards to food and rentals but still I end up in a negative balance.. just donno where the money goes!!!..pathetic right??

You have opened my eyes dude!! ;)

Cheers!
Shan

sheenu said...

Well, first things first the tissue roll part was hilarious. But yeah, we all go through such times, and it sure does makes sense then! I remember the times when I was in Blore and shopping at commercial street I used to haggle for every penny's worth and even worse if they did agree to the price I suggested it would be as though I was bereft of my victory cos that means the price must have been lower than what i had proposed anyways.Well...thats me! And yeah admiration for people who give away unselfishly for the happiness of others.I know of people in my church, who buy clothes and stuff from thrift stores, not because they can't afford otherwise, but because they choose to do so to give an extra dollar or two for missionaries around the world. That just amazes me, the priorities and the choices people make ! Likewise I just cannot fathom, for the life of me how my parents pulled through with 3 girls. They just did it ! And all I pray is that in the long run I am half as good as they were!

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