Recently, I stumbled on one of Gary Vaynerchuk’s videos, wherein he said the following:
When you start making money, it doesn’t mean you have to start being fancy.
It hit me right away — I was forced to recognize my biggest financial flaw that was keeping me from building the financial cushion I was always working toward. Ever since I start working various part-time jobs during college (which I still am), I noticed a phenomenal change in myself: lifestyle inflation. First of all, I have never seen myself as a big spender, and I never want to be one. I purchased a secondhand phone (I am a big advocate of buying second-hand gadgets, which I’ll talk about some other time), and I don’t desire any particular kind of designer clothes or bags, though I can say that I own just a few of these items, given that some were gifts. I am not into materialistic stuff in general.
As a college student, I earn quite a bit of money by hiring myself out as a driver and working a lot of supermarket promoter jobs (before joining ride-share company), and at the same time, I have a paid internship going on. On top of that, I am still getting an allowance from my family that covers all my basic expenses (I know this isn’t something everyone is lucky to have access to). Combining all these money streams, I have a monthly income that is sometimes even more than a normal working fresh grad. I understand I have to make the money works for me by appreciating the power of compounding; I’ve invested some of it, and am currently saving up my emergency fund.
So what went wrong? What kind of lifestyle inflation am I talking about here?
Damn if I don’t give into the idea of the “experience.” It’s a wonderful feeling to identify as one of the people who value experiences over material things. We often discourage people to buy into materialism, but praise, look up to, or are even a bit jealous of those who spend on experiences. We give them a fancy name — “experiencer,” “the one who feels the world/” But even though we address them in a fancy way, we don’t see them as “being fancy” — which is the core problem, at least in my case.
I started to travel locally and to some of my neighboring countries. I have six trips under my belt after just two years. My total bill is somewhere around RM3,700 (~$912.24). Of course, that total excludes a few activities visiting towns where my friends and relatives live, because I have no idea how much I spent on them. But RM3,700 for six local and international trips does not seem like much.
Wait a minute — isn’t this a good thing? Traveling lets you see the world and experience different cultures! I totally agree, and I am totally sold on this idea. I can’t deny that the trips were fun; I’ve had some great times with the people I traveled with, and even just by myself. But, six trips in two years for a college student? Were they even necessary? I begin to question myself — why the heck am I rushing to “see the world”? I probably have decades ahead of me allowing me to do just that.
My “experience” journey doesn’t stop there. I like to try things, and once you start trying, it’s hard to turn back. During high school, I hated the idea of drinking alcohol and didn’t understand why people liked it so much. Now, guess what? I have even entertained the idea of buying myself a good bottle of wine that cost hundreds (don’t worry, I didn’t). Even though I only really like having alcohol at social gatherings or the occasional beer with a meal, I still want to be the girl who “experiences” fancy alcoholic drinks, so sometimes I order myself a glass of Martini or something. And the bills add up quickly.
And things only spiral from there. I started buying the “healthy food” from the “healthy store.” I buy nuts, seeds, healthy noodles, and hand-crafted pre-mixed beverages. If you ever purchase these kinds of healthy food products, you know the cost adds up. Also, I love eating fancy dark chocolate even when I could substitute it with regular, less-expensive milk chocolate. Shouldn’t this be categorized as “material”? Why am I saying this is also an experience? Probably because I want to experience eating the better food and how it actually tastes — even though I absolutely do not need them for the time being, and I end up wasting my money on them. I don’t mean that college student should eat crap, but there are many ways to eat better without spending more.
To top that off, I recently figured I should try drinking the fancy, expensive, and serious types of coffee — not just the cheap stuff. Consequently, I subscribed to a subscription coffee-tasting service that will be delivered to me on a monthly basis. Interestingly and ironically, I used to tell people how low my caffeine tolerance was, and how drinking even just a little in the early morning would keep my eyes wide open all night. So really, what the fuck am I doing wanting to spend more on coffee? It all goes back to want to be the “experiencer”: I want to experience what it’s like to be the kind of person who drinks fancy coffee. Maybe I should stop calling myself the “experiencer.” It’d be more appropriate to call myself the “fancy experiencer,” or even just the “fancy girl.”
In all seriousness, fuck that. I am making some good money, and I want to stop being fancy. These urges to want to be this type of fancy person ought to be killed right on the spot. Fancy can wait, but wealth building? It needs to start right now.
Lek is a 22-year-old Malaysian Media Studies undergraduate who loves to be in her pajamas whenever possible, and who once wanted to be a journalist but is currently doing an internship in a media planning/advertising company.
Image via Unsplash