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It's not having what you want, it's wanting what you've got -- Sheryl Crow
We've not really written much thing into our blog because we've been busy with different stuff.
Busy Reading and Other Activities
Although I have completed my thesis, and I should be relaxing by now, in reality both of us were busy reading books from library. We're trying to read less blog and read more books. Since we haven't been really reading books lately (instead we read too many blogs), we have just come to realization that book is a different animal altogether from blogs. I'm not saying that books is better than blog, it's just different. We were so used to reading short blog entry that we forgot how it felt to read thick books that contain thorough elaboration of one issue only. Also, how different it feels to be able to flip pages instead of scroll down, mark quotes by pencil instead of copy-paste to local computer, easily refer back to previous chapters with a flick of a page, and search the index pages instead of google. Of course, blog has different advantages such as that it is more recent, more updated, and more interactive. Also, after the thesis, I have also been busy with my breastfeeding volunteering activities, while Indi is busy with sailing and tennis. Indi thinks he needs to lose weight, although I don't think so (I like him chubby). Nevertheless I try to accommodate his wishes to eat less carbs.
Reviewing Needs and Wants
Second baby is coming our way, so we've focused our energy and time these past few weeks in reviewing our financial stance, ranging from reviewing insurance policies, rebalancing investments, and approximating the revised monthly budget upon the arrival of Noe's little brother. The review activity boils down to two key things that are so not new (I'm sure everybody knows about it) but often difficult to implement, and we felt we need to remind ourselves about it. First key point, live within your means - spend less than you earn (so that you save more). Second key point, separate needs and wants, and only spend for needs (and don't lie to yourself by saying that your wants is necessary, because it won't change the facts).
Reviewing Our Indulgence
The thing about needs and wants lead me to ask myself, "Have we been paying too much for our wants instead of needs?" One key thing on focusing on needs is to identify our indulgence and see what can be done about it: keep fulfilling your indulgence, or reduce it, or toss it away altogether.
Let's list my indulgence from the most important to the least:
Indi's indulgence list may be like this (I need to confirm with him):
Ways to Cut Cost on Indulgence
Having listed down the indulgence items, the next step is to identify what can be done about it in order to save more or to cut cost.
I'm so happy that "shopping" is not in the list. I think this is a good indication that we have started to restrain ourselves. Moreover, it shows that the indulgence items can be replaced by means other than buying or shopping.
I'm also so glad to see that almost all items are negotiable. Travel, for us, is the most non-negotiable one. It's almost like "absolute needs" for us because we consider traveling (backpacking) as learning experience while we're young and able, hence we consider travel to be some sort of "investment" - to be able to see the world before we're getting too old and frail to travel. Anyway, we always try to travel at the lowest budget possible, since we don't really like luxury travel. So, we can't eliminate or replace travel from our indulgence list. At the most, we can only reduce travel. Therefore we plan to keep on budgeting for travel and saving a portion of our income for this specific purpose, and to always plan ahead to fulfill this.
The rest of the indulgence items are fortunately more negotiable. This means we do not need to resort to buying the stuff to fulfill our indulgence, and there are alternative ways to achieve the goal.
For me, I need to learn to resist the temptation of buying food (sushi, cakes, cookies etc) on impulse. This is my main weakness, because food expenses are often small, but when accumulated over time, it can become significant. So I have to keep the Ramadhan spirit alive in this aspect. Moreover, I should've learned new recipe so that I can make the food I want in a cheaper way.
As for Indi, he is better than me in overcoming the impulse to fulfill his indulgence. He can patiently wait for opportunity to sail or to play tennis with friends, which is definitely cheaper options than going onto package sailing tours or to enroll in sports club membership.
For techie gadget, so far we're able to resist the temptation to keep upgrading our stuff unless absolutely necessary. As a result, we use our gadgets (cell phones, computer) until the gadgets are totally broken and useless. And we're not ashamed to say, that, to save money further, we even auctioned the useless gadget in ebay (with total honesty of the condition of the item of course). We view tech gadgets as productivity tools instead of having to keep up with latest technology all the time.
For books, music and movie, we are grateful of the library system in Singapore that has great collection of books, music, and videos. Therefore we never buy those things, we only borrow them from library and use it (read, listen, watch) until we finish them or are bored with them. Moreover, by not buying those stuffs, we make more space in our house, and less mess. In fact, currently we're donating and selling our old books, to make room for storage for the second baby. Moreover, instead of buying music or paying for concerts, our appetite is adequately satiated by playing music in our house, watching concert website, borrowing concert DVDs from library, going to free concerts (i.e. on campus), or wait for the opportunity to get paid to attend concerts and write review about it.
For art and photography, we focus on the activities rather than on the tools. As a result, we rarely buy cameras or art supplies. When we need higher-end stuff, we borrow from our good friends who have access to equipments. Also, there are many websites and forum online to get involved with art and photography activities for little or no cost.
As for Indi's passion for cars, we can easily restrain it since the cost of owning a car in Singapore is just unreasonable. So far he's able to drive around using the car-sharing scheme in Singapore that gives pay-per-use access to cars (including petrol, and no need to pay for maintenance and idle costs). Moreover, he's quite satisfied to be able to drive around in road trips when we travel.
Lastly we're grateful that we put clothes and cosmetics as the lowest indulgence priority. This means that we see clothes and priority more as needs rather than indulgence, and therefore, we only buy it after having evaluated the real need of it. As a result, we rarely have problems with impulse buying on clothes and cosmetics. Also we feel that we do not have to resort to branded clothings, and happier when we find cheaper alternatives to the branded items. I guess this is partly because I have been quite satisfied buying branded items when I was in high school and college, and realized that I didn't find happiness from owning branded goods. When people pity me because my husband never bought me branded stuff or pricey jewelry, I am actually very happy that we could put the money into something else more fruitful!
Lessons Learned in Separating Wants and Needs
In a nutshell, there are three lessons derived from identifying needs and wants.
So, what's your indulgence? How to stay frugal and save money without sacrificing so much of your indulgence?