Friday, October 18, 2013

The Price Of Happiness (Part I: Why You Can’t Argue With A Cheapskate)

If money CAN buy happiness, will you be willing to pay the price? Or will you conscientiously ask for a good bargain?

This discussion about whether or not money can really buy happiness has been nagging me for days on end. It all started when I got a dreadful comment from someone at work. We were having lunch at this posh Japanese restaurant in one of the classiest high-end malls in the metro (it was an invitation, I wouldn’t spend so much on food on a regular basis). I’ve always been a good participant in their conversations, which consist mostly of high-end brands of clothing, overpriced food and coffee, a hundred-thousand-peso collection of shoes, etc., albeit not knowing a thing about it. I don’t share the same appreciation for the branded, upscale lifestyle.

So there we were, talking about which brands they patronize for shoes, or the peso value of the food they just had in some God-knows-where resto, how much they spend for knick-knacks this and that. Then the question landed on my plate: What things do I spend mostly on? And then I stared straight at the wall trying to think of something to say. Well, I do drain my wallet for books. But in retrospect, the most I really spent on books in one stop was less than P5,000. That’s really not much of a “spending” if you ask me. And I do buy really good guitars but it still won’t amount to much.

So will I just spurt out some random thing or will I tell the truth—that I DON’T spend on anything at all? So I came to the safest choice, to tell everyone that, to be honest, I really don’t SPEND on anything in particular. Then came the comment: “You’re such a CHEAPSKATE.”

It was offensive, alright. But come to think of it, hell, I really am a cheapskate. It never occurred to me that I am probably so conscious about my finances that I am forgetting to enjoy my hard-earned money. I rarely shop for clothes, the most expensive piece of clothing I bought was a pair of jeans close to only P2,000. Not much on shoes either, the most I spent was around P3,500 for an Italian-made flats. Not on bags, too, the most expensive of which was about P4,500 a friend of mine got from the U.S. As for accessories, I got my hand-me-downs from my mom and my grandma. Make-up, the average U.S. drugstore variety. And for food, nah, I always go for the exotic, spicy Southeast Asian dishes that barely cost much. No, I’ve never been in a club. No, I’ve never eaten a thousand-peso steak. No, I’ve never bought myself a decent watch. No, not a single bling-bling. And no, never designer shoes. But should that be such a big thing?

Not that I can’t afford it, I can tweak my finances so well it can even accommodate an Antarctica cruise if I wanted to. But the weird thing about it all is that whenever I buy those kinds of things, I would always get the after-purchase regret. And then I would swear I would never do anything like that again.
To echo the famous maxim “Money can’t buy happiness”, I think that perhaps it needs a little adjustment: Money CAN buy you happiness if you spend it on something that makes you happy. And something that would make that happiness last.

People would think I'm a weirdo or that I’m a righteous bitch. But that’s how it’s been with me. The most dreadful feeling one could ever possibly get is regret after a mindless purchase. It almost always destroys my happiness bubble. Because I couldn’t risk feeling remorseful after buying something, I would think twice, maybe thrice, on whether or not I should buy this. Most of the time I would end up buying a cheaper variety, and sometimes end up not buying at all.

Studies show that people respond differently to money. Some are happy to buy jewelry, others prefer to spend it on expensive food. Some are happy to buy fancy clothes and bags, others have bigger priorities like a kid to send to school. As for my case, I happily scrape all my savings for books. I would gingerly stash away extra cash for an out-of-the-country trip. I would spend lavishly on musical equipment. I hand my younger sister her weekly allowance for school. And I am also happily paying up for insurance and stock investments.

And for me, this is the price I pay for happiness. This is, for me, money WELL-SPENT. I’d rather keep to it than dine in a fancy restaurant or splurge on the latest gadget. I’m not saying that spending on these things is not good. Like I said, it all depends on what makes you happy and what will make that happiness last.

I do believe, however, that one shouldn’t judge a person by the way he/she chooses to spend money. That’s just reckless and insensitive and downright stupid.

And, yes, I’m a cheapskate, a scrooge, a miserable dork, however you want to call it. But I’m good that way, thankyouverymuch.

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