I must confess: I’m among the least frugal people I know.
Just ask my mother.
When I was in college, I would sometimes call her to get some additional allowance…after only two weeks since my monthly allowance “replenishment”.
I know — what a louse.
And when I started earning money myself, any extra income went down the drain with my frivolities: clothes I didn’t take care of, expensive gifts that were bought based on my own criteria and not the recipients’, plane tickets to a country I didn’t even have a visa for (Japan).
The situation became so bad at one point I didn’t have a peso to my name — and I was 27. I had chickenpox, was in a dingy room, and had no one to look after me — except, again, my mom who instantly sent me cash when I finally called for help.
I resolved never to be in that situation again.
And thank God I’ve kept that resolution.
There was no magic formula, but what I’ve seen to be most useful in fighting overspending was knowing the true cost of any thing I bought.
Now here I have a formula, which is weird because I’ve always been math-averse. But this, I’m proud to say, is a mathematical formula I’ve come to love:
[Cost of item] / [Number of days I expect to use it]
I realized that, in the end, what we want is not simply how affordable or beautiful or useful a thing is, but how beautiful or useful it is for how long and for how much everyday.
Material endurance and timeless aesthetics should be paramount to any of my purchases, I realized. This way, I could ensure I was getting the most value of every peso spent.
For example, a P10,000 tablet that lasts only a year costs about P27 per day. On the other hand, a P40,000 tablet that lasts for about five years actually costs about P22 per day. Obviously the second option has more bang for your bucks. And its daily cost is so much less than even a decent snack.
A lot of people are scandalized to see others buy “expensive” stuff (I used to be among the former). But now I see the wisdom behind such “extravagant” expenses. Those people are, ultimately, more frugal than those settling for cheaper items that last only for several uses.
“But not everyone can afford to spend so much at any given time,” some may say.
Fair enough, and I totally understand because that used to be my logic, too. But that high price won’t really matter so much once you’ve saved up. The benefit of acquiring the thing after some saving up trumps the discomfort of a long wait.
So that’s it: a simplified formula to knowing whether something, big or small, is worth buying.
Got a better idea? I’d love to hear it in the comments!