The grass is always greener on the other side. I am pretty sure that this phrase is constantly mentioned as we grow older. Society is tuned to think that bigger and newer things are definitely better. When I was a young kid, I always thought that the $50 toy set in Toys“R”Us is definitely better than the $10 toy set that my mother would get from the shop in my neighbourhood. I will make noise and demand for a ‘better’ toy from my parents. When I was a teenager, I always thought that my yearly family holidays to Genting Highlands in Malaysia or Phuket, Thailand was nothing compared to my friend’s lavish holidays to Goldcoast, Australia or Tokyo, Japan. Back then, I feel ashamed telling my friends where I am going for the school holidays. Now, as an adult, I am surrounded by peers who are constantly competing to purchase a condominium instead of a HDB flat. While I am comfortable living in my 4-room flat in Punggol.
Throughout my life, I have always thought that the bigger the better, the more expensive the better and the more I earn, the more I must spend. But the question is, is it a must to ‘upgrade’ in order to have a better quality of life? Why can’t we be satisfied with what we have?Lifestyle inflation is a vicious cycle and it is partially one of the reasons why some people find it so hard to save their money. Upgrading might give you a temporary sense of achievement and make you look or even feel good, but if you can’t afford it, it will only add on to stress. Paying more for something you deem unnecessary may even make the upgrade unenjoyable. You’re supposed to enjoy the nice things in life, not suffer! In fact, there are many benefits to remaining at the status quo, or even downgrading your lifestyle.
1. You’re Saving More
To some people, the real problem may not be how much money you bring home but how much money you end up spending. Cutting down on your expenses is a great way to start saving money. Your savings can go a long way if you don’t spend a lot. Let’s take our one essential item, our smartphone for an example. Apple releases a new iPhone every year, but is it necessary to keep up with the trend and purchase a brand new phone at every release? If you’re tempted by the hype of the new iPhone, stop right there. There’s no real need to upgrade to the latest model of the iPhone if your current phone is still in a good working condition. With that, you’re essentially saving a substantial amount each year by just cutting down on this big purchase.
Moreover, you can start saving more by downgrading your shopping options. When you’re at the grocery store, instead of just sticking to a list and only buying what you need, learn to shop house brands. House brands like NTUC and RedMart produce their own household items, which you can acquire at a much cheaper price instead of the more commonly used brands. For instance, for your dishwashing detergent, instead of sticking to famous brands like Mama Lemon, consider using NTUC’s house brand. It is a few cents cheaper and does the exact same function. That few cents can be consolidated to be a lot over time, and this saving can go a long way. Choosing NTUC’s dishwashing detergent instead of Mama Lemon is one way you can save more with downgrading. There are many ways to reduce your expenses and save more, financial education and strategies to manage your money is key to your financial success.
2. It’s Environmentally Friendly
Downgrading is not just about replacing a more expensive product with a cheaper alternative. Very often, when you’re downgrading, you’ll end up consuming less as a person as you learn to focus more on your needs and not on satisfying your wants. There will always be newer things, new trends and new technology out there. Each time you acquire these new things, you’ll get sick of the items that you’ve bought and go out and look for newer, shinier things. This cycle is bad for the environment as consumerism generates a lot of waste and depletes our resources. Green consumerism is also not a sustainable solution, as ‘green’ products still encourage purchasing and contribute to waste.
In addition, this process is never ending and will continue until your money eventually runs out. What will you do then? Research has shown that buying less overall proved to be beneficial for the environment and a consumers’ happiness. If so, isn’t downgrading a win-win situation for the planet and for ourselves? Learning to adopt proactive financial strategy and putting aside money to live within your means has positive well-being effects on our mental health and the planet. Start by only buying what you need, setting aside a budget when shopping and sticking to it.
3. You’re Marie Kondo-ing
Who is Marie Kondo? Marie Kondo is a Japanese organising consultant who is known for her minimalism-inspired approach to tackling your stuff. The aim of the KonMari Method is to have a house full of items that spark joy. You’re probably wondering what does this have to do with downgrading. By downgrading, you’re probably shopping less and spending less, which means less clutter in your house and less hoarding. That gives you a better living environment that is also less stressful. Everyone who is lost with how to manage their finances also need a Marie Kondo for their money, such as a certified financial planner to guide you along the way.
Paying full-price for something doesn’t guarantee that it gives you 100% satisfaction and happiness. Instead of having the mindset to always upgrade, adopt the mindset of being happy with what you have. Be happy to be able to buy the things that give you ‘enough’. Instead of depleting your money on a fancy new sports car, why not learn to be happy with the journey on a bus. If you ask me, I’ll rather be smiling aboard a bus than be stressed and crying on my new Ferrari.