WHY DON’T YOU BUY A NEW PHONE?

Exactly 16 years back I bought my first mobile phone. It was a second-hand phone at Rs.2000, that I bought from my cousin. If someone will give me the same phone free of cost today, I will not accept it because it is an obsolete product it has lost its value forever. But that time, it was so precious to me.

Now, if I look back on my journey of buying different phones in the last 16 years then if I am not wrong, the phone in my possession now is the 10th phone. Surprisingly, the phone I am using now has already stepped in its fifth year with me. This means the previous 9 phones were bought within a span of 11 years. BAD!!!

Maybe, I can blame on the evolution of phones which made me keep on buying the recent ones progressively. And I stopped buying any more after I reach a point where I can’t afford to buy another having better features in it than what I am using now.

So the question I asked myself after I read Aastha’s article on this topic, “Why did I stop buying phones after 2016?”

Is it because I learned a lesson about using my money wisely or because the price of the phone I want is not so pocket friendly for me?

I was repeatedly coxed to buy a new phone and was offered money even but I just didn’t go for it but to be honest, a number of times, I had been tempted to just go for it and buy a brand new phone.

I truly do not have greed for a lot of luxury in life. I don’t want clothes, a house, any furniture, a vehicle, home appliances, and a TV, etc. But when my eyes fall on any stationery or gadgets or phones especially, I feel the greed demon dancing within me, coaxing me to give a thought about arranging money and buying them.

But each day as I am maturing I am trying to focus on self and spiritual disciplining. I want to quote the Bible verse that has always made me understand the deeper meaning of acquiring and accumulating wealth and assets.

The verse reads –

“Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

I understand very well that I should not worry about my life, what I will eat or drink; or about my body, what I will wear. Because I know that life is more important than food, and the body is more important than clothes? Different cuisines won’t improve my life or all different fashionable clothes won’t make me stay healthy. In fact, I should worry about things that are more important for my life and body.

So if I am challenged with the question – “Why don’t you buy a new phone”, I am strong enough to say, “I will buy a new phone only when the present phone is out of order or I will enjoy a new one if you are buying one for me.”

I have learnt to say NO to my greed and the desire to accumulate. Have you?

Stay blessed!!!

BEING A POCKET FRIENDLY CONSUMER

 

One question: Have you spent less after the pandemic lockdown till date? 

My answer to this question is a profound yes. 

It actually did surprise me. Let me tell you, I was never an over spender. My parents never gave any pocket money. I think they did me a big favour by not giving me any money. Obviously, I never threw any birthday parties or such sort of things. I have never been to a movie with friends either. All this might sound very insane to some. My parents are very protective. I am from a very conservative family too. I have never seen  my parents indulge in luxury. Anything more than need was very well thought about before we bought.  I learnt that money is very valuable and important as well.

From my early years in college, there was a wrist watch I really wanted to own. It would cost some 4000 INR to purchase that. My first salary was four times more that the cost of that watch. I didn’t buy the watch. Not for one month or one year. Four years into my career, in one of the conversations with my colleague I realised that this wanting of mine has not been fulfilled yet. The very next month, I bought that watch. I was very satisfied with that purchase. I realised, I still follow what I learnt from my parents.

One more thing I always spared myself from owning is a car. I have two favourite cars till date, the Chevrolet Spark and the Tata Nano. It was always in my power to own those. There were times I was so tempted to buy them. Once I stood outside of the Tata showroom glancing at the Nano fore more than an hour. That day it would have taken just a few steps and a swipe of my credit card to own the car. I resist that temptation by asking myself the need to have a car for myself. I am not at all a greedy person. There were days when I paid my credit card bills that were close to 1 Lakh INR. I can own an Audi, but, I won’t. If car really becomes a necessity, I would buy something reasonably good than spending a hefty amount on an Audi. 

I have a credit card. I owned one from the time I started working. I wanted to have the most convenient means to spend but still have that control on how much I actually spend. One might say it is tough to be so, but I would say that requires tiny bit of self discipline. I don’t drink. I don’t party. I don’t visit fancy restaurants. No fine dining. I don’t buy ornaments. I don’t go to parlour for any beauty treatments. Please don’t judge me by what I said, because none of them give me happiness. I find joy in travelling, trying different cuisines, dining at offbeat places, trying local food etc. All this is expenditure too. These are not necessarily needs all the time, sometimes that is just our “me” time. 

I think as humans, we have to balance between when we spend and when we shouldn’t rather than what we want or need. There is no particular thin line or thick like that differentiates need from a want. That depends on many other factors. Sometimes, it helps to just go handsfree and buy whatever we like. This definitely helps improve the mood and make us feel better but, this cannot become a habit. The other times it is just better to not spend.  At the end of the day, what makes us happy could be different on different days. 

Coming back to the question I started the article with, yes, I almost completely stopped buying clothes or shoes for more than 6 months. Just this month, I went ahead and bought some stuff. I bought clothes, some plants, some area rugs for home. It felt nice spending after a long time. If we can control our urge to not overspend, we won’t fall prey for consumerism at large. 

“A person buying ordinary products in a supermarket is in touch with his deepest emotions.”
― John Kenneth Galbraith

MATERIALISTIC ME AND SPIRITUAL ME

I still remember the day I got my first salary. It was Rs. 18234/- on 29th September’2006. I even remember the ATM where I checked the balance and for the first time a bank account in my name had so much money. Even though the amount was expected, I was delighted beyond limits. I couldn’t sleep that night because of happiness. Initially, I didn’t even know how to spend this money. I never got more than Rs. 5000/- from my parents, so I was obviously not used to having so much money in my account. And then I entered the malls of the cities and got the taste of wearing branded clothes and shoes, eating in exotic restaurants, buying expensive branded cosmetics and whatnot. 

Fast forward to year September’ 2007 – my salary was slightly higher than the first salary that I had received but I was now used to the fact that by 20th of each month – I would be left with a few hundred in my account and I would somehow manage for the rest of the month. I started using credit cards which was a huge mistake. I realized that mistake only when I ended up not paying credit cards bills completely over the years and eventually was indebted like crazy. 

Fast forward to the year 2020 – my salary is way higher than the year 2006. However, the situation is not very different. Of course, I have bigger responsibilities now like home loan, car loan, school fees, investments etc. – but money is still not enough. I have realized that even if my income is 100 times what it is today, it still won’t be enough. There is no point running after money and this has really changed my perspective towards life. The work that I do, I really do because it makes me happy and because the sense of achievement is much greater than the amount that gets credited to my account at the end of each month. 

The year 2020 has made me go a bit towards spirituality. And I have learnt the following about materialism from the various spiritual books and videos that I am into these days:

  1. Materialism without any spiritual direction will lead you in a very negative situation. We all know that a lot of money makes you lazy. Problems like diabetics, obesity, drug or alcohol addiction are a few examples of having more money than your needs. Your wealth is supposed to make you happy and not miserable. If it makes you miserable, then there is something terribly wrong because your own hard-earned wealth is not working for you.

This concept is something that I have accepted. There is some amount of spirituality needed in life to ensure that I don’t flow down the gutter only to realize that I have wasted my life. If I don’t have my own goals sorted in my head, it is very easy to just sway away with what is happening in the world. My spiritual journey helps me stay on track and not lose control over my own thoughts, feelings and emotions. 

2. One cannot give up all materialism because that is not practical. However, there should be a balance between materialistic and spiritual life so that we stay on the right track. The ideal balance is – Be as materialistic as if you are alive only for this day. Be as spiritual as if you are going to live for eternity. 

This concept is very confusing to me. If I earn only as much as I need today, what about all the money that I am saving for my retirement, for my son’s education etc? I guess this concept is too idealistic. So, I have made my own balance. For every paisa that I have to spend, I ask myself if this is really needed. For every extra effort, I make only to earn another paisa, I ask myself if I really need to earn more money. More often than not, I know the answer. I must admit this balance is very delicate. And for every person, this balance is very different. As long as I am grounded with my spiritual energy, this balance is just an intuition or a feeling. It is not judgment or prejudice. It is not like depriving yourself of joy. In fact, this balance is supposed to make me joyful and if it is not, then the balance is not right.

Over the years I have learnt to make peace with money (or lack of it). I have learnt that money is never enough because desires are never enough. I have learnt that spirituality does not mean giving up entirely on the materialistic aspect of life. Spirituality means to make my materialistic aspect bring joy to me (not misery). I have learnt that if I let the world take control of my life, the material aspect of my life will go out of control because the world is largely driven by consumerism. 

THE CATCH 22 SITUATION

Most of the 90’s kids have grown up in an India of limited means. During our childhood, we have all seen a cousin or a friend from UK or States who had those Hershey’s Kisses, Mars bars or the heavenly smelling microwave popcorn, Coke cans, the Nintendo games, the colorful jackets with Disney characters… Whereas we were still stuck in the world of Parle G and Gold spot. Our parents provided for us but there was always a limit to spending and availability of things too.


A decade down the line we have become parents now and by God’s grace are earning well. And we decide that our kids won’t have to yearn for small things like we did during our childhood. This futile effort of ours to live our own childhood through our children makes us go overboard. So now the kids get everything branded. Cost is no bar as mostly there are only one or two children in a household and both parents are earning.


Another decade down the line these children are teenagers now. We thought we gave them all the luxuries in life. But these are basics of life for them they yearn for more… And the story goes on…

I see this as a vicious circle in which we will be caught generation after generation… In order to feel that we are much more successful and accomplished than our previous generations. We fall into the trap of materialism… And this deluded search for happiness never ends.

The more we accumulate,
the more we tend to self-suffocate.

The more we give away and distribute,
the more we gain a generous repute.

It is not about just earning a name,
But about a godly value to boldly proclaim.

CONSUMERISM IS HERE TO STAY

We live in a largely polarised world, with respect to the economy. On one extreme, we have the least developed countries of the world with abysmal GDPs. Many of the Sub-Saharan countries and a few Asian countries would be found at this polar. On the other extreme, we find the highly developed countries with GDP figures envied by those at the other extreme. Most Western and a few Middle-Eastern countries come under this category. Whether consumerism rises up and thrives or rises up only to wither away or doesn’t rise up at all, is thus, polar-specific.

What then is needed for a culture of consumerism?

A high GDP, high levels of purchasing power parity, availability of a fertile market, great advertising strategies, consumers’ desire to attain more, moderate to high levels of competition for acquisition, an I-do-not-care-much-for-others attitude and a collective societal outlook to ascribe success to materialistic prosperity.

Does Consumerism mean well or is it a curse disguised in glam garbs?

The answer to this is not an absolute one.

If we analyse the phenomenon of consumerism from a viewpoint of the economy, it is a wonderful blessing! A consumerist society pushes its country higher up the ladder of economic prosperity. With high purchasing power parity of a given population, a high demand keeps the supply chain rolling with increase in manufacture, increased engagement of the labour force, more employment opportunities, more innovations and inventions leading to more capital investments in diverse ventures and an even bigger boost to the economy in return. The cycle goes on. In fact, this is how the big economies of the world have come to be known as ‘big’. A developed economy signifies a progressive culture.

Coming to the flip side of it, it puts a toll on the environment (think of the millions of trees that lose their lives to give us paper and stationery of various makes and designs or the tons of non-biodegradable waste that are generated due to high consumerism or the huge quantities of chemicals that are churned up in laboratories to come to the aid of the cosmetic industry), depletes traditional values (substituting personal ownership in place of collective ownership thereby increasing unhealthy competition), creates a false sense of need (when you go to a mom-and-pop store you ask for all that you have scribbled in your list, but when you leisurely stroll across a mall trolleying your basket along there is more likelihood of buying items that are not necessarily on your purchase list), creates a false sense of deprivation (a FOMO feeling), an incorrect understanding of life and self (defining self and others in terms of possessions, acquisitions and wealth rather than in terms of character and personality traits), increases animosity, jealousy and envy (owing to cut-throat competition to thrive in a competitive market) and lastly, leads to a spiralling of psychological disorders (starting from commonplace insecurities, insomnia, anxiety to various psychosomatic disorders and so on).

My analysis above brings forth more of the adverse impacts than the boons of economic prosperity and harnessing of creative potential. Consumerism is here to stay. With the world powers delving deep into economic growth, we cannot rub consumerism off our backs any time. Rather, we would see ourselves being sucked into the whirlpool of an even intense cycle of consumerism.

How to deal with it, then? How do you curb it when shopping is just a mouse click or a phone tap away? How do you protect your gullible self from falling prey to luring advertisements? How do you keep yourself from not trying new products? How do you keep yourself away from not availing lucrative discounts and offers which hoodwink you into believing that you sure need/ would need a product? Would you be willing to keep yourself one step behind your counterparts?

The key is self-control. Knowing what you want and going in for only that though other lucrative stuff may catch the eye, is vital.

The world economy is at its crippling worst now, because of Covid restrictions. But then, didn’t we all survive with only basics at our disposal for months together at a stretch? Didn’t we survive without spending endlessly on mindless wants, by only sticking to our needs? Everyone did. Crib, cry, struggle or whimper – all of us lived without the wants that we had so far mistaken to be our needs.

While it is not wrong to indulge occasionally, it is definitely not beneficial to ride on a consumerist spree. In an attempt to boost up the economy, the individual losses need not be miscalculated.

The next time you are tempted to buy that one product simply because you would get another one free, think twice. If you are bitten by the green-eyed monster and get the adrenaline rush to acquire something that has pushed another someone up the societal ladder of prosperity, pause and rethink. By all means it is wise to wait for Sale Seasons and Discount Offers to shop for essentials, but to spend money and buy irrespective of requirement is nothing but engaging in the thankless job of boosting the economy at the expense of one’s personal well-being.

It is unwise to define success in terms of mere material prowess bereft of priceless human values. So while it is important to do our bit to keep the circular motion of money intact, it is equally pertinent to make wise choices for expenses and investments without being deceived by the quagmire of consumerism.