As I read and post more, I also get the feeling that I can't get into the minds of the normal folk. What's normal to me is... normal. And yet, it's so not normal to so many other people. And I don't get to see how someone else lives their lives, I don't get to see their daily practices, etc etc... the most I can do is estimate and assume, and that's not a very good way to get data. Like... how would I know if my neighbour spends $2,000 per month or $10,000 per month?
The only indication or estimate I can get is... I use my own spending, $3,000 per month, then I make adjustments based on what I see. But there's so many other things that I don't see...
Continuation from my distraction from my previous post.
I just don't know... I don't know how much my parents spend or how much my sis spends for her monthly expenses. I start by using $3,000 as a benchmark then I estimate and adjust based on what I see that she owns. Maybe she owns a better car, or watch, or a nicer handbag/wallet, etc. But does she spend less on food? Maybe she doesn't eat out as much? Or maybe she eats out more? I wouldn't know.
And if I can't even estimate for my family members well, how can I estimate for others whom I haven't even lived with?
My friends and neighbours? Do we know how much they spend? Do they spend more than us or less? Maybe what I think is frugal is already very luxurious to them? Maybe they always cook at home and bring lunch box to lunch? Maybe they don't go out every week to eat at restaurants? I know my parents don't eat at restaurants. They usually just eat at home or at the food court downstairs. But maybe they buy better groceries?
Do they subscribe to Netflix? What is their home internet plan? How about mobile plan? How often do they change their computer? What hobbies do they have? Are they expensive hobbies?
I'm talking about the family living right beside you or your very close friend. How well do we know about their living styles and expenses? The truth is... we don't know.
We don't know if he's deep in debt, or if he's a millionaire next door. What if he's spending a lot but he's also earning a lot? We also don't know. The China man living on the same floor? I don't know his family background. Maybe he's some rich guy's son from China.
So, many times, when I do such analysis or estimates, I don't start by thinking, I'm a frugal person. It's like hypothesis testing.
If I start by thinking that I'm more frugal than others, then I'll find all the stuff that he has that is more than me and say, "See, he has all these things more than me, I must be spending less than him."
Rather, I start by assuming that I'm the same as him. Then I look for differences. What am I doing more than him? What am I doing less than him?
I may have a car, he may have a bigger car, or he may have no car.
I have no income, he has an income.
I cook daily but eat out on weekends.
I travel quite often, maybe he travels even more than me, or maybe less than me.
How about his toys? Hobbies...
Cos maybe... just maybe... I'm not much different from him. To me, a 10-20% difference is almost the same in dollar terms. What's another $500 per month? And after adding my car expense, I'm not very frugal. I can't just say... oh I'm fetching my wife and I'll be selling it away if she changes jobs. The fact is, the car exists and it is an expense every month, if my wife changes jobs, then I should calculate again from there.
It's very easy for me to pat myself on the back and say, "ERSG, well done. You're spending really little if you don't add in the car."
But I go back to my statement above. And when I compare against anyone without a car. Straight out, it stands out. I have a car expense, he doesn't. That itself, gives him a great advantage over me. Meaning that chances are, he spends less than me. So he needs to indulge himself an additional $1,000 per month and he will match my monthly spending. He could buy himself a Audemars Piguet and he would just match my annual spending.
And that's the truth about it. Everyone has different wants, desires and habits. We have stuff that we want and own, others have stuff they want and own and we allocate our resources differently.
My wife tells me of her friends who go overseas and shops a lot. But they don't spend a lot of time at restaurants. They eat a quick meal and continue shopping. We, on the other hand do the opposite. We eat at better places and don't shop. I think it would be foolish to be 100% confident that we spend less than her friends on trips.
So I do think about it... maybe I'm not so different after all. Cos I am who I am with all the excess baggage, the car, the nice meals, etc... I can't conveniently say "if I... and if I didn't..." then everyone would have the same "if they didn't buy... etc etc"
As I look around me, I feel, I'm not so different in terms of overall spending. They may have kids, so that's a life decision. They will have their ups and downs, and I may regret not having kids... who knows?
Likely, we'll never know. I don't even know how my own family members live their lives and their spending habits. But does it matter? It's not a competition. Their increase or lack of spending doesn't impact me.
Others may have kids and it's an overall decision cos they feel that it would make their lives complete, who am I to say that's worth it or not worth it?
As I look around me, I think... everyone lives their own lives, they make their own decisions. How much I know about their living habits, I'll probably never find out, unless I move in with them, but does it really matter? Nope.
So what if he spends more than me, or less? Doesn't impact me. As long as I'm happy, that's all that matters.
(Unless he borrows money from "ah long" and they splash paint when he doesn't repay them... Then that's a different matter...)
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