Every couple of months, my personal life plunges into a state of economic crisis. I become entirely dependent on the state of my perpetually dwindling bank account, the goodwill of my generous friends, and the continued availability of my piggy bank funds. For one to two weeks I relearn life lessons on handling money the hard way –through carefully budgeted food spending and lots of wistful sighing. Honestly, this vicious cycle of personal poverty would be funny if it wasn’t so sad.
The lesson never sticks.
Reasons for Poverty
Some states still have high rates of poverty (despite their relatively high national income) because of a structural inability to properly manage resources and reinforce class equality. The eco-biological idea of “society as a superorganism” would argue that something parallel applies to me as an individual: I am (perhaps intrinsically) incapable of managing resources wisely, and I oscillate wildly between an extravagant lifestyle and an impoverished one.
Hence, in the span of a couple of weeks of self-love, generosity, gallantry and free spending, I can and do spend on: dates in Yabu, CBTL, a masturdate in MIBF2014 (yielding a dozen pens and several books), regular stationery shopping trips, new skirts, expensive debate tournaments, more pens and more dates…
I guess I paid for those decisions eventually.
When I first realized three weeks ago that I would have to live with PHP550 for the next ten days, give or take, I optimistically thought that I could do it.
(Even though I usually spend PHP500 in 1 to 2 days).
For awhile, it really did seem like I would pull through. 7 Eleven sells “Sulit Meals” –rice topped with sisig or giniling or a tuna omelette– for a sweet price of PHP30. I’d buy some Skyflakes crackers and a Zesto juice pack. And that’s it. That’s my daily total, and it amounts to less than sixty pesos (almost near the poverty line) –assuming I just buy and eat food once a day.
And yes, I’d go hungry for a bit. But sometimes I could successfully escape into the wonders of the internet and debating. There goes the saying: feed the mind and kill the body. Or maybe I just made that saying up.
But time made it clear that hunger and opportunities are hard to divorce from. By Day 2 (and wow, I’m really weak), I was already tired of being in a constant state of food insecurity. At some point I asked for more money from my mother, which I justified by the fact that I wasn’t coming home for three weeks for academic reasons. But I hate asking for more from my already generous mother, and so eventually I had plied the sympathies of kind friends and got myself treated to dinner regularly. (And here’s a shoutout to my boss friends, S and J and M. Thank you!). In the next three weeks that followed, I would have emptied my savings account and my emergency savings account, and almost depleted my coin bank to top it all off.
Eating well, apparently, is a non-negotiable value.
Valuing Money = Valuing Myself
The mathematics of life doesn’t lie. Or something.
There is nothing more limiting or more humbling than a dependency brought about by choice and not by circumstance. It was ultimately my choice to deplete my bank account in the days prior to my economic crash — to take multiple taxi rides to MIBF or to random coffeeshops around Manila, to watch Heneral Luna three different times with three different sets of people, to buy pizzas and books and fancy pens, to pay the full reg fee for Luzon Intervarsity out of my own pocket, to look at my expense tracker and delude myself into thinking that I could still live. It was my choice to think that short-term gratification had no long-term consequences.
I feel like I’m living a debate argument on hyperbolic discounting or irresponsible consumerism.
It’s a term I need to remember if I want to overcome my own personal failings. It should be a standard of living –don’t spend more than what you have, set aside some savings, don’t treat other people so much. I need to remember how these last few weeks felt.
It’s a clear-cut lesson: money defines the limitations of what I can and cannot eat, and what I can and cannot do. But perhaps in this particular field I will never become a quick student.
I’m writing this now because I’ve just come into some more allowance, so at least I can say that I’ve survived the last few weeks. But it really may just be an exercise in futility — I just ate dinner at Shakey’s and shopped at NBS this evening.
Cheers to the future.
At least I’m hilariously self-aware?