Frugality as an option

By Herbert Vego

I HAVE hooked myself to Internet videos promoting frugality or thrift as the best option to survive inflation, which has disabled wage earners from spending money “as usual”.  The advocates preach “belt tightening” as the common solution or seemingly different solutions that meet half-way, all aimed at coping with galloping prices. .

“Always spend below your means,” one of them stresses.

“Reduce your wants and needs,” another opines, which is akin to eliminating expensive habits. I remember a friend who has quit playing golf.

“The best way to cope with inflation,” another opines, “is to increase your income as much as possible.”

But of course, while some of us are in the position to heed those pieces of advice, they are easier said than done by the poor who could not even eat three meals a day.

During a restaurant dinner with a friend, I discussed the matter with him. I knew him to be better off than I was.

He laughed while showing me his palm with “triangle holes” that allegedly characterize the cash-strapped.

“I always run short of cash,” he complained as if to confirm he believed in palmistry.

“Yes, you do,” I half-agreed. “But it’s because you are generous to the less fortunate. And you invest in business and real estate where you expect return on investment years later.”

In turn, he complimented me for being “thrifty.”

“I can’t afford to splurge as I used to do eh,” I quipped matter-of-factly.

I had lost heavily to Jai-Alai betting in Manila way back in the 1970s. Jai alai is a sport where numbered players bounce a ball off a wall.

Anyway, I am telling this story now for whatever it is worth to readers who suffer from the present inflationary wave.

Rather than cry over spilt milk, I look back to that gambling vice as a learning experience from which to redirect my path. Experience, everybody knows, is the best teacher.

There was a time when, not feeling well, I checked my bank account and discovered an almost zero balance. As a consequence, I hammered my green Buddha for coins with which to buy medicine.

On the way to the pharmacy, I stopped by a shoe store. The pair of leather shoes I had hoped to buy was still there but it only aggravated my sense of loss because the money I had stashed away for it was no longer in my wallet.

I took stock of my situation, thinking of ways and means to recover my respectable financial shape.

In the next few months, I kept an expense diary to know exactly how much and for what I had spent. It surprised me to find out that I had splurged on restaurant meals, beer and coffee – not just for myself but for the barkada.

Having traced the root of my financial problem – overspending — I promised to myself to eat outside only whenever I had extra income.

Having determined my shopping patterns, I steered clear of temptations.

To this day, even if I frequent the malls, I prefer bargain-hunting and shun impulse buying. Instead of buying a pair of branded denims, I buy ten pairs at the ukay-ukay outlets. I am convinced that buying bargain items is a realistic weapon to beat inflation.

It’s the opposite of what I used to do when a splurge on credit-card purchases made me “high” – until payment was long overdue and I was receiving “love letters” from the card company.

I am free again from stressful debts. Whenever I feel like wanting to buy something I can live without, I distract myself with a priceless alternative – say, playing a computer game, or watching an old movie on YouTube.

At the end of every month, I go over my receipts to determine which bought items I could eliminate next time. That way, no matter how small, I manage to stash away a portion of my income from freelance writing.



AN item in this corner recently relayed the rumored intention of the Iloilo Electric Cooperative (ILECO) to contest the legality of the new law (RA 11918) granting MORE Power the authority to compete with ILECO on the ground that the latter has exclusive coverage over what it already covers. But as everybody now knows, MORE Power would extend operation from Iloilo City to Passi City and 15 towns of Iloilo.

In his Facebook post, lawyer-accountant Dominador Tersol reacted, “Grant of exclusive franchise to public utility services is prohibited by the present constitution. Read the case of Tawang Multi-Purpose Cooperative vs. La Trinidad Water District, GR No. 166471, March 22, 2011.”

To briefly recall, in 2000, Tawang Multi-Purpose Cooperative (TMPC) applied with the National Water Resources Board (NWRB) for a certificate of public convenience (CPC) to operate and maintain a waterworks system in Barangay Tawang, La Trinidad, Benguet.

La Trinidad Water District (LTWD), a local water utility created under P.D. No. 198, opposed TMPC’s application, arguing that its franchise was exclusive.

Nevertheless, NWRB approved TMPC’s application, ruling that LTWD’s franchise could not be exclusive since exclusive franchises are unconstitutional, and that TMPC is legally and financially qualified to operate and maintain a waterworks system.