Thursday, April 18, 2024

Budget blues

By Kyle Ianne Machitar | November 30, 2023

Have you ever wondered if today is the day to feast or fast?

Those who’ve found themselves in this daily dilemma realize that reality is a bit more complex—particularly for budget-conscious students like myself, whose problems go beyond the usual sphere of third-world citizens. 

The struggle isn’t just about satisfying hunger. It’s an intricate dance with affordability and essentiality where each meal becomes a carefully calculated choice—a delicate balance between flavor and frugality, nourishment and necessity.

As a student living away from home and attending a university far from the familiar, independence becomes a daily endeavor. The challenge lies in managing and securing basic commodities, from toiletries to laundry, internet, and transportation. 

Efficiencies are found in brief five-minute baths, preserving clothing life by staying indoors, sidestepping strenuous physical activities, and walking home while sipping an iced caramel macchiato from Starbucks.

The notion of opportunity cost looms with every peso I spend, prompting a conscious contemplation on whether to indulge in a dinner out or allocate the funds for five days worth of meals. This deliberation becomes a taxing five-minute reflection during each spending episode. Despite these attempts to rationalize and justify my post-expenditure decisions, the process failed to satiate my hunger afterward.

There was a time when I found myself with only 100 pesos, needing to stretch it for three days. Fortunately, I survived by adopting an “only-egg diet” and incorporating daily cardio through walking home. Despite the financial challenge during those days, the experience was a valuable lesson. It prompted me to reassess my imprudent habits and apply the financial literacy lessons I gathered as a business student. 

I initiated a simple budgeting strategy by partitioning my allowance over a specific timeframe—deducting basic needs from the total allowance. Ensuring I had three nutritious meals daily helped minimize the risk of unexpected “sick expenses.” After calculating the surplus in my allowance, I divided it between mental health expenses and savings. 

While saving money is undoubtedly important for financial stability, it’s equally important to acknowledge that occasional spending is needed to reap the benefits of our efforts. Deserving the finer things in life, relaxation, and self-indulgence are vital for destressing—a reminder not to be too hard on yourself. 

Although being budget conscious remains a key principle, it is noteworthy that there must be a harmonious chord between fiscal responsibility and the well-deserved joys life offers.


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