Very early in my adolescent life, I’ve learned a wise Chinese saying: “When you must spend, you spend; when you could save, you save.” It’s a short and plain sentence. It may not strike any accord to your mind, if you simply scan through it. But for me personally, it has taught me everything about the delicate balance between spending and saving money. It defines what frugalness truly means.
The choice between spending and saving money is always a personal one. For many people, it’s a constant fight against one’s material desires. For some people on the other extreme, it’s a default choice of saving, a tedious time-consuming almost-love affair of pinching every last penny. Where is the proper balance? How should a person deal with his or her money? For the most part however, the choice to spend or to save is not really a choice, but just a part of the personality. But that doesn’t mean that a wise choice cannot be made under different circumstances.
Contemplating over the Chinese saying, I’ve come to realize that the keyword for the spending choice is in “Must”. By default, one should save money. But what exactly constitute as a MUST situation? Certainly, if the MUST is simply driven by one’s own internal desires, then it is a materialistic spending. It’s not wrong of course. It’s simply a personal choice. But the MUST can also be driven from external factors such as healthcare expenses, etc. Under those circumstances, obviously, you don’t have the saving choice. You just have to spend the money.
Furthermore, the saving choice is qualifed by COULD, an opportunistic and voluntary word. If such chances or choices exist, then you should save. Although it doesn’t say that you shouldn’t go out of your ways to save money, the choice of saving money is essentially an opportunistic and voluntary action. If it’s easy to save some money on certain things, in fact, it’s almost stupid to do otherwise. Why in the world you want to spend extra for exactly the same or similar thing, if it takes roughly the same amount of ease and time? Some people say it’s because of the stores are not like malls. Some say it’s an inferior brand. Some say it’s an inferior quality and that’s why they don’t want to save on it. Out of all the above, I think only an inferior quality makes sense to me. And I must emphasize that brands don’t equal to quality, although that is usually true and widely accepted.
For me, being frugal is saving money opportunistically without miserly not spending on the necessary things. The earned money is to be spent, not to be hoarded forever. When the circumstances dictate spending, then you must spend. Not spending the money when you must simply defeat the very purpose and utility of money. On the other hand, if you don’t save much and spend your money for every “must” circumstance, then I have another Chinese saying for you: “for those people who don’t contemplate the consequences in the far future, they must have troubles awaiting in the near (term).” Why? Because they didn’t think nor prepare for their present situation in the past either.