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Affluenza: When Too Much Still Isn't Enough

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How much is enough?

Most fresh graduates dream of getting a job with a starting salary of Php 20,000. They aspire to work their way up to a salary of at least Php 50,000. But many have to come to terms that the salary of Php 30,000 is already elusive, even in a good majority of Manila's call center industry. Yes, there are companies that pay that much, even higher, but they also expect more from their workers.

For most of the other BPO's, Php 10,000 to Php 20,000 is the norm all over the country. In the provinces, Php 12,000 is already premium salary.

In the field of advertising, where media planners thrive, Php 50,000 is an easy starting salary. In this field where glitz, glam and big bucks thrive, that is just the basic.

But that's not the point of this discussion. The point is, as your salary climbs to Php 100,000 a month, would that value ever be enough for you?

Some people believe in the lie that the higher you move up the wealth ladder, the more you have to pamper yourself. Since you can now afford the best, better spend like the best. However, that paradigm did not make people like Warren Buffett. Rather, it was frugality, even extreme frugality that created millions and even billions for the world's richest.

Even the Philippines' wealthiest practice the same spending ethic: living beneath one's means. Because of living beneath one's means, these personalities were able to achieve the things they did.

But back to our topic on "How Much Is Enough?" Would you let the pleasures of so-called wealth drag your budget with its expansion, or would you stay the same, spend the same, and live the same even when wealth comes in?

When you live beneath your means, Php 20,000 would be more than enough. When you live beyond your means, Php 35,000 will never be enough. Heck, Php 50,000 will never be enough when you live beyond your means. So what do you do? How do you get a grip on your finances, even as your salary grows?

1. Have a set point. Determine the amount of money that you will be comfortable working with for the rest of your life. Inflation matters little. Live within that budget, whether you earn exactly that or even quadruple that amount.

2. Enjoy life, but set a schedule. You don't have to go out and party every single week. Once a month, or even once every two months will do. And when you go out to party, have a budget and stick to that.

3. You don't need the latest and greatest. Yes, you absolutely have to have that HTC Chacha on a brand new Smart Plan, so you could synchronize your Google Apps. But then HTC releases a newer model, and you have to have that too.

Stop. Look: companies thrive on your hard-earned money. They exist to compel you to buy stuff. Resist. What do you need? A smartphone? Then get one. Then stick to that for the next 3 to 5 years. While technology changes fast, surely 3 years would be enough to weather obsolescence. If you must replace, don't replace your big-ticket items before your schedule. That way, you still keep abreast of trends while maintaining a frugal, non-compulsive way of managing your stuff.

A good measure for laptops and electronics is 3 years. Clothing, two years. Slippers like Ipanema, Havaianas, FitFlop, until it wears out. If you have to have more than one pair, max out at 5. If you keep buying stuff, enlist friends to help discipline you.

Even lower-tier salaries will be enough once you are prudent with your money, as well as when you decide to tune out the siren song of the consumer companies.

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