What Shopee made me realize about our money culture.

Not a political post.

If there’s one thing that really struck me about this whole Shopee global layoffs then Shopee PH’s subsequent hiring of a multimillion peso endorser, more than the moral implications of this (like maybe you needed “blood sacrifice”—my friend’s term—for the sake of stocks, which I’m not saying you did, but hey), it’s how this is a reflection of OUR culture of toxic money mentality.

You know that thing about people borrowing money, not paying it back, and then posting on socmed their travels/new cars/expensive coffee, along with the hashtag #feelingblessed? I’m talking about that.

The nasty habit of buying something you can’t afford while you’re wallowing in losses.

In project management terms: trashing your Cost-Benefit Analysis.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. My credit card and I have been there.

First, let’s talk about the root of my problem: I grew up from a privileged background. My 3 siblings and I were all educated in expensive unis (with me being the only exception as I studied in UP), often traveled with parents, had drivers and helpers, had multiple properties to go vacationing in, frequently went fine dining (this was covered by my mom’s company), was insured and had trust funds. Made disgustingly messy and expensive life choices that were partially cleaned up by my parents as well (yo, just take a look at my previous blog entry).

And then I became poor. Because I moved out of my own volition in my 20s.

I suddenly knew what it was like to struggle making ends meet, eating unhealthy food (which my mom would derisively call “junk”), riding public transportation, and yes, WORKING THREE JOBS just to live comfortably. You know Lorelai from the Gilmore Girls? I was Lorelai. Minus the single mother thing.

The problem was: I grew up used to eating good food and traveling.

So guess what paid for it when I moved out, even while I was living paycheck to paycheck?


The most embarrassing thing to happen in my adult life was for my mom to rescue me one more time from maxing out all 6 digits of my credit card. I vowed to pay her back (and I did), not because she needed the money, but because I was supposed to be adulting, and yet was still behaving like a spoiled bratty princess.

Thing is, how many Filipinos were like the old me?

From observing the posts on Relationship Matters page, I’d say A LOT.

Thankfully, I’ve found ways to control this problem using free budgeting apps at first, and then it improved tremendously when I discovered YNAB (which is not free, sorry). Now I no longer spend money I don’t have. Even if I were to use my credit card, I know there’s money to pay it back immediately.

Sure, I’ll never be as rich as my experience as a kid, and I’m super embarrassed to let my parents ride our hatchback (they’re used to SUVs and AUVs), but I am at that dimensional plane where I am fine where I am. Hubby and I still get to eat what we like, we just make sacrifices here and there so as not to spend money we don’t currently have.

In hindsight, this process of really getting into adulthood, I attribute to moving out of my biggest comfort zone: my parents’ house. (Sure, I explosively clashed with my parents on a deeply cultural level back then, but that house was still comfort zone.) Many people learn adulting during marriage. My husband and I had to learn it earlier than that (since he was already living on his own when I met him). Others who didn’t have such a comfortable family environment would probably also learn it earlier. We’re still learning as we go along, and finding support groups/friends who actually take their financial decisions seriously can help.

Here are some guide questions that I use whenever hubby and I experience the itch to buy something impulsively:

  1. Do we need it?
  2. If yes, can we pay for it in cash?
  3. If yes, is there a more reasonable alternative?
  4. If it’s a want, is there something else we’d need to prioritize the budget for?
  5. If no, how many months should we think about this before we decide to purchase?

This was pretty much the same process we went through when we decided to buy our humble Mitsubishi Mirage hatchback. Sure, we can buy a brand new cutie Toyota Wigo with cash, but we felt that we weren’t willing to spend that much on an item with a value that will depreciate over time. And though we’re ashamed to let our parents ride it, my mom says the car is just right for us as a childfree couple.

Also: Maybe Filipinos could practice the habit of putting extra money where they can’t easily withdraw it. I learned this from my parents recently. Their version of saving extra money is buying properties. My version is putting it in institutions where I can’t readily access them. If you can’t trust yourself when you’re too liquid, you can do this.

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