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Year of the Ax

February 7, 2009

Cut cost! Cut cost!

I’m hearing it everywhere I go but the shopping malls remain crowded, proving that some things in life are hard to give up.

What about you? Has life changed for you since the fuel price increase of last year when the world economy started sliding downhill?

My trips to the US and Sg aside, my fixed expenses have gone down. I haven’t spent anything on new gadgets except for 2 portable hard disk casings that cost me less than $50.

Haven’t bought any new clothes either, even for CNY. I have more than enough.

Locally, my food expenses have dropped from $30 a day to about $15. I make my own sandwiches for breakfast. I’ve never lived large anyway. Never had cravings for $50 lunches and $80 dinners and none of my friends tempt me to.

Business related expenses are holding, fortunately. As long as my anchor clients are healthy, things should run normally. But in this climate I have to be prepared for anything so I take nothing for granted.

I’m grateful to have lived as a minimalist because my lifestyle isn’t affected much. The advantage of living a life without debt and consequently very few material possessions to boast is you can smile at a time when everyone is in panic over their debts and soaring prices.

The US credit mess – while being the flashpoint of this crisis – is emblematic of the world’s credit system. We created and supported a culture of living on debt. When I say “we” I mean the financial system and us the consumers. It takes two hands to clap. We celebrated endless consumption and we’ve been told its normal to borrow money to buy things we can’t afford and in most cases, don’t really need. We motivate ourselves with special offers and credit card points.

Well, its correction time. The big ax has come out. The US has lost nearly 5 million jobs. The stock market dropped 89%. The credit system has gone haywire. China lost about 26 million jobs.

Talk about karma.

I think this is a golden opportunity – a time to reinvent life and create new habits, not finding desperate ways to hang on to old habits which I think is what’s happening with these bailouts.

Will we survive the ax and come out of this leaner and smarter? I certainly hope so.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. February 7, 2009 8:12 pm

    Hahha, I still eat out at RM50-RM80 per pax place…..but that was only 3 times in an entire year – and till now, my teeth still hurts! AKA gigi sakit.

    So I won’t go back there again. =_=

    As for others, I’ve really cut down a lot on my spending except for those necessary like a good office chair in my room so that I don’t get back pain. =_= Games…stopped. I rather borrow from people or get AHEM version. Movies….stopped. Internet has a lot of them 😉

    On the other hand, try to read more online, learn new skills and brainstorm for more ideas. This year will certainly be a bad year for everyone IF they don’t work hard. If they do work hard, I think it can be quite a good year. 🙂

    Just like most things, either a year is a good year or a bad year, depends on how you use it.

    Your teeth hurts… what did u eat, rock sugar? 🙂

  2. stella permalink
    February 8, 2009 2:08 am

    Halo,damien. Ya, i hope we will not only survive in the year of ox but also the coming years. Economy crisis, war & climate change have caused a lot of stress & suffering to people & our planet. As you know, i will always say that the only solution is only thru vegetarianism which can stop the killing karma that still exist in this earth.
    This is the qoute from my master.

    Supreme Master Ching Hai: I know we also plant trees and a little technology here and there, and changing some bulbs and all that, and turn off the light one hour here and there. These also help but very little compared to the blessing merit of vegetarian and vegan diet. Because once they turn their heart into this compassionate direction, the compassionate and loving energy that generates is enormous.

    Pls also watch this interesting topic at http://www.suprememastertv.com regarding planet Mars but only in part 1, aired today-sat. u have to follow up the series part 1-6 for the information.
    Between Master and Disciples topic Supreme Master Ching Hai on the Environment:
    Benevolent Messages from Mars: Be Virtuous & Save the Earth – Part 1
    Jan 18, 2009-CA, USA (In English)

    Thanks for the link. Someone once calculated the carbon footprint involved in producing a single burger patty and was astounded. Unfortunately many of us still live to eat, especially here in Asia where meals are the highlight of the day and something to drive great distances for. Its a place where our stomachs determine our destiny.

    Lets hope this is a good year for all animals. 🙂

  3. February 9, 2009 12:55 am

    Damien,

    Good post. However, the bulk of the current world consumption is due to US consumers, which has resulted in the humongous US trade deficit.

    Will people come out leaner and smarter? I think that this may be true for some. My personal views are that:

    1. US will try to re inflate the bubble by printing even more greenbacks to encourage their consumers to spend; and
    2. Consumerism will start shifting to producer nations including BRIC countries and start another binge there…

    I’ve started to read about Austrian economics which seems to explain the current depression quite lucidly. Drop by this site if you are interested:
    http://mises.org/

    That’s a very interesting Stalinist-looking website. 🙂 Well, even the Americans are starting to see visions of an American welfare state, the very antithesis of the Republican ideology, haha.

    I thought consumerism had been with us for a while. Glasnost, a more capitalistic China, etc. all point to the celebration of market forces or the wisdom of crowds. Only I’m not so sure if crowds are as wise as some writers say they are. Too much evidence of the opposite – from the fascination with opportunistic bubbles to the preference for openly corrupt governments. The truth is people make choices that lead to their self destruction all the time and this crisis is no exception.

    So yeah, the US is trying to re-inflate the bubble with bailouts and revive the good old wheeling and dealing days, the precise thing that drove them into this mess. There is a small group of economists who are trying to promote the “do nothing” approach. Basically to let bailout applicants die off because they made foolish bets and they should be allowed to suffer the consequences. You can read about it here if you like.

  4. LC Teh permalink
    February 10, 2009 11:09 am

    “…advantage of living a life without debt and consequently very few material possessions to boast is you can smile at a time when everyone is in panic over their debts and soaring prices.”

    Amen.

    But its fun when someone owes you something. :mrgreen:

  5. February 10, 2009 5:26 pm

    rock sugar is cheap 😛

    …until it turns into cavities and a trip to the dentist. 🙂

  6. LC Teh permalink
    February 10, 2009 8:52 pm

    “its fun when someone owes you something…”
    It only stops being fun when he refuses to pay back, and you’re about broke and wakes up in the middle of the night thinking about how to approach him.

    I meant if someone owes you favors but yeah, you’re absolutely right. 🙂

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