Opinion

3 Ways Our Stressful Lifestyles Make Us Spend More

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Joanne Poh

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Despite complaining about the high cost of living, middle-income Singaporeans seem to enjoy a fairly high disposable income. We are some of the Asia Pacific’s top spenders on dining out, travel more than most of our peers in the region and have a penchant for shopping overseas. Not exactly the lives of paupers, then.

There is no doubt that our spending habits aren’t all that modest. But is the only reason the fact that we grew up in a big, materialistic city and are courted by garish advertising everywhere we turn? Or could our fast-paced lifestyle also have something to do with it? Here are four reasons our stressful lives could be behind some of our more extravagant spending choices.

 

1. Stress makes us overly-indulgent

Many Singaporeans PMETs subscribe to the work hard, play hard ethos. And since people hwew work pretty damn hard, in fact some of the longest hours in the world, it stands to reason that many feel they deserve to enjoy their time off to the fullest, no matter how much it costs.

There are scores of young PMETs working in finance, law and accounting who spend obscene amounts of money every weekend, but what you don’t see is them stuck in the office every day from Monday to Friday till 10pm or beyond.

If you find that you can’t survive without weekly visits to the spa because of your stressful job, frequently turn to retail therapy to make a bad day at work feel less crushing, or feel desperate to escape on an overseas holiday every few weeks, your stressful lifestyle might be pushing you to spend.

 

2. It can leave us with little time or motivation to manage our finances

Getting your finances in order isn’t about eating instant noodles at every meal or sitting home and doing nothing every weekend. It’s not about being passive and letting life pass you by. Rather, it’s about being proactive and making changes to your life that can reduce your spending and/or boost your income.

For busy people who have too much work, that smells a lot like effort that many don’t want to put in. But being too lazy to put aside the time to manage your finances simply means you end up spending more than you should.

There are many simple things you can do to reduce our spending, such as cancelling subscriptions you no longer use and checking MoneySmart’s refinancing wizard to see if it’s time to refinance your home loan. If you feel like you don’t have the time to get your financial act together, start with these small, easy wins first.

Once you’ve gained some momentum and feel ready to commit yourself to a more extensive financial overhaul, you’ll be motivated to carve out the time to track your monthly spending and analyse where you can cut back, learn to cook and start preparing more meals at home, and take up cheaper leisure activities.

 

3. Stress makes us insecure and afraid to lose face

Part of the reason life is stressful in Singapore is the fact that we live in a very face-conscious society. Everyone is scared of looking bad in front of other people, whether they be their relatives during CNY, their former schoolmates who all seem to be doing better than them, or even strangers on the street.

Insecurity and the desire to make ourselves look good in the eyes of others often leads to bad spending decisions.

Guys who buy big, fancy cars because they think it will impress chicks, parents who insist their children throw lavish wedding banquets so they can show off to their friends and relatives, and ladies who are afraid to be seen in the same outfit twice base their purchasing decisions on what other people think. Unfortunately, the one thing other people don’t care about is your bank balance.

Do you ever spend money because of stress? Tell us in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.