Trying the austerity cap for size

Let’s face it. These are grim times. The monthly grocery shopping budget is expanding, helium like, into infinity much like our universe, resulting in one landing at the supermarket at the start of the month with X amount in one’s head for one’s fixed list of groceries and then fainting at the check out counter when one realises that the same amount of groceries as one had procured the previous month, discounts and special offers not withstanding, is now X into 2 and therefore, shifts your entire monthly household budget onto shaky ground resulting in you cutting down some parlour appointments and figuring out how to be a DIY beauty, never mind if that inflicts visual horror onto the unsuspecting world.
This coping with inflation is a serious burden on my limited brain cells, given that I have a few in functional order left. The start of every month has me coping with maid and cook who seem to want raises in alternate order. The dhobi’s bill has me looking guiltily at the iron gathering dust in the distant corner of the cupboard. Eating out has almost disappeared from our lives and takeaway has become a mainstay of our social life, given that planning to go out is actually more taxing than actually going out and then there’s the little matter of petrol. Given that, as I type this, petrol has just a few days ago been hiked to levels more obscene than it was previously, I’m rediscovering my legs if the destination is a short walk away. Thankfully, some years ago, we did ourselves the greatest favour ever by moving home, office and school into the same suburb, a short walk away from each other in a pinch of a city shut down, having been through umpteen of them through the monsoons and bomb blasts and such like in the past. That also does nice things to our petrol consumption, namely keep it low. We also have become cave people of sorts. We never go out. It helps that we live with many televisions and a complex that has pool and clubhouse to keep us entertained enough every single day, and the child doesn’t whine our heads off to go to the mall playzone every weekend to get his fix of entertainment. Speaking of which, the movies have been cut down too. Morning shows are de rigeur. We do not watch evening shows any more. I cannot bring myself to shell out anything over Rs 300 for a single ticket when it is less than half of that for the morning show. And yes, there is the sandwich, popcorn, KFC that follows that more than dents the wallet substantially but I am indulgent parent and don’t mind that given I have saved on the tickets in the first place. I am, I think, two price hikes away from recycling milk packets and doing a Scarlett O’Hara with the velvet curtains. Eh, we don’t wear velvet these days. Ah well, the curtains are safe then. But you get my drift.
Stuff one needs in the house, like milk, oil, grains, veggies, etc are skyrocketing by the day. There’s no cutting down on those, there’s only shopping in a way that one grabs them on offer, compares prices and buys stuff strictly off the list, without getting suckered into ‘just trying out’ a new something in the market. One is also clear about not picking up something without checking the price on the label rather than getting a shock and collapsing at the cash counter when the packet of little wasabi nuts you picked up from the Japanese imports section turns out to be half your entire grocery bill. Yes, I exaggerate, but you get my drift.
The lights are being switched off if the room is empty. The geyser being avoided given that this is the peak of summer and we can all do with some cold showers. Shopping for clothes and accessories is limited to Only When On Sale, to assuage the guilt pangs that hit when one goes overboard. The credit cards have been chopped up, only the debit cards stay put in the wallet. Minimal cash stays in the wallet to prevent one from the temptation to spend when out and about.
Somewhere, this does remind me of my pre-liberalisation childhood, where only the essentials were got in, where there was enough to live by, and never excess. Where one prioritised expenses and waited for things and savoured their purchase because one had waited for so long for them. Where one treasured one’s toys because they were earned through good behaviour or achievement, where they came by so few and far between that they were handled carefully and lasted forever. I see that happening with my son now. He thinks about the toys he wants. He behaves well in order to earn them. He values them, and takes care of them, a far cry from the days when he had more toys than he could count and broke every single one the moment they came home from the store. Or maybe, he’s older now. And more responsible.
What about you? Are you cutting down, pulling the purse strings tighter, cutting out the non essentials from your life?


About Kiran Manral

Kiran Manral published her first book, The Reluctant Detective in 2011. Since then, she has published eight books across genres till date. Her books include romance and chicklit with Once Upon A Crush (2014), All Aboard (2015), Saving Maya (2017); horror with The Face at the Window (2016) and nonfiction with Karmic Kids (2015), A Boy’s Guide to Growing Up (2016) and True Love Stories (2017). Her short stories have been published on Juggernaut, in magazines like Verve and Cosmopolitan, and have been part of anthologies like Chicken Soup for the Soul, Have a Safe Journey (2017) and Boo (2017). Her articles and columns have appeared in the Times of India, Tehelka, DNA, Yowoto, Shethepeople, New Woman, Femina, Verve, Elle, Cosmopolitan, Conde Nast Traveller, DB Post, The Telegraph, the Asian Age, iDiva, TheDailyO and more. She was shortlisted for the Femina Women Awards 2017 for Literary Contribution. She is a TEDx speaker and a mentor with Vital Voices Global Mentoring Walk 2017.
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4 Responses to Trying the austerity cap for size

  1. You manage to be funny even when you are talking about something as serious as inflation and how it is screwing up our lives. The sad part is that it is not going to get better any time soon. The good part it that you and I are not alone. We all are fine tuning our respective spends and cutting back on luxurious indulgences even though ‘appearances’ would lead one to think otherwise. In Melbourne I met enough people who complained about how expensive life as become. I did not feel like shopping myself, even a bit. I am in Kaula Lumpur for the day today and the same Re that used to be Rs 8 to an RM a few years ago is now Rs 18 to an RM. How can anybody want to shop under such circumstances. The kids will have to be satisfied with the tidbits I have found for them at the duty free instead of shopping bags filled with goodies purchased due to the guilt of leaving them behind.


  2. Joe says:

    Hey, you’ve just written the story of my life. Like you, we recently moved to a building with a club house, squash court and a swimming pool. So entertainment is more or less taken care of. My workplace is a 10 min drive from home which is a luxury in a city like Mumbai and my husband works from home. We do dinners out once in a while but we both love to cook so when people come over it’s good old home made food which surprisingly people appreciate more than take aways. And all the money we save goes into grocery bills. My maid just asked for a raise this month. I was dead against it as her salary was just hiked 5 months back. But then i thought, if rising prices affects us so much think about them. One movie less a month won’t hurt us too much.
    Glad to know your brat appreciates what he gets. Don’t see too many kids doing that these days. I remember getting new clothes only during Diwali that too it was one frock or maximum two. I lived on my elder sister’s hand me downs. But my sister kept her clothes in pristine condition so I would look forward to that too. Even today whenever my sister cleans up her cupboard she calls me up and I get the first pick of clothes she’s discarding or giving away to maids or charity and i have no qualms about wearing those even now.


  3. manisha says:

    miss the ac! not putting the ac on all day and night in this sweltering heat is so tough! but looking at the electricity bill at the end of the month, tougher still. we seem to be making more money and getting poorer…


  4. sraikh says:

    Food is our biggest expense here in Americaland. Because of the youngest allergies, we tend to spend a bit more(also the 4 kids doesnt help) We are growing a veggie patch here in the country. Planted tomatoes, zuchinni, peppers a few weeks back. Sprouted meethi seeds and herbs on the kitchen counter.

    We never buy baked goods. The oldest loves baking and she bakes every 2-3 day. Muffins and cakes are packed in school lunches. Spouse packs his lunch every single day. We do not have cable TV and save about $60 each month. We rent DVDs from the library or watch Netflix.($7,99 versus the $60)

    I am also getting hens. However the amount I spent on building the coop is making each egg cost about $3.50 right. In about 3-4 years the eggs from the hens will profitable. However the experience of keeping hens and collecting fresh eggs is priceless.

    The other biggest thing I do is buy almost everything used either from craigslists or garage sales or thrift store. I know this isnt as available in India but thats how I save the most money. From furniture to clothes to books 🙂 Most desis here though think that is the most digusting thing ever. I smile and just keep my money saving tips to myself.


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