16 July 2019

From Burgers to Steaks: One's Personal Values Surrounding Money

When I was a graduate student, I was poor. I was living off a small puny stipend. Years after that, I now have a well-paid job, and I can afford more things than when I was a graduate student. Essentially, before I used to eat burgers, but not I can afford steaks. But just because that is the case, it does not mean that I cannot appreciate burgers anymore.

See, there was a recent episode where I realised explicitly what my values are surrounding money. I spent a significant amount of time with a friend, and it happens that I don't see this friend often. Like me, this friend also had a lifestyle upgrade, let's say. But for some reason, it seemed that we had different perceptions of money.

For example, for my friend, it seemed that money could solve everything. Say you lose a rented apartment's key. No worries, you can just pay for it. Let's say you are waiting on a queue in a cafe and the person before you is taking a long time figuring out what drink to get and whether they have enough money to pay for it. No worries, you just pay for the stranger's drink. Let's say you're hanging out with some other friends who don't have the same amount of money as you, in a fancy restaurant. No worries, you just pay for their meals and claim that you can count it as a business expense to make them feel good.

These episodes make me scratch my head. As much as I have money, I don't throw it away left and right. Perhaps I know where I came from, which is a background that isn't entirely privileged. I came from a middle class family in Southeast Asia, which is definitely different from a middle class family in the Western world. This means that even though I can afford it, I still feel out of my element if I find myself in a four-star hotel, mostly because I don't see the value. This doesn't mean that I pinch pennies and stay in hostels. I think that era of my life is also over. But I find more price conscious apartments and guesthouses, rather than sterile four-star hotels.

Anyway, the primary thing that makes me surprised is that it seems that for my friend, once the steak was tried, then going back to burgers ain't possible anymore. And I wonder why. As much as I have money, I also don't treat it like it's an unlimited resource that I take for granted.

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