I always pay for my purchases upfront. When I shop for my groceries and chocolates, I pay for them in full. When I buy something slightly more extravagant such as a bag, chair or laptop, I also pay in full. Upfront.
I thought everyone paid in full for what they bought – with the exception of very expensive things such as houses, cars and boats – until I moved back to Melbourne. Paying by installments is popular and heavily in-your-face promoted by countless of places from supermarkets to hardware stores here in Australia.
Electronics store in Melbourne’s city offers generous installment agreement payment plans. Photo: Mabel Kwong
When I pass what I want to buy to the cashier at Target, I always get asked if I want a “lay by”. That is, I always get asked if I want the departmental store to keep my “purchases” for me, purchases that usually cost no more than $100, until I paid for them in full by installments. While growing up in Singapore and Malaysia for a decade, I was never ever asked if I wanted to pay in chunks when buying clothes, food and furniture.
“No, no, no! I’m not buying Smith’s Potato Chips this week. They’re not on sale, $3.00 for one bag this week. Crazy.”
So says my mum every time I finish the snacks when I lived at home and want more. She hardly buys toilet paper, detergent, chocolate and other necessary household items unless they are on sale. You can call her thrifty. Frugal. Stingy. A penny-pincher.
Tall towers of coins on the shelf in my bedroom. Yes, 5-cent coins make up the tallest one. A sign of a thrifty Asian person, perhaps? Photo: Mabel Kwong
I used to laugh at my mum counting her coins when she came home from buying groceries, making sure no cashiers had shortchanged her and that she didn’t drop a single cent on the way back. I laughed and clapped my hands like a seal until one day when I was in between jobs, I needed money. I realised then my parents and many Asian generations before me work hard for their money and save for a number of reasons.