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 thing.”
So says my mum every time I finish the snacks 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 last year when I was in between jobs, my mum stopped giving me pocket money. I realised then my parents and many Asian generations before me work hard for their money and save for a number of reasons.