I have never seen so many designer bags until I moved here. They are surprisingly ubiquitous, popular among the youth, the elderly, working adults, and metrosexual males. I’ve even seen them carried by ladies in full-length burkas. Despite their high price tag, they are so common here. You don’t have to be at Orchard or the CBD to spot them, you’ll find them even while shopping at Daiso! So why do I hate them?
For most people, especially those who live paycheck to paycheck, there are just so many better things to spend money on. And without even getting into the topic of “needs versus wants” or “investments”, let’s just focus for a minute on what it took to obtain a $500 designer bag. According to the MOM, the average monthly wage in Singapore in the 3rd quarter of 2013 was $4212. Assuming a conservative 40-hour work week (though I know most people work longer hours), that’s about $25 an hour (or about $20 for a 50-hour week). That means, for the average Singaporean to buy a $500 designer bag, it took 20 hours, or half a week of work, just to pay for it (ignoring any income tax liabilities). Now I ask you, was it worth it?
Nigel Marsh said in a TED talk,
There are thousands and thousands of people out there leading lives of quiet, screaming desperation, where they work long, hard hours at jobs they hate to enable them to buy things they don’t need to impress people they don’t like.”
Now if you happen to be someone who truly admires the style and beauty of these bags, and have plenty of money set aside for emergencies, retirement, future/current health-related expenses, education, and/or child expenses, then by all means, get yourself your dream designer bag. But I wouldn’t recommend just buying the bag to be trendy or worse, to “reward” yourself for all your hard work. Is it really a reward if you have to exchange half a week’s worth of work to get it? People tell me that having these items makes them happy and that they deserve these expensive things because they are worth it. In response, I tell them that practicing gratitude has a better and longer-lasting effect on happiness than acquiring material possessions. In a University of California study, people who spent just a few minutes writing in a gratitude journal for a month, increased their overall happiness by 25%. In addition, there is satisfaction in knowing that you just saved half a week of work (which means you can retire half a week earlier) and that you will have more choices later on what do with that money/time saved. Yes, you absolutely are worth it, but that bag may not be worthy of your hard-earned money.