I was sick a few weeks ago so I decided to slow down my lifestyle for the rest of the month. I turned down invitations to go out of town for the Holy Week from friends and planned to just enjoy the almost empty city by driving around and hanging out in whatever establishment is open for the weekend. I believed that it was a good plan and I looked forward to a quiet Lent with myself.
Friday afternoon, I received a text message from a friend asking me where I was. I said that I was in Makati, looking for a place to eat. He asked if I wanted to meet up and hang out in Starbucks after dinner. I was a bit surprised to learn that he didn’t go out of town for the Holy Week. He usually hits the beach during this time of the year. In any case, I accepted his invitation and looked forward to seeing my friend that evening.
Almost everything was closed for the day, which is understandable because it was Good Friday. I decided to just go to Alabang earlier than planned. Surprisingly, my friend was already there when I arrived at Starbucks Madrigal. I greeted him and said, “Hey, you’re early! By the way, I took the liberty of texting some of our friends whom I think are also in town. We’ll be joined by others in awhile. So what’s up? Why are you not in Laiya, Puerto Galera or Boracay?”
“I’m a bit low on budget that’s why,” he answered. “How about you? You always travel out of town too for the Holy Week, don’t you?”
“I decided to go low-key this year. I wanted to take it slow for awhile. Anyway, is it true what I heard? You’re a bit low on budget? That’s hard to believe when it’s coming from a hot shot accountant whose family owns a printing company. Besides, don’t you earn well from the freelance accounting projects you handle?”
“My family is rich, but not me,” he replied. “And I’ve decided to let go of some of my clients because the workload is killing me. Anyway, I’ll order myself a drink first. Let me have your tea bag. I’ll get your drink while you stay here and reserve this table for us.”
I was amused that my friend knows my usual routine in Starbucks. I gave him my tea bag and settled myself at the table while he gets our drinks. As I see him lining up at the cashier, I can’t help but recall an online chat we had almost a year ago. He was ranting how he was so deep in credit card debt that he needed to find a way to get extra income to cover his expenses. If my memory serves me right, I think that was also the time when I suggested that he should start getting freelance accounting projects so he could augment his salary.
“Here you go.” My friend was back and as he sat with me at the table he said, “Do you remember our conversation almost a year ago, when I realized that I overspent with my credit cards and I asked you for advise on how to earn some extra cash so I could pay my debts?”
“Yeah, I was just actually thinking about it,” I replied. “Why’d you ask? And how’s your credit card debts? I’m assuming that they’re almost paid already.”
“It’s less,” he timidly answers.
“Well, that’s good news,” I said optimistically. “Sometimes, these things take time. I was in deep credit card debt too a few years ago, remember? And it took me almost two years to recover financially and pay everything. Don’t sweat it too much. If I’m not mistaken, you’re going through what almost all young urban professionals experience when they start to earn more money.”
“And what’s that?” my friend curiously asks.
“They upgrade,” I simply answered. “This is something I have observed with most people, myself included. We go through our working lives always wishing that we could have more money so we could pay our debts and afford the things we want. What we do is we find ways to earn extra money, we do freelance jobs, we look for sidelines and we wait and pray for a big salary increase. Unfortunately, when we start to earn more, we also begin to upgrade our lifestyle. We get excited with our newly found purchasing power and eventually give in to our spending desires and put less priority to paying our debts. In the end, we come back to our original mindset of wishing that we could have more money so we could pay our debts and afford the things we want.”
My friend was silent, obviously thinking if what I was saying was true for him.
“On the other hand, I find nothing wrong with upgrading one’s lifestyle. You worked hard to earn more money so you deserve a little more luxury. Just remember to always pay yourself first, prioritize your debts and live within your means,” I added. “Again, don’t berate yourself when you commit financial mistakes. Instead, learn from it and challenge yourself to do better.”
“You’re right,” my friend finally speaks. “I think you were able to say exactly what I needed to hear right now. I really appreciate all the advise. I guess this Lenten Season has just become more meaningful for me.”
“How so?” I asked.
“Well, it’ll be Easter in a few days,” my friend answered. “And I think there’s no better time for self-renewal than this season. The real reason why I didn’t go out of town this Holy Week was because I wanted to be alone and reflect on how my life has been for the past months. Lately, it all seemed meaningless, it’s been one whole boring routine. And hearing what you said right now made me realize that I’ve been spending too much time worrying and thinking about my finances that I actually forgot to act on and do something concrete to make the changes that I want to happen in my life.”
“Very well said,” I replied. “Now you’re inspiring me to likewise reflect on my life and find ways to renew myself this coming Easter. I think we should raise our cups and drink to that!”
My friend smiled and raised his frappe along with my tea.
Photos taken from the personal collection of my friend, Ethan