If there was something my savings and I actually agreed upon, it was our love for ramen. I liked the taste, and my wallet liked its price. It’s so cheap and convenient to make, you’ll enjoy each bite knowing it’s one dollar saved.
However, it turns out, my body actually had a problem with that. While I was secretly enjoying my ramen lifestyle (it tastes great, sue me), my college roommate told me the horrific news: too much ramen is bad for you. Acting like I didn’t know that already, I was quick to defend my favorite food, “I don’t really eat it everyday.” I knew he knew I was lying. We both knew our flat had a semi-permanent noodle scent in the air, and all the empty packets and cups made its dirty trail towards my room.
He told me about his aunt who was suffering from kidney problems because of daily ramen consumption. “She ate too much ramen,” I remember my friend saying. My money-saving brain was fighting against it—it’s just a ruse to keep you from saving money. However, my friend was quick to add, “Imagine the cost of her weekly dialysis. It’s crazy.”
That’s when it hit me.
Back then, I might not have wanted to know or research about why ramen was bad for my health, but I knew for a fact that dialysis wasn’t a joke. I knew it was painful not only physically, but financially as well. After that simple conversation, I knew I had to change my lifestyle for the better. I had to change it before I got too ramen-crazy. I had to make a life-altering decision to save not only my money, but my body as well.
Here were a few of the steps I did:
1) I reviewed my priorities. Where was I standing in my life? In that particular stage, I had only one role to accomplish, and that was being a student. I wasn’t in college to party or get a girlfriend. I was there to learn. I was there to “practice” for my adulthood. Being a grade-conscious student helped me keep my sight straight towards my endgame: graduating with flying colors. It also kept costs at a minimum so I didn’t have to spend a few hundreds on partying, or taking girls out on dates.
2) I pretended I was a vegetarian. There were times when I crawled back in the apartment so broke and hungry I thought I wouldn’t survive. But I did. When I saw a random hippie at the school grounds munching on a carrot, I thought to myself, “Why not?” I resorted to eating fresh, homemade salads. I ate sliced cucumbers and steamed broccoli for snacks. Why? They were healthy, and they were pretty cheap.
3) I didn’t do cold turkey. I knew it wouldn’t work. I always claimed I was the “all or nothing” kinda guy, but this time, I knew I had to teach myself the art of discipline. It had to be a long and every day process. Just as I wouldn’t have my savings account booming overnight, so would the adjustments take weeks and months to get used to.
4) I wrote a personal finance blog. This made me sound like a complete nerd back in college, no doubt about that. Did it work? Yes. I love to write. Narrating my struggling finances helped me channel my inner Gandhi. You bet you’d come up with all sorts of life philosophies to distract yourself from the spending sin.
5) I thought about all the rags-to-riches stories of people. There are countless well-known public figures that have started from nothing, and some didn’t even have the privilege to go to universities. I let them inspire me. I let their life stories remind me that hardship is only at the beginning. I WILL reap the benefits of my sacrifices in the near future.
6) I reminded my parents I existed. I know it’s a shameful thing to use the pity card to get a little bit of money wired to me just to get me through the next week. So I played a different tactic. When my buddies were rejoicing that their parents were finally ignoring them, I reveled in my old folks’ attention (weird, I know). They might have hated surprise visits from their moms, but I enjoyed it… Every. Single. Time. How so? I’ve come to realize that my parents aren’t going to be around forever, so I might as well embrace the attention. Also, they morph into such generous people when they see you’re losing weight because you’re “so focused on your studies.” Ehem. Thanks, Mom.
7) I used a piggy bank. It looked silly. It looked childish, even. However, I simply did not care what my roommate thought, or what I thought. It was there for a purpose, and it was to help me save money. Strategically placing one by my bedroom door, and one on my bedside table, I was filling up those little piggies unknowingly the entire school year. Don’t underestimate the crumpled bills and coins in your pocket. Money is still money, and they’ve been a wonderful addition to my savings account.
8) Finally, I learned to satisfy the craving. Let’s be real. I love ramen. I never stopped loving it. Truth be told, during my entire money-saving phase, I had an unopened package of ramen packets. I made it a rule to open one—only if I knew I wasn’t trying to save money. Until now, it’s there, just the way it was since I first bought it. The same goes for my finances. I told myself I’m only ever going to buy a luxurious item, only if I know with all my being that I don’t need to save my money for something far more important.
A bonus reminder for my fellow ramen- and money-saving-addicts: learn how to cook ramen. You’ll be amazed with what you can do (especially with just a YouTube video to guide you). It’s possible to live below your means without having the need to rely on ramen to keep you alive. With little changes along the way, you’re gearing yourself for a good money-saving journey ahead. Good luck!
About the Author: Jep Barroga is a freelance writer and blogger for MoneyHero, a Hong Kong based personal finance portal offering unbiased information on health insurance, credit card, loans, and personal finance plans.