The Filipino Sachet Mentality | Manila Mash

The Filipino Sachet Mentality

I was still but a child when I learned of this concept. The ‘tingi’ culture or ‘sachet mentality’ – roughly translated. That businesses thrive in selling bite-sized or individually packed versions of their products to cater to those that have just enough for the day or the week.

The adjustment seemed noble at first, perhaps, in times when life was much harder when we were all trying to get back up on our feet while war reparations were taking place at the ruins before us. When we lost so much for a fight that wasn’t ours to begin with. When our identities were far more confused then as to where our allegiances lied.

Fast forward to about a century and a score later, the aspect of which to stretch much as we can the little we have, though difficult, sure, is still a part of the fiber of every Filipino’s being. That it is more often opted to purchase a 5 peso sachet of shampoo enough for 3 days days compared to a 30 peso bottle that, when portioned properly, can last a month and change.

At this level, it’s easy to grasp the consequences, but it has gone so far as to influence the very decisions we make for our lives.

It’s the same as getting excited for a free toaster (easily 400 pesos) to sign up for a credit card with a minimum of Php 1000 yearly fee on top of the penalties if you delayed paying for them an the interests afterwards (note the ‘s’). Little did you know the bank has earned 20-fold what it cost them to pay for the toaster, the employee that sold it to you, and all the processing fees required to get you your card and free item.

It seems that the same decisions are made for most anyone and everyone for that matter when, in fact, just recently, quite a number of people have already planned to spend their December earnings for down-payment for a new car without realizing the ramifications of doing so – in fact, experts suggest that you only purchase a car if you can already afford three of the same car you’re planning to buy since that’s what it will cost you, in the long run, to maintain, keep it topped up, and running properly for a set amount of time. Say 5 years. Besides, the purchase a of a car without the financial capacity to do so, says, whether you admit it or not, that you just want to show off to your friends and neighbors that you are capable of doing so after wishing for it so hard. Ever wonder why there are so many repossessed cars by banks across the metro? Ever wonder why there are so many second-hand cars being sold off online with still a significant balance left to pay the bank? Same story goes for apartments, condo units, and such. Big decisions that are made in the immediate future.

In sum, it’s short-sightedness that has been fueling our economy now to a brink of questionable proportions. Sales did go up for mobile phones, for example, but a good percentage of those are on loan with credits either from the telcos themselves, from Home Credit, or banks themselves just to feed your under-inflated ego. What good will your new phone do to you once you, in extreme scenarios, lose you job, for example?

It’s not stinginess that I am imploring, far from it. Just that plan ahead into the future.

The usual thinking of the typical Filipino goes like this:

-I am earning Php 15,000 every month;
-I spend Php 5,000 on daily expenses;
-I spend Php 5.000 om bills;
-I have Php 5,000 for myself;
-I can save Php 2,000 every month; and,
-In 5 months I can buy a new phone worth Php 15,000.

While it stands true, there are those times, out of your power, that make you end up spending more than expected, say, a celebration of sorts, or you had so little time to prepare for a meeting that you had to hail a cab eating up most of what you need for the day, or you needed to buy meds since you’re feeling under the weather, or you needed to go through a medical exam. This sets you back further if, say, you had a loan you have to push back, now with interests because of the delays.

The same goes for government projects, where, evidently, for everyone involved, we collectively recognize the patchwork of road repairs are bandage solutions to problems that have plagued us since time immemorial. Or the temporary bridge, the temporary watershed, the temporary coal-powered power plant, instead of a more expensive bridge that will last 80 years longer, or a dam to further enrich a bigger community, or solar, wind, and even tide powered solutions that are 10 times more expensive, for now, but will have greater social, economic, and natural impact. All of which can be calculated with tested results from the same first worlds that invented the solutions.

I then implore you to plan way ahead. I’ll take the solar panel argument, yes, it will cost upwards of Php 30,000 to fit a regular sized roof. Power output could range from 3 hours of daily air conditioning usage, towards powering your refrigerator for the month. Batteries to store your energy when there is no sun will cost extra. Yes, pricey, costly. Tough if you cut that cost to an expected of ten years, for example, that would come down to Php 250 per month, considering also that Meralco has a project of paying households that are making more power than needed that sends electricity back to the grid. You’ll actually end up earning more than you spending.

All I’m saying is planning for the future is way more than just knowing that you’re earning this much, and will have this much to spend for yourself. I’m not saying don’t treat yourself. I’m also not imploring to become stingy. Far from it. All I’m saying is employ the rule where “purchase only if you can buy two to three of the same” as a cushion. Then, perhaps, you would have saved yourself a lot of trouble in the future.

Mabuhay, Manila.

photo by Hans Erickson Lim

Drew Uy

I do words, food, coffee, and photos. Hit me up on Twitter @ginuhit

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