On a tight budget

The ris­ing cost of liv­ing has forced many fam­i­lies to spend more care­fully.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FRONT PAGE - By SHEELA CHAN­DRAN star2@thes­tar.com.my

LIKE most Malaysians, Oretha Her­rera and her fam­ily are well aware of the ris­ing cost of liv­ing. With four chil­dren aged be­tween three and 14 to raise, Her­rera and her hus­band Sar­jit Singh, 42, have for many years learnt to stretch their pay cheques to stay afloat.

In their fam­ily, the re­spon­si­bil­ity of man­ag­ing fi­nances pru­dently does not only fall on their shoul­ders – Her­rera and Sar­jit are ac­tively teach­ing their brood the im­por­tance of bud­get­ing and sav­ing.

While Her­rera ad­mits that it can be chal­leng­ing for chil­dren to grasp fi­nan­cial con­cepts, she be­lieves it is es­sen­tial for them to learn.

“We talk to them about money and what bud­get­ing is all about. We have a budget when­ever we shop for gro­ceries and the chil­dren have learnt how to se­lect prod­ucts within a cer­tain price range to avoid bust­ing the budget. It is fun to see them check­ing out prices in­stead of prod­ucts,” says Her­rera, 39, who is the head of op­er­a­tions in a T-shirt man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pany in Pu­chong, Se­lan­gor.

Each child has a piggy bank to pro­mote sav­ings.

“When we were younger, our par­ents didn’t em­pha­sise sav­ings. We learnt it the hard way and re­alised that it is vi­tal to drill into our chil­dren the im­por­tance of sav­ing money. Now, they get to see their money grow and this mo­ti­vates them to save even more.”

To fur­ther in­cul­cate the chil­dren’s sense of re­spon­si­bil­ity to­wards the fam­ily, Her­rera also makes it com­pul­sory for the chil­dren to help with house­hold chores.

“We don’t pay them to do house­hold chores as we do not want them to ex­pect to be paid for con­tribut­ing to the house­hold. They are part of the fam­ily and need to help out with chores.

“We have also cul­ti­vated a re­cy­cling habit and the chil­dren have learnt they could sell off things they no longer need to earn ex­tra pocket money.”

One of the ways Her­rera saves money is by pack­ing lunch from home for her fam­ily.

It started five years ago when her chil­dren en­rolled into a home school­ing cen­tre with no can­teen fa­cil­i­ties. It takes some plan­ning and ad­vance prepa­ra­tions, but Her­rera has been wak­ing up early ev­ery morn­ing to pre­pare packed lunches be­cause it costs less than buy­ing food out­side.

“I wake up at 5.30am to pre­pare a proper meal for my kids, as well as for my hus­band and me. It’s health­ier and I worry less about what my fam­ily is con­sum­ing for lunch,” shares Her­rera.

With her chil­dren grow­ing into teenagers, Her­rera has found that she needs to ad­dress their chang­ing needs.

Her el­dest daugh­ter Alessan­dra Jitt is 14 and has be­come more con­scious of her ap­pear­ances. So, Her­rera has been teach­ing her to choose af­ford­able clothes and ac­ces­sories, as op­posed to blindly buy­ing branded goods that can cost an arm and a leg.

“Chil­dren need to un­der­stand that one doesn’t need to in­dulge in branded goods to look good. Alessan­dra is at an age where she is aware of her ap­pear­ance. Though she is | cre­ative with her dress­ing, we have to con­stantly re­mind her not to overdo things be­cause of peer pres­sure.

“The good thing about shop­ping in malls is we get to com­pare the price of branded and non-branded items. Most of the time, we can find items of the same qual­ity at a much lower price,” says Her­rera, who al­lows her chil­dren to buy branded goods dur­ing sales, on spe­cial oc­ca­sions and for ex­celling in their stud­ies.

Alessan­dra’s par­ents ef­forts to in­cul­cate thrift and pru­dence have not been in vain.

She re­alises it is im­por­tant to live within her means. In­stead of shop­ping for branded items, she prefers to jazz up her out­fits by pair­ing them with ac­ces­sories and adding ex­tra glam with hand-sewn se­quins and studs on T-shirts.

“To make my old clothes look trendier, I add sil­ver studs, but­tons and leather trim­mings. I also cre­ate my own dec­o­ra­tive clips and hair bands to look stylish. I do not have any is­sues with my style as it shows my per­son­al­ity.

“My par­ents have taught us to be con­fi­dent in what­ever we do. Whether we suc­ceed or fail in it, at least we have done our best. Same goes to the way I style my­self.

“I turn to so­cial me­dia and read fash­ion books to keep up to date on fash­ion. I usu­ally try to make do with what I have and if I need to, I will pur­chase items that help to pull to­gether my out­fit while help­ing me to save money,” says Alessan­dra, who as­pires to be a fash­ion de­signer.

Photo by RAY­MOND OOI/The Star

Ju­di­cious: Oretha Her­rera makes lunch for her chil­dren (from left) Ethan, Caleb and Ai­dan Jitt to save money and be­cause it is a health­ier op­tion. — CHAN TAK KONG/The Star

Oretha Her­rera (right) guides her el­dest daugh­ter Alessan­dra Jitt, 14, on buy­ing clothes wisely.

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