On a tight budget
The rising cost of living has forced many families to spend more carefully.
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.