The price of popularity

The price of popularity

Urban poor’ is a phrase that has gained a lot of traction in the last few weeks. While quite a few young people identify with this term, there are many more who are scornful and disdainful of the practice of spending money just to maintain appearances. For all those who missed the discussions, it is a term used to describe a new generation of urban Indians who spend most of their money on things which make them appear ‘cool’ rather than on basic necessities.

For starters, ‘poor’ is not a term one should be using to describe people who spend Rs 600 at Starbucks and then complain about being broke. In this country, where many lead a hand-to-mouth existence, equating this to their situation feels like something of a mockery. But nomenclature aside, let us not be too harsh on these young people who live in a world of credit cards and debt traps, despite having reasonably good salaries. Reasons stated range from peer pressure to ‘social media obligations’.

“I stayed alone for some time when I took up my second job,” says Shalini Singh, a professional. “The new-found freedom, combined with my love for shopping, wreaked havoc on my finances. I used to spend most of my salary on shoes and clothes and expensive restaurants that my friends and I would frequent. Within 15 days of my salary being credited, I would have to ask my parents for money. There was even an instance when I asked them to transfer money through instant banking as my cable TV person had come for his monthly dues and I had just spent the previous day shopping. Thankfully, I am smarter now.”

The ability to buy without parental approval is indeed a big factor for splurging. That and the fact that being economical is not seen as a quality in today’s society where one’s worth is judged by what they put on their back or what they carry in their hand.

Consumerism is the key driver and financial planning is sorely lacking in many people, not just the young ones. Says Eldho C, a professional, “I have an above average lifestyle myself and coupled with friends who are even more financially unprepared, it means a never-ending debt cycle for me. I eat at expensive places and frequently take out some close friends for treats. This leaves me with little or no savings. Almost invariably, I am asked for a short-term loan by some friends who have the same habits. By the end of the month, I have to borrow from someone myself. ”

Many people complain about the lack of willpower of the younger generation when it comes to saying ‘no’ to friends or admitting that you can’t afford something. Your lifestyle is being determined by peer groups or adored celebrities and it may not necessarily be one you can afford.

“Being popular is taking precedence over being smart,” says Savitha Varma, a homemaker. “There is no need to feel sympathetic towards youngsters who make poor choices. We have all struggled in our initial phases and one should learn lessons from the mistakes one makes, not keep on repeating them. It’s simple — pay your bills before you whip up new ones!”

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