Goodbye Americano. Hello Kopi O.

 There is a place in my neighbourhood which I go to every time I needed some time alone. It is a tiny stall next to a big drain, separated by old posters and buntings tied to the trees. The stall is pretty shabby yet very airy, cooling and a nice simple spot for relaxing.

In the beginning, only a few people visited the place. They were mostly cleaners and security guards from the surrounding apartments. Perhaps most residents weren’t fond of the location next to the big drain. Or perhaps visiting a little stall run by foreigners did not suit their status. I am not sure.

But I enjoy my time at this little hidden place. I enjoy the ambience. I enjoy the aroma of their chicken curry boiling in the pot (to die for). I enjoy their spring hoppers with gravy. And I enjoy their Kopi O ‘kaw-kaw’. But most of all, I enjoy their cheap food.

Just the other day when the anneh charged me RM3.00 for Kopi O and 2 pieces of spring hoppers, I rolled my eyes and asked him the price for the individual item. He smiled and upon providing me with the bill, gave me a RM0.50 discount and a free samosa! Now that’s what I call a Happy Meal!

It’s funny, I do not feel bad flushing my RM10 for a cup of Americano yet here I am looking like a total cheapskate. What can I say, the fast increase in the living cost has made my favourite Americanos and lattes luxury items and I can’t afford to have them as often as I did.

Lately, I see more and more people visiting my new favourite place. Those who were once loyal customers of a French Bakery place along the road are now becoming frequent visitors of this small Indian stall. Sometimes I even see people in big cars and those in tie and suits dine in such a simple place. Funny thing is I find most of them to be as calculative as I am too. I guess everyone are feeling the pinch of the rising living cost – even those who are well-off.

The truth is, we could be way beyond the federal poverty threshold, but it doesn’t necessarily mean we aren’t affected by the financial crisis. You don’t have to be poor to struggle to make ends meet.

 I believe many people are struggling with the rising living cost especially in the cities but they are quite private about it – I think that’s pride. And as our slice of pie gets smaller, we are all forced to compromise on our standard of living.

Take me for example. I juggle between three jobs but I am still struggling to save a decent amount for the future.

This month alone, I had to fork out RM1600 to pay for my daughter’s driving school – yes, it is that expensive nowadays! And another RM1800 to register my son for a ‘Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens’ workshop – yep, with the screwed up education system we have nowadays, our youngsters need all the help they can get to set their heads straight. On top of that, my landlord just increased my house rental by 20%. Pengsan!

And don’t get me started on the increase in prices of goods, services, utilities and what not!!!!

Seriously, when price of goods increases, market price takes control, resulting in cuts in subsidies. It is consumers like us who feel the heat because this causes the prices of every damn consumer goods and services to rise as well.

With the same salary we have been earning for the past couple of years, we are now expected to deal with this price hike. But when market prices come down, the prices of consumer goods remain the same! What a load of bull!

(Note to myself: Take a deep breath, Fa. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. Good gal)

I am trying my best to be rather optimistic about the potential for some good to come out of this financial crisis. I have come to realise that when facing challenges in life, we need to make changes or perhaps a better choice of word would be to make sacrifices.

My kids and I have been talking about cutting down on additional expenses so we would have more for the things that really matters. We have agreed that the only possible way to survive this difficult climate is by making priorities.

The first thing we did was to change our Astro package to a much cheaper one. Since my son can’t survive without ESPN and my daughter without her StarWorld, I had to bid farewell to Family Guy and Spongebob (no joke!).

Today I no longer visit my hairdresser for my RM25 per visit hair wash. It has been awhile since I coloured my hair – I have no issues displaying my grey hair (it goes well with my newly emerging wrinkles anyway). I have stopped getting eyebrow threadings – the last time I checked, they look like mini forest reserves.

No more steak, salmon or even cheese – too expensive! We eat more eggs, chicken, tauhu and veggies. On special board game nights at home, we order Dominos. That’s when I pray for the delivery guy to take more than 30 minutes to deliver so I can get the late delivery coupon and enjoy one free pizza for my next order! Sometimes when he arrives on the 29th minute, I wait for a minute or so to open the door (I know, I know).

I have downgraded my personal items from brand Loreal and Revlon to Watson and Tesco. Even my undies selection has shifted from Triumph to 2 for RM10 unbranded ones (too much information?). No wonder I don’t get asked out anymore. Sigh.

I no longer visit private clinics and hospitals. Lately I discovered government clinics and hospitals offer good services as well. And most importantly cheap! Like the other day, my daughter received treatment and medication for influenza for only RM1. Imagine getting a packet of Paracetamol and a week worth of antibiotics for a buck! And my son who was infected with Dengue Fever earlier this month had few blood tests done also for a mere RM1. Wonderful!

Nowadays I only buy furniture and electricity appliances in garage sales. Entertainment is restricted to movies and DVDs. No more karaoke and bowling which my kids and I love so much. Shopping for clothes are only during Raya season (which is so tough because kids grow up so fast). Vacation means visiting my parents in Penang. And we use candles at night (seriously) – hopefully the reduction in electricity tariff in March can help us save some candles.

So you see, we can either continue to criticize (and blame) the government for abandoning us and/or ignoring our struggle or actually do something about it.

You could work more hours. Or get a higher-paying job. Or get a second (or third) job. Or cut down on expenses. Or you could become a hermit and never go out or buy anything.

As I am typing this story in the same Indian stall by the big drain, I see a young cockroach on the floor. I wonder if I will be entitled for a free makan if the cockroach somehow miraculously end up in my chicken curry. Hmm…tempting!

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