Title credit: Kaasu panam dhutu money money….. (Kaasu:Paisa, Panam:Note, Dhutu:Slang word for money) is a popular song from the Tamil comedy thriller, Soodhu Kavvum.
Last week, I almost re-constructed our home by clearing old stuff. At the end of it, I had collected quite a lot of old things to dispose. While I was moving the stuff into the elevator to take to the trash area, our neighbour aunty caught a glimpse of it and felt literally unbearable to see nice things being thrown away. Without a second thought, she carefully examined the trash items and kept safe those things that she found interesting for her house-hold use. Though it was unbearable for me to see her do this insane act, I acknowledged her valuing of things and her courage to be herself. As a matter of fact, that’s how core Indians are, just that the strategies keep changing with newer generations.
Bargaining with the road-side vegetable vendors,
Packing the remaining gravy from restaurants,
Rinsing milk packets with water to scrap off every drop of it,
Making the last dosa after switching off the gas stove,
Detaining toiletries from hotels,
Travelling in packed autos,
We make sure that every paisa we spend gets its value justified.
Think of us as cheap or look down at us,
But we are not ashamed of our prudence.
In fact, it binds us; it celebrates our identities.
Yeah! We, the Prudent Indians!
And our’s, the Proud India!
Value for Money in the 1950s to 1990s
Most fathers, during those times, held government postings with an average monthly salary of Rs.1000. They made little post office savings with the money left after their monthly home expenses. Many built small homes, room after room, as and when they could collect money. Most of their PF money went towards the marriages of their daughters. And their meager pension helped their old age. Thus, throughout their lifetimes, they had to focus on every single paisa, which held high value, a few decades ago.
Here are a few unique money-saving practices of the previous generation:
Bargained from the depth of their Souls
It’s sometimes embarrassing to go shopping with my mother. Rs.2 is a small, almost a negligible amount to me. But unless she haggles with the vegetable vendor for that Rs.2 for 1 kg onion, my mom feels guilty of not doing justice to the family economy. The ones she accuses the most of cheating are the flower vendors. I appreciate such vendors who continue their businesses in spite of customers like my mom 😆 Then those auto wallas! Many a times, we’ve got stranded on the roads because of their ‘Rs.10 above meter’ policy. Mom wouldn’t accept it and mercilessly make us wait until a gentleman riding an auto arrives.
Perhaps, the only places where women refrain from bargaining are the ‘3 for Rs.10’ platform shops because of their overwhelming deals. In fact, people of 1950s ad 60s don’t like to shop at the malls. They will have to pay what’s written on the tags which is utterly uninteresting to them.
Walked instead of taking Bus or Rickshaw
Mom often recollects that my grandfather would walk to the next bus stop to save 50p of the ticket fare. While returning, he would get off at the previous bus stop and walk back home. When we were young, mom would walk with us to drop and pick from school which was four bus stops away from home. Walking would have saved them Rs.300 to Rs.400 per year which was a big amount in those days.
Made Resourceful use of Old Clothes
Whether old clothes at home were rat-bitten or moth-eaten, they were of a great resource in India. In those days, bartanwallas used to come door to door asking for old clothes. Women at home made an interesting time-pass by making good deals of new utensils or plastic wares in exchange for old clothes. It fetched them valuable home items for something they could no longer use.
Reused & Recycled
Except for Banana leaf plates, everything was attempted for a reuse. Fountain pens were commonly used as it only required refilling of ink. Even when they used ball pens, they religiously replaced refills instead of discarding the pens. Old bed sheets were reused as curtain clothes or restitched as pillow covers and cushion covers. Plastic and glass jars and bottles that came with beverages were reused for storing kitchen stocks. Worn-out plastic buckets and discarded paint cans were reused as plant holders. Kitchen wastes were recycled to compost. Vegetables and fruits were grown in the backyards. Coconut husk was reused as dish scrubbers. Used tamarinds and lemons were reused as polishers of brass items. Newspapers, used milk packet covers and used plastic things like soap boxes and detergent bottles were given away to the waste marts in exchange for money. School uniform and school text books were reused by the younger siblings instead of buying new. Scrap papers were stapled and used as handy note pads. Old tyres were made to swings. Uff! They’ve indeed saved a lot!
The Precious Diwali Bonus
Regardless of the nature and position of job, an attractive bonus at the time of Diwali was common, apart from the salary, in those days. Families eagerly waited for this treasure of the year to buy new clothes, sweets and crackers. Some made savings out of the bonus money too.
Minimized Travel Expenditure
They usually packed food and water for picnics instead of spending for hotel food. Also, staying at relatives’ and friends’ places were preferred instead of hotel accommodations.
Chit Funds, Post Office Savings and LIC Policies
Chit funds were popular among housewives in the 80s. It helped as loans for several people to buy bigger stuff which otherwise would have remained only as dreams to many. The interest procured of the post office savings and LIC policies were considered as great financial securities.
The Modern Day Paisa Vasool
Today, with an average monthly salary of Rs.25000, it doesn’t make a meaningful difference to save Rs.2 with the vegetable vendor or exchange old clothes for utensils. So, most of what people of the older generation followed are no longer in practice. However, how can the off-springs of such bargaining queens and frugal kings go without it in their genes?! Certainly, valuing money is rooted in our Indian chromosomes. In fact, our generation is a step more smarter when it comes to finding extra value for money. And we save as much as we spend!
The only Sharing System in India
While it’s next to impossible to find someone who would give you a small seating space in unreserved train compartments or buses, you will be eagerly welcomed by a fellow passenger of an auto rickshaw. Shared rides are a common scene here, especially of the daily commuters. By sharing rides, one would have to pay a very less part of what would cost for a single ride which is perfectly economical for many.
Store Offers & Discounts
Aadi sale! Diwali discount! New Year exchange offer! Buy one, Get three Free! – How irresistible these brand factories and commercial outlets have become! They allure people in masses. Visit chickpet during Gowri Habba or T Nagar during Aadi month. Families pack lunch like going for a one-day trip, men pathetically wait at the lounges for almost the whole day and the crowd is terrific. Such is the craze among us for buying stuff at lower prices!
Equal craze for online shopping as well is prevalent in India. Online shopping portals come up with attractive deals and offers every now and then, especially for electronics products and home appliances. Advantages such as easy EMI options, exchange offers and return policies make enough value for the money spent at such portals.
My colleagues were full of smiles when I invited them for my wedding. Guess why? My wedding was to be held at Pondicherry. That meant free food + tax free boozing. Believe me, for Indian men, that’s the best value for money 🙄
Coupon Codes & Promo Codes
Even before we look at the pizza menu while ordering online, we check coupon codes for dominos and pizza hut, at sites like Cupon Dunia and Coupon Raja. Rs.100 off for an order of Rs.400 is quite a good deal. The more I interact with friends, the more amusing it feels to discover promo codes such as for Ebay, Amazon, Ola cabs, Make my Trip etc.
This word written anywhere on anything catches our attention. As an Indian, I would choose to buy Horlicks that offers a Garnier face wash for free instead of another one that doesn’t give a free offer. Have you ever experienced of having forgotten to collect the free stuff from the store? If you have, you will know how it feels. It feels as though we have been declined our birth rights 😆
With sites like Reward Me that offers free samples of a wealth of popular products, getting samples to our doorstep without having to pay a paisa is really exciting.
I was unhappy with the roti maker I received last week. My grandmother said “It’s okay, give it in OLX.” 🙄 Even grannies at home are aware of OLX and Quikr now. The best deal I made through such websites was the exchange of an old book, from a stranger, which I completed reading for another book that I wanted to read. Making money of something that we don’t need anymore is one of the thoughtful inventions that happened to our wallets.
Type ‘free’ in the Google search box, the first suggestion you would see is ‘free recharge’. True smart Indians receive the ‘successfully recharged’ message by simply downloading apps, without spending a paisa. Websites like Pay tm, Cashkaro, Save my Rupee and Mobiwik offer free credit of the same amount of money when one recharges for a certain value. People do make the best use of such offers here.
Reward Points and Referral Programs
I was surprised to see my friend use her Pay back card at a Pantaloons store room to pay for a new dress. Yet another channel for value for money! Most private banks have a reward points policy like Pay back that gets credited every time an online transaction is done or debit and credit cards are used. These points can be redeemed either at the Pay back website for shopping or at linked stores like Big bazaar and Pantaloons for a purchase.
While I was downloading the Ola app in my mobile, one of my friends was quickly checking for a referral code in her inbox. While signing up, I was asked for an optional referral code and the code she gave me fetched her a few Ola credits. Smart ways!
Social Media Contests
There’s a whole new world at Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, beyond uploading photos and getting ‘likes’. I know of people who take up Twitter contests as seriously as their profession. Most of these contests involve answering a few questions and retweeting the sponsor’s tweets and give away vouchers or mobiles or goodies as prizes. Though it’s a world of addiction and obsession, many Indian youngsters earn something almost every day.
And you thought we valued only auto rides and bus rides? You will be surprised about a flight deal that I’ve discovered recently. I am visiting my friend in Germany during the Christmas holidays and as a first step, my Indian brain got into a deep digging of the best travel offers. And I bet one cannot get anything better than the Lufthansa Premium Economy deal.
The last time when I travelled to Dallas in 2009, I flew via Frankfurt in Lufthansa Economy class. Though Lufthansa is popular for its services, I couldn’t appreciate the cramped space and the struggle to rest my arms against the big fat German uncle. However, the new Lufthansa Premium Economy class is a good bargain for the stunning value-added services it offers.
I definitely need this, especially for the flight fare I pay and the long hours of travel, sufficient legroom space is something I appreciate about the premium economy class.
I still remember how frustrating I felt to leave out the 1 kg Buddha statue I had got as a gift for my sister, at the last minute. Our weighing machine would have cried openly if it could, for all the tortures I gave it on the day of my departure. After all, you know what all Indians want to carry with them even for a one day trip, from pickles to chilli powder, we can’t survive without our stuff.
A Cheering Drink
Who wouldn’t want a small treat to the taste buds on boarding, especially when there’s an unique holder in the armrest?!
Thoughtfully designed Seat
Last time, I refrained from going to the rest room just because I didn’t want to wake up the fast asleep old man on his seat that was almost protruding into my way out. Uff! This new spacious seat is such a relief!
Enough on-board Storage Space
I cannot predict when my toddler son would want to listen to Humpty Dumpty rhyme or when he would want to peel open the Monkey sticker during the flight. It’s safe to have all his favourite toys by hand-reach distance before he creates a bad scene for me. I welcome the extra space.
Generous Armrest & Footrest
A big solace about what I told you already. Yes, yes! About that big fat German uncle.
Treat at the Business Lounge
For a fee, one can visit the Business Lounge to have a drink or snacks or read newspapers.
A Relaxation kit
A kit of sleep mask, ear plugs, moist towelette and tooth brush provided in the premium economy is a traveller’s delight.
Preferred Choice of Food + Water
For people like me who cannot digest even the look of German food, the Lufthansa Asian vegetarian menu is a bonanza. In premium economy, one can choose the preferred menu.
What more can entertain a passenger than an interesting movie and games, especially during those times when one gets impatient to reach the destiny?! Premium economy provides a 11″/12″ entertainment screen for every passenger.
A Detachable Remote Control
I would love the remote control option than touch screen mode for surfing channels. A big like 🙂
A fold-out table, individual power sockets and USB ports, one can have his/her office on-the-air.
Should I tell you anything more about value for money?
A piggy bank is enough for children of India. They don’t need anything to be taught for their DNA knows how to find double extra value for money 😆
Gold Coins: archive.financialexpress.com
Bargaining in India: http://www.quora.com/
Walking Traffic Sign: www.stickergenius.com
Reused Plant Pots: www.mdpi.com
Diwali Bonus: economictimes.indiatimes.com
Share Auto: www.theearthwoman.com
Diwali Shopping: www.deccanchronicle.com
Pondicherry Bar: http://www.bumpahead.net/2010/01/inside-rot/
Coupon Codes: www.bankingsense.com
Free for Horlicks: www.homefills.com
Online shopping: www.techtrickhome.com
Free Recharge: freenetgb.mobie.in
Social Media Contests: www.pinterest.com
0 Replies to “Kaasu Panam Dhutu Money Money…..”
Brilliant piece! You have nearly covered the true essence of a paisa vasool Indian. I enjoyed reading it and perfectly penned! All the best for the Competition 🙂
Thanks Amreen. There were still more points that I had to miss here as the post was going too long. I truly support valuing resources and this was an interesting writeup for me. Glad for the regular reader in you.
I enjoy your writing and yea sometimes, we have to cut short our writing to adjust readability and u did it well 🙂
Ha! Sometimes when I write too long posts, even I get lazy to review it before posting 😆 Thanks Amree.
We bargin for small payouts not because we are value conscious but because we have irrational minds. You wouldn’t value a Rs 10 discount when you buy a Rs 1000 product while you would value it when buying a Rs 100 product, though in absolute value terms you are saving the same amount.
N The free phenomenon is a universal phenomenon not specific to Indians, again due to our irrational minds and not because we are Indians.
Calling it irrational might not be right because the idea behind bargaining is to buy a product at the least price that one can get for. There are people in India who value Rs.10 discount for a Rs.1000 product and believe me, they are one of the richest Indians.
I agree, the free phenomenon is not specific to Indians. In fact online shopping and coupon codes too are not specifically Indian traits. However, all these are popular and most sought-after in India.
Sometimes I feel it is better to live with limited resources. We get less comfort and more exercise. Like how people walked to save 50 paisa in bus ticket. No wonder people of the previous generations were healthier.
Comfort is more to do with the mindset. Today I cannot imagine walking 4 bus stops carrying my son which my mom did with ease at my age. 50p was valuable in those days. But paying Rs.50 for an auto is a small amount for us now. As you said I cannot imagine being strong and active as her at her age in the future.