My parents always managed to make ends meet, even though my mother was a stay-at-home mom and my father worked in a factory!

Neither my sibling nor I did things like ‘tuitions’ and these kind of income supplementing stuff. Of course unlike many people of my father’s generation he did not have to support his parents or pay / support his siblings. That scenario is basically impossible today. Virtually every family I know either has both parents working full time or one of the partners earning a really huge income – surely upwards of 100 times what their fathers made!

The idea that one parent can work a typical factory / bank / government job while the other parent stays at home is a historic idea. Very rarely do you find somebody who can lead a simple life. Obviously there cannot be just one reason that has caused this change. Of course people will point to inflation – how things were cheap in the 1970s and even in the 1980s.

They will tell you about increasing cost of petrol, housing, food grains and what have you talking about how much housing prices have gone up since the 1970s without a similar increase in wages. Others will point to food prices, or the cost of education. Actually in the 1970s too you had movies complaining about inflation.

Today’s movies do not – the hero and heroine seem to be from a different planet with different problems. The change is in the number of bills – and the amount per bill – that a ‘normal’ family has.

My parents, for example, had their electricity bill, and phone service. There was of course the newspaper, and the ‘society charges’ which included the mortgage. That was all. We had an antenna on our roof to watch television. Entertainment was restricted to an occasional movie – twice a year in our case, a little more frequently for some cousins.

We would eat out on birthdays – however that was not ‘obligatory’. An annual vacation meant a stay at a cousin’s place. It was all right to share bathrooms.

Compare this to our situation. We now have many more bills – education loans, personal loans, wedding loan (if your father or father-in-law did not pay the bill, Icici bank paid!) mortgage, life insurance, cable, mobile phone, net, – and what have you. This is a guess – but I think every 5 years we add one item of expense which we did not know existed, but after 5 years wonder ‘how could mankind live without this’! This adds up to thousands of rupees a month for services that my parents simply didn’t have or need. We have it as a habit.

What can be done about this? The first thing to look at is whether or not these bills are actually required, or if they just seem to be. Do we need internet access at home? I use it for writing, my wife for doing projects for my daughter. I could survive but my family may not.

Do we need cable? Not really – we could spend more family time. My neighbor lives without cable.

Do we need a cell phone? In Indian conditions it is cheaper than a landline phone. How much does Rs. 40 a day for 30 years become in an index fund? Well about Rs. 200 million (Rs. 2 crores). Of course it could be much lower if the equity market returns are much lower in the next 30 years, but this is what happened over the past 30….

Not bad, right? What does this mean for us? Well we have chosen our life styles let us not crib about it. Our parents chose their simpler life-styles we have chosen our more complicated (perhaps expensive) ones.

Having made our choices we should not blame our bills! If you get stuck with bills, sit back and relax. See what expenses have been committed in a weak movement and you are pretending that you cannot live without it. If you did not know from where your next meal would come from, would you still have it. What would your parents have done in similar circumstances? Control your actions, the reactions are not in your control. – Bhagwad Gita.

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  1. What an article Sir. I have same feeling and in fact done some practical improvements over last few months:
    * I thought I can’t live without newspapers but at one fine day observed that what they have is just garbage/depressing news all over; after a blink, called up the vendor to stop it and that’s it. Quality times in morning.
    * Converted wife’s mobile from postpaid to prepaid for obvious reasons.
    * My mobile and home broadband bills are paid by employer so not bothering about them much but still they are reduced comparatively.
    * I’ve DTH service with a basic/minimum package. Some times I ‘forget’ to renew the subscription to see who can/can’t live without it ;). A single rule for all, no TV in evening/night except weekends. Lot’s of time to laugh with family.
    * No out food, fortunately no one in my family fond of out food. Big savings!

    Life is much simpler, cheerful now.

  2. Well said
    It is not about the bills but our choices. So focus more on the choices that you make.
    Loved the quote
    Control your actions, the reactions are not in your control. – Bhagwad Gita.

  3. My opinion is all bills related to communication are “good” bills. They cost a lot less compared to eating out. If you are spending just 700Rs on internet, 500 Rs on mobile, 300 Rs on DTH, it is acceptable.
    Note that if whole society uses it, you have to use it, may be in lesser quantity but you have to use it. You can not beehave as if you stay in a cave. Communication bills are necessary bills.

    On another note, you are targeting wrong audience. The people who are reading this blog are well informed to get a reasonable deal from service provider and people are also affluent enough to afford it. For many of them, it is less than 2% of their monthly income. Communication bills are small bills.

    So in short, communication bills are small bills and necessary bills. Disconnecting from such services is not a sound idea.

  4. Thanks Subra for this post.

    Regarding cell phones, moving from post paid to pre-paid is a sensible one. I guess almost 99% of Indians use prepaid connections only.

    Also i found that BSNL prepaid plans/top-ups details are presented in a Simple and Easy to Understand format.

    Private mobile companies have 100s of Bonus card/Topups/Validity options which makes our choice very complex. These options make money for Private mobile companies instead reducing charges.

    Subra, please write a post on how to simplify our lives or uncomplicate our lives.

  5. Subra Sir,

    Very pertinent article for today’s life style.

    Liked a punch at the end –
    Control your actions, the reactions are not in your control. – Bhagwad Gita.

    Very true !! found out the meaning for that lately in my case.

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