Personal Finance

The Blue Ocean Shift in Spending

Think about the last time you score a financial win. What was the key that made it possible? Was it a sale, a clearance? A downgrade of your standard? Or your perspective shifted?

For the longest time, I had to choose between a cup of RM13 artisan coffee or an RM2.5 tin coffee. Survey says that millennials spend more on coffee than retirement, and I want to prove that wrong. Oh yes, I crave for the better coffee, but sometimes I let my wallet win and choose the tin. 

It was later that I realized I do not need a coffee machine to brew tasty coffee; I only needed a fine instant espresso powder. I purchased instant espresso, and use a kettle belongs to my mom to boil the water. Now, my coffee tastes better and costs less than RM1 a cup. I simply shifted from buying water to adding water.

The blue ocean shift advocate businesses to look for the third alternative option when it comes to product pricing, usually, in an underserved marketplace. What amazes me is that when you look into frugal people who nail it in their expenses and keep their spending below inflation – they had adopted this mindset forever. It’s inbuilt in them.

The first shift: Mix what you can.

When I first look for cooking spices, I shop at wholefood stores where chef secret spice blend and household brands are on the shelves. I choose familiarity, and I compare the price, quality, weight, expiry date, etc. They cost about RM20 for a gourmet mix, RM12 for imported brand names, and RM6 for local bottled. So, I was saving for that prized kitchen pantry until I found out that you could buy most of the spices in loose packaging for RM2-3 inside a hypermarket. If you walk into a wet market, you get can the same amount of spices in cheap plastic for RM1.

I look for what I knew, and it would cost me RM300 to fill a 20-bottle spice rack. I shift the packaging mindset, and I am filling a 20-bottle spice rack with my blend of herbs for RM30+.

The second shift: Pour what you can

It would take a lot of effort to source edible coffee bean, roast to perfection and brew at the right water pressure; It would take a lot of effort to plant raw seeds, harvest and grind the spices into powder. But pouring hot water into coffee and tea bags? Thanos snap! 

Another good pouring habit is buying soft drinks in 1.5 litters and pour into cups instead of paying for tin cans. Also, pouring packet of curry sauce into potato and bring to boil.

The third shift: Make what you can

There are a handful of things that take minimal effort to make. Most of us in Malaysia know how to make good chili or tomato-based sauce, but we tend to buy cream-based sauce or powder. This trend perplexed me as a cream-based sauce is much easier to make. The ready-made options are relatively expensive and high in sodium.

Making cream soup mix is effortless, as easy as mix what you can. You start with a base of 2 cups milk powder, 1/2 cup cornstarch (or 1 cup of flour), salt, onion powder, garlic powder, and some herbs. Store the mix in a vacuum container, and use about a tablespoon for a 100ml water.

Making pasta sauce is also effortless, tomato puree, chopped onions, chopped tomato, and a big splash of seasoning/ herbs. I think you can make it below RM5 versus those cans at RM10 above. 

Making soft boiled egg and toast. Get a RM30 toaster and a water kettle. Two clicks for soft boil eggs with toast that easily cost RM7.00 outside. 

The forth shift: Forget the brand

Forgetting brands is the hardest shift, at least for me. It takes a lot to detach myself from being brand conscious. I believe that food branding is a good thing, especially for frozen and fresh food. It’s an assurance of quality, safety, and taste. I have worked in the FMCG industry; not every product is what they claim to be. 

For highly processed food, I don’t mind the brand that much because they are equally less nutrient and high in sugar or sodium. 

But branding is terrible for the wallet when it comes to fashion and accessories, especially when you buy something out of pride or ego. Wunderlust or pasar malam bangle?

If you could live without thinking about the subtle things in life, RM10-20 would save you a lot in the long run.

The fifth shift: Buy the samples

Love luxury beauty products? Consider buying travel size that is more value-driven. I go further on the bang by purchasing original samples. I mostly pay less than 1/4 of the original price. 

That’s how my spending has shifted since attending a blue ocean seminar trying to sell a water filter investment plan. What do you think?

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