Why it is okay to spend and live within your means

For some, even a simple Charles & Keith bag is considered luxurious.

Farhana Subuhan

Published: 13 January 2023, 5:36 PM

As a working adult, I adhere to three golden rules when it boils down to my finances – save 85 per cent of my take-home pay every month, spend no more than $10 a day on lunch, and opt for home-cooked meals on work-from-home days.

Being financially prudent has made me live within my means by spending only on my needs and occasionally on my wants. My frugality stems from my mother, who saved every dime that she could for her daughters’ futures by cutting on her wants.

It was hard-hitting when my mother first pointed out that bags, whether from Charles & Keith or Louis Vuitton, have the same functionality. It eventually prompted me to get a purse from the former when I received my first ever paycheck.

So when I stumbled upon a young girl being taunted on TikTok for simply living within her means – a way of life that people from middle-class and underprivileged backgrounds can all draw parallels to – I was perplexed.

On Sunday (Jan 8), TikTok user @zohtaco posted a video, which has since gone viral, sharing her joy at receiving a Charles & Keith bag as a gift from her father. Labelling it as her first “luxury bag”, the video soon became the subject of mockery by a number of users who claimed that the homegrown brand was anything but a luxury.

Snide remarks, including lines like “who’s gonna tell her?”, were left in the comments section of the video.

Disheartened by the spate of mean-spirited remarks, Zoe felt obliged to upload a follow-up video the next day to clarify that she grew up in a family where they could not afford essentials like food. It was also precisely because of her family’s circumstances that she deemed the Charles & Keith a luxury.

“To you an $80 bag may not be a luxury, for me and my family it is a lot. And I’m so grateful that my dad was able to get me one. He worked so hard for that money,” said Zoe, who appeared visibly upset and had tears in her eyes.

Her response to the negative remarks drew support from Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth & Social and Family Development Mr Eric Chua.

On his Instagram stories, Mr Chua wrote that one should not be quick to judge others using our experiences. He shared that he, too, came from humble beginnings himself where certain items were a luxury. He also commended Zoe for “showing maturity” in her response to the naysayers.

Other TikTokers empathised with her financial circumstances and rallied behind Zoe, chiming in to say that her father had raised her well while condemning the harsh remarks.


Other Tiktokers left uplifting comments on Zoe’s video. PHOTO CREDIT: SCREENSHOT FROM TIKTOK


Netizens too weighed in on the comments that have caused a stir, sharing their own experiences on how the well-loved Singaporean brand was their first “luxury purchase”.

This caught the attention of Charles & Keith’s founders who then invited Zoe and her father to have lunch and to tour the brand’s headquarters in Tai Seng.

Her viral TikTok video also picked up on Twitter. Wisdom Kaye, an American fashion model, attempted to find Zoe’s Twitter username in order to send her luxury bags with her name on it.


He later clarified that he took it to TikTok in hopes of reaching out to Zoe. PHOTO CREDIT: SCREENSHOT FROM TWITTER


To some, a luxurious lifestyle might mean owning a high end accessory from Bulgari or indulging in café food every other day. But for others, luxury is anything they worked hard to afford – even the occasional bubble tea or Starbucks coffee.

However, it is not to say that spending on expensive items should be frowned upon. There is certainly nothing wrong with spending on your wants if you are able to find ways to afford the items or lifestyle.

Many have turned to working part-time jobs or starting a side hustle to make extra pocket money. What’s important is not to compromise on daily essentials in the pursuit of material goods.

My biggest takeaway from this incident is that not everyone perceives luxury the same way. It has much to do with our financial circumstances, purchasing power and priorities.

Perhaps we should learn to withhold our judgement and let everyone celebrate their wins. Even if it is a simple Charles & Keith bag.

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