It was very late on a Friday and we were just getting started to have the most interesting girls night in months. My friend Leena Gupta proposed, "Lets do my five step skincare routine!" and we were hooked. We knew she was serious about skincare when she showed us her newly collected expensive line of Korean products. Her cosmetic kit was a proof of how things change for us when we start earning money.
“Putting toner on your face is like telling your skin that good things are coming,” she said before pulling out the big guns.
The three of us huddled on my single bed while Leena took out one eye cream from her overflowing kit and said, “Try this, this makes me smell like a rich lady.” It really did.
When Leena talks about skin care these days, she isn’t opening up about a guilty pleasure. Her skin is obviously glowing and she seems in control. At least momentarily. For her, it is about self-love.
What are young people spending on? That was the question I set course to answer.
Burning your money on luxurious items is seen as a bad practice because saving money is what proves fruitful in the long run. But Leena does both. She told me, “2-3 years back when I was a student, I would have never dared to do it. But now I am allowing myself to indulge a bit only because I have the choice to do it. I am saving on my rent, food etc.” Salaried professionals working from their parents home can relate to her.
Like my friend, many 20-somethings are just getting started with adult life in the middle of a pandemic. Some of us are faring better than others paycheck wise and we are choosing to take the joyride that fits in our budget.
After talking to multiple people of my age group, I found out that there is one area where most of us are throwing our money like confetti --Food. Like me, Rajat Banerji is someone who grew up dreaming about a sitcom-esque adult life and is often disappointed by the reality. Choosing from a variety of cuisines on a mobile application and figuring out what to watch while eating that food is a great way to kill boredom. In his words, sometimes he orders “stupid food items” he doesn’t really need.
For Sejal Mehra, ordering and eating what she likes is a new thing she has only been able to do now. “As a kid, ordering food from outside was a huge thing at home. I wasn’t allowed to and being overweight, even eating what I felt like was such a huge thing. Now that I am earning, I give in to my cravings and am actually healthier than before!”
Some people are also stocking up their wardrobe in hopes of a time where we won't be cooped up inside our homes. When Anshika Verma started earning she wanted to have a vacation-ready wardrobe. “ Now I want to spend my money on bikinis and cute outfits. It makes me happy because I think of all the situations where I’d wear it. It gets me thinking about a future vacation and how happy I'd be after wearing them.”
For Annanya Bhatnagar shopping has become like a coping mechanism. With commendable self-awareness, she said, “Anxiety? Burger. Work stress? Shoes.” She also plans for the distant future by taking advantage of the present, “I miss winters, so whenever there is a sale I buy hoodies and sweatshirts.”
We do what we can to help us feel better. Purnima Mehta adopted a cat. Her Luna is a chosen family to her. From medicines to cat litter, caring for a pet comes at a cost but Purnima is too happy to care. She says, "When it comes to my cat, it seems like I am the earning member of the family and Luna doesn’t earn so I have to."
“It’s nice to have someone’s presence. And when the other person ( animal in my case) chooses to be with you, I don’t think there is anything I would be happier about.”
Namrata Ganguly has also been investing her money on her loved ones. In the past one year, Namrata has spent a huge chunk of her paycheck in buying gifts for people, especially her mother. She keeps sending sugar-free ice cream to her Nani and birthday gifts to friends who used to spoil her the same way when she was studying.
"And that means the world to me. I feel I can never repay that love ever no matter how much I do for them. So now that I earn whatever little I can, I make sure to treat them. "
Some are also using their new financially independent life to learn more. Many are buying books and investing in short-term online courses to get a little ahead in life. Saraswati N.T told me that she started taking guitar lessons after she got her first salary.
“ I think for me, the happy-expenditure has been on my guitar class. I bought a guitar for myself as soon as I landed a job.”
She also got her ears pierced again. “ That gave me some kind of relief mentally..it’s like physical pain relieves me sometimes.”
The painful act of getting holes punched in body parts has served different purposes for different women. Srishti Lakhotia felt like she was changing something about her life. She feels the same way about colouring her hair.
“It makes me more confident. My mom never allowed me to colour my hair. After I started earning I felt economically free to do so. Not answerable to her.”
Srishti and Saraswati made use of their first salary to treat themselves. When I asked my editors Yamini P. Bhalerao and Deepshikha Chakraborty about the thing they spent their first salary on, they revealed something new about their personalities.
When Yamini shifted from being a homemaker to a working professional in 2017, she bought diamond earrings for herself. She has worn them every day since then. While Deepshikha spent her first salary to treat herself to the colourful screen of Sony Ericsson flip phone and kissed goodbye to "the damned blue Nokia phone."
When she started earning, “Coloured phone and a camera were a luxury.”
In 2021, the meaning of luxury has changed. Now we feel the need for more. Sanjana Deshpande started going for therapy after she got her first paycheck. During our conversation, she said, “It is what keeps me afloat, it’s my last straw to change my life at the moment with my exalted mental health issues.”
“Although mental health should be essential, it is still a luxury not everyone can afford. Its feels euphoric to be able to pay for it,” she added.
So, does money buy happiness? In my world it does. It makes people stand on their feet, makes them capable of chasing fulfilment, helps them savour that one extra scoop of ice cream and more. And with that, I am off to order a juicy burger with cheesy fries. I can also order a cold-drink to wash the food down my throat but that would totally depend on the availability of coupons.
Watch viral video now: