Stretching the CNY budget

  • Business
  • Sunday, 11 Feb 2007

With Chinese New Year approaching, it's inevitable that the budget will be stretched to meet the festive needs. But, say some of our ladies in politics, there are ways to avoid spending more than you have to. 

THE song Cai Shen Dao (the arrival of the God of Prosperity) is on full blast in shopping centres these days to drum up the festive mood. Indirectly, it is meant to encourage people to spend, but consumers, it seems, are clinging on to their money.  

“Sales are not as brisk as before,” lamented the owner of an outlet selling New Year foodstuff in a shopping centre in Petaling Jaya. 

Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Dr Ng Yen Yen described the “not-so-brisk sales” situation as a spill-over from people's cautious spending last year. 

Being prudent is good but it is only part of financial management, she said, pointing out that creativity, diligence and discipline were also important, if not indispensable, when tackling economic challenges. 

While the economy is expected to get better this year with the Ninth Malaysia Plan in full swing, Dr Ng said, one should not assume that things would get easier. 

But there is a consolation especially for the ordinary folks, she said: “Things need not be complicated to be effective” and something as simple as investing a little in a hobby like gardening could make a difference.  

“You can plant organic chillies, serai and all kinds of vegetables, fruits and herbs even if you live in a flat. You can enjoy organic produce, which are expensive on the shelves and beyond the reach of many,” said the Wanita MCA chief who loves gardening and plants vegetables and herbs. 

“Isn't this better than moaning about the increase in prices of goods especially during festive seasons?” she said, adding that the same principle could be applied to other things in life as well.  

On being prudent and stretching the ringgit, Seputeh MP Teresa Kok has her own tried and tested ways. She will buy cheongsam at any time of the year but not when Chinese New Year is approaching.  

“The reason is they are more expensive during the festive season,” said the DAP woman leader who likes to wear the cheongsam for open houses.  

And she prefers designs that are more versatile because she can wear them at any time of the year. 

“I spend four months in a year attending Parliament sessions and I must have this in mind when I buy my dresses.” 

Wanita MCA’s Beliawanis (MCA Young Women’s Bureau) chief Carol Chew Chee Lin also believes in off-season shopping.  

She said people could buy stuff like fish and prawns weeks before the festive season and store them in the freezer, an idea she picked up from her aunts who loved to compare prices of foodstuff. 

Fish or yue in Cantonese (rhymes with “abundance”) and prawns or “har” in Cantonese (rhymes with “laughing happily”) are hot items for reunion dinners and are thus very expensive during the festive season. 

People can also be resourceful and add value to the ringgit by sharing information all the time, added Chew, whose version of “practicality “ is to give ang pow, if possible, and not gifts.  

“Cash is usually more appropriate,” she rationalised. 

For Women, Family and Community Development parliamentary secretary Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun, creativity and moderation should be the basis for spending during the festive season.  

“Having one or two new dresses and some simple but nice home decorations to create the New Year mood for the family get-together will be very nice. 

“Nice things need not be expensive. It is the atmosphere we create that counts,” reasoned the 43-year-old Wanita MCA deputy chief who is a good cook and a doting aunt to several nieces and nephews.  

Gerakan Wanita chief Datuk Tan Lian Hoe's advice is to spend within one's means in order to avoid ending up in debt. 

She also reminded people to be more careful during the festive season – from driving carefully to not playing with firecrackers.  

“Accidents are not only costly but could also be fatal,” she pointed out.  

For those with the means to do it, Tan hoped they could include donations to the poor and needy in their list of expenses.  

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