What is the new cost of living?

IT'S a question that comes about commonly in discussions. How do you save, how do you earn more money, what do you cut out of your spending, what are you saving up for?

The questions are aplenty, mostly because the concerns are multiplied now due to our raised cost of living. And this is perhaps what the older generation doesn't understand.

One of the major expenditures these days is based on technological advances.

For one thing, there were no smart phones in the 1970s, which probably remained that way until 2005. You could of course open social media sites and news sites in 2005, but the cost of data was high compared to now, where telcos are fighting over who gives better freebies and cheaper packages.

There was a time where mobile service providers would charge you for opening WhatsApp.

At the same time, Astro wasn't exactly booming back then. There was Mega TV for a time, but with the number of services available now from iFlix, Netflix and even Hulu, it wasn't an additional cost in the "good old days".

I was surprised that Astro was considered a necessity particularly among guys for one reason alone – they want to watch football. Everything else was secondary, football matters – even if they end up watching it at a restaurant at 3am.

Parents with teenage children, guess where they are during school holidays?

56K modems were common, but charged a bomb. Now, everyone wants broadband. Teachers and lecturers now expect students to keep in touch via messaging and email, share lessons and presentations via cloud, and students are even teaming up in taking notes thanks to this technology.

Let's not forget, where once you could write on paper, now you have to type one either from your personal computer, your phone, or even head to a cyber cafe to finish assignments.

And due to all this and the inability to take things slower like "the good old days" of fax machines and telexes, the want for information in an instant has increased productivity at the cost of, well, cost of living.

There's no time to prepare your own lunch at home, or even go home for lunch like some used to, making people focus instead on dining out. The need for two incomes per household to survive, then contracts the caring of the small children to a third party – an additional cost for those not relying on grandparents.

At the same time, appliances have made life better but have made us more curious – let's do a survey of how many people bought a bread maker, air fryer, convection oven or those lovely pastel colour kitchen aid mixers which are used perhaps less than five times a year.

Of course, with apartments now not having a large area to hang clothes out to dry as well as those unpredictable weather patterns, a dryer becomes a necessity. Add one more cost.

And, let's not forget, with the heat these days, air-conditioning is a lifesaver. Altogether, this will all reflect in the electricity bill, and of course, the water bill – more so if you don't live in Selangor.
And let's not forget the car, inclusive of the road tax, insurance, highway tolls, parking and petrol – maybe the odd summons.

Subsequently, with a smart phone, come apps – these have monthly costs as well. And now that it has come to accept debit cards, in come Spotify, the mobile television and film subscriptions, the need to beat the friend in Pokemon Go by buying more virtual supplies, even those monthly subscriptions to news and magazines.

For some families, there isn't even time to go out grocery shopping, instead relying on services provided by Tesco, Jaya Supermarket, or for the more upscale Malaysian, Honestbee and HappyFresh.
Even the fatigue of wanting dinner but not wanting to go out is now catered for by FoodPanda and McDonald's, soon including UberEats.

Similarly, there isn't time to shop, thus giving rise to Lazada, Zalora and even AliBaba. For the upper class and trendy, every single fashion house now allows online purchases, even overseas from the likes of Asos and Mr Porter.

All of these give rise to one thought – when we talk about cost of living, the word "living" itself needs to be considered. What exactly is the lifestyle of a Malaysian today. And what does it mean when we say that cost of living has increased.

Hafidz Baharom is a public relations practitioner. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com