A new group of young "penny-pinching" Chinese have emerged of late, representing a trend toward decreased spending amid the COVID-19 pandemic and challenging the stereotype that today's generation of Chinese only know how to spend.
These young "penny-pinchers" have kept themselves busy on Chinese social networking platform Douban sharing money-saving tips, which have earned a lot of support from Chinese netizens for their practicality.
On Douban, some groups with names such as "Harsh Women's Federation," "Harsh Men's Federation" and the "Low Consumption Institute" have been providing tips for savvy consumers to save money while dining, heading out for drinks, traveling or shopping for clothes.
The men and women's groups even held competitions to see who was the greatest champion when it came to how long someone could use a single item of clothing.
The champion of the Harsh Women's Federation was a woman who has been wearing a jacket worth 39.8 yuan ($ 5.58) for the past eight years.
"When I first bought the jacket, it had long sleeves. I've worn it for more than 30 days out of each year. After a few years, the cuffs wore out, so I changed it to nine-point sleeves. Later, the elbow became frayed and I cut them down to five-point sleeves. Now, I have cut the sleeves off and it has become a vest," the champ posted on Douban.
Besides clothing, some members also shared tips on how to save money during lunch by choosing to take their own meals to work instead of ordering out, going to work by bicycle or bus instead of a taxi, or using the net-meeting on MSN to make an international call to save on phone fees.
While many women noted they like to drink milk tea, the 20 yuan ($2.80) price tag for a cup can be a bit hefty for some. So some women choose to make their own milk tea by mixing black tea with milk, which saved them hundreds of yuan a month. Meanwhile, men who said they like to drink Coca Cola came up with the money-saving method of mixing a can of soda with half a bottle of water to make it last longer.
These useful tips earned hundreds of likes from the Chinese netizens, who noted they were eager to try them.
"I quite respect them and agree with their values. Everyone has the right to choose their own lifestyle. They choose to save money rather than go out and do something illegal due to poor economic conditions," one Chinese netizen going by the handle dingfuzhuangdazihua told the Global Times on Sunday.
Passion for life
However, some Chinese netizens commented that there would be no way for them to be happy living such a "harsh" lifestyle.
"I also used to get by in life by suppressing my desire to buy things. I wouldn't buy anything if it was too expensive, useless, or even unhealthy. But after a long time, I began to feel like a dead person with a meaningless life," one Chinese netizen commented on Sina Weibo.
Yang, the 26-year-old leader of the "Low Consumption Institute" group, told the Global Times on Sunday that "spending more or less has nothing to do with one's happiness index."
"Henry David Thoreau, who lived next to Walden Lake, was very frugal, but he seemed to have been happier than many of us," Yang said, adding that it was her pursuit of security and happiness that made her change her spending habits and encouraged her to continue her thrifty ways.
"The more I learned about consumerism, the more I began to understand what I truly needed. From there, my daily consumption naturally lessened. There are not that many things worth buying in daily life, and much of the so-called 'worthy' consumption in the capital market does not lead to real happiness," she said, noting that she does not feel everyone should follow this type of lifestyle as its acceptance varies from person to person.
Yang said she established the group on Douban in 2019 after she shared some journal entries about using credit cards that gained a lot of attention from many Chinese netizens.
She later launched a challenge to see if she or any of her group members could keep their expenses under 3,000 yuan ($420) a month. She managed to stick to this budget for more than half a year.
Yang noted that membership in the group has increased rather rapidly during the novel coronavirus epidemic.
"The virus crisis seems to have given people more time to think about their consumer behavior. They might want to find a more suitable consumption model rather than losing themselves in material temptations."
According to Yang, young people should be more aware of saving money, and she doesn't agree with labeling today's younger generations as the "moonlight clan," which is used in Chinese to describe young people who spend their salaries faster than earning.
"I believe that some retailers or those who are addicted to shopping seem to borrow the concept of 'moonlight clan' to emphasize consumption capability, highlight people's personalities, and even boast their social value," said Yang.
Some Chinese netizens said that their idol is Lucy Liu, the US actress who became a Chinese celebrity after she starred in the dark comedy-drama TV series Why Women Kill, in which her character works very hard to build up some "f**k you money" for herself to become less dependent on her husband.
Wang Lan, a 29-year-old woman who is working in Canada, told the Global Times that she is following in Liu's footsteps to save money for herself.
"These 'harsh' men and women are not incapable of spending, they are just not willing to follow the wave of irrational consumption. They know how to use money the right way, and have created a new concept when it comes to consumption," she said.