Most of us are just broke bloggers spending all our money in the pursuit of being relevant.
I had read this post about poverty in the urban world sometime last year. About how people are trying to keep up with the lifestyles of the rich and famous on a meagre income. It was a heartening read, which struck closer home than most such articles I had read at the time.
Of course, on the back of it were debates amongst people about how inaccurate the piece was and that nobody in their right sense would live like that. Skip meals to be able to afford a fancy sandwich, what a joke! And I disagreed with them, because I knew a person a lot like the examples in that write-up. That person, was me.
That person, still is me.
The hardest part of being broke is perhaps that people don’t believe you. I mean, how can you be broke Allen Claudius? You drive an expensive hatchback (by Indian standards), wear an Omega Seamaster watch, whip out your credit card from your fancy Louis Vuitton wallet, and are in super exclusive (and expensive) Supreme tees and Kanye West sneakers! You must be joking!
But I am not. I cut corners and take loans to be able to afford all of this fancy shit. Allow me to indulge in a bit of flashback!
Let us go back to when I was in school and Pepsi had just entered the Indian market. I come from modest beginnings. Growing up, we had the necessities and that kept us happy. Sure, I loved He-Man and got his action figures as presents. But that happened only twice a year – on my birthday and Christmas. After a lot of pleading, if I may add. Pepsi had launched this card (I cannot recollect the name, but it was something fancy) which you got after you redeemed X number of bottle crowns. It got you discounts at brands like Levi’s. I was on a lunch allowance of INR 5, yes you read that right. Not 50, not 15. Just 5 bucks, Indian. I skipped lunch for days, filling my belly with water (or eating off a classmates lunch box) so I could get myself that card and be amongst the cool kids who had them anyway. That year, I got me a pair of Levi’s Orange Tab jeans with that card and some accumulated pocket money. I valued it so much, I still own it after 15 years although I can’t slip into a 28 waist size any more.
Fast forward to university. All the cool kids had Nike and Adidas, whereas I was resigned to action Shoes and Tuffs or Liberty Force 10. You probably have never heard of them. I could not get my folks to buy me expensive shoes, because what was the point? Hence, I resorted to oil paint, customising my shoes to look a lot cooler than the production variant. That they didn’t last the rainy season, was besides the point. But my brother played a massive role in providing for me by buying me my first ever sneakers and also the all important Converse! You can read how I turned into a sneakerhead here.
Then came employment. I got into a proper corporate job. I won’t delve into the student loan I took, which I cleared only after 7 years because I thought I had to instead spend money on looking the part at my job! You are fed this thing growing up, dress for the job you want (no, not Batman, but the next level in your corporate ladder) and not the job you have. That is when I ended up picking out a Tom Ford specs frame, Clarks brogues, Tommy Hilfiger Chinos and Shirts, Tissot Watches, RayBan sunglasses, the works. Heck, I even bought me a top of the line VW Polo car on a loan which am still paying for, 4 years on!!
But that isn’t the point of this write up. I was only talking about how peer (and a bit of what society/magazines would make you believe) pressure dictates your financial crisis, until this point.
However as a blogger, there is the need to always be on point. You cannot be wearing outdated outfits, you have to be current and, at times, ahead of competition. Which means you need to be wearing (at times designer, if not always) new outfits, crisp clothes, clean shoes etc. This is not restricted to just your blog posts or Instagram. In real life, you cannot risk being seen with the same outfit more than twice (pushing it) because you are supposed to live a pretty fabulous lifestyle. That is what we make our followers believe anyway. You need to attend events, which brands and PR firms invite you for. That costs us cab monies. You can’t be traveling in a tuk tuk because you don’t want to smell of smoke and dust. And there are costs involved with maintaining your website, paying photographers to shoot and other unaccounted costs of sourcing/returning, logistics for the shoot etc. There have been several rants from bloggers about how they won’t work on barter and need to be paid for their event attendance etc. That is countered by brands who compare bloggers with journalists who cover events etc without even a barter. But then it needs to be understood that a journalist works for an established publication that foots expenses, unlike bloggers who fund themselves unless they have benevolent parents. Lol. I am too old to be asking my folks for an allowance, which is why I need an investor. Haha.
I have even received queries from a bunch of folks who are keen on getting into blogging, saying that they want to begin with collaborations from the very second post they do. And I tell them, it won’t happen unless you build some credibility for yourself first. They sing me the same song, “We can’t afford to buy new stuff all the time to do blog posts” to which my outro resounds, “If you are so certain that you want to make a career out of blogging, you will need to invest as much in merchandise as you do in researching or building your content and image. If you can’t spend money, then figure out how you can rotate your outfits to still look different from what you did in the previous posts”. I am not sure if that was the best advise to give but I called it as I saw it.
As for me, I racked up credit card bills over 2.25 Lakhs which I don’t really have the means to clear. As you read this, I am directing all my savings towards clearing my debts because I am trying to get smarter. I picked up an Omega Seamaster watch (2.45 Lakhs) and an Off-White Tee (19k INR), apart from several limited release kicks like Riccardo Tisci Nike Air Max 97 and the Black Sheep Nike Dunk SB. All in the same month. I know, just contradicted myself.
I invested 40k of my own funds to attend the Delhi Fashion Week, make videos and shoot street style images. Madness right? But I considered it an investment in fine tuning my skills and building content for my Youtube Channel. Could I have done it some other time when I had money rather than now when my debts are sky high? Most certainly! I justify my spends with “You know, blogging will eventually pay and I can clear my bills then”. I call these spends, operational expenses. And while there is truth to bloggers having to invest operationally to keep with their image, sensible spends are called for. There are no 2 ways about it. I have to pay my bills, my rent, my car emi, the works. Not like I am living off an inheritance.
Add to that my inability to cook, so all my meals are eaten outside which rakes up the end of month spends. I have stopped socialising and reduced going out because right now, the choice is between a couple of beers at the pub or saving that money to pay off my card debts. So I never go out. I make excuses and stay home. I also skip dinner on most days or go to sleep on a glass of milk. What this has helped me achieve though, is better health. Since I sleep by 10 in the night to curb hunger pangs, I am up at 5 in the morning. I walk my dog and hit the gym for a quick workout and I am on (or before) time to work every single day! Not all that bad, considering it is helping me get my life back on track.
I haven’t compulsive shopped once in all of 2017, although that is not saying a lot considering it has barely been 3 months. I am pretty proud of myself like that. The Omega Seamaster watch, Off-White Tee and Sneakers were a thought through decision. On hindsight, not all that smart a decision.
What has helped along the way is that I am now trying to embrace minimalism. It is a hard call and something I am not sure I can see through to the end.
How can a man with over 50 sneakers be a minimalist!
But it is an attempt nonetheless. I have begun to offload stuff from my wardrobe which I haven’t worn or have worn very rarely. That includes watches, sunglasses, outfits and sneakers. I have been so caught up with being “on point” that I missed the, well, point. I have always been a hoarder. I have way too many things and I hate that. Because I keep going back to my key pieces for regular wear and the rest just sits there. Anything that has not been used in over 6 months, needs to go!
Retail therapy? That is bull shit. There is no such thing. All you end up feeling on the other side of a shopping haul, is good about acquiring a lot of new stuff that will lose it’s appeal once you have worn it!
Now on, my attempt as a blogger/publication, will be to reuse my outfits and not make a fuss about wearing new clothes every single time. I know I reuse a lot of my clothes in real life. So why should it be any different online? I already began doing that, rotating my Supreme Atelier Mendini tee in a couple of posts, same goes for my kicks like the Yeezy Boost 350 V2 and the Bape NMD!
I urge you guys to focus on being satisfied with what you have, blogger or not. Because when we are done with life, nobody is going to ask you how many shoes you owned or how many outfits you changed in a day during the Fashion Week! Life is too short to be hoarding and buying, becoming emotionally attached to material stuff. But life sure is long enough to use that money elsewhere, wisely. Be it on social causes or on travel. Maybe, both.
Or maybe, just maybe, on some good spicy biryani!