Making every cent count

Making every cent count

School team successfully show how money can be easily saved

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Students from DMHC Siu Ming Catholic Secondary School (back row, from left) Cordelia Ngai, Kitty Kwok Wai-yi, Catherine Yiu, and Jasmine Lam, and Cognito College's Rita Lee (front row, left) and Jessie Yu Kit-hui, who won top prizes in the Consumer Culture Study Award.
Students from DMHC Siu Ming Catholic Secondary School (back row, from left) Cordelia Ngai, Kitty Kwok Wai-yi, Catherine Yiu, and Jasmine Lam, and Cognito College's Rita Lee (front row, left) and Jessie Yu Kit-hui, who won top prizes in the Consumer Culture Study Award.
Photo: Nora Tam/SCMP
In our money-obsessed city, most people's thoughts are not on saving their cash ... but rather on how they can spend, spend, spend.

However, one group of teenagers had other ideas and set out to show us all how we can save money.

Their thrifty ideas have been recognised by the 13th Consumer Culture Study Award with the first runner-up spot in the competition's senior division.

A team of Form Five students from DMHC Siu Ming Catholic Secondary School won the award with their project, called "Money Saving Plan". For three months, the group members had to limit each of their monthly expenses to HK$300.

Most said their biggest item of expenditure was on transportation. Team member Cordelia Ngai Chi-wing decided to save transport costs by walking to school every day, which took about 40 minutes. However, she eventually stopped because of the hot weather and her family being worried about her safety.

Also, the plan did not go as smoothly as they predicted because the team did not anticipate the extra expenses during the festive season. Catherine Yiu Hin-lok says she exceeded her HK$300 budget in December because she had to spend money on making chocolates for her friends as Christmas presents.

While they did have many obstacles to overcome, the team found creative yet thrifty solutions to many of them. Jasmine Lam Yan-hang describes how she tried to conquer her urges with the power of the mind: "Whenever I was thirsty, I would visit the convenience stores and look at the soft drinks, hoping that would quench my thirst."

Cordelia also had an innovative way to save money. "I used to drink coffee every day. But to save money, I would sleep instead of drinking coffee."

The team members believe the project has been a fruitful and rewarding experience for them. "Now I think twice before buying anything. I ask myself, 'is it really necessary?', 'can it be substituted by other means?' before dipping into my purse," Jasmine says.

Apart from reducing their shopping habits, they have also discovered that the value of a gift does not depend on its price, but its meaning. "Sometimes, a birthday card full of blessings can bring more joy than expensive birthday presents," Catherine says.

Through their new thriftiness, the team wants to spread the message of spending wisely and inspire others to reduce their expenses.

Another group of Form Four students from Cognitio College (Hong Kong) won the second runner-up spot with their project "Mong Kok's Monologue". It evaluates people's different perceptions of Mong Kok.

Under the project, they interviewed mainland tourists and locals on why Mong Kok was their favourite shopping hot spot. They found that many mainlanders took great pride in acquiring branded goods like handbags when they went there.

The strange thing about Mong Kok is that just a few streets away from the posh branded stores, hawkers sell fake luxury handbags in trolleys that also attract huge numbers of buyers.

"Mong Kok has a unique culture that is very 'Hong Kong'," says team member Rita Lee Tsz-ching.

"It has many traditional shops that have been around for decades and also new high-rise shopping malls. It is a shopping paradise and represents the culture of Hong Kong."

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