Life has become inseparable with modern technology and the comfort that devices give us is the result of creativity. It is possible to meet the needs of comfort and utility for people from all cultural and economic backgrounds with a technological device. Many people however are unable to pay the high prices asked for technological devices.
Interestingly, you can see that people who cannot actually afford devices such as smartphones have them anyway.
While holding an iPhone in her hands, 20-year-old Som Nimol, who works at a grocery shop, says that “I pay for this phone by instalments, meaning I have to pay every month because I don’t have enough cash to buy it at once.”
Talking about her salary, she says that she can earn $100 per month at the most but she has to pay off the phone.
“I sometimes face a money shortage while on the instalment plan as I also have to spend money on clothes and food,” Nimol explains.
Despite her sometimes difficult financial situation, Nimol says: “I don’t know many other uses for the phone apart from making and receiving calls, but it looks cool on me. I don’t regret my purchase.”
Other people encounter the same money problems as Nimol and don’t regret their choice to pay monthly either.
Twenty-three-year-old Kan Bora, for example, works in a factory and uses an instalment plan to pay as well. He says: “As I have this phone through an instalment plan, I have to be thrifty; otherwise, I don’t have enough to spend on food. I don’t speak English and I don’t understand many of the applications but I feel cool and up-to-date because I have this phone.”
Looking at both Nimol and Bora it appears that some people give great value to their looks and an image of modernity without making proper use of modern smartphones.
Sadly, people like Nimol and Bora don’t regret their decisions and can’t see how the instalment plan puts them through hardships without giving them any real benefit.
Meas Sarith, 55, a government official and father, says: “My kid asked me to buy one of those expensive smartphones for him as well but I refused to do so because he doesn’t know how to make the best use of it yet besides using it to show off to his mates. ”
Relating to the problem of spending money one doesn’t have, public policy university lecturer Khan Chenda wants people “to consider finance guru Warren Buffett’s tips on spending: ‘If you buy things you don’t need, you will soon sell things you need.’ On this note, I’d like to emphasise that smartphones can give lots of benefits to their users but if they just buy a smartphone for talking, they should consider buying a normal phone instead.”
There are people who think more carefully before buying things they probably cannot afford.
Morm Sothearith, 25, who works at a bank in Phnom Penh, says: “Before I buy a phone in instalments, I have to think of the benefits it could have for my work and studies.”
Currently, buying electronic devices in instalments is a popular choice, especially for young people.
Ms Na, a staff member at a local company providing instalment payment services, says that the number of customers who subscribe to an instalment plan has increased remarkably over the last year.
“Most people who buy devices [with our help] such as iPhones, iPads and iPods are workers. The number of them increases every month.”
The popularity of the instalment plan is reflected in the increasing number of customers. Are companies offering instalment plans to blame for the financial pressure they put on young customers?
Roth Vathana, macroeconomics lecturer at the Institute of Foreign Languages, says that “We can’t put blame on the instalment mechanism for overwhelming young people, because without the instalment plan they would cut back on daily expenses in order to afford the device.” She adds: “Peer pressure makes people want a modern device.”
Khan Chenda believes that instalment plans contribute to Cambodia’s economic growth. “For young people who participate in the labour market, paying is a major responsibility and our country’s economy is expected to grow further.”
But no matter how you pay for the things you buy, it is obvious that you should only buy them if you can put them to good use.
Roth Vathana says it this way: “If people can earn money on their own, then buying anything is not a problem. But even though we shouldn’t be tight-fisted, we must not buy things only for the sake of wanting to look cool and fashionable.”