What's the difference?

By Li Jing (China Daily)
Updated: 2011-01-02 09:37
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Beijing: What's the difference?

For this young lady, paying a couple hundred more for a designer outfit makes no noticeable dent in her budget. Li Jing finds out why

What's the difference?


Zhang Rui is oblivious to the rising cost of rice and vegetables. She hardly cooks at home, and eating out like she does, inflation is buffered by restaurants willing to absorb some of the costs to keep customers coming.

"I am not too aware of rising prices as the quality of my life has been pretty consistent," she says.

Zhang works in a Fortune 500 company in the Beijing CBD.

"I don't have a habit of looking too closely at price tags. As long as they are within a certain price range - such as less than 900 yuan for skirts, or less than 500 yuan for cardigans or sweaters, I'll buy them, whether they are on discount or not.

"Maybe that's why I'm less sensitive to inflation."

Zhang, 30, is definitely part of the new elite, born after the 1980s into the one-child family, nurtured and matured in the good times. She graduated from a reputable Beijing college more than seven years ago, and is now a senior manager at her company, drawing a five-figure salary that is fully at her disposable. Her parents are both still working in the northern Chinese city of Changchun and she does not need to send money home.

Single, independent and comfortable, life is good and there are few financial pressures.

"Every month I have 30 percent of my income left." After setting aside some as an occasional gift for her parents, most of her money then goes towards travel and investment.

She spends about 10,000 to 20,000 yuan per trip, and thinks nothing of forking out 1000 yuan for a night at a top spa in Tokyo or 900 yuan for a room with a view at Dunhuang.

She subscribes to the philosophy that if you work hard, you play hard. Just as she pays a premium to buy a unique travel experience, Zhang Rui is not about to brave the crowds to save a few dollars on cosmetics.

When told that certain products have raised their prices by about 20 to 30 percent, Zhang shrugs it off. As long as it is within the 1,000-yuan mark, it's not going to make a huge difference.

"Prada, Chanel and Gucci are such common brands among my colleagues that we seldom stock up when we travel abroad. It's really just for daily use."

Online group shopping discounts have no attractions for Zhang, who believes the best way to make money is to use money.

With a 30-year home loan of 1,700 yuan per month, Zhang says she's actually paying less now because of inflation. The monthly payment used to account for about 30 percent of her take-home pay, but it is now a smaller fraction.

"In times of inflation, rather than give money to the banks, it is better to use it. A wise investment gives you much better returns."

Apart from putting her money on blue chips, this young lady also tried investing in a coffee bar, pitching in with six friends. The bar failed to survive, but Zhang learned a good lesson with her 20,000-yuan investment.

"It helped me know the basics of running a business."

For Zhang, "the safest investment is to put in an outstanding performance at work and get better paid." That's inflation-proofed.