“Saving is like air. You should do it always.” “Money is not to be used. Not buying is a 100% discount.” “If you don’t save now, you will have to work later when you want to rest.” These are phrases spoken by Kim Saengmin. Kim Saengmin is a comedian and reporter, but these days he is more known as a ‘bankbook fairy’ who encourages saving money. There is even a word coined for his philosophies: ‘saengmining’. It refers to the concept of saving money like him. For example, saengmining could refer to cutting one’s hair because caring for long hair requires too much shampoo, which is expensive. It could also refer to eating a meal at home instead of eating out. Lastly, it could mean making 1,660,000 won a month installments into a saving plan for 6 months to earn 10 million won at the end of the period. What is this new saving trend? And why has it become so popular especially among young people?
The trend seems to have started from the podcast, ‘Kim Saengmin’s Receipt’. In this podcast, Kim analyzes one month’s worth of receipts from a listener. He discusses the listener’s consumption pattern and gives straightforward advice. Two months after broadcasting the first episode in June, it has reached about sixteen thousand subscribers and has remained top ranking on the podcast chart until now. The podcast has become so popular that it has even been made into a television program on KBS of the same title and format. It has grown in popularity due to the younger generations’ familiarity of listening to podcasts by using smart phones. Most receipts sent in are from younger people like someone in their thirties who are newcomers to the workplace and are receiving their first salaries or are brides to be. Like the popular saying and as the word saengmining implies, Kim emphasizes extreme saving plans, installment savings, earnest feelings, and simply not spending money. These ideas are more radical than old adages of looking for better bargains or seeking discounts.
The show is basically a comedy program and it uses exaggeration for fun. However, its surprising success comes from its popularity with young people being serious about leading a thrifty life. However, is that what they really desire? Are they really willing to choose that lifestyle? Considering the high unemployment rate among young people and their low quality of life, this new trend seems like an extension of the ‘cost-effective’ trend. The Sookmyung Times examined this issue in an article titled ‘Cheaper, Unhealthier, in Poorer Taste’. In a number of cases, young people simply opt to live frugality without giving it much thought. For example, young people choose cheaper and unhealthier food like convenience store lunch boxes and waste much time and effort looking for the lowest priced product. Though they know a more pricy item is better for them, they can’t afford it. According to Lee Jaeheun, researcher at Daehak Naeil Laboratory, people in their twenties make most of their daily consumption purchases at economical places like convenience stores, coffee shops, and the “dollar shop” Daiso. They save money by making cheap daily purchases. Sometimes to relieve the stress from forced saving, they buy items out of pique or enjoy performances and exhibitions. Purchases made for immediate gratification are also a feature of consumption by people in their twenties. These purchase cause regret and serve only to strengthen their strict budgeting and mind. They are forced into Saengmin, not for saving, but for surviving. Voluntarily saving money using an installment saving plan for one’sfuture is great, but forced saving in order to sustain life is not.
Kim Seul, Kim Yeonghwca, “[YOLO vs Kim Saengmin] Mobius Strip Called Empty Account”, Daehak Naeil, September 21, 2017