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#5: Money, Digital Banking Woes, March 2020
You are reading the fifth instalment of Party of Three, where I share three random things or thoughts in each letter. In my last letter, sent last week on Feb 19, I wrote about coming home to Jakarta after almost one year of being away. You can read that here. No excuses on my random schedule other than that it is simply a matter of life events and writing stamina.
As always, thank you for being here.
I’ve been thinking about money a lot. How to be wiser with it, how to change how I spend it… These are not new thoughts. After all, there has never been a day where money does not haunt me. But since living alone, I realized that this is the first time in a very long time, the first time in my adult life, that I am thinking about money purely for and with myself. Doing so without the kind of considerations and/or negotiations that come with being in a relationship.
Sure, the predictability of my days has allowed for more control over where and when money goes, but perhaps more importantly, I’m realizing that living alone means living without the sense of being so closely perceived by way of your daily financial decisions. Respectful and considerate as one may be in a relationship about matters related to money, it’s kind of nice to not feel like anyone is worrying about you that way, and vice versa.
So I’ve been experimenting with my priorities, rethinking my boundaries, which I guess is all part of the process of figuring out who I am as a person who lives alone, the way people who do not have anyone to ask “makan apa ya nanti?” at least twice a day are alone, the way people who do not wait for anyone before watching the latest episode of Succession are alone.
I learned that I was completely fine with hoarding leftovers from my GoFood orders and making new meals out of them throughout the following week or two. Doing this, I’ve had fun getting creative with my meals (the other day I had the exquisite combo of masala scrambled eggs using leftover sauce from Achaa’s chicken tikka masala + leftover Yoshinoya beef + kimchi from mom + rice), I get to save money, and some friends will be pleased to hear I am minimizing my food waste. I also learned that I do not have to turn on my AC so much. This nice medium-sized portable fan has been circulating cool air around my space throughout the day, cutting my AC use by a lot and keeping my electricity bill nicely under Rp300,000/month.
It’s not so much about whether living alone was cheaper (it can be) or whether I get to splurge without shame (I do), but that absolutely nothing needs explaining. As a chronic people pleaser, I could feel my muscles relax a little.
I mentioned last week how the state I’m currently in reminds of early pandemic days, and I guess that’s true in this way, too? The way that when left to my own devices, out of a relationship and away from most of my friends, there were things I was more than ok without, new avenues from which to derive daily pleasure. At least for now.
Speaking of money…
Digital banking woes
A couple days after the mess that is Mandiri on Feb 25, I went out for dinner and groceries. To pay for my meal, I offered my Bank Jago debit card, which I use for daily transactions. They ran my card — declined. They ran it a second time — same result. Annoyed, I handed them my Jenius debit card, which thankfully worked. That’s one of Jenius’ better qualities: the app may be slow, it may have had one too many login errors in the past, but I’ve never had problems with offline transactions. Even and especially abroad.
Later that night, checking my Bank Jago account, I noticed that both of the failed debit card payment I’d made earlier had been charged from my balance. Two Rp244,860 charges, leaving me down Rp489,720 for the week.
Bank Jago’s features are wonderful. The app allows you to create up to 20 expense pockets and 20 savings pockets, the most any app of its kind offers, which makes it extremely customizable. Another feature that I love is that you can connect it to Gojek and charge your GoRide or GoFood orders directly to specific pockets in your Jago account. No more Gopay top-ups! And even when you do have to top up, transactions between Bank Jago and Gojek are free.
This, however, wasn’t the first time Bank Jago has charged me for a payment that didn’t go through. It has happened at least 2 or 3 other times. Occasionally, even when a transaction was successful, it would take a few days before it appeared in your transaction history. A clear problem if you’re in need of presenting payment receipts. If I have the energy, I’d contact their customer service to report my case. Other times, I take a deep breath, pray for patience and a digital banking miracle that my problems would be solved without having to make reports.
As someone who is not very good with money, I have always been first to fall for the promise of digital banks. I opened my Jenius account the first year they launched, excited for the ability to start multiple savings pockets and separate my cash into 3 other cards. When Bank Jago came into the picture last year, I signed up a few months after their launch and immediately created an entirely new system for my expenses, one that was far better than my Jenius system. In my desperation for a better way of organizing my money, it didn’t occur to me to consider security or reliability, something other friends have noted when asked about their reluctance to make the switch or open an account. I operate by the belief that if they were good enough for OJK, they’re good enough for me? And so I was first to jump, and first to get frustrated.
It’s been eight years since CIMB Niaga set the bar for digital banking with their Rekening Ponsel and “tarik tunai tanpa kartu” features, the first bank I’d ever used that felt properly “digital”. Five years since Jenius launched, followed by Digibank. Yet it seems none of the banking apps on the market today have met their full potential. All of these apps are unfulfilling in big and small ways.
Mandiri’s relaunch of their Livin’ app is a joke — nothing is more amusing than having to read their customer service specify “Livin’ kuning” and “Livin’ biru” when answering user queries. Sure there are up sides to the new Livin’ app (kuning) — when it works. But can someone explain to me why they couldn’t just… update the blue old app (biru) instead of ask users to install and activate a whole new app?
BCA users preach reliability, with fewer system crashes compared to Mandiri, and yet BCA really took their time to figure out their evolution to digital and I’d gotten too frustrated with their vintage app to stay a believer.
Maybe I’m naive but, the bottom line of this increasingly long rant about my digital banking experiments is: have we really not progressed past the point of system crashes during payday and offline transaction problems???
Technology gods, please fix, I beg of you.
Two years on
The sickest I’d ever been in my life was two weeks before the government declared a lockdown of sorts in March 2020. A mild fever, terrible flu. Whenever I stood up, I was extremely dizzy. I was tired all the time. This went on for almost two weeks. I took several days of sick leave, went to the doctor, got prescribed medicine, was told to come back in two weeks. Two weeks later, I was too scared of Covid exposure to go back to the hospital. These days I wonder if that was Covid.
My last day of working from the office was a short one. I’d gone into the office thinking I was finally no longer sick, only to start feeling a headache creep in right after lunch. I told everyone I needed to go home. Jokingly, I’d said to some friends that that might be the last time I see them, "since we’ll all go into lockdown soon, lol”. And maybe I’m psychic because that did turn out to be the last time I saw a lot of my work friends. It turned out to be the last time for a lot of things that I loved, period.
From a March 30, 2020 letter that I wrote:
The days are hardly idle but everything feels still and empty nonetheless. There's plenty of work to be done, but will they even be there in two months' time? Will I ever make that walk to the coffee place behind our office building the same way I used to? Will I see my friends in the same way we all used to see each other? How much longer until then?
I can finally answer some of these questions: Work stayed, but my feelings about it changed. I did go back to that coffee shop near our building for old time’s sake. I did get to see friends again, at different times, in different places, in different ways.
Thinking of life pre-March 2020 will never not make me want to curl up and cry. Even with these answers, somehow the mystery continues.