Ever wondered what your salary and spending habits are like in comparison to your peers? Money Talks is a column by Her World that takes an honest look at how women spend their money. If you would like to submit a money diary anonymously, please email us at email@example.com with the subject “Money Talks” in your email header, and one of our editors will get back to you.
In today’s column, we speak to an associate manager working in the public relations industry, who is in her early 30s and thinking of buying her first piece of property.
About The Diarist
Occupation: Associate Manager
Industry: Public Relations
Age: Early 30s
Education Level: Master’s Degree
Average Monthly Expenses
Utilities & Internet: Inclusive in the price of rent
Insurance: $4,300 a year for life, critical illness and hospitalisation insurance plans.
Investments: $200 in ETFs through robo-advisor StashAway.
Phone Bill: N.A. as it’s covered by my company
Subscriptions: $450 for New York Times, Spotify, Netflix, Adobe, and gym memberships. I share Disney+ and Amazon Prime services with friends.
Entertainment: Anywhere from $0 to $50
Anything Else: –
Savings: About $3,000
On how she tracks her spending:
I probably spend money every day, at the very least on public transport and food because I eat out a lot. When it comes to beauty and fashion, I usually only buy things that I really need. I am the most lenient on myself if spending for a celebration, such as a friend’s birthday or wedding ang pao, but for the latter, I do refer to resources online to see what’s a sensible amount.
I give myself more leeway when it comes to things within the realm of health and wellness, such as my gym memberships and groceries. I know that if I really want to save money, I could cancel my gym membership and just go running outside or follow videos on YouTube for free. But it’s more motivating for me to go to the gym – whether alone or with friends – and that to me makes the $300 I pay monthly worth it. I sign up for more than one because they offer different workouts and I enjoy the variety.
Every time I spend on something, I update my Seedly account, which allows me to keep track of all my expenses. This way, I more or less know how much I can afford to spend on daily necessities like grocery shopping and food. Usually, this determines if I’m going to buy oat milk or cow’s milk; bananas or strawberries.
When it comes to skincare and makeup, I already have my tried and tested favourites. Only when I finish using something do I buy another. I also get gifted skincare and makeup quite often. On average, I spend about $50-$100 monthly on skincare, makeup and body care.
On how difficult it is to save up for a house:
I remember learning in school how it was important to save money and my parents would say the same, but the need for it only sank in when I started thinking about buying my first property a few years ago. I started reading local websites and blogs, did the math, and realised how far off I was.
Cliche as this sounds, closing in on age 30 sparked the thought of buying my first home. Spending $30 on brunch suddenly didn’t seem so fun anymore. I still want to enjoy life and hang out with friends but I’m a more conscious spender these days. I used to travel three to five times a year, but now, I only plan to if I have the extra cash or if it’s to spend quality time with family.
I want to buy my own property soon, so by those standards, I don’t have enough. My goals are to save (or make) more to afford my first property and to build a f*ck off fund – a safety net in case an emergency comes up and I need to take a break from work or simply because I want to. I once heard of someone who stood up to a toxic manager and rumour had it that she could do so because this was someone who made passive income through property ownership and didn’t “need” her job. I thought it was such a boss move. I don’t believe in being a slave to your job yet it’s difficult to disassociate when it’s work that pays the bills and you need money to get by.
I wish I were earning more but I think I am doing my best with my chosen career path. What helps is honest discussions with friends about lifestyle expectations and industry peers willing to share what career progression and increments can look like.
On cutting down on her spending to achieve her financial goals:
To say I loved shopping in my early twenties was an understatement. I would buy clothes from high street brands on a monthly basis and shoes and bags from luxury brands telling myself it was “the adult thing to do”, only to realise that I don’t wear the pieces very often at all. So I now only buy something if I really need it for work or formal occasions like weddings. Otherwise, I stick to colours and designs, which fit right into my capsule wardrobe and can be worn again and again. I also don’t feel compelled to shop luxury anymore — not until I make more money at least. My shopping philosophy is guided by practicality and it has been a plus for my wallet. What inspires me to shop less also stems from environmental reasons.
Most of my friends have greater spending power than me, whether because they make more money than I do, have partners who do, or they still live at home with their parents. Hanging out with them is when spending habits become more difficult to control. There’ve been occasions when we’d order food to share and I see myself paying over $70 for what I had expected to be a casual meal. Sometimes they’d want to check out a new cocktail bar and the cost of drinks can really add up. To cut down, I am learning to recommend where and what to eat and voice out if I don’t want to drink.
I am candid with friends about my financial goals, which also helps them see where I’m coming from. I want to keep my friendships going but I also need to take care of myself. I’d rather skip a fine dining restaurant dinner, knowing that the money I save on it can go towards a month’s worth of groceries instead.
On how she invests:
In my 20s, my peers began to talk about investing but because I was not making very much, I didn’t pay much attention to it. I’m a knob when it comes to investing but I’m trying to dip my toes into it. I chose Stashaway purely out of convenience and because a few financially savvy friends recommended it. I set a fixed amount to invest at a fixed interval ($200 a month), regardless of market conditions. The idea is to dollar-cost-average.
It can feel stressful telling myself my investments need to “work” but I’m taking these as experimental funds. I’d rather start now when I can afford to test the waters with $200 a month. It is also reassuring to know that I can withdraw my money at any time. I also invest in US equities.
I do wish that I knew enough to ride the Bitcoin, Tesla or GameStop waves though.
- money talks