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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 a 32 year-old woman who works in public relations, moved out during an all-time rental hike in Singapore, and spent close to half her salary on rent and weekly therapy sessions.
About The Diarist
Occupation: Senior Account Manager
Industry: Public Relations
Education level: Diploma
Salary: $5,400 – $6,500 (Inclusive of variable and 13 month bonus)
Average Monthly Expenses
Utilities and Cleaner: $71.35
Phone Bill: $20 for a 20GB plan from GOMO
Subscriptions: $103.90 for Spotify, Class Pass and Nespresso
Transport: $50 for public transport, and about $10 – $50 for taxi
Food: $200 – $350
Groceries: $100 – $140
Shopping: $200 – $600
Anything else: $400 – $1,000 for therapy, $300 allowance for my mother, $240 education loan for my brother
Savings: Temporarily none for the moment
Total expenditure for the month: $4,888.17
On how she tracks her money:
“I’m pretty meticulous when it comes to tracking my spending after wondering what I was spending all my money on several years back. Now I track almost every single one of my expenses on the Notes app on my iPhone, and at the end of the month, I tabulate them according to categories and input them into a personal finance app called Seedly.
While tracking your spending might make you feel bad, it’s a really good way to see where all your money is going and how much you spend on average. My current monthly expenses are pretty high, and to upkeep my current standard of living, almost my entire paycheck goes towards my expenditure. And while I could definitely spend less, the good thing about tracking is that I know exactly where everything is going, and can easily see where I need to cut back when I plan my finances for the following month.
I’m aware of what my “blind spots” are – I love fashion and consider collecting pieces as essentially my hobby, so a big bulk of it goes there, especially in recent years when I’ve stopped travelling due to the pandemic, and don’t have any other expensive hobbies. I also don’t drink and don’t spend a lot of money going out, so this is the one indulgence I will allow myself.”
On how she’s temporarily stopped saving money:
“The past year has been tumultuous for me – both in my personal and professional life.
An unfortunate housing situation caused me to move out of my current apartment and I was naïve to the rental crisis within the property market. I had moved out about two years prior just before the circuit breaker hit and lucked out into low-balling my previous landlord as he had wanted to secure a tenant before the country went into lockdown.
However, after an irreconcilable fight with my housemate turned landlord, I decided to move out. I had a rude shock when I found out just how much the rental prices had increased due to a housing shortage brought on by construction delays, and young professionals such as myself making the choice to move out even without marriage on the cards. I ended up paying close to double my current rent, going from $700 a month to $1,325 for a room in a three-room HDB flat that I share with one housemate. We pay $2,600 total for the entire apartment, but the location is so convenient that I make up for it by taking public transport everywhere.
I was also struggling a lot professionally, and coping with the pressures at work had started to become overwhelming. WFH at a new job and industry was too much for me to handle. Throw in demanding clients and a severe case of imposter syndrome, and I ended up developing depression and anxiety and was persuaded to see a weekly therapist after my loved ones shared that my constant, uncontrollable crying was not normal. While therapy has helped tremendously, it comes at a steep financial cost – each session costs me $219.35 (and this was after a discount), and can total up to over $1,000 per month.
These new costs have made it really tough to save, and as such, I’ve temporarily stopped and even given up an ill-advised investment plan just to open up more cash flow. But I also recognise how privileged I am as I didn’t move out of my family home because it was unlivable – I chose to move out because I wanted the luxury of having my own space and privacy.
On her attitude towards money now:
“Do I wish I could save more money now? Sure. And on some level, I do feel quite a bit of guilt since last year I saved a lot more due to working a lot more and also paying less in rent. But I understand that this major cost of going towards therapy isn’t forever, and while I could be more frugal by not spending any money and only eating at home, I feel like that might be a miserable existence. I spent so much of last year worrying and saving for the future, I forgot to enjoy the present. So this year I decided that I would focus less on saving. My only rule was to not spend beyond my means – as long as I didn’t go into a deficit and touch my nest egg savings, I’m ok with that. Any frivolous spending will come from my “fun” savings account, and while it’s dipping low at the moment, I still have a good $4k to play around there and about another $40k in savings.
I’ve also started taking up some freelance jobs again, so I spend a couple of hours on the weekends writing. I look at it this way – if I want to afford this lifestyle, then I gotta put in the additional time to make up for it. I’ve also decided to leave my current job as I feel the stress is not worth my mental health. I managed to negotiate a nice pay bump at my next role, so I’ve decided that once my new salary kicks in, I’ll make up for the past six months by saving the salary increase.
If there’s anything I’ve learnt, it’s that there’s no point stressing yourself out about how much you should save at any age. If you start later in life that’s fine, just try to manage it by putting aside more as your earning power increases.