We could all do with a little more in the bank every month, especially when times are tougher than ever and the economic outlook remains bleak.
Short of taking up more side gigs, one way to ensure you stay in the pink of financial health would be to amp up your savings. By making these thoughtful adjustments, you’ll pad your bank account consistently and may even be able to retire a couple of years earlier than planned. Yes, there’s some research and number-crunching involved, but you’ll be glad you did that eventually.
Smart shoppers know that you pay off your credit card bills in full at the end of every month. Smarter shoppers though, make sure they’re earning some form of cashback/air miles for every dollar spent. For instance, check DBS Live and POSB Everyday for 5-8 per cent rebates.
But the most intelligent shoppers make card sign-ups a way to get some cool lifestyle perks, bagging everything from free AirPods Pro (Citi Cash Back), $200 Lazada shopping vouchers (HSBC Advance), beauty deals with Browhaus and Laneige (DBS Women’s World) to a Samsung 24” monitor (Amex Express Platinum). While there’s an annual fee to keep in mind and some homework to ensure you meet all spending criteria, if you’re diligent about it, not only will you build up your credit history, but you’ll also be able to secure some freebies from the money you already know you’re going to spend.
Despite the mask mandates and class size limitations, nothing beats the social aspect of heading to the gym, plus the in-person instruction which is crucial for beginners.
If you’ve already got your fitness basics down pat (for instance, how to engage your core properly and do foundational exercises in proper form), you may benefit from an at-home gym space that doesn’t need to cost too much to set up. For a start, you’ll need a proper exercise mat and some light weights. Many gyms now have on-demand virtual classes such as Barry’s At-Home, which allow you to glean the benefits of a class setting from the comfort of your home.
Otherwise, utilise fitness apps like Peloton, Alo Moves, Obe Fitness and The Pilates Class, which all offer free trials. If you plan your sign-ups properly (or even share them with your bestie), you might enjoy a few cost-free months of fitness app membership.
The truth is, skincare can get expensive, and one way to save your dollars is to get smart about what you spend on.
Beauty pros don’t admit it, but there’s a secret rule amongst them: If a product isn’t spending a lot of time on your face, e.g a cleanser or makeup remover, a wallet-friendly drugstore brand will suffice. Another secret: These pros keep a lookout for when these items are on sale, so they can stock up on them.
Splurge on the skincare that works for your skin, say, a night serum that gives your skin a beautiful hydrated glow when you wake up, or a lightweight sunscreen with added blue light protection, doesn’t leave a white cast on skin, and doesn’t pill under makeup.
At the same time, make a consistent effort to adopt healthy skincare habits such as daily deep cleansing, regular facials, drinking more water, and having a balanced diet. With healthy skin that glows from within, you will be inspired to do with less makeup, which will save you money in the long run.
If your daily skincare routine still involves 10 steps, it may be time to whittle it down to something less laborious and more sustainable, in terms of budget and time.
Financial advisors will always recommend getting your home loan refinanced or repriced. As a rule of thumb, if you can save anywhere from $1,000 on interest payments, refinancing is a good idea.
If it’s been a while since you’ve looked into the nitty-gritty, crunch the numbers to see if converting from a fixed interest rate to a floating interest rate, or vice versa, will help lower your monthly payments. Do keep in mind your loan’s lock-in period; if you’re nearing the end, there’s usually a three-month notice period — this is the time to shop around. If you’re still deep into your lock-in period, you may still be able to re-finance for substantial savings but there’ll be a penalty fee to pay, so make sure it works in your favour.
Saving money and buying big-ticket items may not be an immediate association but if you’re buying $6.50 gluten-free muffins every other day, maybe fork out $599 for a Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer and make your own. Not only are you actually saving money (ingredients notwithstanding) but you might even get a side gig out of it. Hey, you never know!
Take stock of your current home scenario and strategise how you can enjoy your favourite outdoor luxuries at home. Choose items that add value to your present lifestyle: a coffee machine for weekend cappuccinos, a wine fridge so you can host wine tastings, a proper Hi-Fi system so you can bring that in-cinema experience to your couch. While you research, look into their resale value (do a quick search on Carousell or FB Marketplace) so if the purchase doesn’t work out, you’re not stuck with an expensive white elephant.
Taking a proactive approach to lowering your tax bill is a life skill everyone should learn – and it doesn’t take a genius to figure it out. While most people know about income reliefs for parents, children, charitable donations (for every dollar, you get a $2.50 tax deduction), one easy but often overlooked way is to contribute cash towards your SRS account.
While capped at a maximum of $15,300 per annum, every dollar deposited into the account reduces your taxable income by a dollar – and you get to re-use that money for investment purposes, thus growing your retirement account. Another CPF-linked approach is to top up your Special Account (capped at $7,000 per annum), which can bring you to a lower chargeable income bracket so your tax bill is calculated at a lower interest rate.
Also, if you’re already keeping track of employment expenses, these can be deducted so make sure you keep receipts to back up business entertainment expenses, travel and even electricity and Wi-Fi expenses if you’re working from home.
Now that there’s a subs for everything from wellness newsletters to your beauty serum, Netflix and Disney+, Google Drive (because you take too many videos), it’s hard to keep track of where your money is going each month. While letting yourself get billed as little as $2.99 per month doesn’t seem like much, multiply that by four digital subscriptions that you use once or twice a month, and you’d have flushed a nice dinner down the drain.
Keeping on top of them – we recommend simply listing them out on a Google Sheet with start/cancellation dates – is one way to examine which subscriptions you’re *actually* using, and also how you can cycle through them to see which you need for a specific period (Netflix for when You Season 3 is back, Spotify if you’re focused on podcasts for the month) instead of all year round. Also, don’t rule out signing up for 30-day trials or looking for reduced rates (ask about student or family rates or check if your telco has a special bundle deal) if you like the service.
(Read also “New Shows And Movies To Get Excited For In February 2021“)
Gone are the days you tick off buying an annual travel insurance plan at the start of the year. Before you pocket the $200-$300 annual premium and head to Sephora, look into a personal accident insurance plan.
What it costs (it can be as low as $0.30 a day) will likely not go to waste and can save you from large, unexpected bills. If you’re embarking on more outdoor activities like hiking, cycling, scooting and working out at home, this ensures you’re properly covered, and won’t end up chalking up a huge amount of medical bills in the *touch wood* scenario you incur an injury and/or require TCM and physiotherapy services not included in most hospitalisation plans.
New personal accident insurance plans also cover for Covid-19 (and other diseases like dengue and hand, foot and mouth), and have a hospital cash component ($50-$100 a day) should you be unable to work for a while.
This is a tough one. On one hand, a car is needed now more than ever before. On the other, it’s a big chunk of monthly expenses (on average $1,000 a month) and if you’re working from home and not socialising as much as before, is a car still needed?
While each individual’s scenario is personal, crunch the numbers to see what you’re spending annually on the car besides the loan (road tax, maintenance, insurance, parking, petrol) and if the gap can be closed by utilising ride-share services or car rental services like DriveHub and BlueSG (although, take note that pets aren’t allowed).
If a car can’t be sacrificed, look into reducing the annual maintenance cost by shopping around for a better-suited car insurance policy. Just make sure you’re adequately covered and don’t end up forking out extras, repairs, young/new driver excess, damaged windscreens, that you may have failed to consider.