An account manager by day and money-savvy blogger by night, Fiona Cher aka Budget Babe, saved $20,000 just a year after starting work – and she’s only 25! Her blog www.sgbudgetbabe.com draws about 80,000 hits per month. Fiona spills her secrets for easy, realistic – and doable, money saving tips!
DETERMINE A BUDGET
Know how much you are spending every month. Then, decide which expenses are necessary and which are not – it will allow you to draw up a realistic budget. As a buffer for emergency spending, Fiona recommends adding 20 per cent more to your budget. She shares, “If your monthly salary is $4,500, your take-home should come up to $3,600. Supposing your budget is $1,500, the additional 20 per cent means you will have about $1,800 to spend and $1,800 to save.”
Lim Shiyun, a financial services consultant with AIA Singapore, observes that it is typical for most of her clients to spend at least half of their gross monthly salary. So taking the $4,500 as an example again, this means that expenditure can go up to $2,250 – a little beyond the $1,800 Fiona recommended. “The other 50 per cent can be divided thus: 20 per cent to CPF; and 10 each for savings deposits, insurance plans and investment policies,” she explains.
As for which aspects to cut, Shiyun has a tip: “I encourage my clients to look at how much they’re spending, for example, on their children’s tuition. If they do not observe any significant results, they could consider dropping lessons and spend more bonding time instead.”
SET UP A SYSTEM FOR SAVING
Many banks offer automatic money transfers, so you can determine the amount to put aside for your savings – and have it deducted from your bank account every month.
Another way to save, points out Shiyun, is to set up three bank accounts: One for crediting your salary and spending, one for investment transactions, one for rainy day funds.
CHECK YOUR EXPENSES
Keep track of what you are spending on and how much. Identifying which areas to cut back on can help speed up your savings. Download a free app like Expense Manager, which Fiona finds especially useful because it allows her to customise her spending categories.
SKIP THE TAXIS
Instead of splurging on taxi fare (surcharges for booking, peak hour and ERP can add up to $30 or more!), take one of the premium SBS buses that ply between various housing estates and Shenton Way. The fares range from a modest $4 to $4.50 per trip, and you’ll be guaranteed a seat for some extra shut-eye. “Every month, you can expect to save about $520,” Fiona lets on.
CUT BACK ON GOURMET COFFEE
A Short Vanilla Latte from Starbucks can set you back by $5.80. Multiply that by 20 working days and the figure comes up to $116. If you need a caffeine fix daily, why not take away good ol’ kopi from your neighbourhood coffeeshop – don’t forget to bring a tumbler! At $1.20 per 250 ml, you’ll be paying only $24 for the same number of days.
PACK YOUR LUNCH
If you often have a salad bowl for lunch on weekdays, you're spending about $12 each time. It’s more economical to make your own – it will cost about $2.50 per portion (depending on ingredients). If you have a salad lunch twice a week, savings could go up to $76. Or, pack lunch four times a week. Says Fiona, “My office lunch buddy and I would cook for each other on alternate days, and eat out once a week. I must have saved about $150.”
BUY YOUR OWN DRINKS
If going for Happy Hour drinks is a regular after-work affair, buy your own alcohol and enjoy it at someone’s house. Alcohol is heavily taxed here, so this will help you enjoy liquor in a more wallet-friendy way.
TOTAL SAVINGS PER MONTH:
$1,800 + $520 + $92 + $226 + $250 = $2,888
AFTER 4 MONTHS: $11,552
So You’ve Saved $10,000 – what’s next?
Leaving money in your bank savings account is not the be-all and end-all to financial health, says Lim Shiyun, a financial services consultant with AIA Singapore. “The money in the bank earns an interest that cannot hedge against inflation, so it will lose value over time. You must consider your long-term financial goals; for example, how much money do you think is required to retire comfortably? Discuss with a financial planner how you can achieve this target,” she elaborates. “Make your money work harder and better for you with one or several investment plans.”
This story was originally published in the October 2015 issue of The Singapore Women's Weekly.