Me On Money Matters

The economics of shaver blades

I just bought 10 blades for $23.90. Wow, each blade costs $2.39? If I use each blade ten times, then each shave is 24 cents!

Sometimes it's possible to think too much.

(Ten is a reasonable estimate for good shaves. However, sometimes I use a blade much longer if I don't care about shave quality.)

I'm still using a 2-blade shaver. When I finish using this batch of blades, maybe I'll switch to a 3-blade shaver. The shavers are all incompatible with one another. It's about time someone introduced a universal holder. (And it must be done in a way to avoid lawsuits.)

A bit of history. The 3-blade shaver was only introduced in 1998. It replaced the 2-blade shaver introduced in 1971. Since then, there was an arms race and the state-of-the-art now is a 5-blade shaver! But what's the point?

Mistakes in annual expenses!

I made two mistakes in my 2008 annual expenses. I overlooked a reimbursement of $9.18 and I double counted a phone bill of $61.35, so my expenses were slightly lower.

I discovered this when I decided to port the annual expenses to the new simplified format that I'm currently using.

I'm not going to update the old blog entries.

Will you take a paycut to save the company, part 2

I originally posted this question on an online forum to gauge people's response. It was theoretical at that time.

Not surprisingly, my company is going to implement a paycut too. The surprising part is that you got to agree to it! If you don't agree, then your pay don't get cut, as simple as that. (This consent is on an individual basis; it's not a majority vote.)

Call me naive, but I thought most people would opt for it. But talking to more and more people, it seems that they are not convinced to accept it.

I don't mind accepting the paycut if 80% agrees. If only 20% agrees, you look like a fool. I wish there's this option: "agree if 80% does so".

Being a guarantor

I usually advise people not to be a guarantor. Most people don't understand the full implication of being a guarantor and sign away readily.

However, I could not avoid that fate when one of my relatives needed two guarantors to defer his study bond. He wanted to go overseas to further his studies for another three years.

My relative took the MOE tuition grant — who doesn't? It is not really a grant at all. Its purpose is to make foreign students work for companies based in Singapore for 3 years (immediately) after graduation. If you break the bond, you have to pay a compounded interest of 10%, starting from the commencement of the grant.

According to NTU's webpage, the MOE tuition grant for engineering foreign students is $15.7k (for the '06 intake). If you break the bond right after your course, you have to pay back $80.2k. If you break it three years later, you have to pay back $106.7k!

All these from a principal of $62.8k.

How much is old newspaper worth?

I just sold 16 kg of newspapers for $0.80.

I usually don't bother, but I was curious to know the going rate.

No more $2 McDonalds breakfast

McDonalds used to offer a McMuffin burger with coffee set for $2 on weekdays (excluding public holidays, of course). This is an amazing deal, seeing that the McMuffin burger is sold separately for $2.70 and the coffee for $1.95. This just tells you what kind of markup is involved.

Recently, McDonalds changed the coffee to McCafe "premium" coffee. The set became $2.50.

I have three comments about the McCafe premium coffee.

One, it tastes much better than the normal coffee. There are three variants: long black (no milk), cappuccino (quarter milk) and latte (half milk). I've only tried the last two. My suggestion: always take the cappuccino. The latte is very weak.

Two, McCafe coffee is also much more expensive. The normal coffee costs $1.95. The small McCafe coffee costs $2.50, normal $3.45. It is $1.50 more expensive.

Three, if you buy a breakfast set, you can upgrade to the McCafe coffee for $1 more. This is quite worth it.

For the McMuffin burger set, with the change from $2 to $2.50, you're paying just $0.50 more for the McCafe coffee — not that you have a choice, though. This is an even better deal than the breakfast set upgrade.

However, note that McDonalds still find it worthwhile to earn your $0.50. Looks like the McCafe coffee isn't that premium after all. You're just being overcharged.

If you just want the premium coffee, let me show you an unethical way to get it for just, say, $1.

Find someone who doesn't mind the normal coffee. Pay him $1 for his McCafe coffee. After you finished it, fill the cup with regular coffee and return it to him. You may wash the cup first, of course.

It's a net gain for both of you: $1 for your McCafe coffee, and $1.50 for his McMuffin burger set. McDonalds eats the loss, of course.

Ethical? Of course not. But that doesn't stop some people.

Good showing!

News: IT show chalks up $58.5m in sales

Date: 16 March 2009. Source: My Paper.

THE success of The IT Show this year has left retailers with one burning question: Should trade fairs like this be the way to go for them?

By the time the four-day fair at Suntec Singapore ended at 9pm, it had chalked up $58.5 million in sales and attracted 768,000 visitors.

Last year, the fair raked in $54.5million over four days and drew a 735,000-strong crowd.

Travel fair is packed. IT fair is also packed.

"Recession, what recession?"

Are Singaporeans too shielded from the financial crisis, or do they just know a good bargain?

However, consumer spending is a lagging indicator. Just imagine a capacitor. It takes a while to discharge. If we take September 2008 as the start of meltdown in the US, then there's still no effect on consumers in Singapore six months later.

Time for new shoes

My current pair of shoes are wearing out, both of them. I remember I started wearing them on 1st May 2006, so that makes them just 1-1/2 months shy of their third birthday. I think I can wear them for another two weeks, but not any longer.

It's time to shop for another pair of shoes again.

I spent $180 for my current pair of shoes. $180 over 35 months works out to be $5.14/month, or $0.17/day. If I recall correctly, I spent $120 to $150 for my previous pair of shoes. That was 6 to 7 years ago.

If I were to buy back the same quality of shoes, I may need to spend $200 to $250. I may take a different approach: buy a $100 pair of shoes and change them twice as often.

Save $50k a year!

A private tuition teacher revealed in his blog that he saved $50,000 a year! In an earlier entry, he mentioned that he saved 70% to 80%, so on average he should be earning around $66,000 per year.

He also revealed that he declared income tax. Frankly, I didn't expect this. He would be paying $900 for the first $40k and $2,210 for the next $26k (8.5%), for a total of $3,110. However, with the 20% tax rebate, he "only" need to pay $2,488.

It's not just what you earn, but also what you save.

Is he saving a lot?

If you want to compare to a regular salaried worker, you have to take into account the 14.5% employer CPF contribution, so his "regular" pay is $58.2k. His take-home pay is then $47.4k after the 20% CPF contribution. (Kind of a forced savings.)

(Note that CPF contributions are capped at $54k.)

His expenses still remain at $16k, so his savings is $31.4k.

In other words, if you earn $66k gross (including employer's CPF contribution) and save $31.4k from your net pay, you're on par with him.

It's tough to save $31.4k on a $66k salary ($47.4k take-home), though.

Tax evasion

There's a How to avoid Tax Tangles article in today's Sunday Times. It mentioned under-declaration of income by the self- employed.

I've been to a few places that are cash-only. Once an establishment becomes big enough, you'll expect them to accept NETS or CC. But no, cash only. I'm always suspicious of such places. What are they trying to hide?

If I were a tax auditor, I'm sure to audit them first.

Net worth update

Category 3/2008 9/2008 3/2009
Company shares 6.8% 7.2% 2.0%
Equities 13.8% 18.6% 7.6%
Funds 7.6% 6.5% 5.3%
Insurance 3.7% 1.2% 1.2%
Material asset 13.1% 12.8% 11.5%
Near cash 52.1% 51.1% 60.3%
Working cash 3.0% 2.6% 12.0%
Total 100.1% 100.0% 100.0%

Figures may not add up to 100% due to rounding errors.

Other indicators:

Ratio 3/2008 9/2008 3/2009
Bear ratio 0.899 0.896 0.956
FFR 6.26 6.40 6.52
FIR 0.05 0.08 0.03

Bear ratio = ratio of net worth in a bear market to the current situation.

FFR (Financial Freedom Ratio): liquid net worth / annual expenses. I counted the entire net worth, so that means selling everything at the end.

FIR (Financial Independence Ratio): annual passive income / annual expenses. This is an estimate currently.

Eligible for the housing grant?

Is the housing grant per-person or per-household? I think it's per-person, meaning a couple is still entitled to half the housing grant if the other person is a second-timer.

The Additional CPF Housing Grant is per-household, though — it is clearly stated "first-timer household status".

The best is to get an answer from HDB:

I would like to check if a first-timer Singaporean and a second-timer Malaysian (Singapore PR) is entitled to the housing grant if they get a resale flat.

Another question is, suppose two siblings (both PRs) own a flat now. One of them, say A, is marrying a Singaporean. The other sibling, say B, then transfers his share to A's wife. Is A's wife entitled to the housing grant?

A's wife is a first-timer.

Accounting for COE

I am considering whether to account for the COE depreciation monthly.

YBR: $701 over 10 years means $70.10/year, or $5.85/month.

CB400F: $1,125 over 10 years means $112.50/year, or $9.38/month.

MX-5: $18,444 over 10 years means $1,844.40/year, or $153.70/month.

What is Quantitative Easing?

News: Printing money: an easy guide to quantitative easing

Date: 6 March 2009. Source:

The 'unconventional tools' that the Bank of England will use to fight the financial crisis.

Interest rates are now as close as they can get to zero without causing malfunctions in the financial system.

In this new world, with the Bank of England shorn of its main tool for influencing the economy, the policymakers in Threadneedle Street have to turn to unconventional tools.

Some have been tried before with differing degrees of success. But whatever the tool, the objective is clear: to keep Britain from dipping any deeper into recession and becoming trapped in a debt-driven deflation and depression, as the US was in the 1930s.

Quantitative Easing is such a fancy term for "printing money". Now that US and UK are at this stage, I wonder what's next when it doesn't work.

Lifeline for my SOTA 2

TC1100 Stylus

When my stylus spoiled, I thought the replacement would cost at most $50. Nope, it's $138.03 after GST.

I still decided to buy it to give my tablet PC one last lease of life. If something else breaks, that's it.

I've seen a blackhole

It's spelled A I G, by another name.

Someone described the US Government as the "sucker of the last resort". Ha ha ha!

I wonder when the US Government will finally say, "enough is enough".

Is AIG really too big to fail?

We live in interesting times.

Never say never

News: GIC converts preferred notes in Citigroup to common shares

Date: 27 Feburary 2009. Source: CNA.

The Government of Singapore Investment Corp (GIC) has said it will convert its convertible preferred notes in the US lender Citigroup to common stock in a bid to help shore up the troubled US lender.

The exchange price is US$3.25 a share – a 32 per cent premium to Citigroup's closing price on Thursday. The price is way under the conversion price of US$26.35 a share under the original terms of the investment.

With the conversion, GIC's stake in Citigroup will rise to an estimated 11.1 per cent, without any injection of additional funds.

GIC just said a few days that it would not convert. Who would? Obviously it was arm twisted into doing so.

Citigroup closed at US$1.50 on Friday, so GIC suffered yet another blow.

The US Government is trying all sorts of means to make Citigroup pass its stress test.

He who has the guns, calls the shots.

The $4.50 McDonalds meals

McDonalds is offering $4.50 value meals during weekday lunch hours (12pm to 2pm).

The meals are, McChicken, Double Cheeseburger, Filet-o-fish and McNuggets.

McChicken and Double Cheeseburger only cost $2 each. Medium fries cost $2.50. The $4.50 meal basically means getting the drink free.

The drink may sell for $1.90, but the cost is perhaps just 30 cents to McDonalds.

Filet-o-fish and McNuggets are way overpriced normally ($3.85 and $4.15), so $4.50 for the meal is a good value.

So, is the $4.50 meal a good deal? Yes, but not as good as I thought. If I'm willing to skip the drink, I can get the burger with the fries at $4.50 already.

Expenses for Feburary 2009

Category Jan Feb
Basic 1,061.55 985.02
Cash 213.60 241.50
Vehicle 258.35 307.97
Others 116.30 875.00
Total 1,649.80 2,409.49

I spent $800 on the 28/2 lens and $75 on the Talisman revised 4th edition. Otherwise, Others could have been zero.

The wide-angle holy grail

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, the Minolta 28mm f/2 AF lens:

Minolta 28mm f/2 AF lens

I used to have the RS (restyled) version of this lens, but it was stolen from me a few years ago. Since then, I used my 28/2.8 lens instead.

It wasn't the same in many ways. The 28/2 was much brighter through the viewfinder (easier to manual focus), its handling was better (RS had rubber focusing grip) and finally, you can get some blurred background at f/2! The slowest settings I could handhold reliably was f/2 1/15 — no Steady Shot! I used it regularly in low-light situations. The 28/2.8 wasn't up to the task.

I looked for a replacement for a while, but I didn't really put an effort to find it. Recently, I decided to look for it again and found a local seller! I was disappointed it was a non-RS lens. There are two main differences: the rubber focusing grip and the circular aperture.

In the end, I decided to buy it after all. My search for the RS lens continues.

I am hoping that Sony re-release this lens. The chance is low, but it's now more likely than ever. Let me explain.

Minolta used to have the 20/2.8, 24/2.8, 28/2, 28/2.8, 35/1.4, 35/2, 50/1.4, 50/1.7 in its lineup. After Sony bought over Minolta, it kept just the bolded ones. It is clear that Sony doesn't like lens duplication. (Although it still has some in its lineup; just not as bad as Minolta.)

The 28/2 was already a very niche lens, although those who tried it liked it — and they are not letting it go!

Previously, Sony's DSLRs all have the 1.5x crop factor. The wide-angle 28mm becomes a near-normal 42mm. Thus, the 28/2 lens was even less attractive — normal field-of-view is very boring, that's why the "standard" lenses are cheap.

However, Sony now has its first full-frame DSLR camera, the A900. 28mm becomes wide-angle again. 28mm is unlike 24mm or wider. 28mm is wide, but not that wide that you need to take special precautions or your subjects will look strange at the edges. Just take a look at newspaper photos. They don't care.

Thus, 28mm is a very popular entry-level wide-angle focal length. When 28mm becomes popular again, people will want a lens that's better and faster than the current 28/2.8 lens. And there's a ready solution: the 28/2 lens.

Still, I don't hold high hopes that the 28/2 lens will be released any time soon. f/2 is just not sexy enough. Recently, I read rumours that Sony may announce the Carl Zeiss 24/1.4 lens at the PMA. That's what I meant. f/1.4 is exotic, f/2 is not.

This is very sad, because when it comes to usability, 24/2 and 28/2 beats 24/1.4 and 28/1.4 hands down. The f/2 versions are smaller and lighter.

No big notes

I need to pay a seller a few hundred dollars today and I wanted to make the transaction seamless, so I went to the bank to withdraw big notes. I was disappointed the bank didn't have them.

As this was the second time I encountered the same situation, I emailed the bank:

I went to a UOB branch to withdraw several hundred dollars today. I wanted denominations of $100 and $500, but they were not available.

I would like to suggest that the branches keep at least some $100 notes to make life easier for customers.

It's a hassle to handle 10 $50 notes. A $500 note would be very helpful.

High risk CPF

News: CPF investors lost money

Date: 25 Feburary 2009. Source: ST.

LAST year's market meltdown has slashed over a third of the value off investments of retirement savings in stocks and unit trusts under the Central Provident Fund Investment Scheme (CPFIS).

Their plunging values were roughly in line with the slump on global bourses. Only the traditionally safe haven of bonds saw gains under CPFIS.

The Government introduced measures so that people don't lose too much from their CPF. As a result, many people invested before the measures kicked in — at the peak. Now they aren't allowed to invest when the market has dropped over 50%. Ironic.

Funds transfer service charge!

Maybank has a same-day funds transfer feature. It's not free. I only discovered it after I used it. I sent Maybank this feedback:

I used the same-day funds transfer and was shocked to find a $3 service charge!

I would like to suggest that this be highlighted. I didn't see it until I finished the transaction.

New credit rules

News: New unsecured credit rules

Date: 25 Feburary 2009. Source: ST.

THE Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has revised rules for unsecured credit that will be implemented on March 1.

Under the revised rules, the minimum annual income requirement for unsecured credit facilities will be lowered from $30,000 to $20,000.

An aggregrate maximum credit limit for all unsecured credit and credit cards across all affiliated entities will be set at four times the borrower's monthly income for individuals earning at least $30,000.

Four times the borrower's monthly income for individuals earning at least $30,000? Hmm...

Interestingly, I checked the Credit Bureau of Singapore's website and they no longer put up the credit card statistics.

Why no change?

I patronize this food stall near my home that always has no change for bigger notes! I'm not talking about $50, but $10. It always has to send someone to get small change from the drinks stall.

I wonder why this is the case. Don't they keep change from earlier customers? I can't be the very first few, right?

Do they owe loansharks who are collecting the very last cent from them? Or do they lock away money every hour to prevent theft? I'm curious.

CapitaLand vouchers

CapitaLand is giving out S$1mil in shopping vouchers as bonuses.

Frankly, I think it's a stupid idea, from the point of the staff.

From CapitaLand's point of view, this ensures at least S$1mil will be spent on its premises, helping its mall tenants.

If a staff is able to use up his vouchers fully, then it's still fine. If he can't, he'll need to sell it, usually at a discount. My guess is 10% to 20% discount, especially if he needs to raise cash quickly.

Many people think you don't need to pay tax for cash/gift/shopping vouchers (if you receive it as part of your enumerations). Sorry, IRAS says you need to.

Good try, C

News: Citigroup's Clever Plan to Shaft Taxpayers Again

Date: 23 Feburary 2009. Source: Yahoo.

So Citigroup (C) has proposed that the US taxpayer and other preferred shareholders convert up to $75 billion of preferred stock into common stock, thus bolstering the company's tangible equity and putting it in less desperate need of a complete takeover.

And what will the US taxpayer get for this preferred stock conversion? 40% of the company for some of its $45 billion of preferred, say reports. The reports add that Citigroup's goal here is to keep the US's ownership under 50%, so this won't be a de facto nationalization.

I wonder if there will be a public outcry. The Government is trying its best to avoid nationalization. But, Citigroup and AIG has all but been nationalized.

When these two fall, I wonder how many more structured products will be affected.

iSavvy or FairPrice Plus

The difference is 0.25% pa. With $50k, the interest works out to be $125, or $10.42/month.

Savings interest rate

Interest rates are at an all time low. Maybank lowered its iSavvy interest rate from 1.38% pa to 0.75% pa last week. NTUC's FairPrice Plus is only going to offer 1% for S$50k and above from March (0.5% otherwise).

Then, I got an SMS from Standard Chartered that they are going to offer 1.5% pa for two months! I was very surprised, then I thought this must be for their highest $200k tier only, as per their past practice. I checked it out on their website. No, it was from the first $1! The offer is for fresh funds only. That's fine with me, I just keep $100 with them.

It looks like Standard Chartered is in dire need of money. 1.5% is better than most FD rates today.

There's no need to hesitate. I immediately logged into my UOB a/c to transfer money over. Unfortunately, I ended up transferring to my Maybank a/c because that's my usual target!

A take on hourly wage

Some people say that you should not take on a task that pays less than your hourly wage, because you are not using your time effectively. The logic is sound, but these people usually calculate the hourly wage wrongly.

Take an 9-5 office worker earning $2,000 per month. His hourly wage is $11.11/hour. He should not wash his car himself, but leave it to the cleaners who only charge $6.

The flaw in the logic is that this assumes he can earn $11.11 during the time the cleaners wash his car for $6, so he still earns $5.11 net.

Unfortunately, most people can't do this. The same person who earns $2,000 has a real hourly wage of $2.73. It's cheaper for himself to clean the car, even if it takes two hours of his time.

It hits home, finally

A recession is when your neighbour loses his job. A depression is when you lose yours.

I'm not there yet, but I'm close. My company just announced a 5% pay cut for peons like me.

ENBLOC poetic justice

News: Buyer backs out enbloc sale

Date: 20 Feburary 2009. Source: ST.

Developer cites poor market conditions for 11th-hour decision

A DEVELOPER has backed out of a planned $44 million purchase of an enbloc sale site in the prime Cairnhill area at the 11th hour - sparking anger from some of the home owners.

The firm, Jewel 1, blamed 'difficult, uncertain and deteriorating market conditions' for its decision to pull out of buying Cairnhill Heights.

This is so ironic.

I do foresee trouble for the minority who held out. They should be careful of their belongings and perhaps even their life.

The seriousness of the situation

The Autobots were under a surprise attack by the Decepticons. Hot Rod and Kup barely made it back to the Autobot City.

Archie: I was afraid you'll be trapped outside the city!

Hot Rod: Hey, I wasn't afraid for a microsecond.

Archie: Then you probably didn't understand the situation.

I'm reminded of this dialogue from Transformers the movie (1986) from time to time these days.

Not down to Earth yet?

News: Starry-eyed in a job desert

Date: 16 Feburary 2009. Source: BT.

Fresh finance graduates struggle to adjust expectations as dream jobs go up in smoke

EVEN as well-heeled chief executives of American banks are being called before Congress to defend their use of corporate jets, local finance graduates have also come crashing down to earth. Job offers that were once plentiful have evaporated and pay packages have shrunk. But some still refuse to accept the new realities and have turned their backs on jobs they see as less prestigious.

Khai, a finance graduate who had emerged last year among the top of his cohort, is still reeling from a fruitless job search, ongoing since last September. The 23-year-old who speaks four languages - Japanese and Malay in addition to English and Mandarin - has sent out 15 applications and sat through seven interviews to date.

'It has been whittled down to just one company with a potential interview,' he said. Despite this, he has held out on applying to smaller outfits like local analyst firms and brokerages - including one he interned with last year - though he would have stood a better chance with them. 'It just wasn't something that fitted my long-term career path,' he said.

It is now dawning on graduates like him that it is time to adjust expectations as they face increased competition from experienced employees who are not as picky as fresh graduates.

It's difficult to accept it when your expectations are so high.

SWF losses

Temasek gets a lot of grief for losing 31% of its portfolio value. It was reported that GIC lost 41%, but it has not been confirmed — nor denied — since.

And then the Government said the country's reserves are not affected?! You believe them?

Then I thought about what LKY said in the past: that neither GIC nor Temasek use CPF, hence they are not unanswerable to the public.

Not using CPF? How come they have so much money then?

Then I realized how it could be the case. The CPF board lends money to them at a (low) fixed rate, hence it "becomes" GIC's money from then on. As long as GIC pays the interest, CPFB, and by extension CPF contributors, has no grounds to ask questions.

Fresh grads lose out in recession

News: 1 in 2 students 'afraid of graduating'

Date: 15 Feburary 2009. Source: ST.

Some who had nailed cushy bank jobs even before graduation get regret letters

Heard this? You are fired even before you are hired. For final-year economics student J. Lim, this was not funny - she was 'retrenched' even before she started work.

It's tough to graduate in a recession.

No money? No marry

News: No money? No marry

Date: 13 Feb 2009. Source:

Local men, listen up. According to a survey conducted by the Shin Min Daily News, women in Singapore require that their prospective partners earn a minimum of $4,000 to $5,000, before they will consider marrying them.

Local TV artiste and compere Quan Yifeng discussed this issue on a talkshow programme recently. The topic was about "How much should a Singaporean man earn" and how much is enough?

The headline is more dramatic than the article. The surveyed people didn't ask for $4,000 outright. They said it would be a good figure.

What is the household income that these people expect? If everyone expects the guy to bring $4,000 to the table, then how about the girl? $0? $2,000? $4,000? That means a household income of $4,000 to $8,000.

Personal outlook

I posted this on an online forum:

Your personal outlook depends very much on your re-employability, savings and debt.

Able to get re-employed (with similar renumerations)? No worries.

A few months of savings/retrenchment benefits to tide you over? No immediate worries.

Not much debt? Another stone off your back.

I don't have to mention the two most common debts in Singapore.

Imagine having to fork out $900 from CPF every month for your flat and $700 for your car loan. How many months can you survive unemployed?

Nursing home

News: Think before dumping parents in home

Date: 11 Feburary 2009. Source: My Paper.

In the corporate and business world, it is called succession planning when staff with potential are trained and groomed to provide the next level of support and leadership.

They are given all the opportunities, resources and exposure to prepare them for the career path ahead. This is no different from similar preparation in the political arena.

It's more important to earn money in your prime. That's how the society is today.

As to "it will happen to you", just accept it as the new reality.

Moral hazard of MC?

MC is only claimable if you are sick. If you are healthy and don't fall sick throughout the year, your MC (usually 8 to 10 days) is "wasted".

It requires money to see a doctor, that's why people don't abuse it. Not so if your company offers the clinical medical plan. With this, you can see the doctor as many times as you like.

My company's clinical medical plan is $150. If you see the doctor 4 times a year, you would have "break-even".

Desperate times

There are 14 winners in the $10mil Hong Bao draw. I've never seen so many winners sharing the pot. Looks like more people are trying their luck in this recession.

Is there a recession?

How do you feel a recession? I came across some postings online questioning whether the recession was real!

I guess they are still shielded.

Do I feel it? My company has put in some cost-cutting measures, and closed some departments, so yes, I feel it.

What is a fair retrenchment package?

The Singapore Employment Act is not applicable for workers earning more than $1,600 p.m., don't bother to look it up. It's up to the company to decide on the retrenchment package.

The worst is of course immediate termination. The company is supposed to pay one month salary in lieu of notice, but they'll offset the leave first. It's fine if you are able to get a job immediately, but if not, the cash would help.

The usual package is one month for every year of service. Some companies give just two weeks for every year, that's bad. Some companies also cap at ten years.

The tough gets going

News: Gen Y gets down to work

Date: 5 Feburary 2009. Source: ST.

ONLY last year, jobs were theirs for the taking. And they sought flexi-hours, interesting careers and a fun workplace. But faced with one of the worst job markets in decades, Generation Y is proving more adaptable and resilient than previously thought.

I feel so old...

More seriously, the article says very clearly that younger people are not just cheaper, but are also more tech-savvy. Older folks are fine in their current positions. But if they are retrenched, good luck.

Utilities bill

I was away for four days during CNY. I switched off all appliances except for the fridge and the aquarium. When I came back, the meter showed that they used an equivalent of 80 kWh per month. (Water and gas usage were zero, as expected.)

80 kWh costs about $18 today. My latest bill was $60, the gas accounted for $9. I also used 4.3 m^3 of water, double my usual amount.

I can achieve $30 easily: by switching off the fridge, not using the gas and using less water.

Can transfer, or must sell?

I posed this question to HDB. Let's see what the answer is.

Suppose two siblings, A and B, have fully paid for their HDB flat.

Now, A is going to get married and wants her husband to take over B's share. He does not have enough cash to buy over the share, so he wants to use his CPF and take a bank loan to do so. Is it possible?

Note that the HDB flat is fully paid for. A, A's husband and B are all Singapore PRs.

If this is not possible, then is it possible for A and B to sell the flat to A and A's husband? Isn't this very strange for A — to sell and buy back the same flat?

I suspect the flat must be sold, because you cannot re-mortgage a fully paid-up HDB flat. But, I'm not 100% certain.

The dread big move

My brother's GF's elder brother is getting married in the second half of the year. He and his wife plan to get a new flat before that. He is currently a co-owner with his sister for their current flat, so my brother has to take over his share.

Once he does that, I am on my own. My worry? The rent.

I believe HDB gives 6 months grace period, so the dust may only settle early next year.

What can I do about the rent?

Negotiate. Sure, but it won't go down much. Perhaps 10% to 15%?

Look for sub-tenants. Okay. But will it work out? The sub-tenant will definitely not accept a rental split of 50-50, since he gets just a room, so perhaps 33-66.

Move in with my brother. A few reasons why I don't want to do so: lack of privacy (for me!), lack of storage space (I have a lot of stuff) and parental visits (from both sides).

Expenses for January 2009

Category Jan
Basic 1,061.55
Cash 213.60
Vehicle 258.35
Others 116.30
Total 1,649.80

I have removed the CC category.

Scarcity of land

Since the 90s, or perhaps earlier, every generation has bought into the myth that land in Singapore is scarce, and hence property prices can only go up.

IMO, this is blown out of proportion. I used to believe it, because HDB prices do go up on a one-way track most of the time. It is imperative to buy now — even with 30-year mortgage — because prices will be out of reach tomorrow.

But as time goes by, I realized I have never actually seen land being scarce. New estates go up. Old flats are pulled down and new ones built in their place.

Even downtown, there are parcels of land that are left undeveloped. Old condos are ENBLOC'ed to make space for newer ones.

Shortage of land? I no longer think so.


With the Governments all over the world pumping so much into their banks and economies, is inflation a worry?

Two reasons why not:

  • First, the money is to plug a deep hole. There's little chance the money will trickle out.
  • There may be a little inflation, but not hyper-inflation. Hyper-inflation requires a corresponding wage increase to fuel it.

I doubt there will be wage increase any time soon. Companies are cutting costs to survive. If people cannot afford the goods, there's very little headroom for prices to go up.

Cannot re-mortgage HDB flat. What?

From HDB's website:

Re-mortgage of HDB Flats

HDB flats can only be mortgaged to banks or financial institutions to finance the purchase. HDB owners are not allowed to use their HDB flat, which has been fully paid for, as collateral to raise credit facilities.

The only way to raise cash is to sell the flat.

From the HDB website, it seems when you buy a flat, you sign the Agreement for Lease? What? Aren't you buying a flat?

My thoughts on GST

Many people are upset about paying the GST and want it to be lowered to 5%.

There are two main ways to collect tax from the populace: personal income tax and GST (Goods and Services Tax). Income tax is progessive, because it is (usually) tiered and the more you earn, the more you are taxed. GST is regressive because it is flat rate, so the poor pay more as a proportion of their income.

The Government likes the pay-as-you-use approach. Another example is ERP. While I dislike paying GST and ERP as much as the next guy, I like them better than paying high income tax and high COE.

Thus, I think GST is a good idea. I prefer to be taxed when I spend, rather than when I earn it. This is because earnings can be saved. Likewise, I can choose to avoid ERP zones.

Also, it is currently possible to escape GST if you buy overseas (limit to $400 per shipment, including shipping).

The Government does try to mitigate the regressive nature of GST by giving out GST tax rebates. Suppose you get a rebate of $200, that means your first $1,400 purchase (in a year) is GST-free. That may or may not be enough to cover your basic needs, but you can't say the Government doesn't try to help.

The Government also gives out GST credits to Singaporeans. This works even better! Everyone pays GST, but only Singaporeans get the GST credits.

There are suggestions to have lower GST on "essential" goods. I thought it was a good idea at first, but the Government's reply was, "what are essential goods?" Good question!

Thus, I think giving out GST credits and rebates and letting the individual decide what is "essential" is the best.

I foresee that the Government will try to increase the GST to 10%. It's a nice round number that makes it easy to calculate how much tax you are paying.

Now you say

News: Worst yet to come

Date: 29 January 2009. Source: ST.

SINGAPORE'S Finance Minister has warned that the worst of the credit crunch is yet to come.

The world's biggest banks still have toxic assets on their balance sheets, which are clogging up their ability to lend, Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam said in an interview with Bloomberg Television on Wednesday.

The finance ministry oversees Government of Singapore Investment Corp. and Temasek Holdings Pte, each managing more than $100 billion. The state-owned funds invested about US$24 billion (S$36 billion) in UBS AG, Citigroup Inc. and Merrill Lynch & Co in the past 14 months, said Bloomberg,

Governments are always late to the party. Well, Obama is trying his best to save the US economy. Let's see what he can do.

Shocked at the cost of a Big Mac meal!

I went to McDonalds for dinner with my father. Surprisingly, it was my father's suggestion. I was surprised because I thought my father dislike fast food.

I was shocked to find that a Big Mac meal cost RM9! They also have the Big N Tasty burger (RM10 for meal) — my favourite burger in normal times — but I ordered the Prosperity burger instead (RM14 for meal). The pepper sauce and onions get me every time.

Even I find it expensive, with S$1 to RM2.40. How do the locals afford it? The last time I went to McDonalds — a few years ago — prices were roughly RM2 cheaper. And I thought that was expensive.

My father was undecided, so I asked him to try the Big N Tasty burger. I like this burger very much. I always thought it was the equivalent of Burger King's Whopper burger, which I also like very much.

The Big N Tasty burger came in a rather big box (by McDonalds standards), but my father was unimpressed. He said it was very small! I told him it was the biggest burger already (with the exception of the Quarter Pounder)! The burger was rather flat, much to my disappointment.

As we were enjoying our meal (and the freezing air-con), a big group of almost 20 came in for dinner. Wow, that must be a cool RM200 dinner. Even the manager went to take their orders, rather than the other way round.

Subway tuna sandwich

I found that Subway sells its tuna sandwich at $4.50. That's cheap! However, they give very little tuna, that's why.

Today, I tried their foot-long sandwich. It was a flat-rate $3.40 more, so it wasn't really worth it for the $4.50 sandwiches. It's more worth it for the $6.50 sandwiches.

Jobs credit

The Singapore Government announced that it would pay 12% of the first $2,500 of an employee on the CPF payroll.

I think this is an innovative way to distinguish between Singaporeans and foreigners!

It is said that this is equivalent to 9% CPF cut, but I don't see why. (Why isn't it 12%?)

I foresee the new Workfare scheme will fail. Employees are supposed to get 50% more, but I think employers will just reduce the employees' pay so that they get the same amount with the additional Workfare payout.

Update: I read an interesting post how an employer can take advantage of the jobs credit scheme.

Fire a senior employee earning $5,000 and hire two at $2,500. The employer gains 12% x 2 and the unemployment statistic goes down by one. Wonderful!

What will make the budget not normal?

The news said the budget will not be a normal budget. I wonder how so?

A family problem

When it was time to buy a "retirement" house for the father to live in, the second son wanted to pay for it, perhaps as his long overdued obligation to his father. He was the favourite son, always given the best, including education, yet he sort of broke contact with his father after he grew up and moved away.

His wife objected. His siblings should contribute too, she said.

Of the siblings, the eldest son was the richest, the second son was the most successful (and also quite rich), the third daughter was unfortunately immoblized with a stroke, the fourth daughter was living an ordinary life, and there were three other siblings who were staying with the father; they eked on a very constrained budget.

Hence the eldest son chipped in half. The other siblings were in no position to help. He did not mind; it was a trivial sum to him. However, for personal reasons, he did not want his name to be on the deed, so the house was in the second son's name.

The three siblings took care of the father. The immoblized third daughter was in a nursing home.

The fourth daughter wired money back every month. Most of the expenses were covered by the fourth daughter's passive rental income. In addition, the eldest and second son gave money every year. It was customary for the fourth daughter to visit her eldest brother every new year to get an "ang pow".

Fast forward many years.

The father died. With it, the second son stopped his contribution. Perhaps it was very little, because the other siblings didn't make a big fuss of it.

Fast forward even more years.

A relative notified the other siblings that the second son was on his deathbed. He had gone for his last cancer therapy overseas and the doctor had told him to wait out his end.

I'm sure the reader is curious what happened to the house.

It was too late to bring it up. The second son died in just two weeks time. The house remained under his name. He did not transfer it to his siblings before his death, nor did he will it to his siblings.

All the siblings did not have good relations with the second son — especially with his wife — so none of them attended his funeral. This situation could have arisen because the second son was the favourite son. The eldest son, for example, did not want to talk to his brother directly. Everything went through their fourth sister.

Everything stays as-is for now. The three siblings continue to stay in the house. It is not known what the second son's wife would do with the house. Would she try to claim the house and drive the siblings out? Would she sell it off? And would she give half the proceeds back? Would the other siblings have a case if it went to court?

Recently, the second son's wife asked the fourth daughter to pay the property tax, so it was clear she did not want to pay for the house's upkeep.

I expect some drama to unfold in the future.

You know the old saying: there is a difficult-to-read bible in every family (translated from Chinese literally).

The "Doomsday" scenario?

News: Singapore May See 200,000 Foreigners Leave, Credit Suisse Says

Date: 19 January 2009. Source: Bloomberg.

Singapore's population may shrink in the next two years as "sizeable" job losses amid the city-state's deepest recession force 200,000 foreigners to leave, Credit Suisse Group said.

About 300,000 jobs may be lost by 2010, two-thirds of which are held by foreigners and permanent residents, economists Cem Karacadag and Kun Lung Wu wrote in a report received today. The number of people on the island nation may fall by about 3.3 percent to 4.68 million by 2010, Credit Suisse said.

200,000 over two years? I can't imagine what that does to the property market.

I'm scared, very scared. Will I be one of them?

A rainy day

News: Govt may dip into reserves

Date: 18 January 2009. Source: ST.

ONE of the country's sacred cows could be slaughtered during the Budget this Thursday, as the Government mulls over a move to dip into Singapore's rainy-day savings: the national reserves.

The leaders are now considering the unprecedented step of drawing from the reserves to fund the aggressive pain-relief measures needed in this downturn, Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong disclosed on Sunday.

I wonder why the Government would not consider cutting the CPF this time round.

Perhaps if the CPF is cut, even more people will default on their housing.

Still waiting?

News: The smart money should wait for Wall St to fully capitulate

Date: 18 January 2009. Source: BT.

It's actually quite funny when you really think about it, the US's printing of money to bail out a sinking ship that was inflated by the printing of money that led to a massive debt and property bubble in the first place.

Of course, with millions of jobs on the line few people would see the humour in the US's present plight, but neutrals who have observed the goings-on of the past 15 months would surely appreciate the irony of the present, constant plugging of holes in the US with ever-larger cash injections that so far, have had no effect.

It's quite clear which side of the bread this columnist is betting on.

Risk-free investment

I had tea with a group of colleagues recently and the topic of our company's share ownership came up.

Our company allows us to set aside up to 10% of our salary to purchase its stock. The money is withheld and is used to purchase the stock twice a year at 15% discount.

It was, in one of my colleague's words, a "no-brainer risk-free" investment. Even if you don't believe the stock will do well, just sell it off immediately to realize the 15% profit.

I was rather surprised that a high number of them (four out of six) maxed out their contribution. They were equally surprised that I didn't.

My current approach is value-investing and going for capital gain. However, it's not incompatible with taking quick profit. A possible setup is contributing 10%, but only keeping 2%.

A smaller Madoff, but impact is still real

News: Fund manager gone and possibly $350 million with him

Date: 16 January 2009. Source: Herald Tribune.

Investors in a Sarasota-based hedge fund could be out $350 million, and the man behind it has vanished.

Managers of the fund are telling clients that their money is gone, and they do not know if any will be recovered.

Fund principal Arthur G. Nadel, a prominent player in Sarasota social and philanthropic circles, disappeared this week. His wife, Peg, filed a missing person report with law enforcement after finding a suicide note.

Repeat after me: never put all your eggs in one basket.

If I had any money in hedge funds, I would take them out right now. It seems they can't be trusted.

Be prepared

News: Freeze or cut wages

Date: 17 January 2009. Source: ST.

THE National Wages Council (NWC) wants companies hit by the worsening economic slump to introduce a wage freeze or pay cut to minimise layoffs, which are expected to surge after Chinese New Year.

It has also called on companies to reduce non-wage costs, adding that the Government could help them stay afloat by reducing business costs.

This is just trying to paper over fire. In six months time, it'll be time for the real pain: layoffs.


News: Forecast to be revised

Date: 17 January 2009. Source: ST.

Outlook is gloomier than it was a couple of weeks ago, PM indicates

SINGAPORE will revise its growth figures again ahead of Thursday's Budget announcement, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.

This second revision within a month is prompted by unexpected developments, he said, citing the steep fall in Singapore's December trade figures which show the economy of its major trading partners has taken a turn for the worse.

The situation is very bad, just that they don't want to let you know yet.

Can't spend your way out of the recession

News: Singapore Prescribes Shorter Showers, Less Meat to Fight Slump

Date: 16 January 2009. Source: Bloomberg.

Until a few months ago, Amit Singh dreamed of buying a car. Now, with S$75,000 ($50,100) in the bank, the lawyer is holding back, saying he'll continue to make the one-hour commute to work on the Singapore subway.

"In these bad times, the buzzword is save, not spend," says Singh, 34. "It's not the right economic climate to be lavish or to have a luxurious lifestyle."

Now that the article mentioned it, I agree with the idea that Singapore can't spend its way out of the recession. The domestic market is too small.

Also, I wasn't aware that the Government wants us to cut down on our spendings. It is prudent to do so, of course.

Really so pessemestic?

News: 30% expect to lose job

Date: 14 January 2009. Source: ST.

SINGAPOREANS are preparing for the worst, with one in three expecting to lose his job during this downturn.

A poll by TNS and Gallup International found that workers' confidence has been dented by the global financial crisis.

Gloomy or not, up to you.

All in one basket

News: Life savings gone, 'Madoffed' best-selling writer back at work

Date: 9 January 2009. Source: CNN.

She used to lunch at the exclusive Four Seasons. Now, the best-selling author jokes that she's inviting friends to Taco Bell. Call it gallows humor, but Alexandra Penney has just lost her life's savings.

She invested every penny with accused Ponzi-schemer Bernard Madoff. Penney thought she had weathered the bear market just fine, since Madoff put her money in super-safe Treasuries. Then, on December 11, she received a call from her best friend.

Never put all your eggs in one basket.

Even the media is not spared

News: MediaCorp cuts costs

Date: 10 January 2009. Source: ST.

Common leave, shorter work weeks among steps to avoid layoffs

MEDIA giant MediaCorp is instituting a range of cost-cutting measures, including mandatory days off without pay, to combat the slowdown and avert job losses.

But the company's TV and radio programmes, publications and online properties will not be affected, Channel NewsAsia (CNA) reported yesterday.

The sensitivity to advertising revenue reminds me of two companies: SPH and Google. I wonder how they are doing.

One thing worth noting in this recession is that big Singapore companies with links to the Singapore Government are taking the approach of pay cuts and shorter working hours as the first measure to cut cost, as opposed to outright job cuts.

This time, there isn't anywhere else to absorb retrenched workers!

I suppose we'll see more of this in this year.

A grad at $1,000/month!

News: Job markets hit hard

Date: 10 January 2009. Source: ST.

BUSINESS graduate Noor Lilana, 23, is no longer looking for a management trainee position and a quick rise to the top rungs of the hospitality sector.

Instead, she is now prepared to accept a $1,000-a-month job working at the reception desk of a small hotel.

Really so desperate to work for $1,000/month? I suspect she is asking for $1,500, but just mentioned $1,000 as a possibility because she has been looking for six months.

It is extremely difficult to survive on $1,000/month.

The McGriddles

The McGriddles meal is sold at S$5.70 without the egg and $5.90 with it. Just a 20 cents difference. An egg costs you S$1 if you ask for it.

I actually prefer the McGriddles burger without the egg (the taste is more apparent), but because of this 20 cents difference, I ordered the egg version.

The two other meals that are the most "bo-hua" are the McChicken and the Double Cheese burger meals. The burgers cost only $2 each.

Another burger that's not worth it is the Cheese burger, at $1.75. I had not met anyone who did not upgrade to the Double Cheese burger — once they were told it was just 25 cents more.

Fixed vs running costs

Another look at my transport expenses:

Category YBR CB400F MX-5
Total cost ($) 761.76 648.27 5,338.90
Fixed cost 54.5% 63.1% 59.9%
Running cost 35.9% 35.9% 13.9%
Maintenance 9.6% 1.0% 26.3%

The fixed cost is made up entirely of road tax, insurance and season parking!

Note that I've included the inspection fees for road tax. You can't renew your road tax otherwise (for vehicles over 3 years old).

What is a good ratio to have? It's hard to say. A rule-of-thumb could be that a vehicle is only justifiable if the running cost is at least 25% of the total costs. Otherwise, it is cheaper to rent.

Looking at the numbers, it seems to me a person must drive some 10,000 km to 15,000 km a year to justify a vehicle on costs alone. My total for all three vehicles is around 10,000 km.

(Note that it's easier to justify paying for convenience.)

CPF not enough

News: S'poreans ranked lowest

Date: 9 January 2009. Source: ST.

SINGAPOREANS are at the bottom of a ranking of retirement income from pensions in the Asia-Pacific region, says the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

And this is true at all income levels, according to the study, which covered 19 locations including Hong Kong, Taipei and Japan, The Business Times reported on Friday.

13.1% replacement rate for earmarked retirement a/c, 82% if the general a/c is considered too. Is the article is talking about the Special Account (SA) and Ordinary Account (OA)?

It also implies the general a/c is used for housing, because it talked about asset-rich and income-poor.

I agree with the article that using the CPF to pay for housing isn't necessarily bad. However, people overdo it — 30 years loan — that's bad. A 15-year loan is more prudent, but just take a look what kind of flats you can buy: almost none.

How will you be ahead in a 30-year loan? Only two ways: inflation and an ever-appreciating housing market.

Be prepared?

News: More on leave, short week

Date: 8 January 2009. Source: ST.

IN A signal that a wave of retrenchments may be on the way, the number of unionised workers who have been asked to go on a shorter work week or to clear their leave has drastically spiked in the past month.

On Nov 25, when the labour movement began tracking the situation, there were 6,876 such workers. This has since more than doubled in one month - to 15,000.

Looks like the Government is telling the blue-collar workers to brace for retrenchments.

Personally, I prefer to be notified before the CNY, than after. I think it's "cruel" to be let go after a major celebration. If you're told beforehand, at least you can scale down your spending.

Surviving on $100 a week

News: Young get thrifty in times of crisis

Date: 6 January 2009. Source: China Daily.

China's office workers are tightening their belts, cutting spending on everything from clothes to fast food, despite government efforts to boost consumption to stave off the worst effects of a global recession.

Websites popular among young Chinese professionals are extolling the virtues of frugality as the global financial crisis bites China's economy.

Wang Hao, a 24-year-old Beijing office worker, launched his campaign in June to curb weekly living expenses to 100 yuan. So far, he says, he has 55,000 participants.

$100 a week means $14.30 per day. 100 yuan is around S$20, but in terms of spending power, it's more like 1:1 — 1 yuan in a Chinese city spends like S$1 in Singapore.

Or is it? A Big Mac burger is 11.11 yuan. Assuming the article is correct and it's for a single burger, it is equivalent to S$4.25. If so, then 100 yuan is equal to $38.25 ($5.46 per day).

It can be almost effortless to spend just S$8.34 per day (2 meals and bi-directional transport). If you can walk or cycle to your workplace, then it drops even further to $5. This is rare, though.

Singapore keeps its residential and commerical zones apart, so it's very rare to be able to walk to your workplace. Also, the road system is not suited for cycling — unfortunately.

It looks like this is only doable if you have zero committments. From the looks of it, fixed monthly expenses don't seem to be counted.

Transport costs

My transport costs for 2008, by petrol and total expenses:

Category YBR CB400F MX-5
Petrol ($) 240.76 175.35 634.23
Total ($) 761.76 648.27 5,338.90

Note that I only include 10% of COE for the CB400F. (The COE is amortized over 10 years.)

Let's take a look at the cost-per-km costs:

Category YBR CB400F MX-5
Petrol ($) 0.0487 0.0794 0.1874
Total ($) 0.1540 0.3131 1.5773

Assuming the YBR gives 38 km/l, the CB400F 22.5 km/l (its true FC) and the MX-5 9.6 km/l.

My daily trip to work and back is around 30 km. It costs me $4.62 on the YBR, $9.39 on the CB400F and a whopping $47.32 on the MX-5!

This data clearly shows that even the extremely cheap-to-run YBR is more expensive than public transport. (I can take a single bus to reach office. The to-and-fro trips cost $3.34.)

The MX-5 has very high cost-per-km because I seldom drive it — it has very high fixed costs (road tax, insurance and season parking). I intend to drive it more often this year. The cost-per-km will go down, but the total cost will go up.

Estimated monthly expenses for 2009

I won't be able to reach the holy grail of spending just $1,200/month. In fact, I don't think I will ever achieve it. A quick calculation shows that the bare minimum I need to spend is $1,420/month (basic expenses + cash expenses + YBR expenses * 150%). It would be a torture, though.

Realistically, the minimum would be $1,800/month. If I sell my car, my expenses drop to $1,826.75/month right away. (It will be very slightly higher as the other vehicles take up the slack.)

What if I want to keep my car? Well, the minimum is then $2,000/month. It would be extremely difficult to achieve it as I'm running a pretty lean budget already and there's nothing much to cut. Any more cuts means a real sacrifice.

I estimate that my monthly expenses for 2009 will be much higher at $2,700/month due to the increase in rental and the maintenance required for my vehicles.

2008 Vehicle Expenses Report

Category YBR CB400F MX-5
LTA related 78.19 1,267.19 1,181.07
Insurance 136.89 146.58 1,134.12
Petrol 240.76 175.35 634.23
Season parking 199.92 7.65 882.00
Other parking 6.50 39.00 20.00
Cashcard top-up 18.50 18.50 85.92
Maintenance 12.00 0.00 698.00
Parts 61.00 6.50 703.56
Fine 8.00 0.00 0.00
Total 761.76 1,660.77 5,338.90
Avg per month 63.48 138.40 444.91

Note that the total expenses here ($7,761.43) does not tally with the vehicle expenses in the 2008 Expenses Report ($7,741.36). The expenses here do not take into account some additional petrol discounts. I will make sure the expenses tally from this year onwards.

There are no unexpected expenses this year. The expenses for CB400F are exceptionally high due to the renewal of COE.

I expect the vehicle expenses to be even higher this year. Known expenses:

  • May change the YBR's tyres, very likely to change battery
  • Will change the CB400F's tyres, may change battery
  • May get season parking for CB400F
  • Will drive the MX-5 more often
  • May make several overdued repairs to the MX-5

2008 Expenses Report

Category Total %age
Basic 13,407.75 49.2%
Cash 2,510.92 9.2%
Credit Card 766.29 2.8%
Vehicle 7,741.36 28.4%
Others 2,833.56 10.4%
Total 27,259.88 100.0%

I spent an average of $2,271.66/month. This is lower than the estimated $2,500/month I spent in 2007. I tried very hard to bring down my expenses, but I could only save an additional $200+/month! :-(

According to Christopher Ng's Growing Your Tree of Prosperity, a frugal person should be able to live on $1,200/month! (Based on 2003 data. I estimate that the figure should be $1,400 now.)

The bulk of basic expenses are rental and parents' allowance. They already account for over 70% of the basic expenses! The bulk of the vehicle expenses is contributed by my car. It accounts for nearly 70% of the expenses!

The top contributors for discretionary expenses (under CC and Others):

Category Total Last year
Figures 609.10 235.90
Treats 573.91 ?
Ang pows 360.00 0.00
Meals 309.51 ?
Gifts 301.60 ?
DVDs 263.87 739.85
Board games 160.80 364.30
Comics 137.96 531.94
Books 111.13 833.32
Total 2,827.88

These items account for 78.6% of the discretionary expenses.

I pre-ordered some expensive figures in 2007, before I decided to stop buying figures, that's why the expenses still show up.

I spent quite a lot on others, as evidenced by the amount I spent on ang pows, treats and gifts. Collectively, they account for 43.7% of the top contributors (34.3% of discretionary expenses).

I have cut down substantially on board games, books, comics and DVDs.


Despite trying to be frugal, I failed to be so due to the high fixed expenses. I failed to achieve my goal of spending $2,000/month (as the first step towards $1,200/month). However, with one full year's worth of data now, I can see how much I can realistically achieve.

I believe my expenses will be even higher this year. Perhaps I should set my target at $2,200/month.

Expenses for December 2008

Category Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun
Basic 902.71 936.18 2,294.03 817.89 883.92 780.06
Cash 182.72 194.95 212.00 304.00 194.45 233.50
Credit Card 103.10 44.00 194.50 0.00 0.00 17.00
Vehicle 282.32 830.80 196.07 893.33 262.66 770.06
Others 304.15 200.00 326.10 239.95 105.89 22.72
Total 1,775.00 2,205.93 3,222.70 2,255.17 1,446.92 1,823.34
Category Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Basic 2,153.47 881.76 1,018.15 695.93 982.11 1,061.54
Cash 207.60 223.50 203.50 142.90 190.80 221.00
Credit Card 76.03 21.13 0.00 72.80 0.00 237.73
Vehicle 2,502.69 498.65 65.06 191.07 362.08 886.57
Others 20.33 178.87 238.48 340.10 206.93 650.04
Total 4,960.12 1,803.91 1,525.19 1,442.80 1,741.92 3,056.88

Basic expenses are slightly higher than normal because the phone bills are deducted twice.

Credit card expenses are extremely high due to several meal treats. Some are only payable next month, but I included them as this year's expenses. (They will not be counted next month.)

Vehicle expenses are also high due to the MX-5's road tax and the YBR125's insurance/road tax.

Other expenses are extremely high. Half of it goes to an ang pow for a colleague's wedding and some gifts. Hey, it's the Christmas season. That means I still spent over $300 on myself. The bulk of it goes to comics ($85.39), computer parts ($87) and toys ($68.80).