Wedding Budget

Wedding is one of those life events that depletes or eats into a major part of our savings. Albeit money well spent, it is important not to go into debt for just a one day event. Having been debt ridden, I was extra careful and one of the very first thing on my planning list was to work out a budget even before we started on our wedding preparation.

Our Wedding Budget

Our Wedding Budget

(Do note that I did not include the cost of my engagement ring, dowry price, betrothal gifts and red packets collected as these are subjective and confidential.)

Areas we saved on:

1) We decided on a lunch banquet for our wedding because we refused to pay 30% more for dinner at the same hotel, for the same ballroom, and with everything else being the same just because one was held during the day, and the other at night.

Amount saved: $8,845.20 (Lunch costs $968++ per tables, Dinner at $1,238++ per table)

2) Instead of going to a dental clinic to have our teeth whiten at $1,000 per person, we decided to purchase one of those Groupon vouchers at $99 each. I would say it works as our teeth were a few shades lighter, but more sessions are recommended for better results.

Amount saved: $1,802.00

3) We also saved on paying for a Solemnization Venue by having our solemnization done in the hotel. However, do note that some hotels do charge a rate ranging from $2,000 to $5,000 for using their venue outside of the ballroom. Goodwood Park hotel actually quoted me $3,000 to use their poolside for solemnization.

4) I didn’t get a wedding ring, and instead, my engagement ring also served as my wedding ring as I find it unnecessary to carry both rings. I also couldn’t find something that I really fancy after countless trips to the jewelry stores, and did not want to buy a ring just for the sake of buying.

Amount saved: $2,000

Areas we splurged on:
1) We engaged a 3 piece live band to play live music on our wedding day for a short span of 1.5hrs at $1,498.00. However, we felt that it was worth it for the nice ambience the live music had created and many guests actually enquired about the band after.

2) Dessert Booth and Peking Duck Booth. These are pre-lunch reception treats that we ordered for guests who arrived early, as by the time the lunch banquet officially starts, it’ll be close to 2pm already.

3) Rental of additional wedding gown at special rate of $500 from our bridal studio. Our wedding studio provides us with 2 actual day gowns but I wanted another gown for my solemnization. Although I admit it was quite a splurge for renting a gown that I only wore for less than 2 hours, I REALLY liked it and had budgeted for it and $500 was actually a steal with additional gowns costing from $800 to $1,000 each usually.

Costs we could have avoided:
While the above costs are splurges which we willingly paid, the below items could have been avoided as they have no added value to our wedding.

1) We topped up an additional $1,500 for extra 12 photos and for all hard copies for our pre-wedding photo shoot. Post wedding, we did not even bother to look at the photos again and felt that this amount could have been for better use.

2) We also topped up an additional cost of $500 for a more senior photographer (an Art Director featured in the Tatler magazine) to shoot our pre-wedding photo shoot. This was a total waste of money as the photographers are actually all equally good, and we weren’t exactly pleased with how the photos turned out as well.

3) I bought a Chanel earring for $490 for and only wore it once since my wedding. It was totally unnecessary, and now I feel like selling it on ebay already.

All in all, there was a potential $2,490 which we could have saved on.

I hope my unmarried friends could use this to plan their wedding better, and do remember not to get overly caught up in a one day event, as after all, it is the marriage that matters the most.

Happy planning!

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Our Wedding – Lunch Banquet

I can’t believe 3 weeks flew past just like that! We were busy for months before our big day on the 19th of Jan’14, and before we knew it, it was over. Thank goodness we have some nice photos to look back on 🙂

I have previously posted my morning highlights photos here, and shall proceed on to include more photos for the lunch banquet held at the Intercontinental Hotel.

Cocktail Reception

Cocktail Reception

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Beautiful ladies tending to the reception counter

Beautiful ladies tending to the reception counter

Johan, one of my closest friend EVER

Johan, one of my closest friend EVER

Oops, that's my boss lol

Oops, that’s my boss and he sure looks awkward lol

The Dessert Booth

The Dessert Booth

Touching up before the first march in

Touching up before the first march in

Touching up before the first march in

Touching up before the first march in

Feeling jittery

Feeling jittery

With our close friend Kenny before the march in

With our close friend Kenny before the march in

With Joanne & Doink who go married a year before us

With Joanne & Doink who go married a year before us

With Miko and Weixiang, who are getting married 4 months after us

With Miko and Weixiang, who are getting married 4 months after us

Anxiously waiting for our cue to march in

Anxiously waiting for our cue to march in

FINALLY~

FINALLY~

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As the song “From This Moment’ is playing in the background…

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I wish this moment can pause forever

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🙂

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Giving the camera a cheeky smile :p

Cake cutting ceremony

Cake cutting ceremony

Fun fact: Prior to this, I totally wasn’t aware that there’s a slot for the knife and the whole cake is FAKE! LOL!

My lovely friends making a speech. Love you girls!

My lovely friends making a speech. Love you girls!

Obviously touched by their speech

Obviously touched by their speech

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Love the soft lighting of this shot

Love the soft lighting of this shot

Another close friend of ours making a speech

Another close friend of ours making a speech

And this time I really cried

And this time I really cried

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Wish I could share her speech here. Or maybe I should…

The lovely band is playing while we were upstairs changing

The lovely band is playing while we were upstairs changing

Our 2nd march in

Our 2nd march in

Time to pop the champagne!

Time to pop the champagne!

Popped!

Popped!

Champagne pouring ceremony

Champagne pouring ceremony

Love the view of the ballroom

Love the view of the ballroom

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Finally it's our turn to make a speech...

Finally it’s our turn to make a speech…

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My new family

My new family

My lovely family

My lovely family

With some of our closest friends

With some of our closest friends

Buddies forever!

Buddies forever!

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More great friends

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More great friends

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Check out my murderous look when we were “forced” to drink

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Cheers!

My da jie (big sister)

My da jie (big sister)

Love these folks!!

Love these folks!!

Another murderous given for the day

Another murderous given for the day

And this is me saying to  Cherie, "it'll be your turn in 6 months time".

And this is me saying to
Cherie, “it’ll be your turn in 6 months time”.

Cheers to friendship!

Cheers to friendship!

And this is how I cheat by pouring champagne back to their glasses

And this is how I cheated by pouring champagne back to their glasses

And this is how I cheat by pouring champagne back to their glasses

And this is how I cheated by pouring champagne back to their glasses

Yeah!

Yeah!

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My lovely ex-colleagues and finance girls

More ex-colleagues from SocGen

More ex-colleagues from SocGen

And these are my favourit-est people of all!

And these are my favourit-est people of all!

 
My current colleagues
My current colleagues

My current colleagues

Friends from my school days!

Friends from my school days!

My cute colleagues!

My cute colleagues!

Gosh, I love this picture!

Gosh, I love this picture!

These are the folks I know I can count on for ANYTHING

These are the folks I know I can count on for ANYTHING

My favourite girls!

My favourite girls!

My favourite babe :)

My favourite babe 🙂

My secondary school bestfriend

My secondary school bestfriend

Hugs!!

Hugs!!

Family

Family

Commandos!

Commandos!

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SocGen rocks!

With pretty mama Adelyn

With pretty mama Adelyn

Thinking back, I really really had a lot of fun during my wedding. It felt so good to see so many relatives and friends, and Andy and I are so fortunate to have everyone’s blessing. We are lucky to have a group of close friends who made sure everything runs smoothly.

One last note here, a wedding is definitely a joyous and magical event. However, as someone who writes about personal finance matters, I’ll like to emphasize that a blissful marriage is what really matters. After all, a wedding only lasts a day while a marriage is for a lifetime. Therefore, it is critical to spend within one’s means for one’s wedding. Money arguments between couples are the top reasons why a marriage fell apart. Don’t let that happen to you, handle your marriage and your money well.

Cheers!

Our Wedding – Morning Highlights

It has been 3 weeks since my wedding day and it’s been awhile since I’ve blogged! Immediately after the big day, I fell sick, probably due to all the excitement and from lack of sleep. Upon recovery came the Chinese New Year, and we were all busy preparing for it.

I’m looking back on my wedding with fondness and I sure had lots of fun! Now, lets enjoy the photos!

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My gorgeous gown

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Getting ready at 5am

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Now I’m all set and ready!

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My handsome Dad

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The band of brothers

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They are so smart looking aren’t they?

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The impatient sisters are waiting for the gatecrash to begin.

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Time to give some red packets

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What? Only $2?

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And Wen Dees managed to snatch more red packets

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Time for some sour shots!

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Sweet sweet sugar sticks up next

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Followed by bitter and spice

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Cheers!

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And someone’s caught cheating, thanks to the camera man

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It sure looks spicy!

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And now time to clean their pores…

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And some lippy for the groom?

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Muack!

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And here’s another sweaty kiss. Muack!

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And he comes my dashing groom, after the gate crash he went through.

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With my pretty sisters

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Time to head out…

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For photo-taking at Gardens by the bay

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An extremely happy day for us 🙂

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Love this candid shot!

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The brothers and sisters

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Time for me to throw the bouquet!

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1, 2, 3!

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And Miko got it!

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With gorgeous May!

I’ll be posting more photos soon!

Who I Am

I recently share this on Facebook and thought I should share this on my blog as well, although it’s totally not financially related in any way. And oh yeah, I cut my hair right after my wedding. Short hair rocks!

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During my teenage years, I was busy trying to be someone I was not. Trying to fit in, trying to be popular.

I spent the majority of my 20s trying to figure out who I am and what I want, and trying to impress people that doesn’t matter. I got upset whenever I learnt that someone disliked me and I’m always trying to gain the approval of other people.

During the later part of my 20s, things started to fall into place, and I stopped caring so much, about what others think of me, stopped trying to impress people whom are not close to my heart. I learnt how to read people and to trust them less easily.
In my late 20s, I feel like I’m finally comfortable in my own skin. I no longer feel uncomfortable lunching by myself, or just being by myself. In fact, I enjoy my own company now, to read or just to reflect on things. I was an inner geek when I was young, and this is who I am. I’m the happiest when I’m reading or learning new things. I crave for knowledge and answers like I crave for oxygen.

Environment and society had shaped me in some ways too. I became a social butterfly, I cared too much about my looks, I became outspoken, and was too fun loving. For awhile, I struggled between being an introvert and an extrovert at the same time. I’m an introvert by nature, and an extrovert by nurture. Now, I know it’s perfectly fine to be both. I ignored my phone when I need to be alone with a good book. I’ll go for drinks or dinner with friends when I need to be surrounded by people. But the first and last thing I need to do every single day and night is to read. I am that passionate about reading. For it is through reading that I find answers, satisfaction and growth.

I am also someone who embraced changes. I feel suffocated when my job is stagnant, when there is no challenges at work and no new things to learn and overcome. For this fact alone, I know that I can never be a stay at home mom or wife, and I’m glad my husband recognize and respect that. I like to earn my keep and not rely on anyone financially. In fact, I enjoy the process of accumulating wealth and I know I’ll become fairly well to do one day, through my very own effort.

Friends who knows me knows that I have a need to change my hairstyle every now and then. But few really understand it is to represent the notion of my need for constant change and improvement. At the same time I need a stable relationship, a man who is always there for me, and now that man is my husband. He is someone I can rely on amidst the unpredictability and challenges that I craved for in life.

I have a new found passion too. The topic of personal finance and early retirement interest me greatly. I get excited talking about investments and about properties too. I dream of gaining freedom from having to work for the sake of money alone. I want to enjoy doing many different things at the same time, whenever I want to.

Now a little bit more about the extroverted part of me. I like making friends and meeting new people. I think it takes all sorts to make the world and I love how colourful our world is. People are like characters in books and I can learn so much from all the different characters I met. I am always curious to know the thought process of others, and why they are the way they are. Friends say I can befriend anyone and everyone easily. I guess it’s because I have a genuine interest in people and can relate to them easily.

I am girly in appearance but I’m like a tomboy at most times. I’m not afraid of snakes, lizards, worms or spiders (the only creatures I’m scared of are bees, don’t ask me why). I hate to shower cos I find it so troublesome. I like watching horror shows, and I like looking at pretty girls too, much like a typical guy. But don’t worry, I am 101% straight. I just like to admire beautiful things and people.

As for my favorite sports, it has got to be running. I don’t have to interact with anyone and can be lost in my own thoughts when I am running. This is also the time when I figured most things out.

I think recently I fell in love with writing as well, although my grammar isn’t fantastic and my vocabulary isn’t exactly fantastic too. Writing helps channel my thoughts into words and it just felt comforting to write. Hope I’ll get better as I write more blogposts.

Cheers!

How I got out of debt (Part 2)

I’ve previously posted the first part on how I got out of debt here. Being in debt for years was really painful. I had totally ignored my debt situation and make no efforts to get out of it. However deep down, as much as I tried to ignore it, I know a certain part of my life was pretty screwed up.

Getting a good bonus, working out a debt repayment plan, and sticking to a budget were the first few steps I took to get out of my debt situation. I have to ensure not to fall back into debt again, like how I did before.

1) Changing habits/lifestyles

– Quit shopping

I realized whenever I’m bored, I’ll go online hunting for things to buy. Be it dresses, bags, accessories, or even gadgets. Shopping keeps me occupied and happy for awhile, until I received my new loots, then I’ll get bored and hunt for something else again. The first step to implementing a change is to identify the problem. In my case, it was the lack of self control, and the need for instant gratification. I made it a point to stop online shopping and I avoided shopping malls too, until I’m comfortable enough to just look and not buy. I also stop visiting designer bags forums, and stopped looking at advertisements of luxury products.

– Stop eating at restaurants

I used to dine at places like Ding Tai Fung, Crystal Jade, Ichiban Sushi and Sushi Teh whenever I meet up with friends or my boyfriend for dinner, which is like almost every other day. I even spent over $20 for lunch during weekdays. Now I eat at food courts and coffee shops, and I have to say I enjoy such local treats too! I still dine at my favourite places, but it’s usually reserved for weekends. Now on normal weekdays, $10 is more than enough for both lunch and dinner. One tip here, stop ordering drinks when eating out, just order plain water. They are not only free but much healthier too! I completely stopped buying bubble teas and Starbucks coffee back to the office post lunch too. It’s usually the small amount that adds up.

– Stop taking taxi

Compared to spending a few hundred dollars on transport previously, I now only spent about less than $100 a month on public transport.

2) Goals setting and setting of priorities

I never knew what I want in life and was just drifting through and enjoying life as it is. I guess everyone went through that stage when they were younger. After getting my bonus, I really sat myself down and started thinking of what I want to achieve in life. I want financial freedom. I want to be debt free, to enjoy the small things in life, not be bound by material things, and to finance my lifestyle using passive income. It is then that I realised I need very little to make me happy. Good health, being surrounded by people I love, good food (not necessary expensive), and self development are what matters. All these does not cost me a lot of money.

Once I sorted out my priorities, decisions making became easy. I know clearly what I want, and what I do not want. I’m no longer tempted by designer stuffs and the “finer” things in life. I no longer have temptations to shop and buy thing. Even for my upcoming wedding, I planned and budgeted in such a way that even if we make losses for the banquet, it is still affordable for my fiancĂ© and I. I don’t care if it’s not extravagant. What I want is an awesome marriage, not be debt ridden after all the glamour is over. And we all know the number one problem couples usually face is financial difficulties. I don’t want that to happen to my fiancĂ© and I.

3) Change in environment

I would say the biggest catalyst in helping me get out of debt and turning my financial situation around is due to the fact that I changed my job. I made many good friends from my banking days, and they are still some of my closest friends. However, I’m not entirely agreeable on their spending habits (sorry folks!).

My current colleagues on the other hand, they aren’t the most exciting or fun loving people. They are in their late 30s to early 40s, but they sure know a thing or two about amassing wealth and they know the importance of being debt free. One repaid his HDB loan within two years, and one within seven. My Finance Manager fully repaid his 5 room BTO the day he moved in. They are frugal, yet generous people. Being in such an environment prompt me to save and work hard for my goal of attaining financial freedom.

So all in all, without my current job (for the bonuses and the good influences), I’ll probably still be in debt, and most likely carry debt into my marriage and into my 30s.

How I got out of debt (Part 1)

From negative to positive…

2013 had been an extremely fruitful year for me for many reasons. My financial life is finally in order for the first time ever. Friends are wondering how I got out of debt and I’m finally comfortable enough to share it now. I went from being 18K in debt, to having a savings of 25k within 10 months.

Let me share what happened and the steps I took to get out of debt and start saving:

1) A good bonus

I joined my current company in Jun 2012 and received my pro-rated bonus in Dec 2012. The day before, I already knew how much I’ll be getting and I was elated to know I’ll be getting a whooping 20k bonus. To many people, it may not be a lot of money, but I have never receive so much money before in my life. I head straight to the Chanel boutique that evening after work to get myself a bag as I’ve always wanted one. I short listed 2 bags to “reward” myself, a Jumbo bag and a GST bag. I couldn’t decide on one and decided to sleep on it until after the bonus money is safely in my bank account the next day. To my surprise, the money wasn’t credited into our bank account, but my Managing Director was giving out cheques to us individually. When it was my turn, he handed a $20k cheque to me and asked me what I want to do with the money. After looking at him blankly for probably about 10 seconds, my exact words to him was “I’m gonna save everything”. At that moment, I forgot about my Chanel bag, I forgot about Xmas shopping, and all the fanciful things I wanted to get for myself. I decided once and for all that I’m sick and tired of being in debt. Not everyone has the opportunity to turn their financial life around, so I am gonna grab this chance and improve my life.

I didn’t exactly know how much debt I had, I thought it was probably about 8 – 10k. Within the year of 2012, I bought 2 designer bags, bought a iPad, signed up for a facial package that’s worth about 3k, and also borrow about 8k from my ready credit line from my Citibank credit card. All these debt was incurred and paid for using monthly instalment plans. After a few painful hours of consolidating my credit card bills, phone calls to banks to check for balances, and creating tables on excel spreadsheets, I found out to my horror that I’m over 18K in credit card debt.

The next few days were spent thinking if I should repay my credit cards debt in full, or to clear the outstanding balances first and continue serving the monthly instalment. And suddenly I remembered 2 years back in 2010, I did receive a bonus amount of about 10k, cleared my 5k credit card debt, spent the remaining 5k within a few months, and accumulated even more debts again (yes, I DO have a spending problem). The choice was clear. If I clear all my debt now, I’ll lose the motivation to save, since I will have no money in my bank account to show for anyway. So I choose to save, and repay my debt at the same time.

2) Budgeting

I began my search for answers on how to repay debts, how to save money, and most importantly, how to cut down on expenses. I realised it’s not just how much we earn that matters, but more on how much we save. I read practically everything I can find on budgeting, debt repayment, personal finance, wealth accumulation etc. I’ve been doing budgeting for companies for years and yet I’ve never budget for myself. It’s time I put my skills into good use. I spent days going through old bills and bank statements to get a grip of how my spending habits were like, and to my horror, I spent more than I earn, EVERY SINGLE MONTH. I realised it’s the small items that are really scary. Spending on small amounts of $20 to $50 per day can lead to over $1,000 wasted in a single month. I was so surprised when I realised I spent over $1,000 on dining out every month! My lifestyle was so highly inflated that I mainly only eat in restaurants, take cabs wherever I go, and buy whatever I set my eyes on.

Setting up a budget is easy, sticking to it is hard. However I was extremely determined to follow it through and a year later, I do see light at the end of the tunnel. In the beginning of 2013, my target was to have 20k in my bank account. Now at the end of 2013, I have exceeded my targeted amount.. The most painful part was the monthly instalments that I’ve got to service. I could have saved even more if not for the debt repayment of $700 a month. I’m still over 4k in debt, but I know it’s under control and the monthly instalment is manageable.

Are you able to retire comfortably?

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More often than not, people are not able to retire due to the many commitments in life. In our consumerist society, we need things to prove that we are successful. We need so much money to maintain our current lifestyles that retirement is not an alternative at all. Secondly, most of us are not able to retire due to a lack of savings and losing our jobs means a complete loss of income. This is why it is so important to spend below our means, save and to accumulate assets that can generate us passive income upon retirement. It is so important, yet so many of us fail to do so.

When this happen, we blame the economy, our government, the banks, and everyone around us, but we fail to see how we are sabotaging ourselves financially. We are the reason why we fail to accumulate wealth and attain financial freedom. We fail to plan for our future, fail to save, and over-indulge in life.

Avoid lifestyle inflation
It is so true that the more we earn, the more we spend. I remember years ago during my first office job as an intern in an accounting firm. A salary of $600 was more than enough for my daily needs, for me to pay for food, transportation, to help out at home, for weekends entertainment, and still had room for shopping as well. There was still a tiny bits of money left at the end of the month, right before pay day. It just was barely enough to save, but it was enough to get by. However throughout the years as I earn more, not only was I not able to save, I find myself running out of money the week before payday and needed to use credit cards to tide me over. There was also always an endless list of things to buy. I needed a new pair of heels, more dresses, the latest gadgets, a new wallet, a new watch, or a new bag. There’s a constant nagging feeling in my stomach that I need to save, but I always tell myself I’ll save the very next month, or when I get my bonus, or when I get the next increment, or after I bought what I wanted. I started work at 20. At 28, not only was I not saving any money, I was in debt. I was better off earning an Intern’s salary than a salary of an Finance Analyst in a private bank. My lifestyle had inflated so much over the years that I didn’t realized it. I hardly stepped foot in hawker centres or coffee shops and always had my meals in restaurants. I bought at least 10 dresses and a pair of heels in a month. I needed to do my nails, do treatment/cut/colour my hair, or do eyelash extensions every single month. In short, I had no control over my money.

Budget and keep track of expenses
It is funny how I have been tracking expenses and doing budgeting for all the companies I worked for, and yet I had never done it for myself until this year. I was so shocked when I looked through old bank statements and credit card bills and realized that I spent over $1,000 a month on food and drinks, and a few hundred dollars on cabs. A budget is useful in so many ways. It sounds like a chore at first, but once it became a habit, all I need is just half an hour a week to update my expenses and see how much I have left for the month, on what I can spend.

Cut expenses and SAVE MONEY
I used to find it so difficult to save. Now with a budget in place, I usually do a forecast on how much I need for the next month and determine how much I am able to save upon pay day. The first thing I do when I get my salary is to immediate transfer a certain amount (usually 20% of my salary) to my saving account. Trust me, it’s a great feeling watching my savings grow.

Avoid debt
I initially avoided using my credit cards again for fear of repeating my old foot steps, but I realized I’m missing out on discounts and the chance to accumulate points. Now whenever I use my card, I’ll make payment the very next day or within the week of making a purchase.

Where I’m standing right now
10 months has gone by and not only are there no new debts, but my saving has grown substantially as well. Just by taking these small steps, I have improve my financial life quite drastically. It is drastic because of the good money habits I have picked up, and that I have learnt to invest as well. Looking back, it wasn’t that difficult at all. I only wish I had started earlier.

Now, a comfortable retirement is possible for me because I’m planning for it and am willing to sacrifice material things for financial security and freedom. Don’t wait till you are in your 50s to start saving, planning and investing for retirement. It’ll be too late then.