That S$10,000

In 2005, I landed my first job in Singapore. That was the year Jen went to Perth for her studies. I was dejected but I channeled my negative energy into work. It was tough working as an IT helpdesk. We hardly left our seats, even for toilet breaks. Our eyes were constantly glued to the monitor and our minds were always pre-occupied. Handling complains thrown our way every single minute was the name of the game. A few months into it, my perfect eyesight deteriorate to a state I couldn't even read the number of an oncoming bus. Along with the splitting headaches after work, it wasn't funny.

That year, my friends hardly saw me. I had virtually zero social life. One reason was fatigue. The nature of the job gave me a phobia of hearing a phone ring. I hardly pick up calls outside work, unless it was from Jen, calling from Perth. The second reason was that I had no money to socialise.

When I started work, I set myself a very tough goal. To gather S$10,000 worth of cash by the end of 12 months of my first job. To do that, I derived a simple plan. I needed to put aside S$834 on my pay day. I set up an additional account to do that. Every month $834 will be transferred to the account without fail. By 12 months, I would have accumulated S$10,000. 

No sweat - for many no doubt but considering that my gross pay was S1,800, it was some feat.  Let's just see how much I took home after the CPF deduction.

1800 x 0.8 = 1440

My expenses

S$200 - for my mum
S$834 - transfer
S$26 - mobile phone bill
S$50 - internet
S$80 - transport
$S20 - international calling card

Deduct all these from S$1,400, I am left with S$230 for food, entertainment and misc. Yes I know that was a pittance but there was nothing much I could do about it. I couldn't reduce my internet bill because I was on a contract, same goes for my mobile phone. The allowance for my mum was already considered pathetic, according to my friends so that could not be reduced either. The international calling card expenses was a luxury and a need at the same time - to keep myself motivated. 

Transport fees appeared to be the only one which I could tweak - not. I took a straight bus to work everyday without fail. The closest bus stop was outside Chijmes. I worked at Suntec Tower 3. The return bus stop was even further away, at either opposite Funan Centre or the old National Library. Each day without fail, rain or shine I will walk that kind of distance to and fro my office. The reason was that being the cheapest form of reasonable transport at S$1.30 per ride. Taking the MRT back home would cost me a lot more per month.

So I was left with nothing to play around with. It was a tad ridiculous but still it simplified my mission. That was to survive on S$230 a month. It would be extremely rare for me to have a meal in Suntec City. Most of the time, I would walk to cheaper sources some distance away. The rest of the time, I was munching bread. Needless to say, I hardly go out with friends during the weekend. I would be exhausted by weekends anyway. Sometimes I volunteered to do a half-day Saturday duty because I would be paid an extra S$50. Every little bit helped I guess.

Amazingly, I was right on course until the 8th or 9th month. I had to contribute 'white gold' for a funeral - something which I didn't - and couldn't - cater for. I did not manage to cover the shortfall after that, much as I tried. Fortunately, I was one of the best performer in my team that year and was awarded a better bonus than the rest. I won't reveal how much, trust me, it was pathetic. But it helped cover the shortfall and I managed to complete the grueling quest with some more to spare.

That S$10,000 played a very big part in the turn of events for Jen and I and our story with Perth. Maybe I will share it in the future, if there are curious minds to feed.


  1. Always enjoy a story from your life :)

  2. Check out the latest gold term deposit account @ Bankwest. They are offering 5.85% for 7 months.

  3. Apart from simple savings, you should try to invest whatever extra you have. With the right knowledge and acument, your money will work very hard for you.
    You are doing the right thing for Albany. Compounding interest works very well for long term commitments.
    Iirc, Uncle Phil was an ex-banker. Maybe he can advise you how best to go about doing it...

  4. Aah.. this is so much more refreshing to read than your S'pore political gibe. It's your journey in a new land that's captivating.

    You are so 'dong si'. Your parents are blessed to have you. I should let my kid read this post. =)

  5. Good pointers to savings, mate! Set aside a target amount and a time frame... and Just Do It!

  6. From personal experience, let's see how much money it takes to live here today, not as a single, but as a _young family_.
    According to different people, mileage may vary:

    Every month:
    $1,000 to repay public housing apartment loan
    $1,000 to pay all sorts of bills, if lucky

    $3,000, or $1,500 per working parent to pay for themselves, children and maid, everything from family supplies to transport to eating out to medical bills.
    This works out to only $50 per day per parent, and also absorbs EVERYTHING the children need to spend on.

    So expenditure for a family of 5 (including live-in assistant — you call them 'maid') is $5,000 monthly (without sudden/emergency/'necessary' luxury expenses).

    Income for an average household for 2011 is $6,000 monthly (download from Dept of Stats).
    This assumes 2 working adults bringing in $3,000 gross.

    But it's a wonder if most of us can even earn enough to qualify for a credit card ($2,500)!
    Currently I earn half of that, not guaranteed
    So can we even save $10k a year, going on this way?

    So once you have a family here, unless you have a guaranteed income to beat average national odds, migration just makes for interesting stories.

    This seems to imply that, if you want to leave, you stand the highest chance to leave

    - before you have kids,

    - after saving as much as you can on jobs that pay as well as you can tolerate, and

    - as young as you can as adults.

    Wait a minute: this means you must leave to become Foreign Talents.
    Our government is indeed wise to attract such truly very capable individuals, from all around the world.

    Let's tear down the assumptions in my calculations:

    - Dump the maid.
    But in return, you can end up paying far more for all-day childcare / student care, and cleaning services.
    Unless of course, parents become superheroes, surviving on only one income while the other parent is full-time domestic.
    As locals here, you know well how not do-able it is for most, at say less than $2,500 household monthly.

    - No 'necessary' luxuries.
    No 'white gold' for funeral wakes, no red packets for wedding dinners and other rites of passage celebrations.
    No shopping malls, no mobile phones or video games or computers or online life or toys for children.
    No holidays ever, locally or overseas.
    Soon the family fades out from normal existence.
    "Excuse me, are you a Singaporean?"

    Happiness in Singapore remains a Dragon Gate.
    Many carps remain in the waters around it, seeking the leap over the Gate, to transform into a Dragon.
    It is practically impossible for the overwhelming 99%, except perhaps the elite few of 1%.
    Or increasingly less.

    1. I beg to differ on the amount of money needed...
      Public housing loan is mostly paid with CPF, utility/mobile/etc doesn't really hit $1000/mth(at least for me, and I stay in a pte apartment). Everyday $20/adult is more than sufficient., and that's including my petrol.
      My despatch earns $2500/mth, has 3 schooling children, no maid, and a flat which he has lived in for the past 15 yrs. He is doing fine, with the occasional short holidays in the region. He can shop in shopping malls, eat in normal restaurants once awhile, and he has managed to save some money (according to him). So i guess it is what your needs and wants are.
      And may I ask why is a maid a necessity? Not all household needs a maid. I don't. My wife works and do the chores when she comes home, with me helping occasionally.
      Happiness is not equal to how much money you have, and migrating to earn more money may not lead to happiness..

    2. Disagree. I once worked out that the missus only brings back 20% of NET pay after deducting domestic helper or childcare fees. That's a very small ROI for home management and child raising.

      Dump the maid and the childcare.

  7. Bro if u can saved that much in spore Im sure u can save even more in perth.... if both husband/wife can work. If theres a chance we will meet up for a dinner. Cheers/stephen thng

    1. Need to negative gear otherwise you will be paying a lot of income tax...

    2. Hi,
      How does negative gear works towards paying less income tax?

      Singaporean in Perth

    3. In a nutshell, buy an investment property, rent it out. The rentals will be used to service the mortgage payments. Any out of pocket expenses put towards this property can be claimed back from tax. E.g. Part of mortgage payments, repair works, building depreciation, etc. Of course, there are fine details which I shan't go elaborate here. If you were to sell off this property, there would be a capital gains tax imposed. This negative gearing encourages people to buy investment properties, so as to keep house lease market viable. And this is how people accumulate properties in their investment portfolio. I saw on TV news once... an old guy has acquired 90 properties ... He just keep rolling on if the rental market is healthy.

    4. Thats right... most of my mates in Aussie owns more than one property. stephen thng

  8. life in Sgp was like that, hardly anytime for family. Main reason why we made our move to Melbourne back in 2006....

  9. Friend, your are amazing. Hats off to you.

  10. Thumbs up for Peck and boo to Alan. There's a saying that goes, ' If you don't have a big head, don't wear a big hat!'

    1. er... think this is uncalled for. Everyone lives life differently. There's never a right or wrong as long as one is comfortable..

  11. SydneyLibrarian9 April 2012 at 13:58

    Hey! I had that same goal as you when I first started working :) To save $10K by the end of the first year. I remember bringing my own lunches to work most days. I think I did achieve my goal in the end :)

    Thx for sharing...

  12. May I ask if it's a gd idea to renounce my son citizenship when leavin to Australia. He is 3 now. Also if he renounces do we all hv to renounce n can he then still visit sg n work in sg on a work visa?

    1. The latest that I understand is, boys leaving so young would still NOT be allowed to renounce citizenship until they come of age to do National Service, at which time they are to return to renounce, or complete their NS.