The Biggest Financial Decisions Of Your Life
Warning! This article contains strong adult language such as “expenditure”, “investment” and “money”. Let’s be real, though, age rating warnings never turned anyone away.
Financial decisions are hard to make, almost as hard as deciding whether or not to tell your girlfriend that she does indeed look fat in that dress. There’ll come points in your life where you’ll have to make key financial decisions, and bad choices might leave you digging deep into your pockets – if you haven’t yet pawned your jeans.
Here are 10 ways you can be smart about spending your money at every stage of your life:
1. Graduation: Planning for your grad trip
Graduating from university is no easy feat, so treat yo’self! But if you’re considering selling one of your kidneys to afford $200 per night hotel rooms in Barcelona, perhaps private rooms in hostels for as low as a tenth of the price may be a better option.
A graduation trip is in itself a luxury, whether you’re backpacking or poshpacking your way through Asia or Europe. Our writer spent only $200 on accommodation while travelling around Europe for 2 months, but it’s equally possible to blow the same amount in 2 days. Imagine the savings if you budget well!
Unless your last name is “Gates” or “Buffett”, budget backpacking is probably a more accurate reflection of your student days anyway.
2. Fresh grads: Splurging your whole first pay away
For all you fresh graduates, your first paycheck will seem enormous when compared to that of your first job as an ice cream scoopie that paid you a measly $5 an hour. Don’t rush to splurge the bulk of it on living it up for the weekend or committing to a swanky gym membership, before having to live on Maggi mee for the rest of the month.
Get into the habit of budgeting wisely, including setting aside a portion of money to save, right from the get-go. Being off to a good start makes all the difference to your spending habits down the road. By all means, give yourself a treat – but within reason!
3. Going to work: Buying a car vs taking public transport
My tour guide in Croatia snagged her car for 500 Euros. But Singapore is not Croatia.
Despite the immense convenience that owning a car brings, the exorbitant price of cars in Singapore and their rate of depreciation make them a poor investment. Let’s also not forget the road tax, parking, fuel costs, and the cheeky chocolate bar you grab at the counter every time you refuel.
If it’s convenient to get to your workplace or your frequent haunts via public transport, you’d be saving a fortune by simply not getting a car and taking public transport. Even a taxi ride every other day will work out as a cost-saving alternative to a car!
4. Getting married: Overseas vs local wedding photoshoots
Wedding shoots in Singapore can be quite super too. Source
An overseas wedding photoshoot in Hokkaido, Bali, or New Zealand might sound incredibly exotic and tempting, but when you snap back to reality and do your sums, you’ll realise that overseas wedding shoots easily cost more than twice or thrice a local shoot. And there’s also the photographer’s travel and overseas accommodation expenses, which will be out of your own pocket.
There are tons of picturesque spots in Singapore as well; and in any case, there are locations within Singapore that hold more significance for you and your partner anyway, so don’t cross out that option!
5. Holding your wedding ceremony: Hotel vs restaurant
It’s your big day, and you want everything to be absolutely perfect to distract you from the fact that you now have to share the bed for the rest of your life. What’s worth considering is having your wedding dinner at a restaurant instead of in a hotel.
A reasonably-priced wedding dinner at a mid-tier hotel such as the Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel starts at about $30,000 for 250 guests, whereas holding it in a restaurant instead would only set you back about $10,000 to $15,000. In both instances, you get a sumptuous 8-course meal, lots of goodies, and countless blackmail-worthy pictures of your drunk guests. Same same but different.
6. Finding your new home: Size/ type of apartment
Buying a place that’s bigger than necessary doesn’t only mean forking out an additional sum of money for the house itself, but also makes upkeep more costly – you might be biting off more than you can chew. Do you really need that study room? What about that guest bedroom?
A 3-bedroom HDB flat in Tampines starts from $183,000 while a 5-bedroom in the same estate starts from $375,000. That’s double the price!
If you’re eyeing a condominium but are pooling every last coin together to determine if you can afford it, chances are, you can’t. You won’t even need the swimming pool because you’ll be swimming in your tears.
7. Moving into your new apartment: Furnishing choices
Even without experience, you can DIY simple projects such as painting the walls of your new home either with friends or with your spouse. This way, you save on labour costs, which are often more expensive than the raw materials used. For example, $300 will get you enough paint for a 3 room flat, whereas hiring painters to do the job for you would cost at least $900.
And as fancy as custom-made furniture sounds, IKEA furniture hacks are solid alternatives that could also pimp your space for a fraction of the price. Also try furniture hunting at unconventional places such as second hand furniture shops – you never know what treasures you might uncover!
Being prudent with your renovation choices doesn’t mean you’ll end up with basic home decor that assumes you regularly forget to live, laugh, and love. The sense of satisfaction that comes with doing up your own home also makes living in it so much cosier.
8. Healthcare: Choice of hospital wards
They say you should save for a rainy day, but don’t forget to also save on a rainy day. Health is the most important thing in life, and in the event that you get hospitalised, Singapore’s world class medical facilities ensure that you get adequate medical care – no matter which ward you stay in.
Kittens not included in every A-class ward. Source
A basic 9-bedded, C class ward costs only $35 per night; B1 class wards are 4-bedded, with facilities such as an attached bathroom and a television, setting you back $240 per night. These options are way more wallet-friendly as compared to an A class single ward, which start from $428 per night. Perhaps it’s worth considering sacrificing some personal space for lots of savings.
A typical 4-bedded B1 ward. Source
9. Taking care of kids: Childcare/hiring a domestic helper vs asking parents to help
There are many options out there for working parents who need help taking care of their children. NTUC childcare, MyFirstSkool, is amongst the more affordable options for daycare, with prices starting from $650 a month. Hiring a domestic helper costs about $600 a month, excluding her living expenses.
But if you haven’t considered it, it seems that a pre-requisite of entering old age is to love children – every grandparent loves to pamper the little ones. Leaving your children under a relative’s care will not only save you a huge sum over time, it will also give you more peace of mind – blood is thicker than water!
10. Your child’s education: Types of enrichment classes
There’s a “if it’s expensive, it must be good” mentality regarding tuition in Singapore. Many parents are eager to enroll their children in “top” tuition agencies with the best track records. But more expensive does not necessarily translate into being better.
With proper research, you’ll find cost-effective enrichment classes for your children. There are tuition services conducted by CDAC that cost up to $30 per subject monthly for primary school and up to $40 per subject monthly for secondary school. Private tutors, on the other hand, can cost more than three or four times that.
Thinking of getting your child into an extracurricular activity such as music? Try independent tutors – in particular, students looking to make some extra dollars on the side. They aren’t as qualified as many established schools, but make up for it with their far lower rates.. You may have to search a little harder, but it’s worth it for the money you’ll be saving.
Saving for the future
“In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years” – Abraham Lincoln
They say life is short, but the average life expectancy in Singapore is about 82 years old – that’s pretty long. Saving what you can at every major point in your life, from graduation to planning for your child’s education, goes a long way into ensuring a happy retirement.
But planning what to do with these savings is also important. After all, you don’t want to squander away your savings with a few wrong choices. You have to plan ahead and save smart, ensuring you the most comfortable retirement you can afford.
This post was brought to you by AIA Singapore.