I Travelled During a Pandemic and got Covid

I wanted to write an article about my recent travel experience regardless of the outcome, and I wanted to write it to help those who are going to be travelling during this time, or are even thinking about it. We’re in our third year of the pandemic and I hadn’t seen my family in two years. Regardless of the situation, I was going to take any opportunity I could to go home to see them.

That being said, there’s a few things I wish I knew before flying. Even though I had friends that had flown before me, there were new developments every day with the Omicron variant that definitely kept me on my toes.

Pre-Flight

My main concern was coming back on a VTL (vaccinated travel lane) flight, meaning that when I returned to Singapore there was no need to quarantine. This was paramount as I had face-to-face training booked at work. I was going for two weeks, mainly because I’d already taken a lot of time off for our wedding and staycays, but also because I am a licenced financial services consultant in Singapore- I cannot legally work or give financial advice in other countries and if I was out of SG for too long I would run into tax issues.

VTL flights were CRAZY expensive- one BA flight was about $6,000. I love my family but was not about to pay that. So, I found a cheaper way to fly via Berlin with Scoot, return VTL, pretty cheap. I also booked a pre departure test for the UK, booked a day 2 test for when we got there, completed our passenger locator form and my VTP (vaccinated travel pass). I would recommend printing everything off for a smooth transition, and I even printed off all travel itinerary, insurance and our marriage certificate (he’s a Singaporean so I knew I could come back on a family ties lane if there was another lockdown).

Flight

With all our documents ready and check-in online done it was time to head off. Thank goodness we got to the airport early because, even though we had already checked in, it didn’t matter. We still had to queue and have Scoot check all our documents, which was fine and didn’t take too long, but they seem to have more staff ‘assisting you’ at the automatic booths than for the Covid checks, which seemed counter-productive, and our assistant kept pressing all the wrong buttons, so it would have just been easier to do it ourselves. But once check in was done, everything was easy and the flight to Berlin was pretty smooth.

That’s when the panic started. We only had a two-hour layover in Berlin (which was totally my own doing; we landed at 9am and all other flights to England weren’t until 7pm, and I would rather take my chances than sit in an airport for that long). The issue was that, because it was self-transfer with two different airlines, we had to go through passport control, collect our bags, check them in again, go through security and then immigration a second time before boarding our next flight. This was the most stress I’ve experienced in a long time, and if it weren’t for the kind family in front of us at immigration letting us past, we would have missed our flight. Anyway, we got our connection just in the nick of time and arrived safely in Manchester.

Being At Home

I am not over exaggerating when I say that seeing my mom at Manchester Airport for the first time in two years was like something out of Love Actually. I cried, she cried, and there was a tonne of people in the exact same situation, embracing each other after years of being apart. It was at this moment that I realised that all of this was worth it. It was like time had stood still and nothing had changed being back at home. It was also very special because this was the first time my husband was coming home with me and had met my parents face to face.

Whilst I was home, I met friends, got my booster and went to a club. Although I will say that because of my constant fear of Covid, we were super careful; wore masks EVERYWHERE, constantly hand sanitised, stayed in small groups and sat by ourselves with masks on in the club (lame I know). The UK had become very lax about the situation, with no one really checking vaccination status or wearing a mask. And to some extent I agree with the majority that it does need to be taken as an endemic now, but I had a flight to catch in two weeks.

Omicron Panic

During the trip I had several friends cancel on their plans because they had tested positive and were self-isolating. I was happy to hear, however, that they weren’t taking long to recover and had little to no symptoms. Governments worldwide didn’t see the positive side, however, and with news that Europe was shutting their boarders the panic started to set in. Our flight back to Singapore was again via Berlin and it wasn’t long until EasyJet cancelled our flight from Gatwick.

Then Singapore announced that it was suspending all VTL sales…we had 4 hours to frantically book flights. I found a pretty reasonable booking with Turkish Airlines arriving in Singapore on the 1st January.

Heading Back

We flew back from London and, after a lovely time with family and friends, we got our lateral flows done in Boots somewhere in Piccadilly, did our Health Travel Declaration for Singapore and stayed next to Heathrow Airport.

The gentleman at the Turkish Airlines desk was incredibly helpful and the document check was very smooth. Everything from that point to Istanbul went very well and felt like normal flying times. When we got to Istanbul we had to have our VTL documents checked again, which was fine for us but not for all- there were people being told they had to say in Istanbul Airport, others on the phone to their respective embassies and some being interrogated about their trip to Singapore. I genuinely think this happened because Turkish Airlines doesn’t make it clear on their website that the flight is a VTL- I had to trawl through several websites to confirm and the VTL flight only happens in January once every two weeks. And if you weren’t from Singapore, how would you even know what a VTL is?

Landing

Everything when we arrived in Singapore was smooth- we got our bags quickly, and, although I hadn’t pre-booked my PCR, it was quick and efficient. We got home and awaited our results…the morning came and my husband got a call from MOH saying that he had tested positive on his PCR. This came as quite a shock as we were both negative before we left, my whole family had tested negative and we are now testing negative on ART tests. Hours later I still had not received my results. But eventually they came in and were positive too. We now both have to quarantine for ten days (from result, not from test, so essentially 11 days), which I am pretty upset about. For some context, it came out in the news that those on non-VTL flights will no longer have to do a PCR on arrival, and self-isolate for 7 days. If they test positive on an ART they have to isolate for 72 hours or until they test negative. Please tell me why for VTL it is a 10 day quarantine, regardless of how soon you test negative?

Final Thoughts

All in all I am very happy I went home and nothing will take away that time I spent with friends and family. However, I do feel that the VTL scheme is just a way of making money- ticket prices are insanely high, the number of tests is insurmountable and the PCR upon arrival was $125, which I got the results well after 24hrs instead of 6-12. And on top of that I still have to quarantine longer than if it was non-VTL. The level of extra documentation and stress made flying incredibly nerve-wracking. I used to be a frequent flyer and travel a few times a month- this trip I was incredibly anxious, panicked and it was overall such an unpleasant experience. Also, if I knew I was going to test positive anyway, even after all the many precautions I took, I probably would have cared less and relaxed a bit more.

Here’s to 8 more days stuck inside!

Great Singapore Christmas Gift Ideas!

A lot of us are headed back for the holidays, myself included. And for many of us, this is the first time we’ve been back in at least a couple of years. So, if you’re struggling to think of what gifts to bring back for your relatives, here are some quintessential Singaporean things you can give them, along with some cool shop ideas of where to get unique Singapore gifts.

  1. Kaya and Pandan

These two flavours are pretty much the first thing I think of when I think of Singapore. Kaya toast was invented during the Straits Settlement Period by Hainanese cooks. This coconut jam is traditionally served on buttered toast, with soft-boiled eggs and coffee. It is the most popular traditional breakfast, and outlets such as Ya Kun Kaya Toast can be found everywhere across the country. So why not pick up a jar of kaya to bring back for your family to try? Let them feel the real taste of Singapore.

Pandan is a fragrant leaf, commonly found in kaya spreads but also in other good, such as cakes and biscuits. These can also be great options as gifts to bring home for the whole family.

2. Kopi

There wouldn’t be kaya toast without kopi- a highly caffeinated coffee originating during the British Malaya era, with Hainanese roots. This local coffee normally packs a bigger punch that other coffees, because of the roasting of Robusta beans, as opposed to Arabica. You can purchase bags of roasted kopi beans, which make an excellent gift for any coffee enthusiast. You can also buy coffee bags (like tea bags, but with coffee) of kopi, so no need to bother grinding them etc.

3. Art Faculty

If you’re looking for a shop with great gifts, you can try checking out the Art Faculty. This social enterprise is dedicated to showcasing and honouring the unique talents of artists on the autistic spectrum. You can buy masks, sustainable goods, cute accessories and more, all with a Singaporean twist. I particularly like the cute little pins that look like a bowl of laksa, chicken rice or xiao long bao, and their cushion covers of artist’s depictions of famous places like Smith Street. Check them out at Enabling Village, 20, Lengkok Bahru, or visit www.theartfaculty.sg.

4. Cat Socrates

This cool shop has two outlets- one on Joo Chiat Road and one on Yong Siak Street. Here you can find all manner of quirky or interesting gifts, all to do with Singapore. You can find cook books from all of our various cuisines here such as Peranakan, Asian vegetarian food and even cookbooks based on things you can find at the wet market.

  You can also buy various Singaporean-based games, such as The Singaporean Dream, Say What? (in different languages such as Malayu, Hokkien and even Singlish), or my personal favourites are the Singaporean-themed home range. You can purchase Peranakan tile magnets, Singapore trays, tea towels, placemats…you name it!

  There is simply a tonne of great gifts ideas here, all with adorable Singapore-inspired motifs!

5. Naiise.com

Naiise.com is a creative online marketplace chock full of unique gift ideas. If you click on the ‘Go Local’ section, you’ll find loads of quirky things that make great Christmas presents. Some cute stuff I stumbled across were; a cushion that looks like a curry puff; a plush otah pencil case, and various t-shirts with Singaporean flora and fauna. I myself have a t-shirt with a durian shaped like Esplanade (because its nickname is The Durian).

Take a look at their site- there is so much stuff on here I simply cannot list it all. A lot make for excellent presents.

I hope this short list gives you enough ideas for lovely, unique and Singaporean Christmas presents. I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and have a Happy New Year.

How Social Media is Messing Up Your Money

Social media has definitely become a very integral part of our lives; we can connect with our friends, share our idea, show off our photos and pretty much expose every part of our lives online if we wanted to. It’s especially great for us expats to stay in touch with people at home and abroad. I also think social media is a great tool for broadening our horizons, listen to new ideas and keep up with the news. However, it has a flip side; what we see on social media is not 100% real…people only showcase the best aspects of their lives online; be that be their jobs, their holidays…their belongings…everything is not as it seems. That’s why it’s particularly important to be conscious of how social media affects you. Here’s some ways that social media is BAD for your bank account.

FOMO Spending

This is a term I heard of lately and, as soon as I read it, it instantly resonated with me. FOMO (or, ‘fear of missing out’) is something I suffer from frequently. I often feel like I need to attend every social event or gathering, and that if I don’t, I’ll be missing out on so much fun and good times. Especially now, during lockdown 1094829953892 (whichever one we’re on), I feel like I need to get as much social interaction as I possibly can. But, this isn’t always so good for my wallet…brunches, drinks…. some of you may go on friend staycays. This all adds up!

  It’s always good to cultivate a friendship circle that is empathetic and adapted to your financial lifestyle. Having friends that are understanding of your financial needs and limitations, is not only healthy for your bank account, but also for your mental health. It’s not fun feeling pressured into buying something, or spending when it’s beyond your means, and if you’re not able to express this to a friend, maybe it’s not the right group for you. A recent study shows that 27% of millennials feel uncomfortable saying no to a friend when they can’t afford an activity. And 48% admitted to spending beyond their means to hang out with friends. This is only exacerbated with that fact that we will see everything on social media.

  Not only that, being in financial trouble because of spending on nights out or luxury items, it a lot tabooer (yes, that’s a real word) than admitting to being in student debt or having a housing loan. This can lead to secretism, shame and denial about one’s financial standing. Honesty is always the best policy, even when it comes to voicing out to your friends not wanting to spend beyond your means.

Advertising and Luxury Goods

This one seems obvious but it may not be as obvious as you think. Adverts are almost everywhere, including plastered all over social media. What’s even worse, they’re not adverts for things we don’t particularly want or like- they are specifically tailored for each and every person, based on the videos they’re watching, the content they’re digesting. Product placement is secretly crafted into everything we watch; from product reviews, video sponsors and sneaky product placement, we are always consuming adverts one way or another. Luxury brands in particular are coming up with fresher ways to reach younger audiences, such as TikTok, and it’s working; a recent survey showed that millennials spend $500 on average a month on luxury items, and 51% said they would forgo healthcare in favour of luxury goods. Which, is crazy to me. Where I believe that healthcare is a human right, I know that we don’t live in a perfect eutopia where everyone has free healthcare and education. So, to hear that the majority of the younger population favour brands over health, it really saddens me. This shows that the ads we’re seeing, are working! I also think that more expensive isn’t always better quality, which is what a lot of people forget to remember. Think of all the celebrity products and brands that…aren’t good?! Like all the Kardashian ventures that were a flop, or all the influencers skincare lines, that have been proven scientifically not to be any better for your skin than drugstore brands. It’s always good to be aware of what advertisements are there to do- they are there to SELL. Of course, they’re not going to tell you all the negatives. And at the end of the day…is a designer handbag going to make you feel better if you fall sick, or would that healthcare insurance have been better?

Hauls and  OOTDs

All these trends, particularly the ones on TikTok, I originally thought were harmless, but when I thought about it deeper, I can see that they could be quite toxic and detrimental for one’s relationship with money. For example, the idea of ‘Outfit Of The Day’, suggests that it’s not ok to wear the same outfit twice. Which of course, is ridiculous. Of course people wear their clothes more than once. Studies show that comparing ourselves to the highlight reels we see on social media can lead to feelings of depression and inadequacy, which in turn leads us to spend more on items we don’t particularly want or need, in order to look good for a day- a split second in time!

  I love watching a good haul video, but they are not healthy. Decades ago, fashion had four seasons, and people only had a select few pieces in their wardrobe, that they would mix and match to create new looks and outfits. Flashforward to today, where fast fashion sites have thousands of new products added every day, with fashion seasons being broken down into micro-seasons, adding more pressure for us to buy. A haul video is this concept on steroids, whereby influencers will buy multiple pieces, spending a tonne of money in one go, try them on, on camera, review them, and probably never wear them again. People doing the hauls are often sponsored, or are being paid every time someone shops with their discount code. If we were to do these hauls, we’d just end up spending a tonne of our money, on clothes we probably don’t need, and maybe we’d wear these items a couple of times and that’s it. What a waste of money.

I’m not trying to sound like a Grinch, or a preacher, as I will admit, I do partake in fast fashion and I enjoy watching product reviews online, but I wrote this so that we can be mindful of how our emotions affect our spending; what we see on social media is not fully real, and we don’t need to spend beyond our means to emulate these kinds of habits. I could go on for ages about how unrealistic beauty standards and social media models is a toxic and expensive concept, but maybe that’s for another article. What’s your biggest social media pet peeve?

Live the High-Life on a Budget!

I must admit that when you live in Singapore, and you see all the luxury surrounding you, it’s very difficult to not get sucked into the spending lifestyle; it’s difficult to not go to nice brunch places, restaurants or expensive bars. It’s difficult to not feel the want to buy nice brands. It’s difficult to not want to live it up in Sentosa. I find all this stuff hard to avoid sometimes when I see everyone around me enjoying Singapore as much as possible; especially seen as travel is not an option. So I thought, is there a way to live ‘that life’…without paying for it? Turns out, there’s a few little hacks you can do to live the high-life on a budget!

Opt for Lunch Instead of Dinner

This one is great if you need to take clients out or you have a group of friends that like dining in higher end restaurants. Many restaurants do a set meal for lunch, at a fraction of the cost of dinner prices, and you still get to experience the beautiful ambience and surroundings. Spago, Café Melba, FOC, Artemis and even KOMA all have cheaper set lunch menus.

Save On Luxury Experiences

Staying in the house 24/7 is not good for our mental health, especially when working from home. We need to go out and socialise, but we also can’t spend every night or weekend doing fancy things- our bank account will not thank us. We need to find a happy balance, and one way to do that is by saving on experiences. You can use websites like Fave to book discounted tours, yacht parties, theatre events and more. Buy packages for massages if you plan on going frequently, as it works out cheaper. Not only that, if you like beach clubs, now many of them don’t have a minimum spend, so you can spend your weekend relaxing at a beach club!

Organise Events at Home

I think this is a really great tip whilst we’re in heightened restrictions. I love entertaining at home and spending time at friends’ houses. So why not make the night really special by creating an event, be it a quiz, a game, or even hosting a wine and cheese night? All of these items can be bought way cheaper from a shop, than in a restaurant, bar or pub (I recommend buy from Wine Connection stores or Wines4U on Lazada).

Be Smart with Your Money

Instead of over-spending and maxing out your budget, cut back on areas you can afford to so you have room for more! Make sure that your rental isn’t over 30% of your monthly salary, do a big shop of your groceries instead of a weekly shop (studies have shown that doing bigger bulk grocery shops save you more money than a weekly one). I’ve done plenty of articles of how to manage your budget, eating healthy on a budget and even how to reshuffle you finances, so check them out. But basically, the less you spend on fixed expenses, the more budget you have to work with!

Do Smart Investing

The power of dividends! Did you know that some investments you buy, pay you money quarterly, depending on how well the shares are doing? This is a great way of hitting your short-term money goals with little to no effort. I suggest investments with dividends pay-outs to clients who maybe want a bit extra when they go on holiday (booking flights are crazy expensive right now), to help pay off some unwanted bills or for them to save up for moving. What’s great about dividends is that you don’t have to cash them out if you don’t want- you can leave them in your investment to accumulate money, and cash out when needed.

At the end of the day, the only real way we can live the high-life is to really evaluate our finances and plan correctly, by budgeting, saving and investing. But, using some of these money-saving tips and ideas can really help you save that little bit extra, and still enjoy your free time! What do you do to save?

How To Have A Healthy Conversation Without Mentioning Covid

We’ve been stuck in this situation now for almost two years (I know, I can’t believe it), and how Covid is affecting the world can be a lot to take sometimes. I definitely get down about how things are, especially because I’m unable to see my family. But then I also feel a huge amount of guilt, because I still have my health, my husband, my job and thankfully all my family are well and safe. I know that many people are not that lucky; those that have lost family members, lost jobs, got covid themselves, stuck abroad etc…so I feel that the pandemic can affect me two-fold; feeling sorry for myself but then feeling worse for others and feeling guilty that I ever felt sorry for myself. (Have I talked about my feelings enough yet?)

Not only has Covid-19 majorly affected peoples’ mental health, it’s affected the way we communicate. Lockdowns meant that we didn’t have many new topics to chat about, most things were online so we lost that personal touch and, arguably the worst thing…we can’t seem to have a conversation without talking about COVID! So, let’s cut the chit-chat and let’s explore ways that we can have healthy conversation without bringing up 2021’s ‘He Who Must Not Be Named’…Covid-19.

Be Open Minded

It’s often difficult to talk to someone you may feel is not on the same page as you or someone who has different opinions to you, but try to be understanding of people’s situations. We all deal with stress differently, so if we all try and take other’s perspectives into account, it can lead to a healthy conversation that is not closed off or filled with animosity. Conversations are there to put us in a good mood; we are social creatures and communication mentally stimulates us. If you’re unsure of what conversation topics to start with, try finding some common ground. Even if it’s just the weather, or discussing an object in a common space, this is a good way to start and allows you both to openly talk and feel more comfortable.

Be Observant and Listen

Everybody wants to feel heard. Everyone appreciates a listening ear and no one really likes to feel like they’re being ignored or talked over. To be an active listener, try to ignore any distractions in the room; talk in a neutral environment; focus on what they are saying, not how you’re going to respond and don’t rush the conversation. Observe the other person’s body-language and facial expressions. This is great if you’re running out of stuff to talk about as well, you can comment on something they’re wearing (nicely) and ask them more about it.

  Practicing good listening also can lead to better, more valuable conversations. You can keep this going by asking open-ended questions, use affirmations to validate the other person when you agree, and always try to show an interest in what the other person is saying.

Change The Topic

When someone else brings up Covid, and you would really rather not talk about it, there are some ways you can steer the conversation away. You can use the topic to ask if anyone has learnt any new hobbies or skills, share your experiences or ask how people are handling working from home. If you’re having this conversation over a video call, take the opportunity to ask for a house tour or ask about things in the zoom, to steer the conversation away from the C word. You can talk about current pop-culture references; we’ve all upped our Netflix intake over this period, so talk about Too Hot To Handle, Squid Game or The Circle…or whatever you’ve been watching!

Here are some conversation starters if you’re getting a bit stuck:

  • Have you learnt any new recipes lately?
  • Are you working on any new projects?
  • How are your family?
  • Have you been reading anything good right now?
  • Where do you normally go for a stroll/bike ride?
  • What have you been doing to wind down in the evening?

I’m sure that one of these will land, and then you can use your other tools to build your conversation from there.

                Honesty Is the Best Policy

If all else fails, don’t be afraid to share how you’re feeling. If you don’t want to talk about the pandemic, you can firmly state that you simply do not wish to discuss it and that you want to talk about other things. This may be necessary if you feel that the other person does not share the same views with you when it comes to the rules, restrictions, vaccines or how the government is handling it. It’s not worth getting into arguments over things that you cannot change, so sometimes it’s best to just…not talk about the topic at all.

I know that all of these things are always easier said than done, but implementing a few of these tools and techniques can improve your conversations and relationships with others around you. Not only that, it can improve your mindset, making you feel calmer and in control of your discussions. I hope this has helped even one person- being mindful about these things, particularly being an active listener, has really helped me over this tough period. Stay safe everyone and we can get through this.

How To Eat Healthy On A Budget In Singapore

So we all know that hawker centres, although cheap, are not the healthiest, and buying ‘free from’ or organic food can be ridiculously expensive. So is there a way to find a happy medium…by making healthier choices but still not overspending? Here are a few top tips I have for you!

Less Rice

When you’re ordering at the cai fan stall (the one where you can pick and choose what you want), ask for less rice, brown rice or no rice at all! That way you don’t overeat processed carbohydrates and you can fill up on healthy stuff, like boiled vegetables or steamed fish. Even if you they don’t give you less rice, you can use the excess rice to soak up the extra sauce and oil! And all this for just a few bucks.

Cook At Home

This is an obvious choice; cooking at home means that you know what you’re putting into your body and the quantities of food you’re using. But sometimes produce can be pretty pricey, especially if you’re ordering your groceries online. But there are ways you can save the pennies when buying your weekly shop;

  Do a bulk-buy of dried food such as beans, lentils, rice and even herbs and spices. Keep track of how much of these you have. These good can keep for a very long time and you normally don’t need huge amounts with every meal, meaning they will last longer!

  Buy your fruit from fruit stalls- it’s way cheaper than the supermarket and often riper and juicier (check out my article ‘Random Money Hacks I Do’, where I talk about buying fruit at night).

  Not only that, you can start buying your meat and vegetables at wet markets; if you go later on in the day, there are often discounts and deals to be had!

  Get protein from non-meat products such as tofu, which is so cheap in Singapore. Top Tip- press the tofu by layering it in between kitchen roll and putting a plate with a heavy weight on top of it. This will squeeze out all the water. Once all the water has been squeezed out, you can marinate it in whatever you like…honey, soy, chilli, you name it! Then all it needs it a quick roast in the oven (or air fryer) and you’ve got a juicy, tasty meatless protein for dinner.

Healthy Cheap Restaurants

If you do want to eat out on a budget but still want to eat something fresh and healthy, there are loads of places you can try! Smol do great tasty grain bowls that are affordable and have vegan options, Green Dot has all veggie bentos there are easy on your wallet, Simply Wrapps has cheap and affordable healthy options and the Soup Spoon have classic and delicious soup and salad at a reasonable price.

So check it out! Explore with your cooking! Venture into the hawker centre! Just because you want to eat healthily, doesn’t mean your relationship with food has to be boring or with a scarcity mentality. Live life and enjoy!

Sex And The City…And Broke!

How Sex And The City Warped Women’s Relationship With Money

Samantha…Charlotte…Miranda…Carrie…we all had a favourite. But I think it’s safe to say that a lot of the episodes have not aged well (think of those episodes with Samantha dating a woman, or someone of a different race and how that was tackled…yikes!), but the point that sticks out to me the most is how toxic most of the character’s relationship is with money, particularly Carrie’s. So here is my deep-dive into this sticky topic of this show’s glorification of bad money habits.

Carrie’s Unrealistic Salary

This one really irks me. In the show, especially at the beginning, Carrie is a columnist who hasn’t really hit the peak of her career yet; she lives in a beautiful apartment in Manhattan, wears designer clothes, brunches and buys designer shoes on a regular basis. This is in no sense realistic for a woman on a freelance journalist’s salary. For people watching in the 90’s, it painted an improbable picture for those wanting to go in a creative line of work. Sex and the City was debuted in 1998. It was reported that females in the US that year were earning $591 per week (US Dept. of Labour). After taxes, that’s not much over $30,000…doesn’t really sound enough to live on in central NY. Not only that, most freelancers I know have more than one stream of income. I find it very hard to believe that Carrie only had one stream of income of only a few hundred bucks per article…

Carrie’s Problem with Spending

“I like my money right where I can see it- hanging in my closet.” Oh Carrie, what a terrible mindset to have. And it wasn’t hidden in the show that Carrie, and the rest of the girls for that matter, had a spending problem, and didn’t really care when it came to saving her money. This was definitely a major plot hole throughout the show, especially after dissecting Carrie’s salary above. How did Carrie manage to brunch with the girls on a weekly basis, order takeout all the time (it was a weird point the show was trying to make, that working women should focus on their career and needn’t bother learning to cook), take taxis everywhere (erm hello! Cabs in NY are so expensive and inconvenient!), go to cool and exclusive clubs in the city and buy all the clothes she wanted on that low-income salary?! It is baffling to me that the show continued for as long as it did without ever getting pulled up on this massive flaw.

Carrie’s Credit Card Issues

Uh oh, this is how Carrie spent so much, she had massive credit card bills. An article was published in 2016 by The Financial Diet (which, by the way, I highly recommend, I love their articles and videos), that calculated Carrie Bradshaw spent about $3,600 a month on non-essential expenses. This is astounding for someone earning $2,364 a month! Leaving Miss Bradshaw in a deficit of $1,236 per month! No wonder she had to take out credit cards to fund her lifestyle! Don’t get me wrong, credit cards are not a bad thing and definitely can be used in a financially healthy lifestyle, but only if you can pay off the bill before accruing any interest. This responsible usage of credit cards is not portrayed in Sex and the City. The show taught viewers to be reckless with their credit card spending, because at least you can buy the things you want. In one episode, Carrie is declined a bank loan because of her financial track record. She admits that she paid off over $40,000 in credit card loans- oh my. Credit card debt is mentioned a few times in the show but it’s definitely just brushed off as a bit of a joke. Also can we just remember when Carrie was left $1,000 on the nightstand because the guy thought she was an escort and she uses that money to pay off a bill! Which brings me onto my next topic..

The Girls’ Relationship with Money and Men

For me, this is the most problematic message that the show portrayed. Throughout the show, the girls express the need for finding a rich, affluent man, to where it’s pretty much a goal for them. Take Charlotte for example, her quest for love was always paired with a pursuit of finding a wealthy husband. When she finally divorces her 1st husband Trey, he left her a very expensive apartment and a ring worth a few tens of thousands of dollars, so that she can still live comfortably. Interesting to note that she sells this ring to pay for Carrie’s house deposit, just as an aside. But it perpetuated the very dangerous and abysmal message that women will always need men to provide for them financially, because women simply cannot plan their finances by themselves. Another example of this is when Carrie lets her boyfriend Aiden buy her apartment (???) and then approaches another ex to pay for her down-payment?! The whole thing is farcical and a bit psychotic if you ask me. And this is a theme throughout the show, where Miranda seems to be the only woman who doesn’t really care how much her husband is earning or expecting him to pay for her. All the other girls crave a man buying them things and spoiling them. Even less-problematic scenes perpetuate this, like Carrie walking into the walk-in closet Big made for her and there’s a pair of shoes waiting for her, or when Samantha continues to date that guy in his 70s, just because he’s wealthy.

Glorifying Frivolous Lifestyles

While I do enjoy the show and think it is great for easy viewing, it’s mindful to note that this show glorifies living beyond your means. The girls are obsessed with brands and labels, and will happily spend a few thousand on a Birkin, even though they definitely cannot afford it. The show insinuates that looking the part is much better than actually being the part, and if you want to make it in the Big City, you got to spend the dough. Its light-hearted outlook on very serious matters such as debt, not having savings and relying on others for money, downplays the harsh reality of how detrimental these money mistakes can be. Not only that, it encourages women in their early to mid-30s to spend all their paycheque on fancy bars and dining, instead of setting some money aside for the future. Not only that, the picture it paints of living in an expensive city is definitely through rose-tinted glasses, and we should be mindful that city life may not always be as fun as the show portrays.

I know this is an old show but those watching (i.e., me) are now adults trying to build their careers and be smart with their finances, and shows like Sex and the City, Emily in Paris and 90210 do not portray sensible spending habits. I’m not bashing these shows, or telling you to avoid them, just merely pointing out their flaws and how to look at them objectively.

How To Staycay On A Budget!

Even though the lockdown rules have eased a bit here in Singapore, it still looks like we won’t be able to travel out the country for a while. So why not go on a staycation! There are loads of options here in Singapore, so if you want to plan a staycay that isn’t going to break the bank…this is the right article for you! Here are 5 top tips to plan a Staycay on a Budget!

  1. Determine Your Budget

You can’t work around a budget if you don’t have a budget, right? But how much should you set aside for your staycation? Well, for those that read by budgeting articles before, you will already know that you shouldn’t spend more than 30% of your monthly income on your ‘wants’ (going out, drinks, food, hobbies etc.). So work with this figure- if you are planning on splurging out on your staycation, you may have to tighten the rest of the things you do for that month. If you want to calculate a figure, a quarter of this 30% should be your max. That way, you still have cash left over for the rest of the month.

2. Pick Off-Peak Times

Once you’ve determined your budget, it’s time to maximise your budget as much as possible. Try not to pick your staycation on expensive dates, such as National Day, CNY, Hari Raya etc. Pick off-peak timings. Not only will this be cheaper for you, but it will also be easier when booking, as public holidays sell out fast! If you can book during the week instead of the weekend, due to your schedule- then even better for you!

3. Plan Free Activities

Depending on where you’re staying in Singapore, you can find lots of different free things to do! Say for example you’re staying at Marina Bay Sands, you can walk around Gardens By The Bay for free, check out The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple or walk round Henderson Waves!

 If you’re staying in Sentosa, there’s a tonne of fun, cheap or even free stuff to do! Have a picnic on the beach, check out the Sentosa Trails or explore the Southernmost Tip of Asia!

4. BYOB

Everyone knows that alcoholic drinks are really expensive in Singapore. I almost can’t wait to visit the UK just so I can order a glass of wine that doesn’t break the bank! So, instead of splurging at MBS or the Fullerton, why not bring your own bottles? Last time I stayed at Marina Bay Sands; I brought my own bottle of red wine to enjoy in the room.

5. Make The Most Of The Facilities

This may not seem like a budgeting tip per say, but, hear me out. If you don’t have a pool at your place, or a gym, or a sauna, make the most of it! It’s included in your staycation, so you may as well use it while you can, especially if you normally have to pay for gym or pool access when you’re not on staycay! Not only that, if you can get a hotel that has breakfast included, make sure you don’t miss it! That’s one more meal out you don’t have to pay for.

I hope these tips show that you can plan a successful staycation without having to spends lots of going out, meals, drinks and activities. I’m not saying don’t spend at all! But there are definitely ways to cut costs…enjoy and stay safe!

Project Dignity Giveaway!

I wanted to use my latest article to give a shoutout to Project Dignity (https://projectdignity.sg/). Project Dignity is a collective that is on a mission to give dignity to those disadvantaged and differently-able, by providing them with opportunities to work and a chance to help them find their vocation and passion.

Project Dignity provide sponsored training for unemployed adults with special needs and place them with their employment partners within the F&B, hospitality and retail sectors. They want every person who walks out of their outlets to project a sense of dignity through earning an honest living. They are empowered with skills, employment and most of all, the opportunity to be a productive member of society.

They currently have four ventures; Dignity Kitchen, Dignity Learn, Dignity Mama and Dignity Outreach.

Dignity Kitchen is an air-conditioned food court as well as food delivery service. Currently situated in Serangoon, the 7 stalls are manned by the differently-abled and disadvantaged. Lunch treats for the elderly from nursing homes are provided by this programme across Singapore every day.

Dignity Learn, an inclusive training centre, provides hawker culinary courses for the public. They also run a 22-day Train-and-Place programme for adults with special needs seeking employment. 

Dignity Outreach combines team bonding with impact, offering corporate entities an avenue to engage achieving team building objectives whilst giving back to the community. At the same time, it accelerates Project Dignity’s goal of social inclusion and integration with marginalised peoples. 

Dignity Mama stores are retail book stores selling upcycled and preowned books. They are located in local hospitals and are managed by caregivers together with young adults with special needs. 

This is not a charity- it is a social enterprise; a social business with clear goals in helping disadvantaged people get the skills they desire. I feel that this company is really admirable, as they are trying to break many stigmas here in Singapore, and instead of separation, promote integration. That’s why this month I am doing a giveaway for vouchers to Dignity Kitchen on 69 Boon Keng Road.

To participate, follow these instructions:

  1. Read this article
  2. Visit my Instagram @danniteboul
  3. Like my Giveaway post
  4. Tag a friend and mention which of the 4 ventures you like the most
  5. Multiple tag/comments gives you multiple entries!

There will be 4 prizes!

Winner: $40 Vouchers

2nd Prize: $30 Vouchers

3rd Prize: $20 Vouchers

4th Prize: $10 Voucher

I am so happy to be supporting this cause and I hope you will all be as equally happy. Have fun participating in my giveaway!

(Please note you must be in Singapore to participate)

Random Money Hacks That I Do!

Singapore is an expensive country, I won’t lie. But, there are very simple and sneaky ways of cutting costs and useful money hacks that makes Singapore that little bit less expensive.

  • Buying Stuff on Shopee and TaoBao

To me, this seems like an obvious one, but I noticed that loads of people don’t do this. I think maybe people think that, because most of the stock comes from China, it won’t be good quality…but that’s not the case! I’ll tell you a little story. I’m getting married in a month (just ROM, the real ceremony will be next year in Malta), and I wanted a dress. I found a beautiful blingy dress in Far East Plaza…$300. I got the exact same dress from TaoBao for less than $70! And I don’t mean it was a good knock-off…I mean it was exactly the same! What a steal.

  • Doing My Nails at Home

This leads on from my previous point of buying stuff on Shopee…over circuit breaker last year I taught myself how to do manicures, gels, extensions, the whole thing. Getting your nails done in a salon in SG can be very expensive, especially when you want gems or patterns done. So, I decided to take matters into my own hands and learnt to do it myself. I bought a lamp and a kit off of Shopee and now I always buy my nail accessories from there; there’s so much choice and they’re so cheap. I save hundreds of dollars (maybe even a thousand!) doing mani-pedis at home.

  • Using Fave or Entertainer

These apps are great when you know you have an activity or meal coming up that you know might be expensive. Entertainer is great for restaurants and Fave is great for activities, such as boat rental, massages, haircuts, museum tickets…you name it! You can buy tickets from these websites at discounted price instead of buying directly from the attractions or restaurants themselves. One thing I will say is that meals and restaurants are a safe bet, sometimes it’s a bit hit and miss with treatments. Top Tip: get used to hearing the hard sell.

  • Shop at MBS

Ok, now you’re probably thinking- erm, Danni, Marina Bay Sands is very expensive, why are you suggesting I shop there? Well, here’s what I do; I got an MBS membership card, it’s free to sign up. Then, every time I buy something in one of the shops, I collect points. The points wrack up very quickly, and I spend the points when I do a slightly bigger shop. I normally shop at places like Sephora and Zara; these shops aren’t as pricey as the other shops at MBS but I get the extra bonus points instead of shopping in say Orchard or Somerset. Not only that, pro-tip! If you shop at Sephora too you can wrack up Sephora points and MBS points at the same time! You can also use these points at the restaurants too!

  • Buy Fruit at Night

I stopped buying fruit off RedMart when I realised, they either went bad very quickly or took weeks to ripen. So now I buy fruit from those local fruit stalls. This tip is especially great for durian but it works for all fruit- the vendors always drop the prices drastically at night. This is because they don’t want to have to throw all their stock away at the end of the night. This means you also have a better chance for bartering.

  • TimeZone

Yes, yes, you’ve heard me go on about this place loads- I love TimeZone. If you love games and want to win some good stuff, this place is great. The kitchen items here are particularly great. Instead of buying expensive slow cookers, grills and hot pots, I got all mine from TimeZone! The coffee machine is next on my list.

So, there you have it, 6 random things I do to save money. These hacks may not work for everyone, but tis is what I do and it works for me. I hope it helps somewhat and you can take away something useful from this!