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!

Fun Places To Go As A 5!

The Phase 2 Heightened Restrictions have been eased! We’re now allowed to hang out in groups of 5 again. All this time working from home and staying in the house might have had you wondering…what fun stuff is there to do in a group these days? Look no further! Here’s a list of some awesome places to go in a group!

  • Adventure Cover Water Park

If you like water slides, fish and relaxing whilst floating, then this is the place for you. Adventure Cove is a water park that is a great day out for a group of friends or a family. There’s thrilling water slides, lazy rivers and you can even snorkel with fish! This water park is a perfect way to cool off on a hot day and you can book tickets online beforehand.

  • ArtScience Museum: Virtual Realms

From now until January, you can explore and immerse yourself with six installations at the ArtScience Museum. For art lovers and videogame enthusiasts alike, this exhibition has teamed up with some of the world’s leading video game developers to bring you this multi-sensory gallery. Submerge yourself into these different virtual realms that have been created. The exhibition is $16 for adults and $12 for children.

  • #InstaWalk

No good pictures to post online because you’ve been stuck outside? Want to meet new people? Then check out #InstaWalk; this guided tour has two options- Civic Colours or Bugis, Waterloo, KG Glam. Take this 2 hour walk and explore whichever are you choose out of the two options. The tour guides share tips on how to take great insta-worthy shots, whilst telling you about the history of the area. Not only that, if you sign up, you can get CapitaLand vouchers for free!

  • Gardens By The Bay

If you’ve got a group of 5 and it’s a lovely sunny day, consider a day out at Gardens By The Bay. Start off by grabbing some food at Satay By The Bay or Makansutra and then head over for the new exhibition Dale Chihuly: Glass in Bloom. This renowned artist’s glasswork is being shown until 1st August and has been shipped all the way from Seattle. Casually stroll around the gardens and see the beautiful glass structures and you can even chill and wind down with some drinks and a little picnic at Marina Barrage.

  • Durian Party!

It’s durian season! And I’ve left one of my favourite things (eating durian) until last. Many fruit stalls are now stocking up on this delicious spiky fruit, and if you want to try some, or have all your friends over to eat durian, now is the best time! The most popular (and most expensive) is Mao Shan Wang. It’s soft, creamy, sweet and yet a bit bitter. It’s definitely one of my favourite types, but it can be up to $25 per kg. Black Thorn (or Black Gold as I’ve also seen it advertised) is new to the market and similar (if not better) in taste to Mao Shan Wang. If you’re new to durian and want something sweet, not too bitter, and a cheaper option ($9-$17 per kg), try Red Prawn.

More things are set to open up as the month progresses, but here’s just a few things that can keep you and your friends busy until then!

Why do Expats Need Financial Planning in Singapore?

As an expat, and a financial consultant, I have seen both sides of the coin when it comes to financial planning. 30% of Singapore’s population is made up of expats; and, being the fourth most expensive city in the world, means that non-residents really need to understand and adapt to the way of living here.

  Here are some main differences between locals’ and expats’ expenses that you should take into consideration.

Housing

Houses takes up the main bulk of expenses moving to Singapore; rental is expensive, especially in the downtown area, where a lot of offices and expat’s place of work is. Singaporeans and PRs can buy a HDB at an affordable price using their CPF money, but if an expat wishes to buy a property, they are not allowed to buy a HDB, and executive condos and landed property can be in the millions. Clearly, for a foreigner, more often than not purchasing a property is not an option. So be cautious when you begin to start renting here- the rental and bills should never exceed 50% of your monthly income.

School Fees and Childcare

If you are in Singapore with your family, you need to understand the differences between local and international schooling. As local schools are funded by the government, the fees are a lot cheaper than international schools. Sending your child to international school can cost roughly $2,000-$4,000 per month. While there is some debate as to which schooling system is better (which I’m not going to go into), it is certainly more economical to send your child to local school. However, do take note that in order for an expat child to go to a local school, they have to pass exams, and places are competitive.

Healthcare

I often hear outrage from expats in regards to the cost of healthcare in Singapore. In 2018 Singapore was announced to have the second-best healthcare in the world, second to Hong Kong. All of this comes at a price, and Singapore is not a welfare state. While there are government subsides for locals, it is crucial that expats get a comprehensive healthcare insurance. The average hospital bill in Singapore is about $40,000, so to avoid paying out of pocket- get insurance! I know it may seem annoying but paying for healthcare is unavoidable in this country.

A Holistic Need For Planning

While most expats earn more here in Singapore than they would back in their home country, it is imperative that we plan correctly and not live paycheque to paycheque. This may often be difficult; Singapore has a plethora of amazing places to eat out, visit and experience, which can really burn a hole in our pockets. Simply saving a bit each month is not enough. Think long term, why did you move to Singapore? What do you plan on achieving? And where to plan on staying for the rest of your years?

Long-term planning may be daunting, but there is a reason why Singaporeans are some of the most well-off people in the world…they did the uncomfortable and planned their finances early!

Stay Home, Stay Safe, Stay Sound Of Mind

Unfortunately, Singapore are in ‘Phase 2 with Heightened Restrictions’, but let’s be real…it’s pretty much a mini lockdown. While most of us are working from home, it may be difficult to differentiate between work and…just being at home. So, I thought I would write a list of things to do at home to relax, motivate and keep you mentally stimulated, whilst not feeling bogged down with work.

  1. Exercise

I’ll get all the obvious ones out the way first. But not only is exercise good for your body physically, but 30 minutes of exercise per day can improve mental health, decrease anxiety, improve sleep and even cognitive ability. Not only can we do home workouts during this time (I prefer doing quick and intense ones at home, so that it’s over and done with!) but outdoor activities are available and some studios have classes open! (Whilst wearing a mask) This means that you can vary your workouts as to not get bored. I went for a walk with a friend yesterday, an ab workout at home this morning, and am going to an in-studio dance class (with mask) this evening. Varying your workouts means you’re less likely to get bored, and more likely to stick to it

2. Order In!

While this may go against the previous point, I do think that it’s important to treat yourself and change up your routine, and ordering food can be one way to do so. Even if it’s once a week on a Friday night, ordering in can improve your mood and make food feel less of a chore, especially if you make it a special evening. Lay the table, pour yourself a glass of wine and maybe even light some candles to make it feel like you’re dining in a restaurant. GrabFood, Deliveroo and FoodPanda have so many options right now, not just fast food, to cater to everyone. You can still be healthy and order in!

3. Pamper Yourself

Lockdown might be doing wonders for your skin…or it may not. Take this time as an opportunity to give your skin the break it needs. Not only can you get pamper items from supermarkets, shops like Lush now deliver, so you don’t even have to leave your house! Use an evening to wind down with a face mask, some bath bombs, a foot spa or a hair mask…bring the spa to you at a fraction of the cost!

4. Arts and Crafts

I remember last Circuit Breaker, everyone used the opportunity to be creative and productive. (Except me, I’m not very creative so I just spent my time cleaning everything in my apartment). While our restrictions aren’t as extreme as last year, we still can’t go out to eat or have drinks. Instead in the evening, what you can do it show a little creative flare! Websites like Fave and Klook have loads of offers on kits you can order; tie dye kits, brew your own beer, cocktail making sets…you name it! You could even buy art supplies and spend some evenings painting, music on in the background, brush in one hand and a wine glass in the other. There are many locations around Singapore that do this, so why not do it at home?!

5. Pet Your Pet

This will not apply to everyone, and I’m not saying get a pet because we’re in a lockdown (please don’t, last year hundreds of people bought pets and now so many of them are up for adoption because their owners couldn’t take care of them), but if you do have a pet, now is the time to spoil them rotten! Make toys for them, spend more quality time with them and clean their surroundings more. My rabbit is uninterested in any toy that does not involve food, so I made some ‘toys’ out of cardboard tubes or empty tubs and hid treats in them. Lazada and Shopee have a plethora of cheap toys for all pets. In a survey of pet owners, 74% of pet owners reported mental health improvements from pet ownership, and 75% of pet owners reported a friend’s or family member’s mental health has improved because of the pets in their lives.

It’s just a quick list, but these few things are not only inexpensive, but will help you break out of the mundane of working from home! Stay at home, stay safe and stay sane!

Diabetes In Singapore; The Bitter Sweet Truth

This month I’m going to focusing more on health in Singapore; my last article touched on mental health, and this one I wanted to talk about Diabetes.

  Singapore offers us a lifestyle that is often perceived to be luxurious- nice restaurants, bars and our weekends filled with relaxation. But, there is a darker side to this, and this is the increase of chronic diseases. In 2009, 1275 people were diagnosed with end-stage kidney failure…this increased to a shocking 1999 in 2017. And what was the cause of this? Not only the aging population, but also due to the high rate of diabetes.

  Here in Singapore, more than 400,000 people have diabetes. The PM has declared a ‘war on diabetes’ for the past 5 years, implicating stricter rules on advertising sugary food, and promoting nationwide health screening. The cost burden of diabetes, stood at more than $940 million in 2014. This is expected to increase to $1.8 billion by 2050. Not only does diabetes impact one’s own health; leading to heart conditions and strokes, it can complicate the treatment of other diseases, including Covid-19.

  So, what sort of things can we do as individuals to prevent this from happening? Of course, prevention is better than cure, so going for frequent health screenings helps tackle an unexpected diagnosis. Making small improvements to our diets will also prevent onset diabetes; managing and cutting back on our intake of sugary foods, drinks and carbohydrates, cutting back on smoking and being more active can help.

  Being more active not only helps with keeping fit and healthy, but it also improves productivity throughout the day and has a positive affect on your mental health. Exercise, along with a diet of lots of vitamins and fibre, can increase blood sugars and prevent pre-diabetes.

  Did you know that diabetes is a declined risk for most insurance critical illness plans on the market? With 3 in 10 Singaporeans having diabetes before 40, it’s obviously best to stop diabetes from happening before it affects your life! However, if you have diabetes, following the above tips can help manage your situation. Not only that, there is now critical illness and insurance coverage available to you!

Use the WhatsApp link below to contact me with your thoughts on diabetes, and if you have diabetes and need help getting cover, let me know!

Circuit Breaker Anniversary: Mental Health Awareness

As we surpass the one-year mark of the start of circuit breaker in Singapore, I would like to reflect on our mental health and how the pandemic has affected us. Although things are definitely doing well in Singapore (we can go the bars, restaurants and beach clubs without worrying), it definitely doesn’t make things better in terms of our mental health. Many of us are still worried about the situation overseas, particularly with our families and some feel anxious with the large crowds and normality in Singapore.

  About one in three people in Singapore feels their mental well-being has worsened since the circuit breaker kicked in a year ago, a poll commissioned by The Straits Times showed. Working from home has highlighted how blurred work-life boundaries have become. If you work from home, it can often feel like you must always be in work mode- there is not escape and no change in environment.

  Covid-19 has brought to the forefront the need for change in Singapore, especially for breaking down the stigmas surrounding mental health. I think the one thing we must all remember is that it’s ok not to be ok. No one ever expected this pandemic to happen and last this long. If I were to look back to the start of 2019, I would never think that I would be stopped from seeing my family. I would never think that I would have to rely on technology so heavily (the thought of my parents only being able to see me get married via Zoom fills me with such despair). And, I wouldn’t have thought that job security in Singapore would be so touch and go. Not only that, travelling was a way for me to relax.

  We must remind ourselves that our problems are valid to us. I often feel incredibly guilty thinking about things back in England; I get stressed over the smallest thing here in Singapore, but in the UK, life right now is much more challenging. But, it’s ok for me to feel these things.

  Singapore is definitely moving forward when it comes to mental health awareness. The National Care Hotline, which was set up in April last year to provide psychological first aid and emotional support during Covid-19, was the first of its kind in Singapore, and just shows how far forward we’ve come in such a short space of time. The increase in avenues like webinars, shows that there is a need and a hunger for employers to learn more about their employees’ mental health. Insurance companies in Singapore are now including mental health diagnoses in their coverage.

  While we are definitely improving with mental health awareness here in Singapore, there is a lot of growth yet to be done. Let’s come together and support each other during this tough time. Be open to talking and hearing from each other, don’t be afraid to ask for help and remember that you are not alone.

Best Hawkers For Expats…Part Two!

It’s back! Another list of hawkers that expats might not know about, but should! I got a bit of backlash from my first post so, just to reiterate…this is not a list containing all the well-known expat locations like Newton or Lau Pa Sat; I am not writing about these because a) everyone already knows about them b) I sometimes think they’re a bit overpriced.

If you’ve tried my previous list and are looking for more suggestions then please read on!

Old Airport Road

Must Try: Curry Chicken Noodles

To be honest, I don’t know why this wasn’t in my first list. Old Airport Road is great; it has such a wide selection and it is huge- there’s something for everyone. The chicken rice there is great, the curry chicken noodles are delicious and there is an abundance of beer, what more could you ask for!

Chom Chom

Must Try: Stingray, Carrot Cake

This made the honourable mentions list last time but I went back recently and tried pretty much everything there! The food there is very reasonably priced and it is your one-stop-shop for all Singaporean food. The feast I had contained satay, chicken wings, black and white carrot cake, stingray, rice and kangkong. Can I just say that the portions are huge so be careful when ordering! I definitely over-ordered!

Seah Im Food Centre

Must Try: Boat Noodles

This hawker centre is a short walk away from Vivocity. It’s incredibly underrated and is great after a long day at Sentosa. During the day a lot more stalls are open than at night, but no matter what time of day you go I would highly recommend the Thai stall that sells beef boat noodle soup; it’s spicy, flavourful, comes with or without beef stomach (I personally like it with) and you get a good bowl for a cheap price! There are many stalls to choose from, so if you’re not particularly in the mood for Thai you can always grab something else.

Golden Mile Tower

Must Try: Leng Saap

Speaking of Thai food, next to the very famous Golden Mile Complex is Golden Mile Tower. In the basement there is lots of great food, notably leng saap, or pork spine soup. This soup is not for the faint of heart; imagine a vast bowl filled with spicy coriander soup, and protruding out the top, massive pork spines where the meat falls off the bone. You can choose your size and spiciness level, and the soup is usually refillable. The meat that comes off the pork spine is so juicy and tender, it’s making my mouth water just typing about it!

Eunos Crescent Market and Food Centre

Must Try: Yong Tau Foo, Indian Rojak

Right next to Eunos MRT Station, this hawker is packed full of choices. It may seem small, but each stall as something different. I also think that, because it’s not very well known by expats, it tends to be more reasonably priced. The satay here is great, and you can get hand pulled noodles at the ban mien stall. Behind the first set of hawkers is another, mostly specialising in Chinese and Hong Kong cuisine. Here I recommend relaxing with a beer and trying the Mala Xiang Guo. When I don’t know what to eat, my go-to is either the Indian rojak stall, or the Yong Tau Foo with laksa gravy.

So there you have it, another 5 great places to eat around Singapore. I hope this list has got your mouth watering enough to go and try all my latest top picks! Which hawker is your favourite?

Singlish For Expats!

Many expats move to Singapore thinking that life will be easy because everyone speaks English. Then you walk around the hawker centres and just think ??? What is everyone talking about?! Don’t fear, here is a mini Singlish dictionary for expats- impress your local friends and make them say, “Wah! This Angmoh speak Singlish leh?!”

Can lah-

Your most commonly used Singlish phrase. A phrase used to affirm a statement or question.

Example: “Are your free for lunch at 2pm?”

“Can lah!”

Shiok-

A term of general approval, showing that something is very pleasing.

Example:

“These chicken wings damn shiok!”

Makan-

Malay word meaning ‘to eat’.

Example:

“You want go makan or not?”

Lepak –

To rest or to chill.

Example:

You want to go Seletar Bridge to lepak?

Correct-

Another word of affirmation. Simply means ‘yes’. Top tip, drop the sound of the ‘t’ at the end.

Example:

“You don’t have NS in UK is it?”

“Correc”

Confirm one-

Even more affirmation than ‘correct’. Adding ‘one’ on the end of your sentence adds emphasis one.

Example:

“You speak Singlish meh?”

“Confirm one.”

Kena-

A word with negative connotations that means ‘to be affected by’.

Example:

“How was that restaurant?”

“Not shiok. I kena food poisoning.”

Kaisu-

A Hokkien word denoting a fear of missing out, pushy and somewhat selfish attitude. Often used to describe Tiger Moms.

Example:

“She puts her kids in so many enrichments. She’s so Kaisu.”

Kaypoh-

Another Hokkien word, this one often describing someone who is nosey, not minding their own business.

Example:

“Stop looking across at that table, you’re so kaypoh!”

Sien-

Bored, fed up, sick of it.

Example:

“Everyday I go office, come home. I’m so sien lor.”

Wah lao eh-

Singlish version of OMG! Usually used when something frustrating or annoying has happened.

Example:

“I spilt my kopi on my shirt, wah lao eh!”

Singlish may seem confusing and tricky at first, but the more you hear it the more you get used to it. Try some of these on your local friends!

Outdoor Singapore

Singapore’s weather has been incredibly hot and sunny lately, and if you would prefer to spend your days off being outdoors soaking up the sun, rather than indoor activities, then have I got a list for you! Read on for my top picks for things to do outdoors in Singapore!

  1. St John’s and Lazarus Islands

Don’t you miss being on holiday? Sandy beaches, relaxing by the ocean and sipping beer? Me too! Whilst we can’t travel overseas, the closest thing I can think of is heading over to St. John’s and Lazarus islands. You can take a ferry from Marina South Pier over to these islands, along with Kusu Island. To be honest, I wouldn’t really recommend Kusu island as last time I went half of it was closed and there was just a small temple to visit. But the beaches at St. John’s and Lazarus islands are way better than the ones on Sentosa. Think white sand and warm clear seas. One thing to note is that there are few to no facilities, especially on Lazarus island. So, it’s best to bring everything with you, especially extra water, as it gets so hot!

2. Kayaking

There are many options for kayaking in Singapore, and it really just depends on your preference. If you want a fun couple of hours on a kayak you can do it at East Coast Park. If you want a longer adventure you can kayak to Pulau Ubin and explore all its mangroves and waterways! And if you want something totally different and unusual, you can try a kayaking fishing trip (don’t worry, fish are released after you catch them).

3. Pulau Ubin

Speaking of Pulau Ubin, if you love cycling then this is the perfect day out. Catch a boat from Changi Jetty over to the island and enjoy the rugged landscape by foot or by bicycle. You can rent bikes over there, even tandem ones, and ride around the whole island. If you’re lucky, you may catch a glimpse of some wild boars! And, when the long day is over, you can chill at the Little Island Brewery at Changi and relax with some cold beers.

4. Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve

If you love wildlife and want to spend your day exploring mangrove wetlands, this Heritage Park is the place for you. Not only is this area abundant with migratory birds, but you can also catch a glimpse of otters, lizards and even crocodiles here! If you want a change of scenery from the hustle and bustle of the city, then head up to Kranji and enjoy this ecological gem.

5. Nature Walks

There is a plethora of nature walks in Singapore, and in my opinion, they are all worth doing. Head to MacRitchie to do the famous tree top walk (watch out for monkeys!), Bukit Timah Nature Reserve (maybe my favourite nature walk), Bukit Batok Nature Park, Labrador Nature Reserve…the list goes on! Considering Singapore is such a small country with so many people and so many high-rise buildings, it is amazing how many parks and outdoor trails there are! Which one is your favourite and why?

Singapore really does have a lot of outdoor activities to offer, so get out there and explore!