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!

You Could Be Paying 4 Times Too Much For Insurance!

Hospital plans are an absolute must in Singapore; with the average hospital bill being approximately $40,000, you must ensure that you are covered. Many expats want an international plan, as it often seems like there are more benefits. But, did you know that most international plans are around 4 times the price of local ones?

For the past two years (I can’t believe it’s been that long), we have been unable to leave Singapore due to Covid-19. This means that less people are able to travel freely to their home countries or on holiday, so why pay for an international insurance policy during this period?

The pros of an international policy are that you are covered worldwide at the same amount of coverage as you would in Singapore. However, this often means that the coverage you are offered is slightly lesser than local plans. Local hospital plans are often able to provide customers with maximum coverage, because there is not that extra risk of claiming abroad. Not only that, claiming through a local company is often a lot easier than with an international one, as you can directly contact your agent who is in the same time zone as you, instead of calling a hotline based abroad.

But what if I am hospitalised abroad and a have a local health insurance? Not to worry- did you know that most local plans cover hospitalisation abroad if it is due to an accident or emergency? But, if you are planning to be hospitalised abroad, I would suggest using a top-up insurance from that country, or a travel insurance.

Not only that, if boarders open it’s very easy to switch from a local plan to an international one. So, what is the point of paying for an international plan when you’re not going abroad?!

I did a comparison for myself on different insurance policies. I am currently 27, non-smoker, and I am paying $1,192 per year for a hospital plan that covers private hospitals. I am covered for $2,000,000 per policy year, and I can go to panel and non-panel doctors so long as I pre-authorise (something which very few companies offer). This is with a local company. When I check international plans, some are offering worldwide coverage of $1,000,000 for double the price. Some are offering $2,5000,000 coverage for over four times the price, of over $5,015 a year. This to me, seems like a no brainer to go for a local plan during this period than an international one.

As an expat, I feel that the term ‘international insurance’ is very alluring and may seem like the best option. But, if you delve a little deeper, read in between the lines and compare costing, it is quite often an unnecessary expense. Comment or contact me if you want to know how I planned my health insurance!

Investment vs Insurance- Which is More Important?

Whether we like it or not, when we become adults, we have to start thinking about our personal finances and planning our future. For those who have not been taught about finances (I know pretty much none of us learnt this in school), planning finances could be a daunting task. The words ‘investment’ and ‘insurance’ often fill people with dread; is it a scam? Why should I spend my money on that? Do I need it?

The long and short of it is, both are important and you need both. But is one more important than the other? Let’s look at both and see for ourselves.

There are lots of kinds of insurance products but they all cover one thing- loss. The whole point of insurance is that it covers us if something goes wrong. This may be a hospitalisation, a disability, an illness, or some other kind of liability that would set us back financially. It is meant for protection; protecting us from the adverse effects of not being able to work or financial hardships. Many people think that planning for these things, such as death or disability, is a morbid topic and a worst-case scenario. But good health is never guaranteed, and it’s always best to get these things sorted before it’s too late. Insurance products also become more expensive as you get older, so it’s best to start early, so that these payments don’t interfere with any of your future life stages like purchasing a house or sending your kids to school.

Investing is all about growing money for our future- we can either plan for a passive income stream, so that we don’t have to rely on work so much. Or, we can plan for capital gains, so that we have a nice chunk of money when we want it. The idea of making money with not necessarily putting too much effort in (check out my articles about passive investing), is an attractive one. And, if we make all this money, why do we even need insurance?

Unfortunately, the truth of the matter is, it is unwise to have one without the other; investment increases our upsides, but insurance protects our downside. If you invest without being insured, you run the risk of losing it all should you fall sick or become hospitalised (also, can I just say, it’s very naïve to think you will stay healthy forever), especially if your investments are not enough to pay for your bills. If you just insure yourself without investing, you are selling yourself short, only planning for the bad things that can happen, and not planning for the good times ahead. It also means that you may have to constantly work and never be able to retire. Neither insurance nor investments will work on their own; you need to plan and review both in order to be financially successful.

A very important thing to take note of is that investments take a long time to accumulate, especially if you cannot set aside a lot of money to invest. Insurance policies cover you pretty much as soon as you get them. So, it’s always important to sort your insurance out first; once you are protected you can focus on growing your money.

But do remember that investing and insurance is never fixed and one-size-fits all. You need to constantly review your finances in order to keep up with your changing needs!

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.