Bugdeting and Personal Finance

When I entered high school, a personal finance class was required for all sophomores. Then, when I became a sophomore that class was no longer required and became an elective. However, I wished that I took that class. Parents never tell their teenagers about money (and sex too).

Looking back, I wished that I knew the basics of personal finance when I was 18. When I’m someday raising a kid, I want my kid to know the basics when he or she goes off to college. I had somewhat of an idea but did not know how to manage my finances well.

I have now been looking for insights from Suze Orman’s TV show, Dave Ramsey’s group study; and reading articles from Brass magazine, Money under 30, and the alike. Money Under 30 even has a budget spreadsheet template that I found helpful. More young women need to be financially savvy but sadly many young women are ignorant about finance. Parents don’t talk to their daughters about money management or budgeting and there doesn’t seem to be money articles for girls about the topic of finances. Does this mean our society continues to perpetuate the negative female stereotype of being materialistic nitwits with a plastic card? I feel that a young women needs to be intelligent, responsible, fun-loving, and living the dream. The possibility of not only living but thriving the dream comes with self-discipline.

When I first arrived in Singapore, the price stickers used to surprise me. In a way, Singapore is no different from living in any other big city. Housing would be the big ticket, yet sharing a flat with roommates help with the high housing cost. In some ways, I am saving by not owning a car. It’s surprising how many dollars are burned by the cost of fuel, car insurance, car repairs. A doctor’s bill is refreshing. I had to visit a doctor for a minor skin infection. The way international insurance works is that I have to see a doctor first and then the company will reimburse me. Visiting a doctor and getting a skin treatment only costed me S$45. If I were in the United States without health insurance, I can expect to pay $200. Our healthcare costs are ridiculous for a developed country. Going out to restaurants can be expensive, but that’s when hawkers are the lifesavers.

Now, prices aren’t as shocking to me. Everything seems to balance out and I am used to it. There are certain things I’d rather purchase abroad:

  • Bras – Ladies (especially curvy busty ladies), please bring extra bras. Western sizes aren’t readily available. Even Western stores like La Senza does not carry my bra size. I stocked up on Victoria’s Secret cotton bras during their semi-annual sale clearance rack. I paid about $20 each piece.
  • Clothes – most clothing is made for Asian figures. There are Western brands but clothes shopping can be expensive. I cannot wait to visit Dubai for Christmas. It’s my shopping pilgrimage. Or I also save up and splurge on my summer trip. All the stores will be having their summer sales.
  • Coffee – I miss Stumptown coffee. I’m thankful that my sister sent me a care package of coffee! I’ll pack a stash in my suitcase every time I return from Oregon.

Adjusting to the different prices is easier when dollar conversion between US and Singaporean dollars is thrown out. It’s easier if I simply consider my Singaporean monthly income and create a budget from that.

My financial goals are in the following order:

  • Keeping an emergency fund as the first priority. Generally, it is recommended to have S$1,000 saved up for expenses that occasionally come up such as travel and things that you don’t spend monthly. Once I have that emergency fund, I will pull aside money that I calculated for occasional expenses such as flights, medical, gifts, and others.
  • Pay off my student loans. I am continuing to pay them off and keep that obligation as a priority. I hope to get rid of my student loan debt in the next 5 years.
  • Save 4-6 months worth of salary as liquid assets. I want to have some dough handy.
  • Retirement. I have a retirement plan from my job. I will put more into it once I have the above in place.

Budgeting does not mean that I do not get to have fun. I am not a cheap miser. I like to take dance classes, go out and eat, hang out with friends, do fun things, and shop sensibly. I have my eye set on the iPad Air out in November. I get my hair cuts at Toni & Guy salon, and have my eye set on that purse as a calorie-free treat. (And sometimes, I do want a slice of rich chocolate cake with a hazelnut-chocolate frosting too).

It’s all about being sensible. With self-discipline and common sense, I can live the dream while managing my money without letting it manage me.

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