Money Tips: 6 Things I did to finance my Degree and Expenses with fiscal prudency.
I started work and secured my job in March 2010 after 2 years of enlistment with UK 'A' levels educational qualification. In Singapore, due to a high standard of living, lack of land space as well as traditional culture, the norm is for children to stay with their parents till marriage.
As far as further education was concerned, most students would typically take on bank loans for their university fees or have their parents financed their education. Fees for my university would cost around 30 thousand and I have not received any allowance from my family since Nov 2007.
I hope this gives you a perspective towards my background and how these changes worked for me.
Seeing your savings accumulate:)
1. Setting a goal and working towards it.
When I first started working in 2010, I did not have any concrete plans on what course I should consider for my future career. At that point in time, due to my lack of qualifications, my pay was around 1,200 monthly. After deducting the 20% government stipulated compulsory savings for Central Provident Fund(CPF), my take home pay was around 950 and my plan was to save 500 monthly.
After two months, I found out that I was having trouble sticking to my budget and decided to revamp my perspective ie creating a budget for my monthly expenditure instead. To follow through, I created a specialized banking account solely for savings and applied for a monthly automated saving process to prevent myself from overspending even if the urge arises.
As I implemented and consistently revised the other steps, I was able to surpass my initial goal and save close to twice the amount I targeted.
Know and change how your brain works.
2. Understanding & Modifying Your Spending Habits
When I look back at how I used to spend money in the past; I realized I was prone to splurging on fancy gadgets without much consideration or research. Examples would be the PS2 and PS3 that I bought when they were first released but did not really play due to the costs of the games as well as the 2 or 3 desktops that I bought on a whim due to discounts and not because I did not have a working computer at home.
When I started working and realized how hard it was to earn money. I realized I had to make some serious adjustments towards my expenditure patterns or suffer the consequences. So I sat down one night in 2010 and wrote down a few 'golden' rules to follow.
1. Maintain a maximum balance for daily expenses and transfer any excess funds to a specialized savings account.
2. Bring a fixed amount of cash around and note down my daily expenditure to prevent overspending.
3. Conduct a 3-days 'cooling-off' period to do research before making any 'luxury' purchase to ensure that items I buy are what I really need.
How and Where to save Money?
3. Cutting unnecessary expenditure - Clothing, Food etc
Coming from a family of 4 sons, it could be considered as either a blessing or a curse. I found it a blessing in the monetary sense though, as the 3rd child in line, I was used to wearing hand-me-downs or throw-me-ups from young. I guess this diminished the importance of clothing to me and I was able to reduce my purchases to literally once a year.
In other aspects, I searched for cheaper gym alternatives for my physical training, adopting the no frills pre-paid system as compared to the luxurious monthly fees of 100+ that I used to pay.
I bought my supplements in bulk using the home-brand of suppliers, made my own meals more often and also became more deal oriented buying only discounted items when I shopped.
If I could make an estimate, I believe my savings gained would be around a few thousand so far.
Volunteering as a way of life:)
4. Engaging in "Cheap" but Enriching & Meaningful Hobbies
I have to admit that one of my main motivations for volunteering initially was because I was bored and it was cheap to do so. I was disillusioned with the 'popular' activities that my friends did back then, such as clubbing, drinking, shopping etc and basically living in indulgence haha. It has allowed me to broaden my perspectives, increase my skills and competencies and built up my network.
It was a life changing experience that I will probably discuss in another hub but I believe strongly that the experiences I had from volunteering changed my perspectives towards life and allowed me to implement these changes in a much easier manner then I thought.
Earning Money from different sources.
5. Most Importantly, Increasing Your Revenue Streams
In 2010, I was contented to stick with my full-time job and idled my time away during my offs and weekends. My estimated savings in 2010 were around 8 to 10 thousand.
In Jan 2011, I attended a free investment workshop and the key message I brought away from the speaker was that " Savings are not as important as increasing your streams of revenue". After that, I started actively seeking for jobs that can grant me additional income.
In the past 2 years, I have worked as a waiter, chef assistant, Multi-Level Marketing, store assistant, 'laborer', tutor and customer service. Among all the jobs I have listed above, tuition and customer service are the ones that have remained till this point.
Thanks to the side-income, in 2011 my savings increased by around 5-6 thousand. I was able to continue tutoring as a sideline to my full time job even while doing my degree as I could structure my tuition lessons around my studies.
6. Understanding that Saving is not equals to "Starving''
I believe that when we think about cultivating a habit of saving and sticking to an expenditure budget, most people would consider it a life-style restriction that lowers your standard of living and removes your freedom. For me, it was a matter of perspective. After I started saving a higher percentage of my income and implementing different changes towards my expenditure, some of my best friends actually tried to dissuade me; telling me to chill and enjoy life when I'm young.
While I gave in at the start, I was quick to give up their company and quicker to give up their activities because I realized that there was actually no correlation between saving money and damaging my life-style. If I chose to live like my friends back then, clubbing regularly, betting on football and busting their credit card limits. I will be literally starving my future for my present indulgence and that does not make sense or cents, pun intended haha and ignoring the fact that the best things in life do not always need money.
Conclusion.. for Now..
Thanks for reading and I do hope these tips will be helpful and the information in the first paragraph was to give the readers a perspective into the context where I was able to implement my financial plans and succeed to a certain extent. As of now, I have saved almost close to twice of my target and have more then enough for my remaining course fees.
My next step would be to venture to other areas of my interests and hone my relevant competencies.