Monday, 22 December 2014

How I Saved $20,000 in A Year

With 2014 coming to a close I decided to do an analysis of my finances across the past 12 months, and realized quite amazingly that I managed to accumulate $20,000 in this year alone!

(Disclaimer: I only graduated recently and have been working for just slightly over a year. My starting pay was $2,500 - so I started pretty much on the same foot as everyone else. I stopped taking money from my parents since I was 18 and in fact give my parents $200 each every month.)






How did I do it? 

1. Open up separate bank accounts
All the way until university, I always had one main bank account (POSB) which I save and spend from. When I graduated, however, I decided to open up another separate account and set it as my Savings account.

All my income went straight into this Savings account, and I would transfer about $1,000 every few months into my spending account for my own usage. By saving before I spend, I managed to save at least 1/2 of my monthly income each time.


2. Track all my expenses



I use a free app called "Expense Manager". It may sound troublesome, but it actually takes no longer than 5 seconds each time to key in your expenditure / less than 5 minutes at the end of every day to recap and input every spending at one shot.

What I love about it is that the app also allows users to customize and create their own categories, so you can track where your money is going into. Based on my past 12 months, these are the following categories I found myself spending the most on:

Bills / Liabilities --> Dance --> Travel (Holidays) --> Food --> Transport 

Tracking your expenses also helps you to know where you can or should be cutting down the following month if you wish to save more.


3. Eat cheap / Avoid cafes


Ever since the cafe-hopping trend started a few years ago, Singaporeans have been frequently choosing cafes as their choice for hangout places and meals. Since you get to show off Instagram-worthy moments at the same time, why not right?

But I started feeling the pinch after a few trips there with friends. On average, a cafe meal sets you back by $18 - $30, and if you visit cafes once a week like most of my friends do, that can add up to quite a bit. The same amount could probably feed you for 2 weeks on hawker food. 

So I decided to start packing my own office lunches / eat at hawkers or food courts whenever I got the chance. My cafe expenses dropped from $150 in March to $20 the following month.


4. Skip the morning coffee


99% of people cannot survive at work without their morning coffee. Okay, I exaggerate, but I'm one of those who can't live without my morning cuppa.

However, if you spend $5 - $7 on Starbucks every day, that adds up to a ridiculous $100+ on coffee alone every month! And it's just brown flavoured water!

I have SO MANY friends who are Starbucks gold card members and are always posting photos of their Starbucks coffees on Instagram. Sorry, but for the life of me I can never understand or justify spending this much on just coffee. My solution? Just buy powdered coffee and make your own every morning in the pantry. Or even better, if your workplace has a free coffee machine, use it! 



5. Take advantage of credit card promotions 


Many people are scared to use their credit cards. I don't blame them, especially after reading about so many people fall into insane credit card debts of at least $10,000. But if you are disciplined, spending on your credit card can actually give you much more than using cash. 

Of course, please make sure you have the money to pay off your bills and try to track your credit expenses so you won't end up over-spending! Always pay off your bills in time too if not the overdue interest fees can add up to quite a bit. 

Here are some credit card offers that I frequently take advantage of:

  • Citibank SMRT Visa: To chalk up SMRT$ each time I travel.
  • Travel Insing: LTA is currently running a reward campaign with SMRT for people who travel during off-peak hours. Register at https://www.travelsmartrewards.sg/ and start claiming your money now! Last month I just claimed $9 for my trips :)
  • OCBC 365 Credit Card: I shop online a lot, and this card gives me the highest returns for my spending so far. (Update: Apparently Frank gives 6% cashback, more than the 365 card's 3%)
  • DBS Movie Discounts: $1 off each time + popcorn offers
  • Citibank / OCBC Travel Insurance: Free each time you book air tickets using your credit card! I no longer buy tickets together with my friends but rather pay for mine separately so I can claim my free insurance and save between $30 - $100 each trip.


6. Cut down on drinks / nightlife


Ever since I started work, Wednesday's Ladies Nights have become almost impossible for me to go for. Clubbing on Friday / Saturdays becomes the more realistic alternative, but even though I usually get in for free, the cab rides home can add up to quite a bit! Plus, you tend to lose control of your wallet strings when you're intoxicated and can easily end up spending a bomb on drinks on the spur of the moment. 

From 2011 to 2013 I was clubbing / drinking a lot. This year though, I've cut down to once or twice every few months and I've seen an incredible reduction in my expenses, giving me more to save!


As a result of all these little tips and tricks, I managed to chalk up $20,000 within this year itself which is a huge feat in retrospect considering my monthly pay. Although eventually I spent a fair bit on travelling for holidays (to make up for my lack of a graduation trip), I managed to stretch my dollar by making $10,000 count for 6 countries (Asia + Europe) for a total of 35+ days! 

For 2015 I've decided to try my shot at investing, after numerous financial consultations with my seniors and professionals. Will write another post on this once I've consolidated all my information and have better insight :)

Let me know if you found this useful! I'll love to hear from you.

Update: Read my latest post on how YOU can easily save $20,000 in 2015.
You can also check out my response to some people on this article at this link.

With love,
Budget Babe

48 comments:

  1. Hi may I know which bank did u open your savings account with? :)

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  2. @RAAYCHE haveyou considered bonuses?

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    1. Bernard - some friends I know get up to 3 - 6 months of bonuses! What a good life right! :(

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  3. Hi raayche, I'll be writing a post soon with detailed breakdown of numbers for saving at different income levels in Singapore. I would love to help you calculate how to increase your savings for next year based on your lifestyle, would you leave me your email address so I can get in touch? :)

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  4. I can see parallels to your experience of not taking any pocket money at the age of 18. i think its something commendable consider i did the same thing but i was in the army. I really would like to see a followup post on the thought process to do that.

    You have to differentiate between expense tracking and a budget moving forward. A expense tracking helps you make sense of the past trends, but what determines more is the future planning of the budget. think "wiping the past as a clean slate, and moving forward"

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    1. Hi BB,

      Even planning real life projects we have difficulties coming up with budgets for large scale projects! When i talk about thought process, its more like when i was 18, my family have some crisis, so i decided not to take money just to make life of the overall family a tad easier.

      Its either your parents doesn't want to give , or u made a decision not to take, in the latter case why did you take that stance. nothing really big about it.

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    2. Hey Kyith, sorry I missed out your reply! My parents actually kind of "forced" me to go independent at a young age - they just told me they weren't going to keep giving me money anymore. My dad also told me that if I wanted to go to university, I would have to find the money myself cos they wanted me to go and work after my A Levels instead :'( I was very upset and angry with them back then, but on hindsight, it made me stronger into the person I am today :) and if not for that incident, I might not have landed my scholarship! Haha. So all is still good, and I still care about my parents very much :)

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    3. P.S. My sister still gets allowance from my mom every month though. And she's already 4 years older right now than I was back then when my allowance was cut off.

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  5. Hi there,

    I would like to recommend you a trading book by van tharp, its call super traders. Many traders started from a wrong market perspective and in e end, lost a lot of money. The author is a trading coach who has helped many professional traders in e States. I personally learned alot from his book. Hope you will find him helpful too.

    Best of luck! :)
    Fannie

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Fannie! I appreciate it, will definitely check it out! I'll love to exchange tips with you too on investing if you like. Do email me if you'll like to keep in touch :)

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  6. Hi Budget Barbie, great tips indeed. I can't wait to see your post on investment ideas/insights. Wish you all the very best.

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  8. $150 for food per month? I would be eeally interested to know what u eat for breakfast, lunch n dinner?

    Assuming u eat chicken rice + teh every single day for lunch for 365 days. Let me do the math.

    $3.50 + $1 = $4.50
    (5 days x 52 weeks - 15 days PH) = 245 days
    (245 days x $4.50) / 12 mths = $91
    $150 - $91 = $59

    What about breakfast and dinner?

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  9. Totally agreed! Spending on taxis is one of the biggest waste of money and the easiest to cut down on if you can plan your time properly :)

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  10. Hmmm.. What about income taxes and other fees? Such a good life, no contribution to parents, society and economy.

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  11. Hello there! Wow im impressed by the amount u save yearly! Im getting about the same cash as u. Other than giro-ing $300 to my mom every month, i also smoke. I guess i could cut down on that. We are using the same expenses tracking app as well. I started using this year only. Hopefully i can really save that amount for me to invest every year. I would be richer soon to come.

    Keep it up the good work!
    Jfree

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  12. I used to save my money in cimb star saver account (0.8%) but ever since the ocbc 360 come, i credited to monthly salary to it + do 3 x bill transactions to get at least a 2% each month of my total savings which i think is quite alot interest.

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  13. Hi I am curious as to what kind of lifestyle you lead? Do you say no to friends who want to cafe hop, no to colleagues get together events/after dinner events? Do you even lead a life with entertainment? Do you happen to have a boyfriend? Do you all always meet and go hawker center to eat everytime? what about branded goods? You have no wish to own any of them? I am a 20 something and about to enter workforce very soon but I aim to set aside 1 to maybe 2 thirds of my income to savings. 50% is rather big a measure for me I feel. Sorry, I hope my questions are not too personal..

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  14. I would love to have more details too!

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  15. Hi, how do you claim for free travel insurance using Citibank or OCBC card?

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  16. Also, it is hard to save 20k if you still have your tuition loan to pay off. I went to uni on a scholarship, so I don't have that crazy 22k loan owed unlike most of my peers! I was very blessed though to have gotten that.

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  17. Ah that explains. Sadly, study loans takes a huge chunk of my monthly expenses. Great that you got a scholarship, that definitely goes a long way!

    On good months, 1.2k from tuition is possible on a sideline basis, but it would definitely tire me out. It's not impossible tho! And with the savings you have now, you can consider diversifying and growing the money. But take it slow, understand the nuances behind different investments before committing.

    I would highly recommend The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham, Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki and Think and 4-Hour-Work-Week by Tim Ferriss for a start.

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  18. Hi Oliver, sorry if you keep meeting the wrong kind of girls. I have many guy friends as well who spend a lot of money on dating / their girlfriends....only to break up a few years later. So not worth it. It's good that you have a higher salary and live frugally, that means you can actually save more than me! Also, for the record, I do not make my boyfriend pay for me most of the time. We either go dutch, or he pays for some of the meals we have together, or sometimes it is me paying for him :) guess you just need to find the right (wise) girl who isn't spoilt and acts like a princess! Good luck!

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  19. Wow how do you manage 1.2k from tuition, I don't have so much time / students to be able to chalk that up! I can only take on 2 -3 kids at any given time now that I have a full-time job.

    Thanks for the recommendations, I will definitely look into these books! Trying to learn on investments now too :)

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  20. Hi Xueli, I'm still evaluating my insurance right now as I bought a ILP last year but am thinking of terminating it. Education wise - I was lucky enough to have gotten a scholarship, so it was possible to save this much. If I had to pay my tuition fee loan like most of my peers, I don't think I'll be able to save much at all.

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  21. I can see that she is pulling stunt larh. After CPF deduction and $200 for her parent, she will only have $1,800 left per month. This would mean $21,600 per annual. For her to save $20,000, her spending will have to be restrict to $1,600 per year and accordingly $134 for per month.

    For me, I spent a amount of $100 for transport even with the discount, the most it will bring her down to $70. Plus, she mentioned $20-$30 last her for 2 weeks if she ate in hawker. For illustration purpose, let's take the average $25. $50 for food per month. She would have had already spent $120 for that month and will be left with $14. How about handphone bill and she also mentioned she still shop but cut down and movies and other leisure?

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  22. Wow! Your story is truly inspiring! I'm hoping to get my MBA sponsored in the future so I don't have to pay, and am still far off in terms of money from owning a HDB / starting a family, but hopefully I'll get there like you someday :)

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  23. Haha JJ I still spend, but the trick is in controlling and buying only what you need (while limiting the "wants" that you spend on!).

    I would love to explore trading but I'm afraid I don't know enough yet! And there are risks...It would be worse to lose the money we have so painstakingly saved up. If you have tips on this please share with me at my email, sgbudgetbarbie@gmail.com thanks!

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  24. I love saving as much as you. I try to save as much as I can and I'm lucky cos I have a pretty good job. Unfortunately for the year of 2014 I only saved about 5,000, although I pack food from home etc. I guess once in a while I shop quite a bit plus I spent over 8,000 on dental work last year sigh.

    Anyway I found your blog and the first tip is awesome! I usually just put aside 2,500 n try not to touch it but now I realise I should put away ALL and then only ration out what I want to use (eg 1,000)

    Thank you for the tip :)

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  25. hi babe,
    i usually invest in blue chips and just collect dividend.
    One year i able to collect close to 15k dividend:)

    cheers
    yeh

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  26. I think 20k savings per year for a fresh graduate is very possible but really not easy at all.
    One really needs a lot of discipline and not be easily influenced by others... at many times people will make nasty remarks on how stingy you are, you have to ignore those hurtful words and carry on
    The toughest part is to continue doing it year after year, its like running a business... to constantly grow revenues yet trying to keep expenses low.. the pressure will be on

    I know all this only too well, because I'm speaking from experience. After a decade of being frugal and being looked down, I have finally attained financial freedom and have no regrets.

    The path ahead will be tough, so I wish u all the best!

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    1. Hi Felix,

      You're spot on. I don't get nasty remarks from my friends, but the ones who do criticize me? I simply ignore them. True friends accept, not judge. It is a personal decision if they wish to spend and I choose to save. At the end of the day, we all bear the consequences / reap the results of our own decisions.

      Congrats on attaining financial freedom within one decade! Please share with me more! As I'm pretty sure I'm not going to attain that in my 30s - still have some big ticket items coming up during this timeframe like wedding, house and all...

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  27. Hi there!

    Your article is really inspiring.
    Could you also please recommend some good credit cards for fresh graduates?

    Thank you! :-)

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    1. Hi Eunice,

      Your choice of credit card depends on your lifestyle habits and level of income. Try comparing between FRANK, OCBC 365 and Citibank Rewards for a start ;)

      Delete
  28. Very good tips! Just to add on, when I graduated I opened a bank account with a bank with only 1 branch in Singapore and does not have atm card (because I knew I would be tempted to spend) and did a standing instruction to transfer a fixed sum monthly on my pay day.

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    Regard
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  33. Really!!! I am very impressed after reading this blog. thanks for providing deep information.
    Final Expense Leads

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  34. I'm quite curious, approximately how many percent of your income do you save?

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    1. At the point of this post, my $20k was 70% of my annual income.

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  35. Hi Bb,
    I have some question that i would like to ask u in private,.... could u email me?

    Undeadmeko@gmail.com

    Thanks... i m a female

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  37. amazing! Hopefully I can be like you....saving up for to repay my education loan....do you have any tips for me? I earn very little by the way.

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    Replies
    1. Focus on paying off your loan first :)

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