Author: SG Budget Babe

The Minimalistic Baby Essentials Checklist (for a first-time mother)

It can be really mind-boggling as a first-time parent to figure out what’s necessary and what baby items are good-to-have. After all, we’re constantly being flooded by ads online and by Instagram influencers, all of whom seem to say that pretty much everything is a must-have! 

Instead, I turned to the helpful community of Dayre mummies for advice, and consolidated our own version of a truly Minimalistic Baby Essentials Checklist that we’ll be using:

Image credits


In this list, I also share where I chose to get many of my baby items from, and there are plenty of ways that one can get for free or at a reduced price if you’re savvy enough to know where to look. I started my search on Mothercare, but didn’t end up purchasing any from it in the end as I found cheaper substitutes elsewhere – Qoo10, Carousell and Taobao were my go-to places for value purchases!

Item Price Source
3-in-1 Baby crib $110 Taobao
Baby bath tub Free Mount Alvernia Hospital
Baby bathing net $4 Taobao
Breast pump set $100 Spectra S1 (pump was second-hand from friends, parts were from Qoo10)
Breastmilk storage bags Free Goodie bag from attending Cordlife pregnancy conference
Milk bottles x 3 Free Goodie bag from attending Cordlife pregnancy conference & gifted by AXA’s Know Your Planner
UV Sterilizer Free Free from Cordlife package
Bottle warmer $12 Carousell (second-hand)
Baby clothes* $140 Taobao, Primark (London) and friends
Diapers (70 pcs) Free Free samples by requesting from Merries, Goons, Huggies, Drypers, Mamy-Poko and from other baby goodie bags by insurance agencies. Also from NTUC Good Start Bundle.
Baby wet wipes $10 Cloversoft, Pee-Ka-Poo & NTUC Good Start Bundle
Waterproof changing mat Free Goodie bag from attending Cordlife pregnancy conference
Ruyi / Eucalyptus oil Free Goodie bag from Mighty Sprouts
Car seat $120 Baby fair
Stroller $55 Taobao
Baby carrier Free Gifted by a friend / also a free gift with Aviva’s MyMaternityPlan 
Nail clippers Free Goodie bag from Mighty Sprouts
Baby soap Free Goodie bag from Mighty Sprouts
Nursing cover Free Goodie bag from Nestle (request online)
Baby towels $10 Taobao
Waterproof mattress protector $10 Taobao
Nursing bras (5 pcs) $25 Qoo10
Diaper bag $13 Taobao
Crib Storage Organiser $18 Taobao
Nursing pillow $13 Taobao
Diaper & nipple cream $20 Blended
Breast pads Free Goodie bag from attending Cordlife and TMC pregnancy conference
TOTAL COSTS $660



Feel free to build on this list or make more suggestions in the comments below if you think there’s anything else I’ve missed out on!


How many baby clothes to prepare?

*For baby clothes, we bought:
– 8 x newborn rompers
– 6 x 3 months old rompers
– 2 x newborn mittens
– 4 x pajamas
– 4 x socks
– 5 x bibs ($3 from Carousell, and 2 were free from goodie bags)

I didn’t go overboard on buying baby clothes because my mother-in-law said that friends and relatives would probably gift them to us when they visit us and the newborn baby, and she’s usually right so we’re taking her word for it. Otherwise, if you’re not too fussy, preloved baby clothes would be a good alternative too as they’re usually softer, and your baby will outgrow them in no time anyway!

We’re trying to hold back on buying too many baby clothes because the mileage for them isn’t great, but at the same time, we want to have some to dress baby up and take nice photos for memory sake as well! Do balance this out according to your budget and affordability.

Preparing for a baby sure isn’t cheap, and we’ve yet to factor in the full costs of diapers which we intend to get after our son is born so that we can assess which is a better fit for his size. Considering most newborns use 8 – 10 diapers a day, this should set us back by about $50 – $60 each month.

(At least in the first few months, we do not intend to use cloth diapers because there’ll also be water and electricity costs anyway, and we foresee that we won’t have enough energy to wash them then.)


The NTUC Good Start Bundle



If you don’t already know, there’s another initiative that all new parents HAVE got to know about – the NTUC Good Start Bundle!


As long as your baby is born between 2016 – 2019, you’re eligible to redeem your free bundle! This is specially curated by NTUC and its 8 social enterprises, and I’ve personally had my eye on this ever since my friends at Dollars & Sense told me about it.

Here’s my bundle 😀 


What’s in the bundle?
Over $300 worth of essentials and benefits to help you and your newborn cope with this major change in your life:

  • NTUC FairPrice “FairMily Kit” – contains $100 worth of groceries for your baby and family, such as infant formula milk powder, baby wet wipes, diapers, baby toiletries and more. The oats are also great milk boosters for mothers who will be breastfeeding your babies!
  • Free 1-year health insurance coverage for your newborn – this is a Medisave-approved Integrated Shield Plan administered by NTUC Income and worth up to $205 (excluding MediShield Life premiums). You can choose between the Standard or Enhanced Plan, which will help pay for hospitalisation costs incurred. There are also options to include additional riders for a daily hospital cash benefit or a child illness rider to protect your baby’s well-being, if you’ll like.



    P.S. I know I’ve mentioned previously that hospitalisation insurance is the FIRST plan you need to get once your child is born, but instead of having 2 health insurance policies running at the same time, you might as well save on premiums during the first year through this initiative! However, if you’ve already kanchiong spider and bought one of NTUC IncomeShield Standard/Enhanced  plans for your baby prior to signing up for this Good Start Bundle, don’t worry, you’ll still get to enjoy automatic waiver of your second-year premiums.

  • Free Plus! cards for non Plus! members – for parents to earn LinkPoints on your daily and baby essentials at over 1100 outlets.
  • Complimentary playtime entry to The Little Skool-House Early Literacy Centre – bond with your child on Thursdays for free at the centre and partake in the different activities catered for children from 0 – 3 years old. Worth $180, all you need to do is to make an appointment with ELC by calling 6585 5292 or email elc@littleskoolhouse.com in advance, and that’s it! I intend to bring our son here to play very soon 🙂
  • Early Experiences Matter : Parent-Child Activity Book – by NTUC First Campus and worth $15, when you attend any of PA’s Embracing PArenthood celebratory events held in all constituencies in Singapore (just pick the one nearest to you!)

    I really like this activity book as it gave me some great ideas on how to cut costs further and DIY my own activities with my child in his early formative years – including wind streamers, sock puppets, DIY crib mobile, jigsaw puzzles, and more! Will post more on that when I get down to making them 😛

With so much goodies inside, I bet you won’t want to miss out on this one.


To redeem your own free bundle, head over here to register!

With love,
Budget Babe    

How to Up Your Credit Card Game

If you’re not hacking the credit card game in Singapore to get free cash (back) or miles for money that you’re already spending, it is about time you got on the bandwagon.Image CreditsI’m a huge advocate of credit cards because the way I see it, it is …

Is Cord Blood Banking Necessary?

Becoming first-time parents sure comes with lots of stuff (and costs) to think about. One of the key concerns we had was whether we ought to store our baby’s cord blood – our gynae and relatives were for it, but the sentiments online were mixed.

We’ve always heard that storing a baby’s cord blood was expensive, but when we enquired, the costs were honestly much lower than what we expected. At just $5,000+ to store our baby’s cord blood for 21 years, that works out to be less than $20 a month – even lesser than what we pay for (financial) insurance!

Image credits

Stem cells have the immense potential to treat cancers and blood disorders, and have shown promising results thus far in many clinical trials which are ongoing for regenerative therapies. This is largely due to their unique ability to transform into specialized cells which are able to perpetually create more copies of themselves.

At present, over 35,000 cord blood transplants have already been performed around the world to treat various diseases. In fact, I see it as a form of insurance (like what I told my husband when trying to convince him that the cost was worth it), except that it is even better than typical (financial) insurance because whereas those can only cover or offset costs, this form of biological insurance has the potential to treat and cure the condition!

When we asked around, it turned out that most Singaporean parents choose either to:
– store with a private bank
– donate it to the public bank
– discard it entirely (what a waste!)

However, our journey towards deciding whether to bank our child’s cord blood (and later on, WHICH company to choose) wasn’t as straightforward as we thought it would be. 

We met up individually with the sales representatives of Cordlife, Stemcord and Cryoviva, and even spoke to Singapore Cord Blood Bank (SCBB), but received such conflicting advice that we were honestly stumped whether or not to privately store or donate it. It didn’t help that when we asked around, there were many who shared that they donated their baby’s cord blood to SCBB instead of choosing to store it privately.

But when I dug further, it turned out that SCBB rejects most of the donated samples. Read more here on why I didn’t think donating my baby’s cord blood to SCBB was a good idea after speaking with SCBB, Cryoviva, Stemcord and Cordlife.

This article also provides another point of view that encapsulates ours. This line really resonated with me:

Why pay a few thousand dollars to privately bank your baby’s cord blood when you can donate it for free to a public cord blood registry?  If your child ever gets sick, you can just look for a “match” in the public registry and it should be there, right?  Wrong.


Wait, isn’t cord blood banking a scam?!

After spending weeks researching on this issue, I most certainly do not think so. 


Science and technology has developed so much such that today, stem cells from cord blood has been proven useful in the treatment over over 80 diseases. The figure was less than half just a decade ago. With over 800+ clinical trials ongoing around the world, and as scientists continue to find new ways of using stem cells for treatment, just imagine how much more potential we could discover in the near future. Some new areas where research into cord blood stem cells is currently being done include brain injury, juvenile diabetes, cerebral palsy, congenital heart defects, hearing loss, liver disease, spinal cord injury, and more.

The umbilical cord blood and lining contains three types of stem cells – haematopoietic, epithelial and mesenchymal stem cells – which have shown immense potential in not just treating various diseases, but also aiding the repair of injured tissues and organs.

Of course, it is still fairly early days, but the cord blood banks are already saving lives (SCBB and Cordlife have had many cases of successful transplants) and as research continues, it is very likely that in the future, more ways of using cord blood to treat more diseases may be found. Don’t forget that these undifferentiated cells contain a powerful ability to specialise into different cell types, which is where their promise of treating diseases lie in.

The science is exciting! Who knows what the future will bring, and what more we will discover? I don’t want to have to rule out the possibility for my child and my family just because we decided not to bank it to save a few thousand bucks – like what my husband said, he’ll rather forgo one family holiday and spend the money where it matters…for health.

Can’t stem cells be used from other sources aside from cord blood?

Indeed, haematopoetic stem cells can also be obtained from the adult bone marrow, but not all transplants work out either. On the other hand, c
ord blood stem cells require a less stringent HLA matching compared to bone marrow stem cells, and also a lower risk of developing graft vs. host disease. 

The cost is also significantly different – it can cost up to $64,000 to procure a matching unit for bone marrow or public cord blood banks (or up to $40k provided you’re lucky enough to find a match in SCBB locally), whereas it costs nothing if you had banked it privately for your own family’s use.

Should I store just the cord blood, or the cord tissue as well?

This was another difficult decision we had to make, because it meant paying more if we wanted to store more than just the cord blood stem cells. So I did more research and spent hours on Google Scholar to understand more about the three types:


Haematopoietic

stem cells

Epithelial stem cells 


Mesenchymal stem cells


Can differentiate into…

Healthy red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets


The soft tissues that connect, support or surround certain structures or organs in our body including the lining of the cornea, skin and liver


Structural tissues – bone, cartilage, muscle, fibrous tissues, and fat.


Can be used to treat

Blood diseases or cancers such as leukaemia, immune-deficiencies, metabolic disorders, refractory anaemia, tumors, bone marrow failure, etc.

Soft tissue repair (eg. diabetic surface ulcers, burns on skins), organ lining regeneration (liver, pancreatic or gastrointestinal lining), and even eye (to replace cornea membrane)

Tissue repair (eg. in stroke patients, heart failure, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injury, repair of the bone, catrilage and/or tendon, liver failure), immune modulation (HIV, type 1 diabetes, Graft vs. host disease)

Source

Cord blood

Cord lining

Cord tissue (Wharton’s jelly)



Some other common concerns we found online (on Hardwarezone forums) were:

1. During labour, if the gynae missed something and the cord blood is not sterile, it will be rejected and you will still need to pay –> this is not true, as there is no payment if your cord blood is not viable for storage.

2. Why not donate it to the cord blood bank which is free, and you’ll get the cord blood within one year if you need it? –> This is not entirely true as it may have already been discarded (without your knowledge!) or used by someone else. Read what I discovered about SCBB here. 

3. If you do not have hereditary blood problems, chances are, you will not need it –> not true, as certain blood disorders develop as a result of the environment. Moreover, if one’s blood condition is hereditary, then all the more their cord blood will NOT be suitable for usage, since it would have already contained the genetic defect anyway!

4. They are so freaking expensive…they use the fear of humans to make them sign up –> “expensive” certainly is a subjective term, but for as low as $19 a month, if you can afford it, I think it is a small price to pay for such biological insurance. Even my monthly premiums for hospitalisation insurance costs wayyyy more than that, and my ISP cannot treat me (it can only waive off my financial bills), whereas cord stem cells offer me at least a chance of treatment or even a cure! 

If you can afford to go on holiday or spend on expensive tuition for your kids, I believe one can most definitely afford to do cord blood banking.

All in all, I do NOT think cord blood banking is a scam at all, and in fact, after spending hours researching on whether to store or even donate, I’m even more sure that for any parents who can afford it, private cord blood banking is the way to go.


The last thing you’ll want is (lest anything happens in the future) for you to have looked back in regret and think, if only I had banked my child’s cord blood! 

I know I don’t want to have, or live with, that sort of regret.

Next up, I’ll be comparing between the different options and plans for cord banking in Singapore!

With love,
Budget Babe

Save Money by Getting These Baby Must-Haves from Taobao!

It is no secret that I’m a huge Taobao fan – after all, I’m that bride who saved tons of money by purchasing my wedding stuffs on Taobao, including my customized wedding gown! I’ve written about my Taobao wedding purchases here and here previously, and have been using SGShop for my purchases since 2016.

Well, with all the upcoming baby expenses, I’ve also been shopping around diligently and doing lots of window shopping at Mothercare and Kiddy Palace, among other shops, to compare prices and quality. What I’ve discovered is that many of the items sold locally are priced at a premium, and I’ve actually been able to find the same – if not extremely similar – products on Taobao instead, therefore saving me tons of money!

While there are still some items that I’ll get in person locally – such as a UV steriliser and a car seat for safety reassurances – I’ve found Taobao to be cheaper by far for many of the items I feel we will need for our baby. Even after factoring in shipping costs, many of these items cost much lesser than those at baby fairs here!

Without further ado, here’s my Taobao shopping list and haul:


Baby Shower Net
Afraid that baby might slip out of your hands during shower time? Use a baby shower net to eliminate any chances of baby slipping or even hitting his/her head so you no longer have to dread bathtime!



Price: S$4.50
Link: here

Baby Rompers
Get those made from pure cotton as some babies may have sensitive skin.


Price: S$2
Link: herehere and here.

Baby Towels
You’ll need lots of these for wiping off milk spills and baby saliva. Choose among these absorbent gauze / cotton / bamboo fibre ones from Taobao.



Price: S$2
Link: herehere and here.


Baby Sling
Got no money for a Tula? Missed Aviva’s promotion for a free Tula with their maternity insurance packages? Fret not, you can get cheaper and stylish baby slings here as well! This design comes with a baby seat to offer more support as well.



Price: S$18

Link: here


Waterproof baby bedsheets
So that the mattress underneath remains clean, dry and unstained. Can use for baby’s bed or even on your own (to absorb any leaking breastmilk!). These ones are washable so you can easily reuse them as well.



Price: S$2.25
Link: here and here, or get a bigger sized one here.



Crib Storage Organiser
All you need for changing baby within this nifty organiser for putting diapers, wet wipes and more. I see similar models retailing in Singapore shops for much higher prices!



Price: S$18

Link: here


Baby Cot
Been eyeing the gorgeous baby cot featured on Zoe Raymond and Naomi Neo’s Instagram page? So was I…until I found out that the cot retails for $1,500 and they were sponsored for it anyway. If you’re not keen to spend so much, here’s a close substitute on Taobao that you can consider for 1/7 of the price.

 

Price: S$200
Link: here and here

Baby Gym
Perfect for hours of entertaining your baby while you get other tasks done, this baby gym will also train your baby’s motor skills while having fun in the meantime.




Price: S$11
Link: here

Baby Bib (for meals)
Great for avoiding a mess during mealtimes as it catches falling food.



Price: S$2.25 each
Links here, herehere and here.


Belecoo Baby Stroller
I love this baby pram for its ability to transform from a horizontal crib into an upright seat, which sees your baby through his/her newborn days all the way till they’re a toddler. I’ve seen the same strollers being sold by third-party retailers here in Singapore for 2 to 3 times of its price, so you might as well buy straight from Taobao and use all that savings to get your other baby essentials instead.

Lightweight, foldable and with a reclining / upright option, this baby stroller also takes heavy weights so you don’t have to worry about the pram toppling over!



Price: S$52

Link: here


Dual-function Maternity & Breastfeeding Pillow
This will be a lifesaver for mummies when you hit your second trimester and your baby bump grows so big that you can barely sleep easy at night due to the discomfort. Cushion it and sleep easier with the help of a maternity pillow, which will support your baby bump and even out the weight distribution.

Most maternity pillows are big and bulky (my bed doesn’t have space for that!) so I wasn’t very keen on getting one initially, until I found this dual-function model that can double-up as a breastfeeding pillow, or even for baby to lie on!



Price: S$13.50
Link: here


Maternity Photoshoot Outfits

Get your maternity outfits for cheap on Taobao for a photoshoot to commemorate your pregnancy journey – after all, you only get pregnant a few times in your life!



Price: S$13 and up

Link: here


Diaper Bag

Skip the jujube and go for a much more affordable diaper bag that is equally (if not more) stylish and easier to match with your fashion outfits.

This is a must-have whenever you bring baby out. It is important to look for one that is waterproof and with many compartments inside so that you can fit all the diapers, milk bottles, baby wipes, baby towels, change of clothes, etc.



Price: $11.15

Link: here


*** Sponsored message below ***

SGShop is celebrating its 7th birthday this August, and they’ve lined up tons of freebies and promotions to share with all of us, making it the perfect time for you to check out your items and save on shipping and service fees!



Key promotions that I reckon are worth taking advantage of during their birthday month:

  • 13 – 30 August: free / agent fee capped at $17
  • 1 – 31 August: enter the jackpot with every purchase made! There will be 3 tiers of prizes available – 7 winners get $70 coupons, 700 winners get 70% off service fees, while another 70 will get 10% off normal sea shipping!
Which option should you pick? Buy-for-Me, Ship-for-Me, or SmartShop? 

Here’s an easy guide to help you decide:


Buy-for-Me

Ship-for-Me

SmartShop

If you are…

Not fluent in Mandarin and need a third-party to help liaise on your behalf


Need to customize your item or enquire about features


Looking to save money on service fees


Fluent in Mandarin to communicate with sellers directly on Taobao



Looking to only make payment once.


Items already have estimated weights so shipping fees can be factored in right from the start. The SmartShop items are marked by the blue S logo on the top right corner of listings.

You get

Service fees includes inspection to ensure quality and spot defects

The option to add on inspection fees

No surprises in shipping fees

Ordering process

1. Order and pay for the cost of the product + Chinese domestic delivery.


2. Item arrive at SGShop warehouse in China, where it’ll be inspected and weighed for international shipping to Singapore.


3. You will then be prompted to make a second payment to SGshop for international shipping + 4 – 8% service fees + $0.98 customs clearance.


4. Opt for self-collect or home delivery at a fee.


This method involves 2 – 3 rounds of payment (China-to-China, China-to-Singapore and Singapore domestic shipping).

1. Shop and pay through Taobao’s own site.


2. Enter SGShop Guangzhou warehouse address as the delivery destination.


3. Submit your order details with the relevant information such as the Taobao order ID and delivery tracking number on SGshop’s website


4. When the items arrive at SGShop warehouse, they will be weighed to calculate the shipping cost. You will then be prompted to make payment to SGshop for the shipping from China to Singapore + $0.98 customs clearance.

5. Opt for self-collect or home delivery at a fee.


1. Browse under the Smartshop Featured Items tab here.


2. Add to cart and check out.


3. Make payment, which includes product price and international shipping.


4. Choose the collection or delivery method once items have arrived in Singapore.






If you’re a first-time user, here are some promo codes I’ve consolidated for you to take advantage of:

  • Click here for $5 free via my referral code (with no minimum spending!)
  • WELCOME50” for 50% off service fees
  • SGBUDGETBABE10” for 10% off economy air shipping
Have fun shopping!

Disclaimer: The bottom portion is a sponsored message by SGShop to get the word out about their services. All reviews and recommendations above are that of my own and sourced through my own time browsing and shopping online. I’ve been a satisfied customer of SGShop since I’ve started using them many years ago, and have previously shared about how their customer and warehouse team was a big help when it came to customizing my wedding gown and other items. 

If you use my referral code for $5 free, I’ll get $5 too! 🙂 you can also share your own referral code with your friends and family afterwards so each of you get $5!

Do also note that all of the Taobao items above are sourced by myself over the past few months and were not recommended by SGShop. If you’ve any more great Taobao finds to share with fellow parents in Singapore, please feel free to leave me a comment below with the links and I’ll be happy to look at adding them to this list!

With love,
Budget Babe

Is Home Insurance Really Necessary?

Considering how you already have to pay for your mandatory HDB fire insurance (or even a mortgage fire insurance as well, for those of you on a bank loan), do we really need to still get home insurance?

Many people mistakenly believe their house is completely covered for, but the truth is far from it. HDB fire insurance only covers for damages to core structures provided by HDB (eg. beam collapse, walls or flooring), whereas your bank’s mortgage fire insurance mainly protects your bank’s financial interest and not yours. What that means is that in the event that your house (the mortgaged property) is damaged by a fire, the bank can make a claim on the policy to protect themselves in the meantime. This works in the same way for private properties such as condominiums where the management requires you to get fire insurance. This enables the management group to make a claim on the policy to restore the premise to its original condition, should anything untoward happen.

Thus, in the event of fire, if you solely rely on the abovementioned policy(ies), you most likely won’t be able to claim for damages on your house contents.

That includes stuff like your furniture, built-in wardrobe, jewelry, electronics and more! A (home) contents insurance policy has to be bought separately, if you wish to obtain coverage for those items; and you should, especially if you’ve spent a significant amount on your renovation and/or keep valuables at home.

Fire insurance

Home insurance

Status

Mandatory

Optional

Premiums

As low as a few dollars for a 5-year plan (eg. $5.50 for a 4-room HDB for 5 years of coverage)

Ranges from $30 – $400, depending on your coverage

What’s covered

Only covers damage to your home structure, replacement of any original fixtures or fittings by HDB / the rebuilding of your home for landed properties.

Does NOT cover damage to home contents in the event of fire.

Covers the contents in your home, renovation works, home repairs and incidental expenses incurred for the alternative accommodation period, etc, in the event of fire, burst pipes, natural disasters or burglary.

What’s more, you’ll probably also need coverage for:

       Your home contents: furniture, mirrors, domestic appliances, AV equipment, electronics, etc.

       Renovation work

       Personal liability: eg. if your neighbour’s property is damaged due to leakage caused by a burst water pipe in your house and demands you to pay for it

       Alternative accommodation and quality of life: expenses incurred for when you’re unable to stay in your insured home, including rent, laundry, daily necessities, etc. 

How FWD Home Insurance stacks up

Back in September last year, I did a quick review of the various insurers that offer home insurance here, so I’m adding onto that list with today’s review of FWD after having gone through their policy coverage with its terms and conditions.

Low policy premiums

From as low as $31 a year, the value offered in terms of what you’re getting covered for is extremely compelling (compared to if you were to be uncovered and something unfortunate strikes).

No excess payable

You do not have to pay anything when you claim. On the other hand, most of the other insurers require us to pay at least $100 for loss or damage caused by burst pipes or a natural disaster, whereas another local insurer requires an excess payable of $350 for each and every claim made on personal effects, home contents and renovation. Probably not what you want or can afford when your house has just been ravaged!

Flexible renovation coverage

Needless to say, your policy premiums will depend on the insured amount, and in the case of renovation, a minimum of $50k – $100k coverage sum is the lowest you can opt for. However, do you really need to cover the entire cost of what it took you to renovate your house before you first moved in? FWD allows consumers to choose from $20k and up so we can get protected without overpaying for insurance.

Alternative accommodation and incidental expenses

Rental, laundry, daily necessities, toiletries and other expenses that may be incurred during the period where you have to find alternative accommodation since your house is no longer habitable, FWD home insurance covers for it as well. 

Home assistance expenses

In the event of a power failure due to a burnt fuse or malfunction of power supply socket, FWD will also cover the cost of repair for such electrical services. In addition, should you need to clear any blockage in your pipes or floor trap, or if your air-conditioner is not working due to a fault or mechanical malfunction (not wear and tear), the costs of repairs will also be covered. Moreover, should you require the help of a locksmith if you’re unable to enter your home or any rooms within, you can also claim for this once every year.

Rent protection for landlords

I have a number of friends who rent out their second property for rental income, and they often complain about tenant issues. FWD home insurance addresses this pain point by covering the following scenarios for up to $3,000 a month:

       Your tenant defaults on their rent

       Loss of rental income because the premise becomes uninhabitable due to an insured event

       Murder / suicide within the premise while it was rented out, causing the house to be untenanted

       Up to $3,000 in legal costs for tenancy disputes

Riders for pets and personal accident

Available for just $2 or $3 respectively per annum if you wish to add those on.

For my 3-room HDB flat, this was the quote I got online:

If you’re also convinced by FWD’s home insurance offering as I am, you can get your free quotation here, and don’t forget to utilize their 20% discount right now with the promo code HOME !

Disclaimer: This article is sponsored by FWD, but all opinions are of my own. My quote was obtained discreetly without FWD knowing that it was me who was enquiring on the other end of our Internet connection.

IPO Analysis: Is the Nikko AM SGD Investment Grade Corporate Bond ETF worth subscribing?

I’ve not been the biggest fan of corporate bonds because (i) I’m not always convinced about the reasons given by the company for the need to raise money from retail investors (ii) there’s too many horror stories like Hyflux and Aspial and (iii) too many retail investors seem to be drawn to the juicy yield payouts without properly evaluating the underlying financial health of the company.

However, the latest Nikko AM SGD Investment Grade Corporate Bond ETF might just be another decent investment tool (and far more superior than any previous corporate bonds such as the ones named above) for those who have always stayed away from corporate bonds for the same reasons that I have.



The IPO for this has gone live and will last from 23 July – 16 August, so that’s enough time for you to do your due diligence before you decide if this investment makes sense to you. In the meantime, here’s my take on the ETF:

Details:
– The bond is launched by Nikko AM, one of the largest ETF managers in Singapore and the same company behind popular Nikko AM Singapore STI ETF and ABF Singapore Bond Index
– Indicative yield: 3% – 3.22% per annum
– Total expense ratio: 0.3% (30 cents per year for every S$100 you invest – confirmed for the first 3 years)

– I recommend applying through FSM where there’s now a 0% commission promo and since their minimum amount is lower vs. other brokers who are requiring a min. of $1000 to apply
– IPO applications close on 12 noon on 16 August 2018
– Minimum subscription amount: S$100
– Starts trading on SGX on 27 August 2018 at 9am

What I like about this ETF



1. Lower risk
By investing into a basket of corporate bonds, the risk and impact of one company defaulting is much lower compared to if you invest directly into a single company’s bonds. After all, you really don’t want another “big shock” like the one retail investors got from Hyflux, or see defaults like what Swiber did on their bond payments.

Buying into this ETF means you get exposure to over 100 corporate bonds from over 50 companies, which means that even if one of them default, it probably won’t even leave much of a dent in your overall portfolio. The constituents of this ETF comprise of several reputable companies that are in relatively strong financial health and unlikely to go bust, such as DBS, UOB, HDB, LTA, etc. I’ll go deeper into the constituents in detail later in this article.

Of course, the downside of the lower risk in this ETF is that you also get a “lower” yield of approximately 3% vs. the juicy 5% – 6% offered by some other corporate bonds, but would you rather go for a high-risk-high-returns bond option where you could potentially lose your entire capital, or accept a lower-risk investment where your returns are pretty much guaranteed? Your choice.

According to The Business Times, it seems like the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) might even be a seed investor in this, although Nikko AM has declined to confirm it.



2. Higher yields than the Singapore Saving Bonds / bank savings / fixed deposits
Some other low risk options you can also choose from, if not for this ETF:

Tool

Minimum Sum

Holding Period

Average Yield

$10,000

3 months – 5 years

0.08% – 1.4%

$1,000

2 – 3 years

2.02%

$500

1 – 10 years

1.78% – 3.11%

$3,000

N.A.

0.8% – 2.85%

$1,000

5 – 30 years

1.625% – 3.25%

$100

Up to you!

3%


The only comparable instruments that come close to the 3% p.a. offered on this ETF are the SSBs and SGS, but those require a longer holding period of at least 5 – 10 years before you start to see those kind of returns.


3. Lower investment sums needed
It is generally quite difficult for most average retail investors to access Singapore’s corporate bond market, because the typical minimum sum of S$250,000 just for a single bond issue is usually out of reach for many of us. Sometimes, rare opportunities like the recent Astreal bonds appear, but even that required a minimum of $2,000 to subscribe and also carries a much higher risk (since it is on private equity investments). However, the Nikko AM SGD Investment Grade Corporate Bond ETF offers investors the chance to access these investment-grade corporate bonds for as low as S$100. 

4. Low costs
I’ve never liked unit trusts or buying bonds through Investment-Linked Plans (ILPs) because the high management costs / distribution fees eat into your returns. Many people don’t realise that simply paying 1% in investment management fees could easily eat up 1/3 of your wealth eventually as these fees compound to quite a sizeable sum, which is why I’ve never advocated investing in unit trusts, mutual funds, or any sort of investments through an insurer and prefer to DIY instead.

The only costs associated here would be the expense ratio – which is extremely low at just 0.3% i.e. yo pay 30 cents every year for each $100 you invest – and your buy/sell broker fees, which can vary depending on which brokerage or promotional rate you’re using. I recommend FSMOne for this if you don’t already have an account.

You can also see the impact between a 0.3% and 1% fee in the table below:

Source: Fundsupermart


5. Higher liquidity
Many of the wholesale bonds which this ETF invests in are generally traded over-the-counter instead of a centralised exchange, so retail investors not only face difficulties in getting access but also in selling it due to the lack of liquidity.

On the other hand, this ETF will be traded on SGX so you should be able to easily buy or sell lots when you need or wish to.


What am I really buying into?



You can view the full prospectus hereview the highlights here lodged with MAS, or the product brochure here.


In summary, the biggest 10 holdings in this ETF and their respective weightages are:




With the exception of Huarong Finance, you’ll be hard-pressed to not recognise the other names, many of which are quasi-government agencies or even indirectly backed by our local government as well. It’ll be hard for them to fail, and if any of them do, worrying about this ETF will be the last thing on my mind because there’ll probably be bigger concerns of the Singapore economy failing or going into a recession instead.

In total, there are 102 bonds from 45 issuers in this ETF, with an average coupon yield of 3 – 3.5%. 

How often will I be paid dividends?
Once a year.

What’s the quality of the bonds in this ETF?
They’re mostly investment-grade and large-cap bonds, but do note that 22% of the current bonds are not weighted, such as SIA and LTA.

Can I buy this using my CPF funds?
No, as it is currently not included under the CPF-IS. However, who knows, perhaps this might just change in the future if the interest in this ETF continues to grow.


What I don’t really like about this ETF


1. Not all the constituents bonds are exactly “investment-grade” nor “corporate”.
The name of this bond may be slightly misleading, since 22% of bonds are unrated and there’s a significant portion which aren’t exactly what we tend to think of as “corporations” (HDB, LTA, etc). Nonetheless, this is just a personal gripe I have about the choice of name for this ETF, but I don’t have much of an issue about the underlying bonds it is investing into, which are actually far more solid than the previous corporate bonds I’ve reviewed on this blog.

2. If we continue in a rising interest rate environment, this ETF may no longer be as attractive.
3 % – 3.22% is a decent return for an investment tool that you can trade anytime on SGX, and especially when you compare it to the other fixed-income instruments that I’ve mentioned earlier. But if interest rates go up, the market value of the underlying bonds will likely drop, which will then also affect this ETF.

For those who are unfamiliar with the link as to why rising interest rates are bad for bonds, here’s a quick explanation. Imagine you paid $1,000 to purchase a bond with a 3% coupon payout, which then trades on the bond market. Now, should interest rates rise, new bonds may then be issued with higher coupon rates in order to attract investors, so let’s assume a newer bond with a 5% coupon rate now gets launched. Since investors can now invest the same $1,000 for a bond with a higher interest rate, they’ll be less interested in buying your bond which has a 3% interest rate, so the market value of your bond lots go down (i.e. capital loss). 

Conversely, if interest rates fall, then that usually spells good news for bonds which would then trade at a price higher than what it was originally bought for upon launch.


However, I believe the ETF manager will also continue to invest into new bonds even as this happens, and since these new bonds will carry higher interest rates, we can then watch the ETF’s yield go up accordingly.

Nonetheless, we cannot predict the future, and as per my previous post on portfolio allocation to mitigate risks across market cycles, there will always be a place for bonds in one’s investment portfolio. 

So is this ETF worth buying into?

Yes if you are:

  • Looking for a low-risk investment tool with decent returns higher than what the banks / fixed deposits / Singapore Saving Bonds can offer you
  • Looking to add to the bond component of your investment portfolio, but you’re adverse against individual corporate bonds due to all the sagas and defaults that have happened recently
  • Looking for a bond investment with no minimum holding period or commitment (since you can trade this on SGX once it is listed on 27 August)
  • Looking to get exposure to the Singapore corporate bonds market without the high minimum sum needed nor the higher risk
  • Considering whether to cancel your ILP and do your own direct investments so as to stop paying for the high investment management fees (you can also combine this ETF then with the ABF Singapore Bond Index Fund, which I had in my ILP before I terminated it. That ETF currently trades at an indicated yield of 2.3%)

No if you:

  • Want much higher return than 3% given this (low) risk level
  • Are willing to take on higher risk for much higher returns

Until better opportunities present themselves, parking one’s emergency or excess cash in a mixture of this Nikko AM SGD Investment Grade Corporate Bond ETF with Singapore Saving Bonds and CPF voluntary top-ups certainly sounds like a viable idea to me as part of a multi-asset portfolio management strategy.

At any rate, I’d definitely prefer to go for this than most individual corporate bonds! 


Where can I apply for this ETF?

The easiest way would be to apply via FSMOne.com as it only requires a minimum of $100 to subscribe and is also currently running a promotion of 0% sales charge during this ETF’s Initial Offering Period from 23 July to 16 August 2018. 

This means you can enjoy a 0% processing fee to invest into this ETF, as long as you place your order before 12 noon of 16 August.


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TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THIS ETF


  1. Read this article by the FSMOne.com Research Team to learn more about the NikkoAM SGD IGBond ETF.
  2. View the ETF factsheet here.

  3. Attend the seminar “Introducing the Nikko AM SGD Investment Grade Corporate Bond ETF on 1 August 2018, 12pm, at iFAST Financial Pte Ltd, 10 Collyer Quay #26-01 Ocean Financial Centre Singapore 049315. Click here to register now!

OPEN AN FSMONE ACCOUNT

Don’t have an FSMOne Account yet? You might probably want to consider opening one to get access to this bond ETF, as well as a whole suite of other investment products that is offered by Fundsupermart!
Head over here to open your free account right away so you can subscribe to this ETF and make full use of the 0% processing fees promotion! If you encounter any issues in getting started, you can also call them at 6557 2853 or email clienthelp@fundsupermart.com for more assistance.
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What are your thoughts about this ETF, and is there anything I’ve missed out on? Let me know in the comments below!

With love,
Budget Babe

Is it Worth Joining A Co-Operative?

In a previous post, I wrote about what credit co-operatives (co-ops) do and the important role they play in society. I’ve also received some questions from readers as to whether it is worth joining a co-operative in Singapore, especially if they qualify for one.

After looking through all the benefits, I’m convinced that being a member of a co-op has its benefits and privileges.

Just to name a few of these benefits:

·      Gaining access to a wide range of affordable products and services

·  Financial solutions at reasonable interest rates (no need to resort to unlicensed moneylenders, please!)

·      Educational scholarships and bursaries awards

·      Hospitalisation benefits

·      Loyalty membership benefits

Today, there are 66 co-ops affiliated to the Singapore National Co-operative Federation that one can choose from.

Among these, there are credit co-ops that serve members working in the civil service, with the Singapore Government Staff Credit Co-operative (SGSCC) as one such co-op. Having registered in 1925, SGSCC is also Singapore’s first co-op.

Civil Servants: Member Benefits

Open to all staff who are employed in the civil service, statutory boards and government-linked companies, SGSSC provides the resources to help its members build a better future.

According to SGSSC’s website, there are three saving options for members:

·      Subscription Saving

·      Specific Deposit Saving

·      Fixed / Time Deposits

Working in a similar fashion as the Singapore Savings Bonds (SSBs, which fans will know I’m a huge advocate of), SGSCC’s saving schemes offer competitive  interest rates, while granting you the flexibility to withdraw your savings in times of need.

Moreover, all co-ops including SGSCC are regulated by The Registry of Co-Operative Societies of Singapore (under the purview of the Ministry of Community, Culture and Youth), and are required to have their accounts regularly audited. SGSCC’s long track record and history attest to their sustainability.

For more information on how co-ops are governed and regulated in Singapore, you can head over to MCCY’s website here to read more.

For all Singaporeans and Permanent Residents

The only credit co-op that has almost no restrictions (other than you needing to be a Singaporean or Permanent Resident) for joining as a member would be the TCC Credit Co-operative.

Apart from providing access to affordable financial solutions, TCC also allocates some of its surpluses to assist members in times of need through its Common Good Fund like hospitalisation grant, marriage grant and educational scholarships and bursaries awards. TCC also distributes dividends to its eligible members every year.

TCC members can even enjoy exclusive health screening packages at preferential rates at Thomson Medical. And should members get hospitalised, they can put in a claim for a hospitalisation grant of $30 per day (just like how the payouts on your insurance work, except that you don’t have to pay any insurance premiums for this one).

It’s also fuss-free to open a Savings Account as there are no administrative or membership fees involved. Their Subscription Savings Account, for instance, usually pays out 3% – 5% in dividends annually, which can be higher than other high-yield bank accounts which I’ve reviewed before on this blog!

Education Loan Options

TCC also provides its members with access to education loans at a flat interest rate of 2.2% per annum (p.a). Compare this to the likes of OCBC’s Frank Education Loan, which charges 4.5% p.a. (or effectively 5.17% per year if you pay it off within 2 years).

For Union Members

AUPE Credit Co-Operative Limitedis open to all union members. Members can also enjoy the provision of financial solutions, such as loans from as little as 4%* including medical loans for medical expenses or treatment costs, renovation loans (under $30k) to tide over getting your new home in order, and even study loans or grants for your children. In addition, should any member be hospitalised, you will also get a hospital benefit of $20 per day without the need to purchase any extra hospitalisation insurance.

Alternative Financial Solutions

I’ve mentioned previously that if you are seeking financial solutions, other than financial institutions, there are alternatives and one of them is credit co-ops. Credit co-ops are less profit driven than most commercial enterprises, and have a social mission, thus they are more willing to go the extra mile for their members.

Financial solutions dispensed by credit co-ops generally have a more flexible repayment period (up to 48 months) to help members manage their cash flow without feeling as though they’re being driven up the wall just to repay the loan.

Whether you need a short-term financial solution because you’ve unexpected medical expenses to pay off, or for your children’s educational needs, you may look at different forms of financial assistance including credit co-ops. If you’re unable to repay on time, you can also be rest assured that credit co-ops will do their best to help come up with a reasonable debt repayment schedule that meets your needs.

Where, then, does the money or interests earned by credit co-ops go to?


Well, surpluses earned by the credit co-ops are channelled back to its members in the form of benefits such as annual dividends (members of SGSCC received 3% dividend in their subscription capital in previous years), hospital benefits, or even educational awards and bursaries to members or their children.

Man, I wish my dad had joined SGSCC back then, so we could tap on their education bursaries with my good grades to help me tide through school! Unfortunately, he and none of us in the family knew about SGSCC, but now YOU do!

What Types of Co-ops Are There?

There are plenty of co-ops available in Singapore, but they generally fall under these categories:

1.    Campus co-ops

Formed in educational institutions, campus co-ops offer students and staff the platform and opportunity to develop their entrepreneurial skills. Examples include The Co-operative Society of Nanyang Technological University Ltd (NTU@COOP), Ngee Ann Polytechnic Consumer Co-operative Society Ltd and Temasek Polytechnic Co-operative Society Ltd.

2. Credit co-ops

Also known as Thrift & Loan societies, credit co-ops play an important role in improving the economic and social statuses of their members through no-frills saving schemes that encourage thrift.

3. NTUC co-ops

With over 10,000 employees employed, NTUC co-ops like NTUC FairPrice Co-operative and NTUC Income Co-operative provide a wide range of affordable products and services to not only members but to the general Singapore society.

4. Service co-ops

Varying from aged care to employment services, these co-ops provide a wide range of services to their members. Under the healthcare and social support, the Silver Caregivers Co-operative and Runninghour Co-operative are great ones to check out.

To learn more about co-ops,  head over to SNCF’s website! And most importantly, if you qualify for any of the co-ops, you might just want to consider whether it’ll benefit you to join, especially given all the solutions and benefits that they offer.

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post written for the Singapore National Co-operative Federation to promote greater awareness of co-operatives in Singapore in conjunction with the World Credit Union Conference which is being held in Singapore for the first time. All opinions are that of my own.

10 Days in London – Itinerary and Expenses

So we headed to London for our babymoon to spend some time together before our little one arrives, and here’s our itinerary.



It wasn’t particularly “budget” this time, because it is quite hard to be fully on a budget when you’re pregnant and in an expensive city like London (at time of writing and travelling, the exchange rate was 1.8x of ours), although we did opt for a budget flight and stayed in an Airbnb room to save on costs. Nonetheless, quite a few of you have requested for my itinerary and expenses, so here’s what went on while we were in London!

Overall spending breakdown (in SGD) per person:

Flights $891.00
Accommodation $1,000
Attractions $138
Tours $301
Musicals (3) $246
Travel Insurance $39.20
Transport $154.50
F&B $340
Shopping $235
TOTAL  $3,344.70





Flight tickets
We took a 14-hour flight on Norwegian Air, which I’ve previously shared as a budget carrier where you can get a return ticket to London for $400 if you’re lucky enough to be travelling during off-peak period.


I believe our travel dates coincided with the summer school holidays, so our tickets were twice the price of what I had expected, and we ended up paying $891 per person which included 2 meals, 20kg of check-in luggage, and taxes.

We travelled economy, where the seats were fairly comfortable and we had enough legroom, despite not having paid extra for exit row seats. Toilets were also clean and sanitary. However, the service and food was sorely lacking – the meals we had were extremely small in portion sizes, didn’t taste fantastic at all (I’m not fussy and rarely dislike airline food, so this was a first for me), and they were also extremely stingy with water. When we asked for water, our request was declined and we were asked to purchase bottled water from the snack bar instead. And nope, I didn’t get extra water even though I was pregnant, so I wonder if the crew knows how thirsty pregnant mothers can get sometimes because we really need liquids for our amniotic fluid.


If you’re travelling with Norwegian Air in the future, I highly recommend that you purchase snacks and drinks at the airport before boarding. For our flight from Singapore, we filled up a 500ml bottle and it was barely enough for the both of us (we got a total of 4 cups from the crew throughout the entire flight, which was terrible for me particularly because I was extremely thirsty, being pregnant and all). 

Accommodation
Hotels were extremely expensive in London, and hostels weren’t any better because we needed a private room for the both of us and the prices were almost comparable to that of a budget hotel.

As such, we turned to Airbnb after our friend who lives in London recommended it, and the price was almost half of what we would have had to pay for a 3-star hotel.

To save on transport costs, we looked for accommodation within Zone 1 and Zone 2 in London, as there’s a maximum cap on the Oyster travel card if you travel within these two zones (more on this under Transport).



Transport & Wi-Fi
Norwegian Air takes you to Gatwick Airport instead of Heathrow, so to get to central London, you need to take the train. You can choose from either the Gatwick Express (£22) or the normal Southern train, which is so much cheaper (cost varies depending on your location) and almost equally as fast. If you don’t mind a slower but cheaper journey, you can also take the Piccadilly Line for (£3.10) which is all but 15 minutes longer compared to the Gatwick Express. 


Navigation was settled through a mobile app, Citymapper, which our local friends told us to download. This was the best transport app for London as it is even updated with bus route changes and train delays (and there are PLENTY in London).

As mentioned earlier, there’s a daily travel cap of £7 on your Oyster card if you’re travelling between Zone 1 and 2, which is why we decided to stay in Zone 2 for our accommodation. However, the buses are generally cheaper at just £1.50 flat if you change within the hour, so if you’re able to plan out your route entirely via buses, I would highly encourage that you do so (the bus routes are extensive in London so it shouldn’t be a problem at all, and travel times are comparable to that of the tube). Otherwise, the tube is the next most affordable (£2.90) whereas the train costs the most (£3.40). We made the mistake of relying 100% on CityMapper for our trips and took lots of train-bus or tube-bus journeys, which cost us quite a hefty sum totalled up and we easily hit the £7 Oyster cap every single day until we realised otherwise! On the second-last day (when we were wiser about the buses), our Oyster card expenses only came to £3. Dang.

Now, also note that unlike Singapore, the trains and tubes are entirely different and have different fares for each! We made the mistake of going to Platform 3 for the train when Citymapper actually meant Platform 3 for the tube, and this mistake cost us a hefty £2.40 just to tap out of the train station and into the tube station, which was just a level downstairs, by the way. Don’t be like us!

For local calls and Wi-Fi, we signed up with EE at the airport which gave us 10.5 GB and 100 minutes of calls, valid for 30 days, for just (£20). There were a few other telco providers, but this was the best value-for-money option we found.

Attractions / Musicals
I did some rough calculations before we flew off and realised that entrance tickets to many of London’s attractions were quite pricey, and the best way to save was to get a London Pass, which gave us access to plenty of attractions and cruises to choose from.

As we were there for 8 days (10 days if you include the 2 days we spent flying), I opted for the 6-day London Pass, which I later regretted because there were so many out-of-town options and free museums to go to at hardly any extra cost! We ended up only using 4 days on our card due to our other trips and musicals, which was a slight waste of money. 

I therefore recommend that anyone visiting London to get the 3-day London Pass instead, which should be sufficient to visit most of the key places! Here’s what we did:

Day 1
Big Bus Tour £34
City Cruises  £18.50
Day 2
Tower of London £24.80
Tower Bridge Exhibition £9.80
HMS Belfast £15.45
Namco Funscape £3
View from the Shard £30.95
Day 3
Churchill War Rooms £21
Westminster Abbey £22
Kensington Palace £17
Day 4
Kew Gardens £15
TOTAL
TICKETS COST £211.50
LONDON PASS £130.90
TOTAL SAVINGS £80.60


If you can, try to take one of the open-top bus tours on the first day of your pass so you get familiarised with the city, which will make it easier for you to navigate during the rest of your trip. We chose Big Bus Tours instead of Golden Tours as we preferred the route there, and took both the blue and red route.



The other attractions I would love to have visited on the London Pass (but which we did not have time for) are:
– Shakespeare Globe Theatre (while you’re there, buy a £5 ticket for a live Shakespeare play in the yard!)
– St. Paul Cathedral
– Winsor Castle
– Chislehurst Caves
– Winbledon Tour Experience

If you’re a Potterhead like me, you’ll probably want to sign up for the Harry Potter Studio & Museum Tour as well. It is a little pricey (we paid 
£89 per person) but includes the 2-hour bus ride to and fro, as well as entrance tickets. It isn’t really worth buying any of the merchandise in the store though unless you’re keen on the wands, as we found lots of Harry Potter stuff for much cheaper in…Primark! No kidding! That’s why I bought most of my Harry Potter souvenirs and clothes in the end.


For musicals, we caught three – Aladdin, Matilda and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. If you’re looking for last-minute cheap tickets, the best way would be to queue up outside the respective theatre(s) in the morning to snag some crazy deals at £15 or so per ticket! We had a full itinerary and weren’t willing to make a trip just to queue (not as easy when you’re pregnant), so we opted for cheap last-minute tickets online via this website instead. If we had more time in London, we wanted to catch Book of Mormon and the Lion King, but I guess that will have to wait for another time.


Food and other expenses
Food in London is generally quite expensive if you’re eating out, but a cheap trick is to get them at fast food restaurants like McDonalds, KFC or Leons, or even cold meals at the grocery stores like Marks & Spencer, Co-Op, Tesco, Waitrose, etc.


If you eat one cheap (grocery / fast food) meal and one restaurant meal a day, that should help to keep your food budget lean.

Psssst, don’t underestimate the cold meals at the groceries stores – I loved the pastas, fruit smoothies and sandwiches we got from there! If you’re looking for a cheap and quick coffee fix, I also highly recommend the £1 coffees from Marks & Spencer, which we felt tasted wayyyyy better than that of Costa Coffee at just 1/3 the price.

Tap water in London is treated and drinkable, so you can also save by asking for tap water on ice at restaurants instead of purchasing a drink. 


Day trips out of central London
We did a few day trips out of London and loved them so much that I would highly recommend you to consider the same!




1. Lavender Fields at Mayfields
We used the CityMapper app and got there via public transport, although the journey was a little long at 2-hours each. Entrance tickets are cheap at just £2 to enter the lavender farm and walk around, have a picnic, take lots of photos, breathe in the scent of the lavender flowers, etc!



2. Richmond Park
Did you know that you can spot wild deers in London at this park? We didn’t know, until our local friend told us! Although the deers are always roaming around this huge 2000-acre park so some tourists have unfortunately gone and never got to see them, we went on a hot summer day and figured that the deer would be near a water source, so we entered via Roehampton Gate, turned right and walked for 10 minutes as we followed the water stream to eventually reach a lake, and that’s where we found all the deers! 

Although the signs said to stay away from the deers, we saw some locals bring them food and successfully managed to pet them. We didn’t know this tip beforehand so we had to settle for admiring them from a distance. But you didn’t hear this tip from me, because the signs say to stay 50 metres away from the wild deer! 😛



3. The City of Bath and Stonehenge
We did this through a £90 tour with Golden Tours (tip: London Pass holders get 15% off tour bookings!) and it made for a fantastic and relaxing day out. Lunch (or more like a snack box) and a bottle of water was also provided for the long ride, which was quite comfortable. I absolutely adored the City of Bath, and you can even go on a Jane Austen walking tour if time permits. Don’t forget to also grab high tea at the famous Sally Lunn eatery while you’re there! As for Stonehenge…let’s just say it is a place I would definitely visit once in a lifetime but never go back again because there’s hardly anything to see other than just…stones.


Other budget tips
Now, if you don’t intend to get a London Pass (trust me, it’s worth the tremendous savings! I’m usually skeptical of tourist passes like these but I’m convinced about the London Pass, having done my calculations and experienced it for myself), there are still other ways to enjoy London without having to fork out too much for attractions. Here are some tips:

Instead of The Shard, book a slot at the Sky Garden here to get a fantastic view of London, for free!
– Go on free walking tours such as this or this (best to tip after you’re done though)
– Visit the museums and galleries, almost all of which are free! We loved the Natural History Museum most of all.
– Visit other free tourist landmarks like Borough Market, Leadenhall, Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Piccadilly Circus, Camden Market, etc.
– Walk around London’s fabulous city parks like Hyde Park or Green Park


I hope all the above budget tips and itineraries help you to plan your own vacation to London! 

P.S. Just don’t ask me where we stayed in London as we need to protect our host’s identity. Thanks! All other questions are welcomed. 
With love,

Budget Babe