Category: SG Budget Babe

Terms to know in the cryptocurrency social universe

When I first dipped my toes into the universe of cryptocurrencies, I could barely understand a word of what the crypto folks were talking about on Reddit, Medium and the various other forums. It was like a whole new different language, and I’m not even…

Cashback vs Miles Cards – Why I’m on Team Cashback

Hello guys!

For those of you who didn’t manage to get tickets to the live event earlier, you can watch the full video here!

I hope I’ve convinced you guys about the merits of being of Team Cashback 😛

You can tune into the video to hear both sides of the argument (I didn’t get to present all my pointers yet, but will do so in a subsequent writeup) and decide for yourself whether the miles or cashback strategy will be best for you.

At the end of the day, the choice between miles vs. cashback cards really comes down to an individual’s lifestyle profile and preferences (especially how much a personal values premium air travel). If you’re a frequent business traveller like Aaron (The MileLion), it’ll be quite silly for you to be playing the cashback game. But for mere mortals like the rest of us who don’t get the privilege of travelling (especially via our company) that often, then cashback might be a better option.

For someone who’s content with flying economy (like my husband and I), then cashback cards truly offer us better value and control in redeeming the flights that we want PLUS with leftover cash to spare…which can then fund our holiday discretionary expenses.

Don’t forget about restrictions imposed on miles redemption either:
– Miles are subject to devaluation at a rate faster than inflation
– You can’t earn interest on your miles, unlike cashback
– You’ll often find yourself on the waitlist for flight redemptions
– You’ll need to have that flexibility in your travel dates because you don’t have control

Sure, cash is subjected to inflation too, but if you invest that cash right, you’ll be able to keep up or even earn more than what it costs you in inflation.

Most importantly, with the competition among airlines and increased budget travel options, cash can go a much longer way than miles in this regard.

I’m not saying adopting a miles strategy is bad. I’m saying it depends on your lifestyle and preference. In my case, a 100% miles strategy doesn’t work for me, and I get much more value being on Team Cashback (cash back on my credit card + extra interest on my high-yield savings account!).

And you know what? Although Aaron and I are on opposite camps when it comes to this topic, that doesn’t mean both strategies are exclusive! You can even adopt the best of both strategies – cashback PLUS miles. I’ll talk more about this in a later post.

There’s a few cards and tools I recommended during the session and I know it can get quite complicated, so don’t worry, I’ll be sharing that spreadsheet soon! I’m currently finalizing some details and promotions with the various companies and will be releasing the
2018 Cash Maximising Tools (An Ultimate Guidebook to getting more out of every dollar) in a few weeks, so stay tuned!

#notsponsored

I got a few PMs about my outfit details, so here they are!
Dress from Playdress: $19.90
McDonalds LINE fan (Cony): $6
Seashell bag: $12.90 (Buy from Zalora + Shopback)
A lot of Instagram influencers have been recommending Cluse watches recently on my feed.
I didn’t think it was worth all that hype, so here’s what I got instead.
Top photo: Cluse watch
Bottom photo: Mine

With love,
Dawn (aka Cashback Girl, heh)

Everyone is a millionaire on hindsight

With Bitcoin’s price having broke through the $10,000 threshold a few days ago, many of us are kicking ourselves in the ass for not having invested earlier.

For me, I’m kicking myself for not putting in MORE earlier.


It is easy for us to look at Bitcoin’s historical graph today and think, “Dang, it was so obvious. I’d be rich today if I had invested back then!”
But let’s get real. Reality isn’t that simple when you zoom in deeper, especially when you have no crystal ball to tell you what the future price will be.
If you had invested $10,000 in Bitcoin in January 2013 and held it until December (a 1000% gain), you’ll probably be celebrating the fact that you grew your pot to $100k. But then suddenly, the price starts free-falling. In less than 3 weeks, your $100k has suddenly shrunk to $50k. That’s half your wealth gone! 
What do you do? You’d probably sell in panic before you lose all your gains entirely. Then, as price starts recovering, you’ll be kicking yourself for making such a stupid mistake and buy back more Bitcoins.
Then it drops again, this time crashing to below $500, and for the rest of 2014 it continues on a downward spiral until it bottoms in January 2015. But then it stays low.

In 2015, price (slowly) starts recovering. What will you probably think? Bitcoin will have to more than triple in value to reach back its previous peak. And as it inches closer to the $1000 mark, you look at the charts and think, “Hey, that looks like it could hit $1000 and then crash again”. You decide to stay out.

Be honest with yourself. Each time you think about how you could have been rich today if you bought back then, ask yourself if you would have really been able to stomach the ride and hold onto your Bitcoins until now.

What would you have done?

“Shit, I better sell all my Bitcoins now before it goes to zero.”

“Nah, the price increase must be temporary. I’ll wait.” (and wait, and wait, and wait…)

“I don’t know if I dare to put in a large amount into this…”

Warren Buffett could have said the same – we all know about how he missed out on the meteoric rise of Internet companies – but does he?

In my case, I invested only money I could afford to lose, and I know that if I were to go back in time again, I would have done the same because I simply didn’t have the knowledge then that Bitcoin would rise to $10,000.

It is easy to say “I wish I invested in XX a few years ago”. Heck, I do it too; just ask my husband.

Then I smack myself and say, “Okay Dawn, stop it. You know very well you would have made the same decision.”

A friend of mine shared this post, written by a Joseph Lee, which I thought was worth sharing here to serve as a reminder for myself to keep coming back to this post whenever I start to harbour similar (useless) thoughts.

Joseph referenced Amazon’s stock, and there are many parallels here to Bitcoin. His words are reproduced below in grey:

When we look back at selected stocks 10 or 15 or even as far back as 20 years ago, we all wished we had looked into the crystal ball 20 years ago and seen the explosive growth of companies like AMZN and poured in all the money we had at that time, sat tightly for the next 20 years and today, we might even afford to buy a private jet!
But is it that simple ?
Look at how many choppy ups and downs the company went through between the years 1998 and 2012 before it finally took off steadily to hit a record high price of $1,186 today. The chart resembles the choppy waters of a raging sea doesn’t it?
Suppose you had been lucky enough to invest several thousands in AMZN at around $10 in 1998 and it shot up to $120 ( a 12-bagger) at the peak of the dot-com bubble in year 2000, would you not have sold most of it, if not all of your investment in AMZN since you grew your money 12-fold in a few short years?
Imagine what would have happened if you had become greedy and think the stock will continue smoothly up to give you maybe a 120 bagger in another 3 years time in 2003?
That’s how most people get sucked into that kind of thinking whenever there’s some mania going on and everyone is telling everyone else the kind of easy money they made and why you should not miss the boat and join the ‘party of easy money’.
What happened then?
The music stopped, the bubble burst and the party came to an abrupt halt.
Anyone who did not take profit while AMZN was rising to $120 got badly burnt- particularly if you had joined the party too late and bought near $120, you’ll be the victim who suffers the “highest degree burn” in that calamity.
Will you be feeling very happy hanging on to a stock you had bought at say $100, watched it plunge all the way down to a bottom of about $7 in 2001 – a 90% loss?
AMZN never recovered back to $120 again until almost 10 years later in 2010.
How will you feel during those 10 long years?
Let’s get real.
If I were you, I’d probably be kicking myself when the crash happens for my greed in joining the ‘party of easy money’ and most likely will dump AMZN sometime between 2002 and 2010 just before AMZN took off!
Then after dumping AMZN in the year 2010, let’s say, you watched AMZN lift off from that point to $200 or even $400 in 2015 but you were already too scared to touch AMZN since you were badly burnt in 2001. How will you feel?
Will you not kick yourself again for being so foolish not to load up on this super stock in 2010 instead of dumping it off since it just broke even after 10 long years, having bought it at the peak before the bubble burst?
You see, everyone is a millionaire or a billionaire on hindsight.
You and I will never be so clever as to spot every opportunity or smell danger by recognising a ‘bubble ‘ until it’s too late.
So why do I even bother to ramble on and on with my long story, you may wonder.
It’s to prove to you and me and all who bother to read, that we should refrain from talking in terms of “if only I had done this and that” then ‘I will be sitting on a pile of cash today’. “If only I knew… “ “ If I had the foresight to know…”
Things are never that simple in life.
Instead of lamenting and regretting for having missed the boat of cryptocurrency and Amazon, allow me to gently but strongly advise you to make the greatest investment in your life.
Invest in yourself.
Then the returns in future will be so handsome you’ll never have to kick yourself again because you’ll be so wise, you’ll be able to recognise most opportunities when they come by and profit from them slowly but surely, that at the end of the rainbow, you’ll surely find the proverbial pot of gold.

I know why I bought Bitcoin only a few months ago, and why I only bought it using money I could afford to lose. The price has more than doubled since then, and it is easy for me to wish I had bought it even sooner (or more of it when I did), but I know why I didn’t. Do you?

You see, we often forget that we have information today that we didn’t have in the past. What is obvious today was not obvious in the past, but nothing has really changed about the fundamentals of Bitcoin.

Harping on these kind of self-defeating thoughts don’t bring us anywhere, nor do they make us richer (unless you can invent a time-turner…or get Hermione Granger to lend you hers).

Folks invested in Amazon, Facebook and Apple because they believed in their strategy and that these companies would eventually come to dominate. The ones who invested in Bitcoin did so because they believed in its breakthrough technology and that it would become a store of value in the future. They made a projection of the future of the company based on hard facts and then decided to put in their money. None of us had any clue that Amazon / Facebook / Apple / Alibaba / Bitcoin would succeed, but they believed it would based on its underlying fundamentals.

So let’s focus on the future. If you want to make sure you don’t make that kind of stupid mistake again, then the best thing you can do for yourself is to invest in your knowledge.

Read. Take courses. Go for workshops. Talk to like-minded people. Listen to experts speak. Watch the news. Absorb information.

That’ll increase your chances of spotting the next Facebook or Bitcoin.

That’s what I’m doing. What about you?

With love,
Dawn

Miles vs Cashback Cards – Which is better?

All my cashback aficionados raise up your hand.This is a challenge. An ultimate showdown. The one you’ve been waiting for (since it was first mentioned on 2 Nov in this post, to be exact).As some of you might have already heard, there’s a crackpot…

Countries with a lower GST than Singapore

Everyone’s fussing about the recent claims that there will be a GST hike soon, but I honestly think there’s no point overreacting. In case you’re not in the loop, DBS recently released a report claiming that Singapore’s GST could soon increase to …

Savvy Travels – Hanoi Itinerary on a Budget


My husband and I recently travelled to Hanoi for a budget getaway, and our total expenses added up to about $700 per person for the entire week.

Here’s a quick breakdown:

Flights (return)

S$250

Accommodation

S$128 (6 nights)

S$66

S$75

Transport

S$21

Food & drinks

S$95 (approx. $15 per day)

Shopping / massage

$70

Total per person

$705

Against the backdrop of Hoa Lu

Flight tickets
For a short flight, Vietjet was our budget carrier of choice. Personally, we felt seats were comfortable enough and service was decent.

We paid $200 per person inclusive of taxes.

Accommodation
I would strongly encourage you to book a hotel or hostel within the Old Quarters, even though the ones outside the area offer more affordable rates.

Trust me, you’ll want to pay for that convenience because none of the tours will pick you up at your hotel if you’re located outside the Old Quarters. Most of the tour groups average about 8 to 15 pick-ups at the different hotels within the city every morning, and have only 30 – 45 minutes to gather everyone. 

So save yourself the headache from the horrendous morning traffic of trying to get into the Old Quarters on time, and just pick an accommodation in the area. You can’t put a price tag on convenience for this.

Local hotels are aplenty, and you’ll find many backpacker hostels going for as little as USD 4 per bed a night. Pay for the level of comfort you desire. 

Us at Hoa Lu, the old capital of Vietnam


Transport & Wi-Fi

Get local wifi (we opted for a portable wi-fi egg from Klook which was conveniently delivered straight to our hotel) so that you’ll be able to navigate Google Maps easily, and download the Grab app for cheap transport options before you go. In our case, we had no trouble with the wifi even while in the rural areas with our wifi egg (while other tourists were struggling to get a stable connection), which latches onto the area’s strongest wifi signal and supports up to 5 devices.

The Uber equivalent in Vietnam is called Grab, and you can book taxis, private cars and even motorbikes on the app for cheap.

Do not take the non-authorised taxis from the airport. Their taxi meters are rigged to run at a faster speed, so you’ll still end up being overcharged! So please learn from our mistake and either get your hotel to book for you, or just book via Grab.

Another example: we got quoted 100,000 VND by our hotel and a tour agency for a taxi trip to Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, when it turned out to be only 25,000 VND on our Grab app -.-

Food and other expenses
In general, food in Hanoi is perfect for the budget traveller. You’ll be able to get a satisfying sandwich for as little as USD 1 on the street, and coffee that is better than Starbucks for just USD 2+. A bowl of pho (rice noodles with beef / chicken soup) will set you back by USD 3. You can also get the local beer for just USD 0.30 (5,000 VND – you didn’t read that wrong!) along Beer Street.

If you’re up for some learning while on vacation, you can also try out the Vietnamese home cooking class we did here – it was a real treat!

Getting around the city via Grab bookings was extremely easy and cheap.

Manicure services start from as little as USD 4, whereas you can get fantastic massages for USD 7 and up. 


DIY walking food tour
There are plenty of tour agencies offering guided food walks within the Old Quarters, but if you’re up for an adventure like we were and prefer to customize your own walking tour, here’s what we DIY-ed

– Local appetisers at Bánh Cuốn Bà Hanh (26B Au Trieu Street). Try the lemongrass pork!
– 4-cheese pizza at 4Pizzas 
– Grilled pork with vermicelli soup + crab spring rolls Bún Chả Hàng Mành 1 (don’t go to the imitation one across the street!)
– Coconut coffee at Cong Caphe
– Egg coffee at Cafe Giang (the original) or Lakeview Cafe (we preferred this)
– A mug of Bia Hoi (local beer) along Ta Hien Street 
– Eel porridge and dry vermicelli at Miến Lươn Đông Thịnh
– Custard apple & “breastmilk” apple at any fruit stall
– Bonus: get the best (and cheapest) foot massage at Vạn Xuân Foot Massage at the end of the day!


(Just download Google Maps and search using the stall names – it’ll show up!)

The fried eel porridge we had in Hanoi was the best I’ve ever tasted in my life.
Thinking about it now is making me drool again.

In addition, we did a cooking class with the local Vietnamese and it was one of the best experiences ever

Cycling in Tam Coc to see the limestone sights.

Day trips out of Hanoi
If you’re the spontaneous sort, I would recommend that you head there directly to any of the numerous tour agencies to book your day trips out of Hanoi. There are at least 2 – 3 on every street.

However, if you’re the anxious type who prefers to have all your bookings confirmed before you fly, then I highly recommend using an online booking agency instead. NEVER book directly through your hotel, as most of them will mark up the prices and sell you for a higher rate than what you’ll find on the streets.

I personally have been using Klook for all my travels in Asia, and never had an issue. Their mobile voucher redemption (no printing, hooray!), instant confirmation and impeccable customer service have won me over numerous times. What’s more, their prices are extremely competitive as compared to the local ones we did.

Our hotel manager told us to shop around but not book outside, boasting that he could match any price or even get it for cheaper. Unfortunately, that all turned out to be a lie as they sold us a day tour to Hoa Lu and Tam Coc for USD 50 per person, when Klook offered the same tour for USD 40 (less after using promo codes).

I highly encourage the following day trips:
– Hoa Lu and Tam Coc
Halong Bay (do the 3D2N version if you can, otherwise you’ll be spending 8 hours travelling to and fro on a single day trip)
Sapa

Us at Halong Bay

At a beautiful cave we explored while on our Halong Bay tour with Klook

We kayaked in Halong Bay too!
Being rowed along the scenic river of Tam Coc

For first-time users, you can key in the promo code BB5 to add a $5 off voucher into your wallet (you can add the code into your wallet first for future use, valid until 30 November 2018). Don’t forget to also get $50 off in their year-end sale if you’re doing any bookings soon!

Click here to check out our adventures to Hoa Lu, Tam Coc and Halong Bay!

With love,
Budget Babe

What the property ads on Facebook aren’t telling you

I’ve been seeing a lot of recent ads on Facebook selling the idea that HDB owners who earn as little as $6k – $8k combined monthly income can:

– Upgrade to a private condominium AND 
– Own a second property AND 
– Get a 5 to 6-digit lump sum of capital 

all WITHOUT forking out any additional cash.

For many of you who have been targeted by these ads and are wondering what the catch really is, I’ll be debunking this today and sharing with you why I think such a message is completely unrealistic and misleading. 

Got such a good deal meh? How does it work?

To be fair, the situation isn’t completely impossible. Here’s how:

1. Sell your HDB flat at a higher price than what you bought it at previously
2. Use the cash profits from your HDB sale to pay for the minimum downpayment of 2 condos (1 to stay in, 1 to rent out).
3. The remaining cash forms your emergency fund.
4. Rent out your second property for $XXXX a month and use that to pay off your mortgage loan on that same property, ideally with excess to spare.

Source


Unfortunately, for a family whose combined income is $6,000 a month, I feel that agents who recommend such a strategy aren’t being financially responsible. 


What’s the catch?

There are many downsides that these agents aren’t telling you about. I spoke with an honest property agent whom I trust in order to clarify this, and here’s a backward projection we came up with.

(Note: This is only ONE projection. I cannot possibly cover all the different scenarios, much less yours, in a single blog post. If you’ll like to understand more about your specific circumstance, please consult an agent for advice instead.

To obtain the full projection, please fill up this form here and I’ll get the agent to send it directly to you.)

We tried very hard to work out a backward projection that meets the claims purported in these ads, and the scenarios only worked out if we assumed a 1-bedder condo (for $800k) was purchased.

But there are many glaring issues that make this very unrealistic. For instance, is a smaller condo even realistic for a family with kids?

Moreover, there are many hidden fees not addressed:
– Condo maintenance fee
– Vacant periods where you’re in between tenants
– Property tax
– Higher income tax (due to rental income)

A few assumptions that we used in order for the backward projection to work out:
– Your HDB was a Built-To-Order (BTO) flat which you bought more than 5 years ago for cheap
– You sell your BTO flat for more than at least $100k – $150k of what you bought it at
– You “upgrade” to a condo but with smaller area (eg. 1 or 2-bedder)

Source



BUT!

If couple earns $6k monthly ($4,800 take-home pay…)

How will they afford to upkeep all these expenses WITHOUT dipping into their emergency funds?
What happens when the emergency funds run out?
What happens if one loses their job?
What happens if interest rates go up?
What happens if they can’t find a tenant?

   
While you’ll indeed be “upgrading” from a HDB to a private condominium lifestyle, ask yourself if a smaller house, possibly in a further location, is truly an “upgrade” at all.

Think about all your transport costs for a location much further away from the MRT station.

Next, now that you’re so highly leveraged, what happens if you lose your job? Will you be able to continue servicing your monthly mortgage debt?

What happens if the Fed raises interest rates, and your mortgage loan suddenly becomes more expensive to service?

What happens if you’re unable to find decent tenants to rent your second property to? Where will you get that additional income?

So…what’s in it for these property agents? Why are they hard-selling this lifestyle to me?

Plenty. They earn not just the commission from selling your HDB, but also TWO more commissions for helping you to buy your condo and additional property.

As for you, congratulations! You’re now knee-high in debt.

Is that what you REALLY want?


Source


If your agent is simply selling you unicorns and rainbows instead of telling you the hard truth behind this magical-sounding strategy, I’d be wary of working with such an agent.

Property investment can indeed be your pot of gold, but if you go into it blind without really realising what you’re signing up for, don’t blame anyone but yourself (and your agent certainly isn’t going to take responsibility when it explodes on you years down the road…)

Look for one who is REALISTIC about fitting in such a strategy into your life and financial circumstances, without landing you knee-high in debt while they walk away with a smile earned from the three commission deals they’ve done for you.

To obtain the full backward projection I used in this post, please fill up this form here and I’ll get the agent whom I consulted to send it directly to you.

With love,
Budget Babe