Category: SG Budget Babe

Choosing the right BTO flat

“Honey, let’s invest and buy the BIGGEST BTO flat in the MOST CENTRAL location so that we can sell it off for a huge profit next time!”
Does this sound familiar? Indeed, this is the mindset of many Singaporean couples, who believe that buying and selling property is a sure way to make them rich.

While BTOs are indeed one of the cheapest housing options around, biting off more than you can chew is potentially financial suicide.

Since I’m getting married next year, N and I have started looking at housing options. This post is about what we learnt about BTO flats when considering whether to get one for ourselves.

How much do BTO flats actually cost?

According to HDB, 80% of BTO flat buyers in 2015 can service their home loans fully from CPF. This means that they are not paying a single cent cash for their monthly instalment!

But as we all saw earlier this year, sale prices of BTO flats in Bidadari were NOT CHEAP. The selling price of a 4-room flat was $480,000! A 5-room flat was even more expensive, at $590,000!

So how did those buyers do it? What are the secrets to getting an affordable BTO flat? Here’s how!

The secret to getting a cheap BTO flat

Tip #1: Go for a non-mature estate

The reason why Bidadari BTO flats are so expensive (by normal BTO standards) is simply because it is located in a mature estate (Toa Payoh).

Similarly, if you look at the recent Ang Mo Kio BTO launch this year, the prices were not very cheap either. That is because Ang Mo Kio is another prime mature estate.

And in the latest November BTO launch, 4-room flats in Kallang are going for $497,000, before grants and from $482,000, after grants.

Thus, if you want to get a BTO flat for a cheaper price, one trick is to go for non-mature estates. BTO flats are generally more affordable in non-mature estates and there is also less competition from other buyers, which improves your chances of getting a flat.

Another plus point is that you also have more choices in a non-mature estate. The Ang Mo Kio launch earlier, for instance, had no 3-room flats for couples to choose from.

“But it is so far! I will take forever to travel to work!”

That was my exact reaction too, but honestly, Singapore is small enough such that you can get to places pretty fast. And we are so well-connected that you are never too far away from town. Most importantly, non-mature estate these days are well equipped with all the amenities you need for your daily needs (shopping centre, hawker centre, food courts, cinema etc.), so there is no real need for you to travel far for almost anything! After you’ve lived in the U.S. like me, where travelling by car for 1 – 2 hours is deemed as “not too far away”, you’ll start to appreciate the size of our nation.

Tip #2: Choose the right flat size
Another trick is to choose the right flat size. While many want their homes to be as big as possible, you may need to moderate your expectations if you’re limited by your finances. Plus, do you really want to do all the extra cleaning and maintenance that comes with a bigger house?

For a young couple living on their own, a 3-room or 4-room flat is frankly good enough, even with 1 – 2 young children (N and I are looking at a 4-room flat only because his parents will be living with us as well). A 4-room flat also has the same number of bedrooms as a 5-room flat. The main difference is that a 5-room flat has an extra dining area, which I feel is pretty unnecessary since most of us eat while watching the TV anyway!

In any case, you can always upgrade later on to a bigger flat when your kids are older and need more space, or when you have saved up even more money.

Tip #3: Know your grants
If you are a first-time home buyer, you can get as much as $80,000 if you buy a BTO flat. Here’s how:

If you and your spouse earn up to $5,000, you can get the Additional CPF Housing Grant (AHG) of up to $40,000.

If you and your spouse earn up to $8,500 and buy a 4-room or smaller flat in the non-mature estate, you can also receive the Special CPF Housing Grant (SHG) of up to $40,000, on top of the AHG. This may be one of the best reasons to buy a smaller flat in a non-mature estate.

What this all means is that most young couples can receive at least $20,000 in grants if they choose the right BTO flat. Let me illustrate:

If we take my pathetic $2,500 fresh-graduate pay from my first job, a couple in a similar position would have a combined income of $5,000 and would get grants of $45,000.

But these days, the average university graduate typically earns above $3,000 in their first job. Most couples I know also get married after working and saving up for a few years. Thus, realistically, couples can expect to receive a grant of about $20,000 – $55,000 (instead of the maximum $80k), based on a typical combined income of $4,000 – $7,000.

So if you follow all the tips I’ve shared, you will find that BTO flats can actually provide great value.

If we focus on just BTO flats in non-mature estates, they can go from as low as $4k for a 2-room Flexi flat, $100k for a 3-room flat, $200k for a 4-room flat, and $330k for a 5-room flat after grants.

And it’s not just the cheapest flats which are affordable. The median selling prices for BTO flats after grants are:

       2-room Flexi: $50,000

       3-room: $120,000

       4-room: $260,000

Paying less than $300,000 for a 4-room flat in places like Hougang, Yishun or Bukit Panjang is honestly a pretty good deal, if you asked me.

If you get a HDB loan for your BTO flat – which grants you up to 90% of your house value – you do not even need to fork out a single cent upfront. Taking my earlier example of a young couple earning $5,000, their monthly mortgage will be just $1,000, which can be fully paid from their monthly CPF contribution.

Buying the right-sized BTO in a non-mature estate is the most financially savvy option for Singaporean couples.

Before I understood the concept of financial freedom, I too dreamed of having a big HDB flat in the best location so that I can sell it for a high price on the resale market.

While this is not necessarily wrong, there are flaws in treating your first home as mainly an investment. For one, you’re likely to be at a younger age (and therefore lesser earning power) when you buy, so you’re limited by your capital. So you could be over-stretching yourself to buy the most desirable flat. The other more important truth is that it is still, after all, a home, a place you live in to create memories with your loved ones.

If you sell it, where will you then stay?

It is easy to say we will sell high on the resale market, but that usually happens in an upmarket for property. Furthermore, when you’re in a bullish upmarket, do you realise that you’ll be buying your next flat (to replace the one you just sold) at a higher price as well?

Thus, you’ll effectively be selling high and buying high.

I never realised this until N explained it to me. As a result, I now see my first house as firstly a home, instead of purely viewing it from an investment perspective. That, can be an additional bonus later on.

We’re now waiting for the next launch in February as we keep our eyes peeled for a 4-room BTO flat in a non-mature estate. Could you be our next neighbour?

This post is sponsored by the Ministry of National Development (MND), who asked me for my thoughts on whether a BTO would indeed be one of the most financially sound options for a young Singaporean couple like myself. All opinions stated here are that of my own.

Hitting $100,000 In Savings by Age 26

I got a pleasant surprise when I checked my CPF statement recently.After 3 years of work, my CPF has accumulated to a good $51,000 sum, which therefore brings my current net worth to above $100,000 from just savings alone. The breakdown is as follows: …

Which Credit Cards to Use for Wedding Expenses

 Singaporean couples can expect to spend at least $40,000+ if they’re getting married in Singapore and holding a wedding banquet.

Many couples spend up to $60,000 as a bare minimum, especially if they opt for an overseas pre-wedding shoot in Korea which is all the rage these days (no thanks to the K-drama wave). Here’s a list of wedding items most couples typically need to spend on (based on what I was quoted):

Bridal Package


Pre-wedding Photoshoot

$2,000 (local)
$5,000 (overseas, inclusive of airfare)

Wedding Rings


Betrothal Package (Guo Da Li)

(excludes dowry cash)

Wedding Banquet

$20,000 (restaurant / café)
$40,000 (hotel)

Wedding Decorations

$3,000 (fresh florals)


$4,000 (wedding favours, bridal accessories, bridesmaids and groomsmen outfits, actual day ang paos etc)



Grand total: $40k – $70k

For couples who are spending so much, many have asked me which is the best credit card for them to charge their wedding expenses to. There is no easy answer.

Due to various terms and conditions tied to each card – especially on capped amount of cashback, minimum monthly spending, etc – I’ve worked out a way to tap on various cards in order to get the maximum cashback from one’s wedding expenses.


Card To Use


Bridal Package


American Express True Cashback Card


Pre-wedding Photoshoot



Wedding Rings


Standard Chartered MANHATTAN World MasterCard

Pay $3k deposit in the first month, and the remaining $1k to be combined with your betrothal package and more to hit $3k total in the following month.

Betrothal Package (Guo Da Li)


Combine in a new month with your remaining $1k payment for wedding ring to hit the min. spending.

Wedding Decorations


$10 + 

$138 signup bonus

Spend a min. of $3k in one calendar month to get the max. 3% cashback, capped at $200 per quarter.

Wedding Banquet


UOB One Card


Split into $2k monthly instalments to be paid over 20 months.



SingPost Platinum Visa Credit Card


OCBC Frank Credit Card

$140 + $138 signup bonus

Buy and pay for the following online: wedding favours, outfits for your bridesmaids and groomsmen.

SingPost: 7% cashback for online, min. $600 monthly spending, cashback capped at $60/month.


OCBC: Note that you must also spend min. $400 offline before you can get the 6% online rebates.



CIMB Platinum MasterCard

$500 + $150 signup bonus

10% cashback on airlines and hotels



– AMEX cashback capped at $5k spend for first three months

– Standard Chartered MANHATTAN World MasterCard: 3% cashback with min. spend of $3,000 per statement month, capped at $200 cashback per quarter

– Please read the respective T&Cs on each card website before signing up and plan out your expenses to qualify for the maximum cashback rebates.

Alternatively, if you just want ONE card for convenience’s sake, then the American Express True Cashback Card would be the best option, as it doesn’t have any cap on total cashback. However, as the 3% cashback offer is capped at a total of $5,000 in the first 6 months, you’ll have to plan out your payments carefully to make sure you do not end up only getting the subsequent lower 1.5% cashback instead. After the first 6 months are over, you’ll only get 1.5% cashback on your remaining purchases.

Furthermore, the cashback will only be awarded if your account is in good standing and not overdue. A good way to check this would be to obtain your credit report to assess whether you’re in sound financial health for the banks and credit card lenders to reward you.

The UOB One card is best paired with a UOB One savings account (which I think might just be UOB’s comeback to compete with the attractive OCBC 365 account), and I’ve previously reviewed it here. 

Why all that homework to maximize cashback?

Given how much the wedding industry is over-charging for their services (you can read my thoughts about it here), you’ll need to be extra diligent if you really want to make sure you end up spending a sum you can well afford.

Many couples opt for the easy way out – get a bridal studio package + hotel banquet package. The remaining items (photography, videography, hair, makeup, flowers, decor, etc) will usually come with top-up fees. It saves you time from sourcing individually yourself, but the costs are not necessarily the cheapest. Of course, quality might then be another issue if you’re only working from their affiliated vendors.

With only a few months left to our wedding, I’ve been quite busy sourcing around for different quotes and confirming on the vendors for our wedding. Unsurprisingly, all the wedding gimmicks and estimated costs I had predicted in last year’s post were spot on, but I hadn’t accounted for one more nasty surprise: inflation-adjusted rates!

I won’t mention which, but one hotel banquet we enquired with had their 2016 table rates at $1,200+ but quoted $1,700+ for weddings in 2017! A makeup artist my friend used earlier this year charged $350, but revised her rates to $650 when I enquired for my 2017 wedding! 

I swear, all these rip-offs need to stop. 

Now that I’m going through the same experience, it has certainly opened my eyes up to see how much money this industry is earning from couples – and on the contrary, how we can try to limit that cash outflows.

Of course, please read up on each card’s T&Cs before you apply, as I’ve not covered every clause here. 
Many of these rebates and credit card rewards are also often given to customers with good credit standing – to check if you’re among them, you can purchase your credit report from the Credit Bureau for $6 + GST. From now until the end of December 2016, you can get your credit report for free instead here.
P.S. NOT a sponsored post. I used SingSaver + the respective card / bank websites to compare the benefits and work out the spending hack in the above table. All numbers are accurate as of November 2016.
With love,
Budget Babe

Review: BigFatPurse Value Investing Mastery Course

When I first embarked on my investing journey last year, I started out by reading various books on the topic and trying to pick up some skills through the self-taught method.

Needless to say, I made quite a number of amateur mistakes along the way, but that’s a story for another day.

After making some of these mistakes, I thought that perhaps attending investing courses would help me – after all, I get to learn from the experts, and pick their brains on how I can become a better investor. Unfortunately, I realised what I wanted out of the workshops and what the trainers wanted were two completely different things – while I wanted to learn techniques and skills which I could then execute myself, most of them were more interested in (hard-)selling me a 4-digit course fee instead.

Many of these “workshops” were simply previews of a more expensive course. For these, I felt like I had wasted my day at the place because I hardly learnt anything new. Here’s how their “workshops” go:

       Introduce value investing. Talk about Warren Buffett, the kind of amazing results he made, how he is the only person on Forbes’ list to have earned his riches through investing and not through business, etc.

       Share their (the trainers’) personal life story. I was stuck in the civil service working a 9-to-5 job and was a slave to my bosses! Then I stumbled upon this XX course and my investing PASSIVE income was now exceeding my monthly income! I quit my job because I really believe in financial education and knowledge!

       Show off their company’s track record. Cue performance charts of their returns. Show cheques or slips of money they’ve received through dividends. Show stock prices with arrows pointing at buying high and selling low.

       Say they’ll now teach you the secret of value investing. Mention “buy high sell low”, “calculate intrinsic value”, “invest in companies with economic moats”, etc.

       Go through case studies of value stocks. Among the most popular examples used include SATS, Starhub, VICOM, etc. Sorry if you’re hoping for stock tips because these stock prices are now over-valued.

       Ask the audience “Wouldn’t you like to learn how to find these stocks for yourself?”

       Introduce their members-only scheme. Share about their members track record. Play videos of interviews with their members proclaiming how glad they were that they signed up and the kind of returns they are making.

       Sell a 4 or 5-digit course to you. This is the part where I leave while shaking my head in disgust at how I’ve wasted an entire day listening to them talk about themselves with nothing of value to me.

I’m not here to lambast or smear anyone’s name(s), so I shall not name the courses I went for. But there is one particularly course I want to single out today: BigFatPurse’s Value Investing Mastery Course (VIMC).

I attended VIMC over the weekend, expecting to go through somewhat the same flow. Boy, was I wrong.

VIMC was not a preview – it was the real deal. In the 8 hours I spent there, I learnt a method and step-by-step calculations which I could apply immediately once I stepped out of the class. There was no need to sign up for anything more; I had learnt the skills to now execute and put into practice by myself.

Whether you’re a beginner or experienced investor, you’ll find that this course will really open your eyes up to investing and introduce a new way of valuing stocks that you’ve probably never encountered before. The trainers – Alvin and Louis – taught us about BigFatPurse’s proprietary investing strategy which focuses on capital gain rather than dividend yield.

This is their Conservative Net Asset Value (CNAV) strategy which they’ve created themselves which provides a systematic  approach to valuing stocks and finding out when to buy and sell them.

Unlike many other courses on value investing, what they taught here is NOT available in any books out there. Even after reading so many investment books and websites, I’ve never encountered their strategy nor calculations before. This alone made my entire day spent at the workshop worth it.

I’m not paid to promote them, but if you asked me, this is the most REAL investment course I’ve ever attended with absolutely no hard-selling. It was a breath of fresh air compared to all the other courses I’ve attended this year. VIMC starts by giving you a short introduction of value investing (not just Warren Buffett, surprise!) and then it goes straight into the CNAV methodology and calculations. At the last hour, you’ll then play an investment game (I don’t want to give anything away here, but this is frankly the most exciting and insightful part of the course where you’ll discover more about your own investing style and assumptions).

SGD 98 is far too cheap given the value I got from this 1-day workshop. In fact, I even spoke to Alvin after and told him they ought to raise the price (considering what others are charging) to at least 3-digits, but he politely declined my suggestion. I don’t understand it.

Update: the folks at BFP have just informed me that their higher rental costs leave them with no choice but to increase prices so each ticket will now be $128 for next year. (I can attest to this: venue rental prices are about $800 – $1500 on weekends when I tried sourcing for event spaces. Try Googling yourself.)

When I told them I would be publishing a review of their course, Alvin went one step further to offer a further discount for my readers. Frankly speaking, I think he’s crazy to not want to charge higher.

VIMC even comes with a money-back-guarantee if you’re not satisfied with the course. I really don’t understand what these folks are thinking.

Disclaimer: I was invited to attend VIMC for free, but after going through the workshop, I can honestly say this is something I’ll gladly and extremely willing to pay for because of the tremendous value I got out of it. This is not affiliate marketing and I do NOT get a single cent if you sign up using the link or my coupon code, but I’ve promoted it here anyway because I frankly think this course is the most valuable one I’ve ever attended.

Find out the dates for their next VIMC course at this link and apply coupon code BUDGETBABE for a $20 discount! 

Aside from value investing, they also teach on other investments:
Investing in Bonds (13 May 2017)
Investing in REITS (3 June 2017)

Now excuse me while I go check on my queue order for my first CNAV stock purchase 😀 I had spent my Saturday night poring over the research right after I came home from the course. See, I wasn’t kidding about being able to use the skills immediately!

With love,

Budget Babe