Category: SG Budget Babe

My Favourite Cashback Credit Cards

It is no secret that I prefer cashback over miles credit cards – after all, I’ve also written extensively on the topic in numerous articles before, including why I’m on team cashback, the best cashback cards to get for 2018, authored the&nbsp…

9 Financial Must-Dos When You’re Having A Baby

How much should a couple have before having a baby?While expenses differ between families (and your preferences), it is always a good idea to start saving up early while you’re trying for a baby, or the moment you find out you’re expecting, so that mon…

Reader’s Story: I’m the Sandwiched Generation. This is what I did to turn things around.

What should you do if you’re sandwiched between your parents, your children, and your own retirement?

I’ve been getting this question a lot lately, thanks to the viral video that NTUC Income launched two weeks ago, and will follow up soon with what I think are some steps readers can take. However, before that, I recently came across a 
sharing from a reader who managed to turn things around by being proactive and getting her finances in order. She has agreed to share her story and I hope this encourages all of you to show that not all is lost:

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I am an only child, with two surviving parents and a toddler daughter. I may still want to give her a sibling later on. I worry about them as well as my husband and my in-laws (my husband has siblings, but they’re not financially well-off to be able to definitely foot the bills with us should anything happen).

My mother (early 60s):

  • Has insurance, but simply not enough savings for retirement. Most of her savings went into helping my dad stem his scary spending. Even till today, my dad still dips into my mom’s savings from time to time. 
  • She doesn’t have any CPF, including in her Medisave. 

My dad (mid 60s):
  • My dad paid for my university education in full from his CPF account, and gave me a $400 allowance every month back then.
  • Has no insurance.
  • Zero savings, except for his CPF retirement account which has a healthy $100k inside. 
  • He also has a almost fully-paid private property which he collects a monthly rental of $2000 on.

I was my parents retirement plan.

To turn things around, I needed to make sure I have insurance for all my dependents, and then come up with a plan to fund my parents retirement through passive rental income on their properties. This was what I did.

Step 1: Bought a resale flat with my mom. 
Back in the late 2000s, in order to unlock the asset value of my dad’s property, I needed to get another place. The HDB rules hadn’t kicked in then, and as my dad’s property was entirely under his own name, my mom and I partnered to buy our own resale flat. My mother wasn’t able to take a loan, so I paid for the flat entirely.

Step 2: Applied for my own 5-room BTO flat with my husband and got our keys recently.
In the early 2010s, I started thinking about how I could make sure both my parents could retire and still have their own passive income to cover their living expenses, if not more. So my husband and I rushed to get our HDB BTO flat. This way, I could give my mom the resale flat for her to earn rental from, whereas my dad can continue to earn rental from his private apartment.

We received the keys to our new BTO flat recently and moved my parents in with us. This enabled them to help care for my daughter, and be able to fully rent out both their respective properties to maximise rental income.

Step 3: My parents stopped working and now enjoy a combined income of over $4000 a month from rental.
This was only possible with prior planning and careful execution every step of the way. Now that I had sorted out a steady income stream for my parents’, I still have to think about the “what ifs” and plan ahead.

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Step 4: Getting insurance for my dependents.
It is important to me that whoever can be insured, is. This was the aftermath once I had revamped my family’s insurance portfolio with our agents.

My mom has:

  • Life insurance + savings plan (which she bought many years ago from her sister) 
  • Personal accident insurance
  • Private hospitalisation plan
My dad has: 
  • no private insurance, as he is a heart patient and was rejected from various insurers
  • Medishield Life is what we can only rely on
My daughter has:
  • Private hospitalisation plan
  • Personal accident insurance
My husband has:
  • Life insurance 
  • Personal accident insurance
  • Private hospitalisation plan
I got for myself:
  • $50k life insurance
  • Investment-linked plan
  • 2 endowment plans (15 and 25 years respectively)
  • Personal accident plan
  • Private hospitalisation plan
  • A pure investment plan (as I am not good and have no time to invest)
  • Increased my coverage by adding a $100k term plan after our daughter was born

Step 5: Getting myself insured.
As my family’s only stable breadwinner (my husband’s job is erratic and there are times when he does not have income, due to fluctuating demand), it was crucial for me to make sure that I don’t have to worry about my parents or my daughter if I should suddenly pass on.

In total, we spend about 10% of our annual income on insurance for protection, and another 10% for my investments. Some say this is excessive, but if I could and knew how to invest well, my investments portion could be further reduced, but at this stage of my life and given circumstances, I have opted to outsource it to a trusted financial advisor (yes, I’m aware I’m paying a fee which I could eliminate if I do direct). This is my choice and preference right now.

TLDR Takeaways

  • Take care of your downside by outsourcing as many big-ticket financial risks as you can to the insurers, within your affordability. Get a trusted agent to do the planning for you, if needed.
  • If possible, come up with a plan to generate passive income for your parents’ retirement. This will really help offset your burden if you constantly have an inflow of cash throughout their golden years.
  • Protect or boost your earned income. Work on your career progression. Get a stable job, build up side income, or generate your own passive income through investments.

I was very heartened to read of this reader’s story and glad that she was willing to share it here, to show that not all is necessarily lost even if we feel like we’re terribly sandwiched between generations. And even if your parents had failed to plan in the past, that doesn’t mean we still cannot take steps today to try and prevent our greatest financial fears from coming true. 

As long as we plan well and ahead, there might still be a way out. Hopefully this inspires you as much as it inspired me!

With love,
Budget Babe

Should I store or donate my baby’s cord blood?

This is a follow-up post to my previous article here on whether cord blood banking is necessary, and one that has been highly requested by many of you who can’t decide whether to donate or store your baby’s cord blood privately.(Please don’t ever disca…

The “Worst” Parents In The World

Sometimes when you give your children your all (leaving barely anything for yourself), this act of love may end up becoming their biggest burden later on in life.

I absolutely loved this heartwarming ad by NTUC Income which recently went viral over the weekend. Not only could I relate to it, I also agreed fervently with the key message of the video that perhaps the best gift parents can give to their children is a good retirement plan for themselves (be it through savings, insurance, annuities, or any other means).

In the video, the groom laments about how his parents (seemed like) the “worst parents in the world” when they didn’t send him for the piano lessons or overseas trips that his friends were going on.

He then goes on to acknowledge that had his parents given him everything he wanted back then, he wouldn’t have everything he had now.

By juggling between spending money on him and saving up for their retirement, his parents’ foresight and planning now allowed him and his bride to focus on the steps they wish to take in their new life together.

This ad really struck a chord with me because I’ve been feeling the burden of being my parents’ retirement fund ever since I started working, as I’ve detailed here in my previous article.

The other thing I’ve realised while growing up is that what I used to want as a child…may not necessarily been what I really needed. Like the lead in the video, I longed for piano lessons (and ballet!) when I was younger, but my mom whisked me off to enrichment classes instead. I complained when my friends got to go on annual holidays whereas my family didn’t (the furthest we’d been was to Malaysia!), but now looking back, I really didn’t need them as much as I thought I did back then.

I used to think my parents were also “bad” parents, but now that I’m older (and a little wiser), I realise they brought me up pretty decently after all. Through their own ways of parenting (which admittedly wasn’t as “lavish” or “pampered” as many of my classmates), they enabled me to learn about thrift, hard work, independence, grit, and many more.

But one thing that differs in the video from my situation? My parents didn’t properly plan for their retirement. Neither did my in-laws. And as such, this is where our stress of having to divide our dual income among five dependents (or perhaps six, as we’re hoping to have a second kid in a few years time).

If you fail to plan for your own retirement, you’re putting the burden onto your children in the future, and that limits their life choices. 

I quote from another reader who shared with me her story:

 “I could have walked so many different paths in my early life if it was not because I worried about a stable income to support my parents.”

As someone whose parents weren’t financially savvy enough and didn’t plan for their own retirement, I’m under tremendous stress today, and I most certainly don’t want my child to have to go through the same in the future. That’s why my husband and I are working towards financial independence, so we don’t have to rely on our child(ren) as our retirement plan and support in the future. That way, they’ll be free to pursue their own life choices.

Want to start your own business but ain’t so sure if you’ll succeed? Go ahead and try; don’t worry about having to find a job that pays you a regular salary because we’re fine and can fend for ourselves.

Want to go abroad to pursue bigger career opportunities? Go ahead, but just remember to Skype us regularly.

So please, get insured and make sure you save up for your own retirement.

Do it for your children, if not for yourself.

With love,
Budget Babe

Review of Cryptocurrency – The Board Game (Kickstarter)

If you’ve ever wondered about the cryptocurrency world, or how to teach the concept to a newbie, there’s now a new game in the market to help you.

Developed by none other than the guys behind Capital Gains Studio (yes, the same folks behind Wongamania and Debtzilla), I was recently invited to play the game and LOVED it.

This is one game I’ll use to teach my friends about cryptocurrencies and how they work in the real world. There’s just so much information out there that it can be really confusing, and many get so intimidated that they don’t know where to start. Not anymore!

This game introduces beginners to the basic concepts of mining, trading and market manipulation that is so often rampant in the cryptocurrency world. And, just like how the flow cryptocurrencies is completely transparent and traceable (unless you use privacy coins) on the blockchain, you’ll also be able to see what coins the other players hold, and what strategy they’re leveraging in order to try to win.

Want to go on the offense? Try sabotaging their coins. Or you can also take the defensive route and protect your own coins instead while you build up your assets in that particular cryptocurrency. Just be careful that someone else doesn’t manipulate it such that it becomes a scam coin at the end of the game, which will make your wealth worthless!

During the game that I played with 3 other players, each of us picked vastly different strategies. It was interesting to see how even someone who had played the game before didn’t really have much of an edge against the rest, because you can’t really control the events that happen in the cryptocurrency (game) world and the game dynamics each time is always different.

Our game of 4 players saw:
1. A powerful miner
2. A bad luck miner 😂
3. A gambler / trader
4. Me! 

One picked the mining strategy and assembled a team of technological experts to help her increase her odds of success. A successful mining exercise will reward you with cryptocurrencies and transaction fees, while a failed attempt gives you nothing. And just like in the real world of crypto, mining gets more difficult over time as more people choose to mine that coin. 

Another took the trading route, where he manipulated the market to buy and sell cryptocurrencies. With every 4 units bought or sold, the price gets pushed up or down respectively. This mimics the real-world action of folks whom we call “whales”, who manipulate the market prices as well due to the substantial volume they can take up (or let go). You can read more about whales and price manipulation in the crypto markets here

Lastly, we also had the rumours, which all of us engaged in. As I’ve highlighted before, rumour mongering is extremely common in cryptocurrencies, and that’s why there are so many people falling for scam coins aplenty (some of which I’ve exposed on this blog before). In the game, we had the chance to deploy one open or hidden rumour card on each crypto coin, and the race was on to make a particular coin become THE scam coin of the game so that the player who HODL (held on for dear life) onto the coin would lose money.

Here’s my winning shot! 
There’s no winning strategy per se, because even my strategy was part luck and part skill. As mentioned, luck and events play a huge role in this game, so it is hard to have full control all the time! Adapting as the circumstances change would be key (and that’s another crucial skill to have in the real-life crypto world as well).

I personally used a combination of mining (where I got quite lucky), traded somewhat, and also manipulated the market with the rumour cards that I put out. At one point, flush with cash, I also employed the whales strategy and moved the prices with my buying and selling. 

If When I get to play this game again, I’d want to try out the other strategies as well and try winning on them! 

Our table shot.
If you’re looking for a fun and light-hearted way to learn about the new economy of cryptocurrencies, this board game would be perfect. My only gripe is that given the level of the concepts being taught, the makers seem to be aiming a little too high when they say this game was designed to be suitable from secondary school level and up, because I feel as though it’ll be too hard for them to grasp.

All in all, I had great fun playing this game, and would recommend it to anyone who’s curious to learn more about cryptocurrencies in general. I’ll also be using this game to teach my kid once he’s a little older, because I’ve also bought Bitcoin for him as part of his inheritance portfolio 😂

The game has already been fully funded with minimal marketing, and even before I was done with this blog post, so I guess you’ll soon be seeing it sold in retail stores at its full price of $39. This is your best chance to get it at a discount while they’re still in Kickstarter stage! There’s only 10 days left till the project ends.

I’ve already backed it at the highest tier and am excited to receive my copy (although it’ll coincide with my expected labour date, LOL). What about you? ๐Ÿ™‚

 P.S. Not sponsored to write this review, but am doing so because I genuinely enjoyed the games created by Capital Gains Studio since 2015 when Wongamania was first launched! This game was no exception, and I’m happy to support them once more with my own money backing the project. All opinions expressed are of my own. 

With love,
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:

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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

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 ๐Ÿ˜€ 

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 in advance, and that’s it! I intend to bring our son here to play very soon ๐Ÿ™‚
  • 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 ๐Ÿ˜›

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 …