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3 Powerful Yet Simple Money Saving Tips

>> Friday, February 6, 2015

January has just ended and we are over a month into 2015. For those who still remember your new year resolutions, how is the progress? If it is going downhill, another opportunity is just round the corner, Lunar New Year resolutions! *Smile* This topic arose during a recent conversation and it seems most of us had a new year resolution to save more money this year.
Out of curiosity, I did a search online for some life hacks on money saving tips. There was so much advice on a variety of creative ways to save. However, I felt that majority were advocating difficult or compromising ways of simply being frugal. For example, dining out less often, giving up expensive habits like smoking or drinking, take public instead of driving or simply spending less.
No wonder resolutions fail. However, I did find 3 simple yet useful tips from the sea of overwhelming information.
1. Paying By Credit Card
This may seem counter intuitive but the right credit card can actually help to save without compromising on the same purchase. Simply sign up at least 1 card from each bank and before paying, casually ask if there is any credit card promotions. Chances are if there is, it will usually save 10% to 20% off just like that. Even if there isn’t, using the appropriate card for the specific purpose will also help to save. For example, supermarket purchases can get 6% cash back and online purchases can get 7% cash back with Standard Chartered Singpost card; Weekend dining has 6% cash back with the OCBC 365 card; co-brand cards get more rebates, etc (Of course, the respective terms and conditions apply).
2. Doing Research First
That leads to point 2, doing the research for the right credit card. Nowadays with the availability of online connectivity, a quick check online will be able to do a comparison almost instantly. Just checking online if there is a cheaper alternative for the same item being purchased can help to save without compromising. So, simply do a check before purchasing groceries, air tickets, appliances, gadgets, etc. This can also be extended to research for the best deposit interest rates or mortgage rates for re-financing. For example, OCBC 360 Account gives 3.05% p.a. for a savings account if 3 simple conditions are met; POSB is giving 1.88% p.a. for a 1 year fixed deposit equivalent arrangement, etc (Again, the respective terms and conditions apply).
3. Planning Purchases
Last point to wrap up is to take advantage of certain time frame promotions. For certain purchases that are not urgent or can be paid ahead of time, it would be beneficial to hold the purchase for certain promotion periods like the Great Singapore Sale (GSS), Christmas Sales or like the recent SF50 promotion. Relating back to the first point, to fulfill the terms and conditions of the credit card, there is no point to “over-spend” and exceed the cash back limit within a certain period and subsequently not able to meet the next month, spread out the expenses or wait until the next billing cycle if possible.

Well, I hope these tips will prove useful to help save a little more as they are not impossible to do and most importantly, it does not compromise the lifestyle to be a scrooge. Do share if you have tips that have worked for you.

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5 Poor Money Decisions Due To Peer Pressure

>> Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Peer pressure is usually associated with teenagers who are at a phase that they are easily influenced. What comes to mind is the persuasion of friends to try out smoking or drinking. However, it also subconsciously has a huge influence in adulthood when making certain financial decisions.

1. Property
In Singapore, our residential property for most of us will be the single most expensive purchase in our lives. When making the huge decision of which property, the often heard advice is “the bigger the better”. Reason is many people drawing reference from historical performance, property prices in Singapore only goes upward. So, with leverage, the potential for absolute appreciation is better for bigger properties. Hence, peer pressure to get larger units.

2. Travel
A common expensive “hobby” among Singaporeans has to be travelling, so much so that it has become surprising, even shocking, if someone mentions that they have not travelled overseas over the year! In addition, it has become sort of a competition to go more and more exotic locations. Hence, peer pressure to be a globe trotter.

3. Dining
There is now a need to find unique dining experiences during occasions. Be it a birthday, anniversary, promotion treats, farewell and even weddings. Many a times comparison is drawn that the previous time at so and so place was amazing, this time needs to outdo the last. Hence, peer pressure to fancy dining places.

4. Accessories
For lack of a better word, this would be all the things people buy. Like cars, watches, handphones, handbags, jewelry, proposal rings, shoes, clothing, gadgets, etc, just to name a few. It has sort of become a norm that if certain things are not changed in 2 years or if they are not branded, you are classified as a dinosaur or cheapo that owns something belonging to a museum. Hence, peer pressure to keep buying.

5. Gifting
This would be more of a “face” (Chinese – Mian Zi) issue and I just realized that there is simply no direct English translation for this. An attempt to translate will be to preserve the honor, dignity and reputation. So, to save “face”, the gift for occasions need to measure up to expectations. There are even guidelines online for the “market rate”. Gifts mean during occasions like birthdays, weddings, funerals, baby showers and any other celebrations. Hence, peer pressure to give bigger ang pao-s (red packets).

And a sixth one just for parents - Children. This deserves a whole separate topic for cradle to grave. It starts with comparing which gynecologist/hospital, milk powder, childcare, extra classes to growing up tuition and grades. Hence, peer pressure to provide better for children.

Overcoming peer pressure, especially during adulthood, is easier said than done. We may think we have out grown it, but in actual fact, our decisions are often influenced by marketing, the environment, society and simply those around us.

Well, everything within ones means - do not yield to peer pressure and over stretch the finances. Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year!
Are you guilty of the above as well? Do share in the comments.

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Mortgage Management: CPF, HDB or Bank

>> Tuesday, December 9, 2014

After a fruitful discussion with a friend who was considering among the options of (1) using CPF to pay in full, (2) take a HDB loan or (3) take a bank loan for his HDB flat, I did quite a lot of calculations, so I thought I might as well share it, in case there are others who face the same dilemma.

Option 1 will need to be the reference point. Based on the assumption of $100k as a ball park figure in CPF where any other amount can be multiplied from. Time frame will be another consideration, but will pick a short time frame of 5 years and any other tenure will compound the differences further.

Option 1, CPF will determine the opportunity cost which will be using (1.25^5 – 1) = $13k.

Option 2 (assuming the $100k in CPF is squirreled away in a CPF investment before it gets wiped out and then placing it back), HDB loan with 2.6% interest, will be a monthly installment of $1,780 paying $6,800 in interest, approximately earning about $4,660 in CPF interest and creating an opportunity cost of $8,145.

Option 3, bank loan with 1.2% interest on average. Monthly installment of $1,718 paying $3,080 in interest, approximately earning about $4,846 in CPF interest and creating an opportunity cost of $7,861.

Conclusion:
Option 1 – Pros, save paying anyone any interest. Cons, creates a huge opportunity cost “deficit” owing back to CPF without earning any actual interest.
Option 2 – Pros, interest rate is fixed and can at least have some CPF earnings. Cons, high interest is loss to HDB as the interest charged is higher than interest earned.
Option 3 – Pros, interest rate is lower than CPF rate at the moment and hence interest earned is higher than the interest paid to the bank. Cons, rate is variable and interest is loss to the bank.

Well, my opinion at this point in time will be to proceed with a bank loan and maximum tenure. Until the point in time where the bank floating rate exceeds the CPF rate of 2.5%, will re-evaluate the options based on the new assumptions at that point in time. Options are to pay in full or re-finance with possibly a fixed rate and different tenure, however, HDB is no longer allowed.

Do share your comments for discussion if you have a differing opinion. Thanks.

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