When it comes to expense tracking, I can think of no better example than My 15 Hour Work Week and his monthly updates. I know how hard it is, because I do the same. Not only do I track my expenses, I also budget as well. If you hang around for long enough, you would find that there are plenty of other bloggers that do so too.
The thing I like most about the blogging community is the aspect of sharing. That’s my favourite part – to be able to read about people of all ages, from different worlds, at different stages of their lives. Old or young. Retired/retiring (climbing down mountain) or just starting out (climbing up). It gives me a tiny window into their lives. Stalker tendencies?
I enjoy leeching off the experience of veterans such as SMOL, CW8888 and ASSI. To me, they’re all unique and quirky in their own ways, and I don’t always agree with them. But I respect them for getting to where they are, and they walk the talk.
On the other hand, we have the climbers like myself who are hiking up. People can be quick to assume and trigger-happy to dismiss what they deem to be trivial sharing by climbers.
“Wow can save 70%, must be no obligations, that’s why can save and invest so much.”
“Only earn $3,000 a month? Fresh grads should be earning more right?”
“When one has barely any financial liabilities, saving 50% of take home pay is easy.”
You don’t really have to care about what others say. It’s always about sharing rather than preaching and/or telling people what they should do. The problem with blogging is there is simply too much ground to cover for a single piece of advice to be the silver bullet.
Topics like HDB and CPF are so divisive because they affect people across the entire nation, each with a different profile and incredibly wide-ranging needs that’s waiting to be fulfilled. I’m one of the lucky ones who don’t have any beef with either, but I can understand where the resentment is coming from.
I love budgeting, but that might not work for you.
I’m in favour of index investing, but I don’t think that it is what everyone should embrace.
I believe in robo-advisors, but I believe they are still at the infancy stage in Singapore.
I chose the maximum HDB loan duration, because I had my reasons for doing so, but you may not like debt.
I invested my CPF-OA money. Should you?
I blew a couple of thousand bucks on a holiday. If I could roll back time, I would do it again in a heartbeat.
See? I can go on and on, but you get my point. Everything that I have written about, it is simply something that worked for me at a particular point in time. If it helps you to read about it, that’s awesome 🙂
And so, below is what that has worked for me, and me alone. Still kaypoh enough to read more? Carry on!
My Budget Categories
I only budget my take-home salary, since we say good-bye to 20% that goes safely into our CPF accounts. I find the categories below to be just right for me.
Neither too many, nor too little. Money that isn’t used either roll over to the next month, or gets funneled into my investment fund. I don’t budget my bonuses, and they usually end up in my investment fund.
I consider my budgets that I have refined over the years to be fairly comprehensive, and there are very little surprises. I have room catered for unforeseen situations, and the excess that roll over each month eventually becomes more and more substantial.
My Profile : Thirties. Cheap HDB. Married. No kids.
Makan! Weekday breakfasts and lunches.
- Bus / MRT
Transit Link and EZ-Link top-ups.
- Cab / Grab / Uber
We indulge in some comfy car rides and buy ourselves some time.
- Home Fund
Weekday dinners and weekend meals that I have with my wife. Groceries and all other miscellaneous expenses incurred for the upkeep and maintenance of my home.
- Home Bills
Utilities. Town council fees. Broadband etc.
- Home Buffer
Related home expenses like property tax, home insurance and other unexpected events.
- Home Improvement
Expenses incurred for replacement of electrical appliances, new furniture, air-con servicing etc. Things really start to break down at the five-year mark.
- Buffer Fund
Some money budgeted here to cater for any under-funded categories. Gotta roll with the punches.
- Me / Gadget / Clothing
Pretty much everything that I spend on myself goes into this category. Mobile phones. Clothes. Shoes. Yadda.
- Pak Tor / Entertainment
Date nights and enjoyment woohoo!
- Work Related / Claims
Mainly spent for tools, equipment or software for work.
Every now and then, I like to meet up with friends and ex-colleagues to chit chat.
Ang Pao money has to come from somewhere, right?
- Vacation – <Country>
Depending on where I’m travelling to for the year, I create new categories and fund it accordingly. Taipei again this year-end. Let’s buy some experiences!
- Air Miles / SQ Suites
The pursuit of air miles does incur some costs, by choice, since I pay annual fees for my credit cards in exchange for air miles. 112,000 miles and counting. It IS possible for an average Joe.
Others / Online
- Blog Related (SGD)
Revenue in SGD.
- Blog Related (USD)
Revenue in USD.
- Web Hosting Renewal
Every few years, web hosting needs to be renewed.
- Domain Names Renewal
Same goes for domain names, and I’ve got more than one site.
- YNAB Subscription
An oxy-moron to some people, considering that I’m paying a subscription fee for a tool to manage my own money. Hmm?
- Donation / Charity
Community chest etc.
- Hair Cut
It’s only professional to look well-groomed.
Sadly, good genes and exercise alone isn’t enough. Lab Series and L’Oréal is a necessary evil LOL.
- Starhub Mobile
- Insurance Policies
No running away from this. Must have.
- World Vision
Sponsored child in Vietnam 🙂 🙂 🙂
It is only right that we give back what they have spent on us, regardless of whether or not they need it.
Celebrations, anniversaries and birthdays. Gotta keep the flames of passion burning!
Meals in restaurants. Overseas trips with parents. Little extras here and there. Gotta do these while we still can.
Teething issues hur.
Never know when we’ll get sick. An MC is getting expensive these days.
- Optical – Glasses
A new pair every two years.
- Optical – Contact Lens
New supply every six months.
- New Computer (2020)
Each rig should last me five years.
- Income Tax (2018) *
One of only two categories that I don’t fund on a monthly basis. This, together with CNY, would usually take up about half a month of bonus.
- Chinese New Year (2018) *
As above. Yearly routine of bird’s nest and miscellaneous CNY goodies for our parents. Ang Pao for the younger ones.
Investment & Savings
- Emergency Fund
Shit happens. When it hits the fan, there’s no escaping it, but at least I’m gonna have an umbrella.
- Investment Fund
Here’s an old screenshot of my pretty little YNAB app, and it got upgraded recently to an even better version.
Interested? Try You Need A Budget (YNAB) out for a free trial and if you like it, you (and me) get an additional month free.
Edit 09-Sep-2017 :
Just to add on a little bit after a chat with a friend – context is everything. Sometimes, it is difficult for others to understand and appreciate the angle we’re coming when we blog. Being misunderstood is actually pretty common.
Take for example, I bought a pair of speakers for my computer recently. It was the Creative GigaWorks T20 Series II that had a retail price of S$139.
“Wah. Simi financial blogger, anyhow spend money.”
These were first release about eight years ago! The thing about speakers is that the advance of technology doesn’t quite bring about the level of improvement you’d see in processor chips, for example. A pair of good speakers will always be a pair of good speakers. And I bought it at a discounted price of S$89 during the Comex weekend.
“OK lor. S$50 bucks discount. At least it was a good deal.
With an extra few minutes spent online, I managed to get it at S$87 with free delivery – saving me previous time plus transport cost of going to the Comex Fair itself. By paying with my credit card, I earned an extra 85 * 4 = 340 miles.
“Wah. One stone kill multiple birds. Not bad siah.”
My pair of existing speakers is the Altec Lansing VS4121 which I’ve been using for more than ten years. It started getting cranky these days with strange “tiak tiak” sounds, which meant I can’t delay its death any further.
“Frugal wor! Speakers also can last ten years.”
Erm, what happen to “anyhow spend money”?