I've been getting a lot of comments and emails from you guys recently, with many of you telling me your new year resolution would be to Save $20,000 in a Year. That has inspired me to write this post, hopefully this will help you in your financial saving goals and make 2015 the year where you save more than you ever did!

Credits to Dreamstime.

Here's how to get started:

1. Pay off your debts

The most common debt for my peers is the Tuition Fee Loan. Most of my friends (and relatives) took up the OCBC loan, which offers attractive repayment terms of $100/month over a maximum period of 20 years. You also don't have to start paying until you've graduated. What a good deal, right?

But did you know that the longer you take to repay the loan, the more the bank earns from you in interest? Why give them that money?

One advice I gave my closer friends was to borrow the money from their parents instead, and pay off the bank loan asap. At least that way, you save on interest rates (or if you're nice, you can give your parents some sort of interest in return for the loan. At least the money goes to family, instead of strangers.)

2. Find part-time income

I teach tuition for JC General Paper for extra income every month, and am able to charge slightly higher than market rate because I am good at it. It took me 5 years to build up my portfolio with students who have proved that my teaching methods do work, before I was able to charge higher. My friends who teach piano also earn quite a bit for just 8 - 10 hours every month. If you know what you're good at, you can focus on building that up for yourself until you get a good reputation (and thus higher fees). 

If you can't teach, what about doing something else that you're good at? There's a huge supply of part-time jobs out there, but few people are willing to spend their extra time on that. If you truly want to save, getting a part-time job which can give you up to $500 a month is going to help a lot if you want to save $20,000 in 2015.

3. Kickstart your emergency fund

Let's face it, you don't want to end up in a situation where you need money desperately, and have to go knocking on your friends' door asking for a loan. Not only is it embarrassing, but it will also break your heart when you realize many of whom you thought were real friends aren't willing to help you when you need them.

Sometime mid last year, my sister asked me to lend her $1000 to repay our mutual friend whom she had borrowed the money from to buy her air ticket to Korea. Not wanting her to take the easy way out (she used to save more than me when we were younger, but spent almost all her savings ever since our parents gave her an ATM card), I said no and told her to save up the money herself. It was probably the best thing I've ever done for her as a sister, because in refusing to lend her the money (even though I easily could), she was forced to find ways to get the cash herself. Since then, she has started making home-cooked meals more often, took up more part-time jobs, and cut down a lot on shopping. 

As a general rule of thumb, aim to have at least 3x of your monthly expenses in your emergency fund, kept aside for rainy days.

4. Say NO to peer pressure

Many of us overspend because we feel obliged to go along with what our friends want - eating at cafes, buying clothes, going clubbing, etc. Not wanting to be labelled as the party-pooper, we keep quiet and just go along with the flow.

Guess what? Your friends are all in debt too! (Unless, of course, their parents are like Warren Buffet or Philip Ng.) There's nothing to be ashamed of in telling people that you're on a budget / saving up to repay your study loan / saving up for a new car, a wedding, yadah yadah. My friends G and D are never afraid to say they don't have the money to join us at a restaurant, can we eat at a cheaper place instead?

Just having the guts to say this one word can save you a lot of money. Can you find a job that pays you for just saying ONE word? 

5. Quit smoking and drinking

I have nothing against people who drink or smoke. Even I myself do that sometimes.

All those HPB campaigns rambling about the dangers they pose to your health? They don't work on me. What I found to really work, though, is to think about the cost of these bad habits. 

One pack of cigarettes = $10++ 
One can of beer = $8++
One cocktail = $15++
One vodka shot = $12++

If, like my colleagues, you smoke every day and go drinking on Fridays and Saturdays, that can easily cost you over $300 in a month!

Then in a few years time, what do you get? A huge medical bill for lung cancer / liver failure / whatever. Smart....not.

6. Stop paying too much for food
I love my cafe brunches, but I try not to eat them more than once a month. And I'm a self-professed hawker centre fan, which is not only cheap but also extremely tasty.

Even Gordon Ramsay came here to learn how to make our hawker dishes. 

You eat 3 times every day. And where does all that food go? Down the toilet bowl. Whether or not you spend $20 on a cafe lunch or $3 on a plate of Hokkien Mee, everyone knows the outcome of your food is still the same. The only difference is in your wallet (and maybe your Instagram posts, because you can get such a kick of posting hipster cafe photos!).

7. Stop overpaying for insurance
Last year when I was still a greenhorn, a friend of mine convinced me to take up an Investment-Linked Policy with him and pay a $150 premium every month. He sold it to me as a savings plan + life insurance coverage. Sounds not bad right? That's what I thought.

It was only later in October last year when I met someone who worked in insurance as well, but was brutally honest about the pros and cons of every policy. He hardly sells ILPs, and all his clients consist of friends, relatives, and relatives of friends. Did you know that insurance agents sell your ILPs because they get 50% of the premium you pay every month?

Wah lau eh. Kena conned by friend!

If you're thinking of buying insurance, I suggest you speak to an honest agent first who won't give you all the fluff about each policy. I wish I had met my friend earlier ($150 continues to drain out of my income every month for something which is barely sufficient to cover me), but oh well, the mistake has already been made.

8. Stop paying for things you don't use

Ditch that gym membership. Do you really need that manicure /facial / spa package? And why are you still paying for premium cable TV when you're barely home to watch it? 

I'm especially wary of promotions that offer you a package for XX sessions. Most of the time, I never finish using them before the deadline. After this happened thrice, I ditched the package and now rely on a "pay-as-I-use" model.

9. Go for movies, but avoid the movie candy
I can never justify paying $10 for a popcorn or $8 for nachos when I know I can get them cheaper before or after the movie. 

10. Take advantage of multi-purpose electronic devices

Seriously, why on earth do you need an iPad, iPod or a Kindle when you already own a laptop and mobile phone? And unless you're a professional photographer, you will never get back the money you spent on buying your DSLR.

Instead, use your current electronic devices to double up for multiple purposes. Need a music player on-the-go? Load songs into your phone. Read and do work on your laptop instead of spending money on a new iPad / Kindle just because they're lighter. You can save that money for a better use. 

A Basic Budget Calculation

$2000 (on a starting pay of $2,500, after CPF deductions)
$500 (from part-time jobs)

$800 a month

$4000 (2 months bonus)

$1,700 x 12 months + $4000 = $24,400 easily!

How is it difficult to save $20,000 then? (You can even have extra money left to splurge on travelling!)

P.S. I do not get any bonuses from my job. The above figures do not reflect my actual lifestyle, but are meant to be an estimated guide. 

If you found this useful, you might want to read my earlier post on How to Save Money in Singapore. Or if you have any other tips you think should be on this list, please let me know!

Here's wishing you all best for your saving journey in 2015,
Budget Babe


  1. Hi Kyith, different people are good in different things. My sister is great at teaching Math, while I suck at the subject. I allocated $800, not $600, to expenses. That is not exactly very stringent - one of my friends survive on a $400 budget every month. It depends on how much someone wants to save, I guess.

  2. Nice write up! Maybe home cook is a better option if we have time. :)

  3. ah that is a good figure to work with. $400 think that will be much subsidy.

  4. Hi Wei Jian! You really think so? Mine is 2 years worth though, feels a bit heartache to throw all that money away. That's why I'm thinking of just holding out until it matures in 15 years then get back the money.

  5. Hello ! I read that you're teaching GP. i was wondering upon the rates and how do lessons go about ? Also, what exactly would one learn during those lessons ?

  6. How do you even live life as an 20 year old?!

    1. I live a very fulfilling life as a 20-year-old, thank you very much :) any of my friends will tell you that. Saving doesn't mean not living. There are many ways to get by on a smaller budget. My friend in the US feeds her family of 6 and owns a car while getting by with only her husband's meagre income as a contractor. So do you still thinking living life is impossible?

    2. i love reading ur blog, and thanks for the tips! keep posting ya ;)

  7. Hi weijian, would u be able to share with me too? I have a few ILPs on hand. I have always wanted to do own investments but have totally no clue on how to start. Would u kindly advise me. Thanks alot :)

  8. Yes I do have a boyfriend, but unlike other girls I actually either split the bill / sometimes I treat him, sometimes he pays for me. We're very equal in the relationship and I don't expect him to treat me like a princess...in fact I scold him if he spends too much on me hahah. Trying to get him to save up as well for wedding!

  9. i think you don't have to go for the best and most comprehensive plan. it is likely most people overestimate and over expect low expectation events from happening. i have much close people that suffer from cancer as well. and the bills are 120k. in all things this availability bias (just because there is such an event, it distorts in your mind it is very prevalent) and loss aversion taking place. have a plan that takes care of the majority of the large costs in time of need, but leave u to pay the deductables. work the way insurance is suppose to work but not overinsure.

  10. Hi Wei Jian, I'm still waiting for your email! Haha.

  11. I like your "9. Go for movies, but avoid the movie candy".
    Its a good principal; I go for the café lunches but avoid buying a drink to go with lunch or dessert, the main meal is big enough to fill me up and plain tap water will do (I live in Australia).

    How do u say no to the person who orders two glasses of wine, starters, main meal and dessert and wants to split total bill equally? I hate those people!

    1. Hi Sue Lin,

      Wow, Australia meals are actually pretty expensive. I went there last year and the prices were quite steep for meals. Good tip on avoiding the drinks though, and yes plain water is always the best. Free too, if not the cheapest option.

      Gosh, I get annoyed like those people too! If the bill is not too skewed, and it's a good friend, sometimes I just close one eye and split it evenly. However, if it's quite a fair difference, I usually just take out my phone and start calculating just my items, then multiple by the taxes and service charge, followed by putting the amount on the bill. That way, it's like blatantly signalling for the other party to pay their own share, and they usually do :)

  12. Hi Wei Jian, would appreciate if you could drop me an email regarding ILP too as I have one on hand which I just bought last year.

    naomitan92 (at) gmail (dot) com

    Many thanks!

  13. Just because someone loans another person money doesn't make him God. Especially when he is earning interest from it.

    Oh, and Prophet Akin? You don't have to pretend to be some satisfied client posting on behalf of you to "share" what a "blessing" you are to the whole world. You forgot to log out of Google first before you did that ;) We all know who the real scam is now!

  14. Hi! Just a quick question, do you count the money you give to your parents into your expenses? And do you have student loan?

    Thanks for sharing how you save on your salary! I am also working for almost a year after graduating, and is working hard to save as much as I can while I am still young. :)

    1. Hi Evonove, I don't count that into my expenses, it goes into another column for my finances under "Bills and Responsibilities".

      I've shared before in many other posts that I don't have a TFL. However, my student loan now is the one I borrowed to fund my exchange studies overseas, which I am currently still paying back. It should take me about 1.5 more years to pay off based on my current monthly payments. I look forward to that day! Heh.

      Jiayou with your savings :)

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  21. Hi budget babe,
    Regarding the insurance plan, does it really matter if ur fren has the commission? I mean at the end of the day, the capital you put in is still compounding every single year right? Am thinking of getting a savings plan but $100/month instead of 150