Budgeting | Life | Personal Finance | Personal Stories | Article

Our Money Diaries – YuanDuan

by Sophia | 19 Nov 2019 | 12 mins read

This week, the TSS money diaries will be featuring our team’s content lead, YuanDuan! You might have seen his name floating around the blog… Now it’s time to peek into his finances and spending habits!


The Week’s Breakdown

Day Expenses Total Spent
Mon K-cuts: $12

Lunch: $7.30
Dinner: Cooked

Tue Lunch: $4.20
Motorpay Subscription: $1.07
Utilities: $23.71
S&CC: $34Dinner: Ate at mom’s place
Petrol (plus newspaper, green tea): $41.58
Wed Lunch: $5

Dinner: $77.80

Thur Lunch: $0

Sheng Siong: $7.05

Dinner: Cooked

Internet Bill: $62.99

Fri Lunch: Leftovers

Ebook: $3.46

Cigarettes (carton): $114.50

Sat Lunch: $0

Dinner: $0

Sun Lunch: $7.50

Bubble Tea (shit): $2.70

Dinner: $8.50



So, nearly $350! Is this expenditure amount normal?

More or less. This is mostly because of cigarettes. They’re a big deal.

Yeah. How often do you buy it by the carton?

Well, firstly… Of course smoking sucks. I buy in bulk to save money. If you go to Sheng Siong and buy it by the carton, they give you a discount. My wife has a 5% rebate with her credit card, so I’ll use her card to get another 5% off on top of the carton-discount.

That’s a good discount.

Yeah, but obviously it’s not a good habit.


[Nervous laughter.]

So how big is the carton, actually?

There’s ten packs inside, so it lasts me for ten days. It’s almost a weekly thing. So the expense being there is pretty representative.

Oh, I thought a carton might last you a month.

I smoke a pack a day, so it’d be like… $11.45 per day, something like that.

Wow. So have you ever thought about how much you spend on cigarettes?

Of course. It’s like, what they say right, add it all up and finding out you could have bought a Ferrari. It’s one of my greatest regrets to start smoking at 18. It’s hard to quit; I’ve tried many times.

How did you pick smoking up in the first place at 18?

Actually, I only started going hardcore in the army. It was one of those situations in life where you’re a bit more… stressed? or bored? Then I started smoking regularly.

So there were others around you who smoked too, regularly?

Yeah, it was definitely an influence thing. Once they know you smoke, they’ll start to jio you. Then you feel bad about taking their cigarettes all the time, so you’re like, screw it, I’ll buy my own packet. And then you’re a bonafide smoker. The problem starts when you buy packs.

If I could turn back time, that would be the one thing I’d quit. It had such a big impact on my health, my finances. It was actually very scary, because I did research for this insurance article and there are reports that the prevalence of lung cancer dropped drastically with the rise of quit smoking campaigns. So it’s a very direct cause and effect.

But… addiction, you know. [Laughs.]

Yeah. So have you ever tried curbing it or are you taking it day by day?

I’ve tried to quit many times. The one I had most success with was when I stopped for a week, but then it was so hard, and at the end of the week I rewarded myself with a pack of cigarettes. And then I was back on the wagon.

I tried vaping, before the ban hammer came in. It was much cheaper and I felt better, and yeah, it actually curbed the smoking behaviour and the urge to smoke.

Was vaping worse than regular smoking?

I felt better at least, it’s supposedly inconclusive because it’s all very new — but it was definitely much cheaper.

So this carton is just for you?

Yup. These are just my expenses. So for monthly expenditure, I worked it out, and found that smoking takes up a third of my expenses.


Yup, so I tell kids not to smoke.

For the money.


So, on another note… how often do you cut your hair?

I kinda let it grow every two to three months until it’s really moppy, it gets out of hand, then I’ll just go during lunch and get it done.

Why not during the weekends? Is it more convenient?

It’s just more convenient. I just don’t care about it all that much. So I’ll do it when I need to, and during lunch – I don’t want to go out of my house on the weekend just to cut my hair.

So it’s about being efficient with time.

Yeah, I really can’t be bothered. I have no style. [Laughs.]

What about food? You guys cook often?

This is new, actually. We’re trying to do it more often, not really to save money, but because cooking for two tends to leave leftovers, and you can pack leftovers to work. It does save a lot of money, though, because eating out ain’t cheap.

Who does the cooking?

My wife is better at cooking. I’ll help to prepare ingredients and I’ll do the dishes.

Cleanup is the worst.

Yeah. Sometimes I’ll be like, “Why must you use so many preparation dishes?! Do you really need it?” If I wasn’t married I’ll probably just eat out of the pot.

Just… just one pot.


So you buy groceries often?

We do, but it does not show up in my expenses because my wife pays for it. She gets the (credit card) rebates, so she pays for the groceries while I pay the internet bills and utilities. That’s how we divide it up, though we recently talked about it. She said groceries are really expensive, so I might be helping her out with that soon.

Do you guys eat out often, then? This week, that only happened twice, especially with that super expensive Japanese dinner…

Oh yeah. We don’t eat out often, and if we do it’d be somewhere near work or at a coffee shop for dinner. But this particular week, I visited my mom, so she cooked. Then we had an expensive dinner where I gave my wife a [air quotes] treat.

What’s with the air quotes?

I rarely do, that’s why. We go dutch a lot as a couple. It’s just once in a while, I guess. We ate at this restaurant at Centrepoint. [Pause.] It was really good.

True. Okay, so… about your bubble tea. It was only once out of the whole week — why did you write “shit” there?!

I guess there’s this stigma directed at bubble tea drinkers.

What stigma?!

You know how like avocados were once the thing millennials waste money on? The Singaporean version is bubble tea.

But in my defense, I ordered one without bubbles. And it was 0% sugar. So it’s actually a rip-off, which made it even worse.

I was going to say $2.70 wasn’t that bad, but…

Yeah, and I was at a friend’s house, and we all ordered bubble tea through Grab, I followed unthinkingly.

So you don’t often drink it.

Yeah I don’t like it. But I mean, cigarettes are worse… though I’d rather have a bubble tea addiction than cigarette addiction.


When I was in university, I was so broke, but I’d still smoke. I learned how to roll my own cigarettes. It was $2.50 a packet. I’d roll it and my friends in uni would laugh at me, because it was so weird.

But that’s the problem with smoking — you’ll worry if you have enough money to smoke before everything else.


Yeah, that’s the psychology. You’ll get anxious when you run out of cigarettes.

So you’d rather go hungry than not have any cigarettes.

Yeah, it’s that bad.

I find that very interesting.

No, no, no.

No! I mean — you know what I mean!

[Depressed.] I’d probably have a Maserati by now.

OK, but apart from cigarettes… you don’t shop right?

I rarely shop. Maybe my sin is big ticket items. But I stopped. One time I had a camera obsession, I’d buy cameras and lenses and trade them. But I stopped because I felt like I was wasting a lot of money, but there’s nothing much now. I don’t dress up, obviously. Look at my hair.

Simple is good.

I probably shop for clothes once a year. I’ll go to Uniqlo and buy the $7 shirts in the plastic bags, I’d be like, “Oh a new colour!” I’ll see the ones at home with holes and replace them. Very basic. Other than that, nothing much.

So are you saving for anything else right now?

I’m actually investing a lot and putting a lot of it into passive investing. A chunk of my salary is going into that. I dream of retiring at 55, but that’s only if we decide not to have children. If not, that would go towards the kids and they’ll have to raise me [laughs].

It’s your job now, kids!

I’ll keep this sandwich generation thing going. I’ll be the upper crust.

Sounds like a plan.

[Laughs.] But I’ve never really seriously budgeted for a kid yet but recently I’m thinking that we should, and even if we don’t [have one], at least we’ll be ready. Because increasingly, people are having kids at like, 40; it’s still possible. Even though we’re undecided, it’s not a definite no. So some of my money will be channeled into a maybe-kid fund, but most of it I’m still investing on a monthly basis.

So both of you are putting money into this kid fund?

No, actually, because I only just started it. For my wife… uh… yeah, no, I need to sit down and talk to her about it. I really just started.

OK. Now, how often do you repair or maintain your motorcycle?

Right now, it’s better. Because after I’ve worked for a while I could afford a bike that was in a better condition. It’s a 11-year-old bike, it’s not new, but it’s in very good condition. I don’t have to repair it so much because it’s more reliable. Maybe I’ll just change the tires and engine oil once a year. It doesn’t go over $500 for everything all at once.

But when I was in university when I could only afford a crappy bike, I repaired it often; it would seize a lot and I’d have to push it around. It happened too often. During my first job, my colleague and I were trapped on Jurong Island and we had to push it for a few kilometers, because no tow truck could enter the island. That happened a lot.

Sounds like hell.

It was quite funny. But motorcycles are a cheap way to commute. I did the math. Including everything like maintenance and petrol… I went to figure out the monthly basis, and it’s surprisingly low! [Scrolls through phone.] Including parking it’s about $150 a month.

That’s not too bad!

Yeah. Oh, this is excluding the cost of buying the bike. You travel faster than a car, you don’t need to squeeze on trains, and it’s relatively cheap, still. You can find free parking even in town. The only issue is when it rains, it sucks, when it’s hot, it sucks… and of course, the chance of death.

…Yes, well. Did you always want a bike or did you ever want a car?

Looking at the price, it’s crazy to want to have a car. Just parking in town can run up to hundreds a month. I also partly like motorcycling a lot, I’ve rode up to Thailand and Malaysia for the experience. So there’s more to it than just being transport. Cars can’t really give that feel I think.

On another note, what utility providers do you use? It’s quite cheap for two!

We use Ohm, but I think this was because of a rebate or something. Honestly, I don’t really know. I just saw $23 this month and was happy about it. Or it could’ve been one of those days where they did the meter reading, and they offset the prices… but I don’t know. But usually it’s like $80 to $90, because we turn on the aircon very often.

Do you guys leave it on the entire night?

We do. But I try to keep the temperature at 23 to 24 degrees, so it doesn’t consume so much power. The problem is that for our HDB stack, the direction of the sun heats up the master bedroom wall. Even in the evening, when you put your hand on the wall, you can feel the heat.

So, life hack: Look at where your master bedroom faces and save your utility bills.

In a month, how much do you spend?

All in, I did recent calculations, I average around $1,400 to $1,500. Without cigarettes that could have been about $1,000.

…Don’t remind yourself of that.

Yeah. It’s pretty representative of my life