Budgeting | Life | Personal Finance | Personal Stories | Article

TSS Money Diaries: Priscilla

by Sophia | 1 Oct 2019 | 8 mins read

You’ve read our articles, done our polls, and shared our visual resources on Facebook – but do you really know us?

Earlier last month we decided to do something different, and that was to show our readers (that’s you!) what our unique relationships with money are like. To do this, each team member tracked their expenses closely for a week before sitting down with me to reflect on their spending habits.

Welcome to the TSS Money Diaries!

Meet Priscilla:

She’s the mastermind behind highly relatable TSS posts like The Cost of Love and the creator of the gullible squid, Sam (short for Sambal). You may have come across or shared our posts on Facebook, and possibly wondered about the artist behind them.

Now it’s time to discover her spending habits.

The week’s breakdown

Day/Date Expenses Total Spent
Sat, 31/8 Snacks: $1.60

Medical appointment: $18

Dinner (GrabFood): $13

Sun, 1/9 Taxi (Grab): $10.80 $10.80
Mon, 2/9 Dinner: $6.70 $6.70
Tue, 3/9 Breakfast: $2.50

Lunch: $7.80

Dinner (eating out): $21

Wed, 4/9 Lunch: $6.70

Dinner (eating out): $35

Groceries: $8

Thur, 5/9 Lunch: $7.50

Dinner: $4

Shopping (CNY clothes): $130

Fri, 6/9 Lunch: $7.50

Shopping (more clothes): $55.90


So, what did Pris have to say about her shame – er, I mean, expenditure for the week?

So you spent $336 this week. Let’s start with your feelings.

I was thinking about it, you know. There was a time in my life when I just started working and I spent a lot on makeup. I realise that when I spend a lot on things, it’s when I wasn’t happy with a part of my life. I felt ugly, maybe because I gained some weight after I started working. To remedy that, I bought a f**kton of makeup, like it was going to make me less fat. I was in denial.

So recently, at the start of the year I lost a lot of weight. But after getting together with my current boyfriend and the comfort weight came back. But it’s getting a lot better. But I was spending more – though it wasn’t as much as last time – and buying more clothes. I felt so bloated. I was unhappy with my body.

That’s intense.

I don’t think it’s intense. I think it’s just about how you feel about yourself. For me, it affects what I spend on. Now it’s getting a bit better, so I’m less inclined to spend on clothes and stuff. It’s still weaning off.

Was that related to your ‘CNY clothes’ purchase?

Yes, it was. I’m probably going to wear this [gestures at herself] again for CNY. Every time CNY rolls around I’m always like, damn, why didn’t I just buy something earlier? But the core reason is just… retail therapy.

Now that you’ve reflected on this, how’s recovery going?

I don’t give myself an opportunity to look at stuff. I unsubscribe from emails and when I’m on my way home, instead of going through the shopping mall to the bus interchange, I go straight to the interchange by walking outside. I don’t give myself a chance.

So is $336 possibly the average amount you spend per week?

That week was an anomaly. On average, per week, I spend about $150 – even with weekends where I go out. I’m calculating $20 per weekend day. I can actually spend less than that.

Then in a month, what’s your average expenditure?

Counting in fixed expenses and insurance, it’s about $1,200 to $1,400.

Do you ever go broke? Be honest.

Yeah, duh! It’s up and down. But I’ve never spent to the point where I owe people money. I always have something to fall back on. I don’t go hungry or miss meals.

Oh, like what? Do you have a rainy day fund?

Yeah, I have money from conventions [that I attend as an artist] that I hide around my room instead of putting it in the bank. I forget about it until I really need it.

So, back to your week. Let’s talk about what you could have done differently if you did the week again.

The clothes.

Really? But what about those marked up prices during CNY?

Fine! I’d buy the damn clothes!

Uh huh. And then?

Maybe I wouldn’t have shopped on Friday. I bought shorts because I felt bloated.

Maybe I wouldn’t have gone out for dinner on Tuesday either. Everyone ordered dishes to share and we only found out how much it was per person in the end. Maybe I would’ve been like, “Let’s not order that.”

You’d be a party pooper, maybe?

I’d just suggest something else. Seafood is usually the expensive stuff, so I might have suggested something with chicken instead.

And you went out the next day too…

I went to visit my ex-colleagues. I meet them once every few months. Again, this was not a normal week. And the week before that too. So I don’t really regret that.

Fair. So where did you go on the first Sunday?

To my boyfriend’s house.

Do you guys stay far apart or something?

No. It’s only $10!

So could you have not taken the Grab ride?

I guess. But it’s inconvenient via public transport. So I’d happily pay the $10 again.

OK, so let’s talk about your groceries.

I just don’t want to buy bread every morning. I’m on a diet too. So groceries are a cheaper, healthier alternative.

For daily expenses, did you ever think about how to reduce your spending?

I don’t really spend that much time thinking about how I can spend less. I just give myself a budget for every day, or every week. If I roughly stick to it, I’m fine. If I go over by $1 or $2, I don’t really care. Like, whatever. [She touches a hand to her heart.] I forgive myself.

How much do you save on average per month?

I think it’s around $200. [Sheepish pause.] At least it’s in the hundreds. But that’s just for the past month. I usually save around $800 on average.

What do you think about lunch prices? Especially in our area?

I think it’s acceptable. I just don’t like lunch when the food sucks but it’s expensive. I’d feel unsatisfied and broke. The food has to be worth it, basically.

One last thing: Do you think you need more money or do you need to spend less?

I think I need more money. My spending isn’t exorbitant. I just think I need more money. I don’t think I’m going crazy spending on so many things. It’s not just my necessities – there are points in your life where you should be able to spend on things that you enjoy, or things that help you cope with feelings about yourself.

Your feelings about yourself are a recurring theme.

That’s life, right? I think the money I spend on clothes, I’d spend on something else next time like therapy or medication if I get sick. There’s always something else to spend money on for self-improvement or help.

[Pause.] Yes, I need more money.

Anything else?

I do this thing where I consider how much something costs based on its calories and dollar amount. I negotiate between the two. If it’s worth it for the food I’m tasting, I’d buy it.

Let’s say I go to the gym and I get hungry, but my “calorie budget” is very low, then I have a choice between a $2 bak chor mee (which is above my calorie amount) versus a smoothie from Boost for $6 – which is within my calorie budget – I’d pick the smoothie.

But you can’t be ridiculous, like $2 versus $10, because I’d just pay the $2.

That’s an interesting way to think!

Yeah, a lot of Americans consume a lot of sugar because Coke is cheaper than water. So I think that we have to compromise between the two. It’s a good thing we live here, but Singaporean food is still very high in calorie content.

I think, “If I spend $6 on this smoothie now, I’d feel better about my image (by looking better in the clothes I already have) and so feel less inclined to buy new clothes all the time.” For the greater good!