Ever wondered what your salary and shopping habits are like in comparison to your peers? Money Talks is a new column by CLEO that takes an honest look at how young Millennial and Gen Z women spend their money. If you would like to submit a money diary anonymously, click here.
In today’s column, we speak to a 30-year-old editor and former shopaholic who severely cut down on her spending habits after she realised she had no savings. Here’s how she spent during the Circuit Breaker period.
Occupation: Section Editor
Education level: Polytechnic Diploma
Salary: $4,500 – $5,500 per month
Insurance: $203.50 (Life policy, hospitalisation and medical insurance)
Phone bill: $90
Subscriptions: $30 (Hayu, New York Magazine, Adobe Suite)
Allowance for parents: $300
How much she thinks she spends: $250
How much she actually spent: $313.70
On how she shops
“I usually shop online from multi-boutique stores like Net-a-porter, MatchesFashion and Farfetch. Those sites usually have a great range of designers for me to choose from and great discounts. Secondhand designer resale sites such as Fifth Collection, Vestiaire Collective and eBay are also great for vintage bargains. Occasionally I might come across an interesting new designer on Instagram and would buy directly from their site if the shipping costs are reasonable.
To fund my shopping habit, I put myself on a flexible budget of about $250 – $600. On average, I try to ensure I don’t go above $250, but I make allowances during annual sale periods by allocating a bigger amount so that I don’t feel miserable on missing out on the things I want.
I like collecting interesting fashion pieces, so if I see a big ticket item that is over budget, I would ‘borrow’ from the subsequent month and make sure I don’t spend anything for the next two months.
I don’t really care so much about prices or brands as long as I feel something is worth the quality that I’m paying for. For separates, I would pay up to $400, dresses up to $600, shoes up to $350 and bags up to $1,800. But unless its from the high street, I never buy anything designer at full price.
I’m lucky to have friends in the beauty industry, so I rarely spend on beauty products thanks to their generosity. I also do have sensitive skin, so the only time I spend on beauty is to top up my products at the dermatologist.”
On her relationship with money
“I think I’ve come a long way when it comes to my relationship with money. When I first started working, my spending was uncontrollable. It was like the floodgates had been unleashed! My entire paycheck would come in and be gone in a week and a half, with just the bare minimum for expenses.
I would spend hours on eBay, trawling the site for secondhand designer items. Looking back, I feel both impressed and ashamed at how much designer stuff I was able to accumulate from a meagre salary of $1,600—and mind you this was before CPF deduction and a monthly stipend to my mother.
And while I got better over the years as my salaries increased, I still never understood the concept of saving for a rainy day. Saving to me meant accumulating a pool of money so that I could go on holiday and splurge. And I took a major one every year, so as you can imagine, after each holiday my savings would plunge into non-existence again and the vicious cycle would continue.
It wasn’t until about a year ago where I decided to take my financial situation seriously. I realised I had been working for close to 10 years, and yet my personal savings was only a mere fraction of my CPF contribution. That was a rude awakening. I decided to get my personal finances in check, cut off my shopping habit cold turkey and hire a financial planner to get my insurance and investments settled to ensure that I could still retire comfortably when the time came. I’m not married or even close to it, so to be financially independent on my own with or without a partner was of the utmost importance.”
On her feelings towards her savings
“In the last one-and-a-half years, my career skyrocketed. And for my age and position in the industry, I think I earn relatively above market value in comparison to my peers. This significantly made a difference in the amount I could save.
I still don’t have the savings amount as most people my age do. And while I regret that, I’m trying to catch up by putting aside more and diversifying my income. I started picking up freelance gigs on the side and this allowed me to almost triple my savings from $9,000 to $25,000 in about eight months.”
On how COVID-19 has impacted her financial situation
“The good thing about the Circuit Breaker was that being at home all the time helped to curb my expenditure.
Ordinarily, I would spend more on food, transport and a gym membership but due to the Circuit Breaker, I significantly cut down on most of those expenses and temporarily moved back home.
I was planning to move out, but then the circuit breaker hit so I chose to delay the move to save money and subsequently quarantine with my family. I have a big family whom I am very close to, so this helped to prevent any feelings of social isolation.
The only major financial commitment I have is my rent which I already started paying for because the lease started before the circuit breaker.”