5 Ways We Saved an Extra $18,000 in 1 Year!

5 Ways We Saved an Extra $18,000 in 1 Year!

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2015 was THE year. THE year we understood FIRE can be real and we committed ourselves to achieve FIRE. What was life like before that? Well, we started off maintaining separate finances and we stayed out of each other’s hair when it came to how we spent money. When Mr.C and I got married in 2011, we then started a joint savings account. We committed to a certain amount of savings every month, although some months I didn’t make that number due to my excessive spending. I had a very busy social life. Big surprise there that your typical social activity is a money sucker!

So between 2011 and end 2015, we socked an amount aside and was free to do whatever we wanted with the rest. I still lived paycheck to paycheck. Every end of the month I’d be sending some picture of this nature to select friends:

By not examining the amounts we were spending nor looking at finances together, we had a lot of lost potential in savings. I do wish we started sooner however I had the best times with the best bunch of friends during that period, friends who have mostly left Singapore, so I don’t regret it all too much!

Come end 2015, we decided to look at finances together as a couple. There was no longer ‘your money, my money’. FIRE was something we were to work together towards, as a team. Below is a comparison between when we were last both working (before Oct 2014 when I quit work to care for CocoJr #1) and to when both of us were working full time again (May 2016) to see how our mindset changed and how it reflected in our spending habits.

Behold, our 5 top fav ways on how we upped the ante with our new savings mindset and saved an extra $18,000!

Become MasterChefs!

Pre-CocoJr #1 days, we hardly cooked at home to eat. We ate out all the time. We both can cook however we just did not. I’ve no good reason why.

Eating out can be cheap in Singapore if you head to the Kopitiam. We did do that occasionally but more often than now, we used to head to Melbenn near our home for an awesome meal. This was when we were not out with friends having a great time (read, expensive food and expensive drinks). 2 – 3 times a year we would head to a fancier than normal place like Morton’s because it was absolutely delicious and again, we could afford to with no real bigger goal in mind. I used to head there for happy hours so often that the manager knew me and would ply us with free drinks and dessert whenever I went, be it with friends or Mr.C.

We still go to Morton’s, maybe once in 18 months now vs. the 2-3 times a year.

Math time!

Pre-FIRE mindset: Let’s be prudent and say we went out at least 6 times a month on average (probably more than that) and spending $200 each time, between Mr.C and I (again an average between the really expensive nights and the expensive nights). We’re not proud of dropping these serious amounts of cash but we’re being honest here (maybe some of you can relate?), we had some ridiculous spend before that I sometimes regret, sometimes don’t! Our minds are at different places back then and right now. I won’t even take into account the cost of us eating out on non-fancy / socializing nights. In a year, that’s $14,400. That’s crazy.

Post-FIRE mindset: We eat at home every single day. Turns out, we like our cooking very much indeed. Watch out for a post on this soon! Our groceries are about $300 a month, I’ll go with $400 a month to factor in the random meal out. That’s $4,800 a year.

Total Annual Savings: $9,600

Negotiate!

It was not easy finding a central location that was cheaper than our out of town location to rent. I viewed countless units, all tiny units, and I am quite particular of the kind of unit we stay in as well. I’m happy with a HDB (although a condo would have been much nicer), but it had to be a clean and not gaudy looking place (which is what most older HDBs tend to look like as they are rented out by folks who renovated it in a different era with a very different sense of furnishing / colour).

When I finally found our current rental unit, it was perfect. Old, but perfect. Clean and white with minimal furniture. It was actually going for $100 more a month than what we were paying at the out of town location. I bargained hard. Told the agent only 1 of us was working and we could only afford x amount. If the landlord agreed, we would move in immediately. That would save them a potential month (or more!) of no rent while they looked for a suitable tenant. That’s a loss to them that could be covered partly by me if they rented to me immediately, if they take a 1 year view. They agreed! The number I was going for was actually $300 lower than what we were paying, we needed the savings!

Total Annual Savings: $3,600

Moved to a Tinier Home

We decided our 3 bedroom was too lavish for a family of 2 adults + 1 child. Moving to a 2 bedroom would be a bit of a squeeze when we have parents over but taking a 1 year view – how often are our parents staying over anyway? In totality, 2-3 full months which is spread over the year in bursts of 1 month at most. We can very comfortably have 1 set of parents over at a time – so we’re quite happy. Parents, on the other hand, are not quite used to tiny living. Oh well, welcome to our lifestyle!

Important to note that the savings would have been much more if we moved into a tiny living arrangement at the same neighbourhood. We moved from a far-out place to a central place.

Total Annual Savings: $2,400

Being Deliberate about our Taxi Expenditure

Living in Singapore, there’s absolutely no need for a car. The entire island is so well connected via the efficient public train system and buses. Those who complain on train delays have not experienced the Malaysian train delays (oh wait, it’s not a delay when there’s no arrival time to begin with. Make no promises when the train will arrive and there’s no delay, technically, right?).

Even in this well connected and efficient little island, I still hopped in a taxi all the time pre-FIRE discovery. Because I could afford to and I wasn’t building up my savings for any particular reason. There was no real goal. Mr.C and I put out agreed sum away every month and I had the rest to splurge and live.

It’s hard to quantify this really but I used to take a taxi back to the East in the evenings after my socializing with friends. That would be about $25-$30. After dinners out with Mr.C, we would hop in a cab. Let’s just say we used to do this, say twice a week, which is an understatement. That’s $2,600 a year (taking $25 into 52 weeks a year, at twice a week). Nowadays, we spend no more than $10 on a taxi weekly (side benefit of staying centrally!). Some weeks, none. (Thanks Uber/Grab!) We take the bus and train a whole lot more.

Total Annual Savings: $2,080

Toodles, Theatre!

We used to watch every new movie in the theatre with my brother or friends. True story. Shaw Theatres Lido or Cathay Cineleisure was the go-to destinations. On average that is about $20 between Mr.C and I, some movies are more expensive but let’s leave that be. I prefer to understate than overstate in this case, so let’s go with 1 movie a month.

I used to go to Marina Bay Sands to watch plays with my girlfriends as well. Mr.C would go maybe once a year (he knew this was way too much money!). I did at least twice a year. Let’s say in a year we would spend about $240 ($80 x 3).

Nowadays, we don’t do plays anymore. I can’t bring myself to spend that much. On movies, we go 2-3 times a year and only on Sundays where we have a 1 for 1 promotion with our mobile services provider. So we’ve brought down the theatre expenses to $30 a year.

What do we do instead? We watch movies at home! We aren’t the type to need to watch the new movies immediately so it works out fine.

Total Annual Savings: $450

The Power of 25 tells me that if we had this $18,000 p/annum expense, we would need an additional $450,000 to support this lifestyle in our retirement bucket. What’s the Power of 25, you ask? Glad you did (maybe you did not as it’s quite evident it is the inverse of the 4% rule, you savvy financial bloggers!), tune in for the upcoming post on that! It will rock your socks off 😉

Your turn! What was your big and small tweaks that built up your bottom line even further post-FIRE mindset?

Author: Ms.K

Ms.K is everything that Mr.C is, without the natural interest in investing and company financials! The activity planner for the family, the driver of random ideas and soon to be ‘retiring’ in to full time motherhood – Ms.K has no idea what she’s in for but remains super excited!

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