Welcome to Money Diaries, where contributors give you a peek into not just their expenditures but also their lives over a seven-day period. Reading a diary is a pretty good way of living vicariously through another person and we hope you’re in for the ride.
In this edition, I share my expenses but not my salary — forsaking transparency is necessary since maintaining my anonymity was no easy feat. This diary was written in late February and I deliberately chose a week that was filled with social activities outside of my house (rare!).
Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology
Job: Web content writer for a fashion retail brand headquartered in Singapore
Allowance to my mother, which she uses to contribute to my insurance: $530/month
Wildchild domain name: $43/year
WordPress Premium: $135.70/year
Phone Bill: $0 (I receive a $30 phone allowance from my company)
Spotify Premium: $5/month (I pay for my mom and I as part of a friend’s family account)
The New York Times: $0 (Leeching off another friend’s subscription)
Substack Newsletters: ~$6.60/month for Haley Nahman’s Maybe Baby
Netflix: $0 (My dad pays for it)
Savings: Everything I have left after deducting my expenditure on food and transport; averages at $1600/month
How would you describe your relationship with money, before and after making your own?
Thus far, I have had a healthy relationship with money as I have been privileged enough to avoid experiencing financial precarity. My mother’s relationship with money probably had a huge influence on me. She is thrifty but gave me anything I asked for as well as whatever she thought I needed. I always saw the money that I had in my savings account as my mother’s since she contributed to the bulk of it.
At age 24, I am earning my own keep but I won’t classify myself as financially independent since the money that I earn is certainly insufficient for independent living. Most of my living expenses are still covered by my parents since I still live under their roof; I recognize the privilege of being free from debt, responsibilities and commitments, especially as a pretty fresh graduate. My spending habits have not changed after I started working full-time. There was a significant shift a few years ago, however, when I became more mindful about my consumption — I stopped purchasing fast-fashion clothing although shopping was once an activity that I did with much fervor.
Did you receive any education — from family members, guardians, friends or institutions — about managing your finances?
I’ve definitely not received much education with regards to managing my finances. I leave the task to my mother, who is very risk-averse, and it’s not like I have a lot of money to manage at this point either. The most exciting thing that I’ve done with my savings thus far was to contribute a portion to Prime Rewards, an endowment plan by Great Eastern.
I would like to get away with being financially-illiterate for as long as possible. I spend within my means and am willing to accumulate money for a sense of security. However, actively multiplying it does not interest me much so I don’t foresee myself educating myself on how to maximize my savings anytime soon.
How much would you say that money occupies your mind and guides your decisions?
I always differentiate my wants from my needs and make my material purchases only after much deliberation. At this point, I only spend money on food, transport and skincare products. Of course, I weigh the prices and value of these purchases in my mind though I actively try not to overthink my expenses in these areas since I classify the bulk of them as necessary.
When it comes to bigger decisions such as deciding on a job, money is not my priority — I often end up prioritizing passion and interest because I value those more. Currently, I don’t foresee myself building a family or having to pay for and furnish an apartment, so that staves off the pressure to pick a higher-paying job. Life is unpredictable and may even be cruelly short! As long as there’s food on the table and a roof over my head, I’ll be content. So I would rather let my life decisions be guided by something other than money if that is an option that I can afford to take in my current phase of my life.
9.59am – Since I’m working from home, I get to wake up at the time I usually reach my office. After washing up, I offer to make coffee for my helpers — there’s two of them now because my helper is leaving and her sister-in-law is learning the ropes to fill her position as my grandfather’s caregiver — but they reject me because they’ve had milk tea during their breakfast.
10.05am – I’m too lazy to make coffee with my French press since no one wants to share it with me. I open a bottle of matcha milk tea from Haus Brew; I had high expectations since I love their lychee red tea but I did not quite fancy this flavor.
10.32am – Receive a message from a superior asking if I would like to chip in for a gift — cake and flowers — for our boss. I ask her to count me in. $6.80
12.48pm – Time to buy lunch at the mall opposite my house! I head downstairs with my own container. Since I still have my matriculation card from university, I pass off as a student and get a discount for my pasta. $4.90
1.01pm – Mix matcha green tea with a matcha green tea packet to enhance the flavors. I dig in. I’m so excited to start watching BBC’s Normal People since I just read the book.
1.48pm – Resumed working but I was distracted because I found a couple of copywriting jobs for fashion retail sites and was discussing them with a colleague who was open to working in other cities.
2.43pm – My neighbour shows me her pot of dying yellow ixora when I open the door to get ready for my grandfather’s return from the hospital.
3.15pm – I have to take a time-out from work — my grandfather’s heart rate and oxygen rate are alarmingly low and he keeps shivering so we are trying to find ways to keep him warm.
3.32pm – Crisis averted so I start to catch up on my work. I’ll have to compensate for my time-out tomorrow because I have plans tonight.
6.09pm – I volunteer every Monday evening but this week is the exception since I’m attending Maison 21G’s perfume workshop at 7pm. After taking my camera from the dry box, I realize that all my batteries are dead so I ditch my plan to take photos at the event.
6.35pm – I’m running late so I book a Grab and it arrives after ten painful minutes. I panic-text Dilys, my friend who is attending the workshop with me, the entire ride. $16.30
6.56pm – Dilys assures me that the session before ours is not over yet; the delay gives me ample time to get to the location before our session begins.
7.10pm – I reach Duxton Hill and enter Maison 21G’s flagship store for the first time. The workshop reminds me of a chemistry lesson and we got to try a cocktail that was tailor-made for the launch of a new core scent, Cashmere Wood.
8.14pm – Time for dinner. It was hard to pick a restaurant at Tanjong Pagar but we finally found a Korean restaurant that allowed me to satisfy my cravings for kimchi pancake. We over-ordered — we also got seafood tofu soup, jajangmyeon and complimentary dumplings — so I brought the leftovers home.
9.58pm – We part ways and I take the train home though it’s pretty late because taking more than one Grab ride a day feels excessive.
11.55pm – I shower close to midnight because I spent a long time speaking to my mom about my grandad’s unpredictable condition and the mounting crises that keep emerging.
12.34am – Transfer my share of the dinner to Dilys using Google pay. Got three Lennies… instead of the elusive BB Loh. $33
Daily total: $61
9.50am – A rare instance in which I wake up before my alarm rings.
11.52am – I buy lunch for my grandfather, who is hungry because he was so fatigued that he skipped dinner last night. Burnt my thumb trying to put the container I brought into my thermal bag since the soup was piping hot — BYO can sure be a pain in the ass sometimes. $4.20
12.15pm – Heat up my leftovers from last night’s dinner and share them with my mom. My relatives come to our house fairly regularly to spend more time with my grandfather.
1.04pm – Back to work. Got my caffeine fix; I added Meiji milk to my mom’s black coffee from Ya Kun.
6.25pm – I’m on a roll; I complete all the tasks on my to-do list. Then, I attend to an urgent copy request sent by a colleague.
7.45pm – I am done with the request and while I’m hungry, I head off for a run. It’s been too long since my last (the Thursday before), which will make my next run feel more painful.
8.22pm – I do some core exercises before my mom calls me for dinner, which is glutinous rice made by a family friend.
9.18pm – Back at my work laptop after dinner, though I was certainly distracted by the video that the PR team sent me from the perfume workshop since Dilys and I had some screen time.
10.38pm – I decide that I’m done with work for the day. I speed through my shower to minimize the odds of having to sprint out mid-shower — my grandfather wakes up to use the toilet often.
10.53pm – Write and edit articles for wildchild on my parents’ bed. I sleep on a sofa bed in their room since my grandad and his helpers have taken over mine.
12.12am – My mom enters the room and reclaims her spot on the bed. I am tired as well so I decide to sleep early. Somehow I have this question in my diary entry at the end of this day: What would I dare to let my heart desire if money was no object? I have no recollection of entertaining this thought.
Daily total: $4.20
8.18am – My sleep was interrupted since my parents woke up early for my grandfather’s medical appointment. I plopped on my parents bed since they’ve vacated it.
10.15am – Get out of bed after replying to urgent TEAMS messages on my phone.
12.37pm – I get my mom to buy xiao long bao and cold ma la noodles for lunch since she’s headed downstairs. Had them with a glass of matcha milk tea from the same bottle.
2.24pm – I’m tired because I’ve not had enough caffeine.
4.44pm – To combat my fatigue, I take a quick rinse with Lush’s Dirty Springwash body gel samples. I really like the scent so I plan to buy it in the future. Transfer my share to a colleague for a steamboat dinner we had to celebrate Chinese New Year. $10.90
7.26pm – I pass some shopping vouchers to my friend — I’m sharing them with her since I have extra — and also ask her to get a belt bag on my behalf.
9.40pm – My friend panics because the retail staff asked for her NRIC to confirm her identity (she was trying to pass off as me). Later, we find out this request is a breach of PDPA.
9.59pm – Back at work but I end up texting more than anything.
11.05pm – Finish one task on my to-do list so I go for a shower.
1.24am – Bedtime! I am in fits of laughter because when I was ordering an item on behalf of my friend, I asked him for his address. Then I realized I already had it, saying “what kind of friend would I be if I didn’t have his address?” When asked if he had mine, he triumphantly said yes before copying and pasting the first address that popped up on Telegram search — General Magnetics Building — which was clearly not a place of residence.
Daily total: $10.90
10.00am – I have the house all to myself, which is a first in a long while. My mom brought my grandfather to the hospital for an appointment, and the helpers are out for grocery shopping.
10.51am – I decide to make coffee with my French press.
12.20pm – My helper offers to cook pasta for me.
1.24pm – I eat a plate of prawn aglio olio and finish the remainder of the first episode of Normal People. Watched a bit of the next episode, which contained the debut of the many sex scenes to come. I think about how awkward it is to film such a scene. And how just like the novel, the show has an air of realism. Marianne asks Connell for a condom; Connell affirms her consent and tells her she can stop anytime she wants if it hurts — I don’t usually see such a portrayal of sex in mainstream media.
6.50pm – Done with work!
7.26pm – The sky looks cloudy but I decide it’s safe enough to go for a run so I get changed.
7.29pm – It begins to pour. My AirPods are also not working. I feel resigned and work out on my yoga mat instead.
8.03pm – I trace and draw a pomeranian for the cover image of wildchild’s intermittent fasting article. The contributor has a pomeranian and I want the cover image to contain elements from the contributor’s words and life.
11.28pm – Shower!
1.34am – Today’s the last day to get BB Loh and I did… not get it. Better luck next year.
Daily total: $0
1.11pm – It’s a slow work day. My mom offers to get lunch for us.
6.23pm – There’s finally some golden hour light so I set up a flat lay although this decision puts me at risk of being late for my dinner appointment with my friend. I am horrible at taking photos on a DSLR but I think I got a few usable shots.
6.54pm – I managed to run for the bus and get to my dinner spot on time!
7.07pm – I order a yakiniku beef don. At dinner, I discussed my grandfather’s condition with my friend as my family was at crossroads with regards to whether my grandfather should start immunotherapy after radiotherapy and chemotherapy had failed, because this treatment was risky and may end up accelerating his decline. He told me to check out a book that he just read, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande. I immediately added it to my to-be-read list on Libby. $18
9.12pm – We head back to our neighborhood and go to Starbucks, where I get an açai blueberry yoghurt parfait ($5.80) using my Starbucks card that my dad had once mistakenly topped up.
10.45pm – I traced a Toyota Vios for another cover image — this time it’s for a money diary — while chatting with my mom. Every time she stops talking, I ask “and then?” so that she will continue speaking.
1.11am – My mom is watching Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel on Netflix and I tell her that I read that crime docuseries are often problematic because they humanize killers while neglecting to center their victims.
Daily total: $18
2.15pm – Went to a temple in town with my parents to pray in the morning and so they dropped me off at a cafe called PRAIRIE by Craftsmen at Bukit Timah, where I was meeting a group of friends. Got the Impossible burger, which tasted alright. $25.68
3.58pm – Met a friend to pass her the perfume that I customized on Monday since she wanted to try out Maison 21G’s scents before purchasing one of her own. My full name is printed on the bottle so it sure feels bizarre for it to be in someone else’s possession, even briefly.
5.55pm – Took a nap after showering because I was exhausted.
8.19pm – Woke up to eat the food that my parents bought for dinner.
9.38pm – Watched a play that my friend wrote (it starts at 49:25), which covered relationships, pornography, sexual assault and suicide. Truly a mixed bag of subjects.
10.45pm – I check my Apple wallet to see if I can check the timestamps of when I took public transport and I realize that the billing address for my card is my ex-boss’ home address for some reason. I am mortified although I’m sure it doesn’t affect anything. I update it immediately.
Daily total: $25.68
12.35pm – Leave for Dilys’ house. We have a viewing party for To All the Boys: Always and Forever, the final movie for the To All The Boys trilogy, with our friend group. We watched the second film together on Valentine’s Day the year before and could not stop yelling at the screen at the bad dialogue and stupid decisions made by the characters. Of course, we had to watch the final instalment together even when that meant that I had to wait for two weeks while Netflix kept shoving the film in my face through their recommendations.
1.11pm – I got chicha bubble tea for everyone because I rarely drink bubble tea but always do so when I meet this group of friends. $31.20
1.40pm – Lunch was fish soup with thick bee hoon and milk, cooked by Dilys’ mom.
2.21pm – Since not everyone watched the series, I gave the group a not-so-brief summary of the first two movies/books so that they have enough context to enjoy the third film. I was obsessed with the first instalment to the extent that I rewatched it multiple times — I once watched it with French dub. I saved the soundtrack as a playlist and memorized every song. I read the trilogy and reviews of the entire franchise, and took heart in the knowledge that I was not the only adult (non-high schooler) smitten by this love story.
5.50pm – Played a board game called Insider, which is a game where an insider tries to subtly mislead other team members in their attempt to guess the secret word for the round. In my head, I kept thinking this game was named Imposter because of my obsession with watching Among Us gameplays.
7.12pm – Dinner at Ratchada Thai, my favourite Thai food joint in my neighborhood. I keep bringing my friends and family there. My friend Stella pays for dinner so she can chip in for the bubble tea.
7.59pm – Realized I left my portable charger at Dilys’ house, which gives us an excuse to meet in the future.
8.44pm – Shower.
12.00am – I head to bed at exactly midnight. My direct superior is back from her 6-month long maternity leave so I can’t wait to see what’s in store tomorrow.
Daily total: $31.20
Weekly total: $150.98
Feature image by Sherryl Cheong