My Top 3 Budgeting App Picks

In my previous article on “Budgeting for Newbies“, I introduced the golden rule of budgeting and showed how we can optimize our budget to suit our goals. The best way to prepare ourselves from upcoming price and GST hikes is to keep our spending habits in check by creating and sticking to a budget plan.

However, creating a budget plan is only the easiest part. What makes it difficult is having to track our expenses. Many tried but gave up after a period of time. Luckily for us, technology caught up and as we transition to a cashless society, tracking our expenses will be a lot easier.

Here are my top 3 picks:

1. DBS/POSB NAV

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*Image from DBS

DBS/POSB recently launched their GPS NAV, tracking the cash flow from our accounts. If you only bank with DBS or POSB, this would be the perfect tool to monitor cash flowing in and out of the account when you make cashless payments.

On top of that, it comes with a life goals tracking tool called ‘Sail’ which allows users to input and track their goals. It is really cool to play around with to see how much we need when we retire based on our current spending.

DBS NAV.JPG

However, the calculation from their insights aren’t the most accurate and I feel there is room for improvement. When I transfer money from my personal POSB Savings account to my own Multiplier account, it is considered as “Money out”. Here’s my average money out when I transferred between accounts multiple times (Just for experimental purposes)

dbs insights

But if you don’t do frequent transfers between accounts, this app would be the best “lazy” app.

Pros: Automated tracking, simple interface with goals tracker, perfect for the lazy tracker.

Cons: Requires the user to log into iBanking every time they want to check their progress, only limited to DBS/POSB (But able to manually input non DBS/POSB “money out”)

2. Seedly app

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*Image from Seedly

If your transactions are with different banks, tracking becomes a lot trickier as DBS/POSB NAV can’t track those transactions or even help us sort them into various categories. Thanks to Seedly, there is now an app that allows users to sync accounts across multiple banks, making it convenient to track our spendings.

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Pros: Able to track transactions from multiple banks, simple interface, comes with an input button for transactions paid in cash.

Cons: Requires the user to sync their bank accounts manually which includes logging into iBanking and entering OTP.

3. Money Manager

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If you are like me and enjoy looking at graphs and numbers, this is the app for you. The categories are fully customizable and allow users to delve deeper into which areas they are overspending on.

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Over here, you can see I spend a lot on beverages and I might want to cut that next month.

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I really like the fact that it comes with a ‘goal post’ which allows the user to see if he or she is on track.

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Classic and simple to use…

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This app doesn’t allow us to sync with our bank accounts. That means we need to cultivate a habit of tracking our expenses manually. Thankfully, it allows us to enable a shortcut on their notifications for quick and easy inputs.

Pros: Crunch numbers for those who enjoy analysis, day to day goal post, customizable categories.

Cons: Manual input of every expense.

These are my top 3 budgeting and money tracking apps. Let me know what you think and if you have a better app, feel free to share and I’ll definitely look into it! Thanks for reading and happy building your layers!

*Featured image from Singapore Business Review

Continue reading “My Top 3 Budgeting App Picks”

The Newbie’s Guide to Budgeting

Working more than 40 hours a week is daunting for many and we often resort to rewarding ourselves with a great meal over the weekend. Couple that with the active social lifestyles of millennials, controlling our expenditures on a daily basis can be difficult. As the cost of living continues to rise, the best way to prepare ourselves is to keep our spending habits in check by creating and sticking to a budget plan.

The Savings Layer

This introductory article talks about the different layers of wealth. Savings can be broken into two parts:

  1. Getting the most value from day to day purchases through cash backs, discounts etc.
  2. Putting aside a sum of money in a bank for future use.

The focus of this article is to introduce the golden rule of budgeting and how it can be fine-tuned to match our current financial situation.

50/30/20 Budgeting Rule

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*Image from The Balance

This golden rule allocates a portion of our take-home income (after CPF) into 3 different categories: 50% on needs, 30% on wants and the remaining 20% for savings. It’s as simple as that. However, I’m not a huge fan of this allocation as it doesn’t seem to be in sync with the goals of an average fresh graduate. According to the news, the median fresh grad salary take-home salary is $2,720. Following this rule means saving $544/month. If you have seen my goals, I’m targeting to save around $1,182/month and this doesn’t align with it.

Adding 13th-month bonus (assuming another 20% savings each year) and taking 2% annual pay rise, the average fresh grad takes about 7.4 years to save $56,750, equivalent to the average marriage & house renovations cost for each individual (excluding BTO downpayment). What happens after that? Savings go back to 0, leaving nothing in the emergency and retirement accounts.

The same concept applies when we have kids. According to an article by Business Times, 66% of parents are concerned about not having sufficient money to retire. Digging deeper, majority wish they had started saving for retirement earlier. This is why it is important to start early and let the power of compounding do its work, so we could take a breather and relax in the future.

However, if you are a working adult and have already made all your big purchases, then the above rule should work well if the 20% is solely for retirement. But I’ll always challenge my readers to find ways to increase their savings. No matter how financially savvy we are, there are always better ways to manage our expenses.

50/30/20 (Seedly version)

I came across an article by Seedly and they took the budgeting rule to another level.

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*Image by Seedly

Over here, 80% expenses on “needs and wants” are reduced to 50%. The additional 30% will be used to invest through the 3rd layer of wealth which focuses on growing our upcoming goals and retirement pots.

This is definitely a better approach for fresh grads like myself as I can build my retirement pot and prepare for my next big ticket purchase at the same time. The 20% savings will be focused on building my emergency funds (3 to 6 times of monthly expenses) before I divert it to accelerate my retirement pot.

Now you have a rough idea on the allocation, bear in mind that just because a budget plan works for the majority doesn’t mean it works for everyone. Let’s break into further details with a step by step approach to budgeting.

Typical Fresh Grad Example

1. Set a target ratio

Just because I introduced the 50/30/20 rule doesn’t mean you die die have to follow. Take some time and think. Some may prefer to save more and have a 40/40/20 ratio, some have more bills and expenses to pay and have a 70/10/20 ratio. Personally, I have my emergency funds ready, I do donations and give allowance to my parents, so my ratio is 60/30/10.

For the sake of this example, I’m sticking with the Golden 50/30/20 rule.

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2. Pay yourself first

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*Graph showing how much interests our student loans can add up to.

Set aside the minimum sum to pay our loans immediately after we receive our salary. This is a fail-proof way that prevents us from overspending and having to borrow from others just to pay our loans.

I couldn’t stress more on the importance of paying our credit card and student loans as bank interests could ramp up over the long run. Hence, the quicker we pay off these loans, the better. In fact, unless I’m very confident my annual returns on my investments will beat the interest on my bank loans, I wouldn’t even start investing and would rather focus my 30% (wealth allocation) on top of the $400 minimum sum. Taking the median fresh grad take-home salary, that would be $400 + 30% of $2,720 = $1216/month.

Note: If it is a credit card debt with 24% interest, I would allocate a much higher portion to pay the debt.

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3. Input your monthly expenses

Estimate your current monthly expenses. This includes bills, insurance premiums, food, transport, entertainment, healthcare etc. As long as money is leaving the bank account, it is considered an expense. If you can’t estimate your monthly expenses, try tracking it for a month using a budgeting app.

Note: Don’t forget to set aside a sum for income tax! Click here for rates.

Taking $1,200 (44%) for this example, there is 11% left for savings.

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4. Optimize it!

Optimization is important. It shows our current status and guides us to our goals.

To meet the 50/30/20 target ratio, expenses need to drop by 9% to push savings up to 20%. That means spending $250 less!

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What if I’m struggling to cut my expenses?

This is common and many struggle to adapt to sudden changes. Imagine if you decided to cut $150 from grab and another $100 from entertainment. That probably means you cannot afford to sleep an additional 30mins on rainy days that are so sleep-inducing or have 1-2 less drinking sessions with your friends! Similar to when one resorts to quitting smoking, those who quit cold turkey often fail and find themselves back to square one.

The solution? Progressive approach. From the stories I’ve heard, those who succeed don’t aim to cut 9% right away. They reduce their expenses by 1% each month and slowly but surely, they reach their targets. I’m sure there are better ways and would love to hear how you did it below.

Summary

The budgeting guide is easy to follow. It helps us spend within our limits and at the same time, it ensures we are saving enough for the future. However, one must not be too rigid with the golden rule as it differs for each individual. Always do proper planning and set realistic targets. Thank you for reading and happy building your layers!

*Featured image from WallStreetSurvivor

Continue reading “The Newbie’s Guide to Budgeting”

One Thing I’ve Learnt from the Service Industry

What’s the first thing that comes to mind if I were to ask you which is the most popular Hot Pot in Singapore? If your answer isn’t HaiDiLao, chances are, you haven’t been there yet. Despite the high prices (Average $40/pax), they seem to have no issues getting full table reservations every weekend and people are willing to queue up to 4 hours just to have a meal. While I was dining with my family there recently, I asked myself what made them so popular and why people are always coming back? HaiDiLao is able to retain their customers and attract new patrons at the same time – something most businesses struggle to achieve. What made them so successful?

Top tier customer service

This is no doubt the core of their business. From the beginning when we get our queue numbers to the moment we leave the restaurant, we are always greeted with a huge smile. Every single time I patronise HaiDiLao, I would leave with a really good feeling. But is this really the main reason why they are so successful? How do businesses such as Singapore Airlines enjoy such high levels of customer satisfaction too? We have to dig deeper into the true meaning of customer service.

The true meaning of customer service

During my time as a staff in Universal Studios Singapore, I got a glimpse of what the tourism industry is like. I was a part-time admin staff and had to do frequent patrols around the park to ensure things were smooth for both guests and employees.

During one of my afternoon checks, I happened to spot a little commotion. One of the guests approached the staff stationed at the express queue and told him that his one-time express pass was wrongly marked and he hadn’t used it yet. However, his ticket was clearly marked and torn, indicating that it was used. I could tell the staff was not buying his nonsense and wanted to turn him down, but his leader quickly stepped in and apologised for the error, even giving him entry into the express queue.

Baffled, the staff asked his leader: “Why did you let him in? It was clearly a scam and he is cheating us and the resort’s money.” The leader responded: “It is not worth it. Because this is what customer service is all about.”

I was shocked. I always thought customer service was all about greeting customers with a wide smile.

It was at that moment I realized:

“Customer service is all about biting the bullet, even when we know we are in the right”

In Singaporean slang: suck thumb and continue…

Why is this the case?

From the logical point of view, let’s say…with every 100 customers, 95% are happy paying customers, 2.5% are scammers, and the remaining 2.5% are legit customers with issues. What happens if we start to think we are always right and are not prone to mistakes? We are going to group these 2.5% customers with actual issues with the other 2.5% scamming customers and end up in a situation where we identify all 5% of our customers as “scammers”.

Starting to see my point? Let’s say for example you buy the latest iPhone, unbox it at home and find a crack on your front screen probably dented during shipping. You head to the Apple store and they deny your claim, saying you dropped it and have to bear full responsibility for the damaged phone. How furious would you be? You will start ranting to your friends, family and might eventually take it to social media, destroying their reputation. But if the staff bit the bullet and took responsibility for it, you will walk away happy and wouldn’t make a huge fuss. In fact, you might even leave a nice review for them! Not only do they keep you as their customer, they also manage to protect their reputation as the first trillion dollar company.

The fact that 2.5% of their customers are trying to cheat them isn’t the issue. The real issue lies within what these 2.5% scammers + another 2.5% legit customers with issues can do if they do not get what they want. I can guarantee that if this happens to any one of my aunts (and they aren’t the type that scam), they are going to spread the news like wildfire, stronger than you can ever imagine.

It isn’t worth it

The same concept applies to any business out there. Going back to HaiDiLao, I’m sure they are aware that there are customers making false claims that they are celebrating their birthdays just to treat themselves to a free fruit platter. Yet, they still give their customers the benefit of the doubt and celebrate with them.

As a business, it doesn’t matter if we give in and our customers don’t write us a good review or thank us for it. Because if they do, it’s a bonus for us. But the moment we put our pride in front of us and assume they are trying to cheat us, it doesn’t matter if their claim is legit or a scam. We can be rest assured they are going to say bad things about our company and slowly but surely, these negative news will cause a decline in customers and a damage to the business. Would we rather lose a small amount of our capital on those 2.5% scammers or lose 97.5% of our happy and legit customers?

Applying it to our lives

Most of you must be wondering – I’m not a business owner, so what does this got to do with me? Well, the principle I shared can be applied to many areas in our lives.

At work, when someone from another department (especially the seniors and bosses) claim they are busy and request for our help on tasks unrelated to our job scopes, be grateful, bite the bullet and help them. Don’t assume they want to slack off and take advantage of us and tell them “It’s not my job”. If we help them, who knows? We may have made a new friend! However should we be really busy, then we can explain our situation and I’m sure they will understand. If they still enforce it upon us repeatedly, then it’s time to ask ourselves if they really do deserve us, weigh the pros and cons, and decide if it is worth all the pain. If you continue to read my blog in the future and save your emergency funds, I’m sure some of you will be more than willing to leave a toxic environment to pursue greener pastures.

In the stock market, it is important to bite the bullet and admit our loss. A very good example of this is GoPro Inc (Ticker: GPRO). Towards the end of 2016, investors were hyped about their new drone and started buying their shares at $10 each. When it failed, they didn’t accept their loss and claimed it was just a ‘paper loss’. The company had no other areas of growth, it was screwing up over and over again, and sales are continuing to decline, yet some investors continued to hold their shares until they reached an all time low of $4.42 per share.

If we make a bad decision and buy a certain stock only to discover later on it isn’t a good company and it doesn’t align with our investment plans, then ‘suck thumb’ and accept the loss. Don’t let emotions overwhelm you and start taking control by making the right move.

I’m sure there are more examples of biting the bullet, but I hope this article brings a new perspective about customer service, how we can learn from them and how we can apply it in our lives.

*Featured image from Evolllution

Continue reading “One Thing I’ve Learnt from the Service Industry”