I Hit My First $10k At 20!


I was discussing about my finances with my family this week and sharing my struggles about my cost of exchange when I go in Year 3 Sem 1, in Jan 2015.

I told Dad  about the amount of debt that I’ll have to carry when I graduate- over $50k. Not a small sum for someone who hasn’t even celebrated her 21st birthday. Yet, Dad allayed my concerns by charting out my savings progress upon graduation. Only then did the digits not seem so insurmountable. He told me he was proud of me. So even when my results weren’t able to make him proud, at least my financial independence and maturity of thought can.

Spurred by curiosity, I then went to tally my entire earnings from 2012. In the whole of 2012 and 2013, I earned $14.4k. On average, that means I earn on average $600 a month. That’s quite a feat at age 19 and 20.

If you don’t know already, I stopped taking pocket money from my parents since 2012, after A’ Level graduation when I took on part time work during that 8-month transition from Junior College to University. I have been a diligent labourer, at one time taking several jobs at once- tuitions (up to 3), a day job, a night job and a weekend job as a climbing instructor. I idolized the idea of being snowed under, because at that time I wanted to escape from the present. I learned how to manage my finances, how to save and how to spend wisely. For a while, I was helping to pay off my sister’s transport expenditure.

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During Happy Hour @ Customs House.

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Working at Camelot as a camp instructor.

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As a telemarketer.
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Perks of a telemarketer @ a Korean company.

Until today, I pay my own expenses these past 2.5 years, including:

  • transport
  • food
  • my S4 handphone ($455)
  • skin doctor ($170)
  • coach fees ($150)
  • OCSP to Vietnam ($400)

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  • my holiday trips (~$500) with friends

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  • shopping
  • etc

I’ve recently been fortunate enough to be selected on a BSM (Business Study Mission) to New York with my Corporate Communication professor (I was a last minute transfer thanks to a personal invitation from my prof, so how could I say no?!). That trip will cost over $4k and it was a last minute decision so I had not budgeted my savings for it. That means my $4k worth of exchange savings (that I’d saved for over 2 years) will be absorbed by this trip. :/

There are so many other things that I want to own- a camera for exchange (~$800) and a driving license(~$1.5k). But I’d rather buy experiences through the BSM than material wants, so there.

Compared to the peers of my age who, like me, don’t fall under:

  • pretty (enough to be a model)
  • capable (enough to run their own business)
  • rich (enough to travel without reservations)

… I guess I’m faring pretty well, being financially independent.

This independence has granted me trust by my parents to purchase big-ticket items and overseas travel without facing their resistance. In fact, they have shown support in their own ways, such as driving me to my tutee’s place and preparing meals for me to school/ work. These are the perks of being born in a average-to-do family.

Yes I’m limited to less extravagant dinners, movie dates, plays, social activities, so what? I still can do what I enjoy- nature-watching, picture-taking, running, climbing, travelling (on budget flights), home-cooked meals, exploration dates (post coming up!)- with the people I enjoy.

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So now when I spend, I spend responsibly and free of guilt. I make calculated purchases instead of impulsive ones. I stand back and reassess consumerism and its lure on consumers, and I don’t fall prey to it.

The bottom-line is, you don’t have to graduate and start working proper to be in control of your finances. There are plenty of ad-hoc jobs available out there. I already have some on hand. Hit me up if you need a day’s work or two, but are unable to commit for long.

Unless you already know what you want in your career, there’s no harm job-hopping right now before you graduate to explore the variety of jobs in Singapore! For instance, the difference between working in a corporate culture and working as a waitress is stark. One involves rigidity; the other comes with hurling expletives at co-workers. This period of transition from a student to a working adult is the only chance you’ll get. You’ll not take these jobs up when you’re a working adult already.

This experience has made me grown used to being busy. I get uneasy having nothing on my plate; I’d feel like my life is ebbing away meaninglessly. Youth is evanescent. I’m proud of being a busy, independent bee. Are you?

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