Sunday, May 24, 2009
Making dollars and sense 


I am a reformed shopaholic.

When I was living in Tokyo, Mel and I used to hit the malls every week and we would always find something to buy. Leggings in another colour, a vintage top from the recycled shop (which ironically costs just as much as a new top), yet another pair of shoes and this and that.

As long as I paid my bills on time, as long as my bank account still registered a comfortable 6-digit number (in yen), I didn't think too much about what or where I was spending my income. It helped that I had the option of opening up my schedule to take on more lessons, so if I was planning a day trip or holiday someplace, I could just work more to make up for the expenditure. (To my credit I was one of the most hard-working teachers in my school.)

First came the Big Move.

I had to pack all my possessions into little boxes to be either shipped home or dragged halfway in my trusty suitcase across Tokyo to E's place, and I was confronted with the amount of excess I had allowed myself to accumulate in two years. I ended up giving away or throwing out a lot of my handbags and clothes and knick-knacks, and it made me realize how much more money I could have saved if I were more careful with my purchases.

Even worse when I had to move again from E's place back to Singapore, and I spent a small fortune shipping everything that I couldn't fit into my baggage allowance home.

Then came the Big Change.

I went from making a lot of yen to making a lot of nothing, factoring in three months of not working and travelling Asia and Australia on a careful budget.

E had been persuading me for the longest time to note down every cent I spent- but I was of the opinion that what you don't know can't hurt you. I watched every night with detached fascination as he would take out his receipts and key them into this elaborate Excel spreadsheet that he had formatted, with individual worksheets and impressive-looking graphs for income, bills, expenses etc. I later found out that Mel had the exact same habit! It was like I had stumbled upon the Secret Society of EFEs- Excel Finance Enthusiasts.

But New Year came and I decided to experiment with a new habit, so I joined the club and began writing down my expenditure, and boy was I in for a rude shock. I was blowing an average of 5,000-10,000 yen (SGD80-160) a day, which made me wonder how I ever built my nest egg in the first place.

It's amazing how far you learn to stretch your dollar when you start tracking your expenses, and it helped that after I moved away from Japan, being anywhere else in the world was much cheaper.

Finally came the Big Decision.

After a lot of sleepless nights and painful confrontation with my friends and myself, I decided to invest my life-savings in my future.

I began to follow the AUD online, and my heart sank everytime it strengthened against the SGD, but I will always remember how Jo told me that you cannot put a price on education, and I finally decided that this money spent would allow me to pursue my passion.

So here I am.

I have given up a lot of former luxuries to do what I will be doing come July- no more new handbags, fancy dinners and taxi rides, but I am happy and proud of myself. And even a little excited. ;)

Well, this little girl grew up and moved away.
And she lived her life full of risk and full of play.
And she lived her life with so much to say,
And her flowers, they grow more beautiful every day.

- "Little Red" by Kate Nash

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Female. Singaporean
Traveller. Bookworm.
Coffee Addict.
Amateur Photographer.
Wannabe Fashionista.
Museum Geek.

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