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Kopi with Song StoneCold: Getting value out of everything!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Song StoneCold says:
I decided to embark on my path to financial freedom about 5 years ago. So, what inspired me to get started?

I discovered that no matter how hard I worked I would still be a stinking rat in the rat race. Looking at some of my colleagues carrying balls and backstabbing each other just to get a promotion and increment of about $200 bucks truly disgusted me.

Then, I reached a ‘tipping point’ and decided enough was enough! I needed to get out of the rat race!

I started reading thousands of books and attended thousands of seminars. Ok, ok . Maybe just a few hundred books and a few hundred seminars. All these were on investing and financial planning.

To cut a long story short, every single financial planning book advocated living with a budget, recording every single transaction, being frugal and bla bla bla.

Well, some even tell you to forgo Starbucks coffee! Now, imagine the money you can save after the compounding effect! Gosh! 

(AK's comment: Gosh! Talking about me, are you?)

Nevertheless, I decided to give budgeting a try. I tracked every single transaction, everyday. I tried to save money here and there. I was frugal and I seldom bought any luxury items or had a good meal at restaurants. What was the result?

PAIN!

I realized that it was not what I really wanted.

I want to have a decent lifestyle even before I am financially free, not a lifestyle of frugality, not to live by the ‘suffer now and enjoy later’ mantra’. I want to occasionally enjoy my caramel frappacinno at Starbucks!

Something happened 3 years ago that reaffirmed my thinking. My late aunt passed away at the age of 40 leaving behind a large sum of money for my uncle. She had been frugal all her life to the extent of dividing a packet of chicken rice for lunch and dinner.

In short, she tried to save every single cent possible. She didn’t even buy coffee at the neighbourhood coffee shop, much less from Starbucks. Mind you, she was not poor at all. She was earning a decent monthly salary.

In the end, my uncle used all the money and spent it on another woman. My late aunt's pain became his gain. Sad story. Lesson learned for me.

1) No point being too frugal. We need to enjoy life once in a while and use our money wisely 

2) Suffer now and enjoy later may not happen. Life is unpredictable and at any time we may just say bye bye before we can enjoy life. What is the point of being the richest man in the graveyard?

I am not going to splurge on everything but I decided that to keep a balance is the way to go. I need to enjoy my life while building my wealth through investing. Having investments which generate cash flow will give me passive income while growth stocks will give me capital gain. I will enjoy my life NOW and not later.



After some trial and error, I found that to achieve this I just need two simple steps. 

1) Get value out of everything.

2) Just ask.

It is possible to have a decent lifestyle if you make some small efforts. Below are some of the examples of how I managed to have a decent lifestyle

1) I have many credit cards from different banks. Now if you are poor in financial discipline please don’t try this. This is only for people who pay off their bills every single month. There are many ways different credit cards can give you quality perks. 

For example, Citibank Dividend Card not only gives you cashback for everything you spend on, it even gives you FREE travel insurance when you book your flights using the card. It offers you 10 percent cash back for your Starbucks purchases too.

Then, Maybank's Family and Friends’ card offers you 5 percent cash back at Watson and Guardian. These are the places we will spend money at anyway. So, why not get a better deal. Find credit cards that suit your lifestyle and apply for them. Just make sure you pay them in full every month.

2) If you are a bookworm like me. You can borrow books from the public libraries instead of purchasing them. Recently, I discovered that we can borrow ebooks from the library too. It is hassle free and reading ebooks from my iPad feels so good. If you need to buy a physical book, try bookdepository.com. It offers free shipping worldwide. 

(AK's comment: If you do not mind pre-owned books, they are usually cheaper to buy. Betterworldbooks also ships globally for free and every book you buy helps to promote literacy for the poor.)

3) Once in a while, if you decide to buy a luxury item, just wait for a discount. Be patient!

More often than not, there would be a discount in any shop sometime in a year. I usually wait for the Great Singapore Sale to buy the expensive items that I want. Use your credit card during this period and it often offers more discounts and perks.

If you want to attend a concert or seminar, just Google. There will surely be people who are selling their tickets at a lower price because they cannot attend the event due to some reason. Compare prices in shops and Google to check online.

When you are travelling, you can buy items from the transit area of Changi Aiport. I bought my iPad Air there and saved on the GST of 7%. Many shops in Changi Airport in the areas open to everyone offer waivers on GST too. 

These steps will save you tons of dollars while you continue to enjoy your purchases.

4) Car related expenses. I have no loyalty when it comes to petroleum companies. Which company offers the best price will get my business. This could be through some credit card tie-ups or discount coupons, for examples. Sometimes, loyalty doesn’t pay. We need to get value out of everything.

5) You can still watch movies at the cinema but do it during weekdays. It is much cheaper. You could get discounts with some credit cards. One credit card even offers you free popcorn.

6) Eat at your favourite restaurants during lunch instead of dinner. Lunch is generally cheaper. Again use credit cards to get better offers. Try to have only ice water. Drinks are the most marked up items in the menu. They are not worth it.

Next step is to just open your mouth and ask! You will be surprised how much money you can save by just asking for a discount, free samples, annual fee waivers from credit cards etc. There is no harm asking. If we don’t get it, just look for another shop and move on.

There are so many ways and these are just a few.

What I am trying to say is that it is possible to live a good life at discounted prices.

In the stock market, we look for under-valued stocks. Here, we look for under-valued items. One of my favourite quotes from Warren Buffet is this:

"Whether we’re talking about socks or stocks, I like buying quality merchandise when it is marked down." - Warren Buffett.

Let us all enjoy a good life while we build our wealth at the same time.

Related posts:
1. 7 money habits of AK's.
2. Free shipping globally!
3. A modern day good life.
4. To be a happy peasant.
5. How rich is rich?
(... do not forget that being happy is more important than the pursuit of money. If we can be happy every day of our lives, we are truly rich.)

35 comments:

SGYI said...

Very good post. I really enjoyed it. For me, I discovered I needed to achieve financial freedom even before I started working. It was during army that I took the first bus and the first train super early in the morning. What I saw was old people in their 50s and 60s waking up so early and going to work. I told myself that I do not want to be like that at that age.

I used to be extreme in savings last time. Now I spend more but my savings still increase. The secret is in increasing one's income. Income can come from many other places instead of just the salary.

This is the first time I heard the quote from warren buffet. Really makes sense to buy quality merchandise at marked down prices. This is enjoying life at a discount.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post. I couldn't agree more. I have just started using different credit cards for the perks they offer and like you said you must pay the balance each month. And I must agree with the above comment, the key is to increasing ones salary not being willing to decrease the style of living.

Sincerely,
Blake
Top Stock Picks Today

veronika said...

People are generally aware of comparative analysis. One of the most straight forward tools to use to help decisions.

But many also find it too tedious or their 'wants' is far larger than their 'needs'.

We apply this tool sometimes without knowing it:

Should I continue dating Joe or Simon?

Should I buy the kitkat or the m&m ?

Should I subscribe to M1 or Starhub?

Of course, over analysing can also lead to paralysis.

SnOOpy168 said...

Thanks for sharing. Really enjoyed the casual tone of the article.

About certain cards and privileges. I rejoin SAFRA last year, taking advantage of their NS45 promo. Besides the free use of swimming pool at the club house (guest pays $3, which I think is too much) I also get one for one movie at Shaw Cinemas during weekend too. Good excuse to relax without burning a hole in the pocket. At their Oktober fest @ Tampines Clubhouse, I won the drinking competition (fastest time for 5 bottles) and carried home a 24 bottle carton of German beer. Had rush home immediately, before the alcohol kicks in. Luckily, a taxi showed up at the gate when i needed one. Beers are still in the store room, waiting to be enjoyed.

Sometimes those online coupon deals are worth looking at too. BUT the quality of the restaurants really vary so it's a hit & run.

Early adopters often pays a premium, esp for the tech gears. I am unsure about fashion and other stuff. Happily got myself a new Galaxy S4 for about S$500, no contract, during my birthday. Thats almost 1/2 the new launch price. And at last week's trip to Jakarta, managed to pick up an original S4 Battery kit for about 40% lesser than Singapore's price. Not forgetting that krispy kreme donuts costed like only S$0.72 each when Sillyporeans are queuing to pay almost $3 for this. Yup, I bought a doz at JKT airport before boarding. ^-^

So, it pays to get your stuff overseas too. Ask a friend for help or mail order.

Solace said...

A down to earth "Singapore style" guide to a more frugal living.

One does not have to read " The Millionaire Next Door, Millionaire teacher" to learn how save money.

Very good points which I endorsed Lol.

Gary said...

I like this post and I think it's good! Like StoneCold, I'm also also receiving paycheck every month and it's like a monthly rat race to clear insurance and household expenses. Just realised last year, things cannot go on forever. I decided to pay myself to attend Attlee Hue's REITS course and I would think I have been a more active investor. I know that it's late at my age to start value investing. But I hope my effort will pay off!

Singapore Man of Leisure said...

Song StoneCold (I hope you are not like this in bed),

Yeah!

One more time.

YEAH!

Finally a worthy counter-balance to that giam siap gui that I sometimes feel like punching...

But then hor, how could I... He already got so many arrows sticking out from his back...

It good he has you all guest bloggers to support him.

It's not easy being a kaypoh...

Good job!

AK71 said...

Hi SMOL,

Who is this giam siap gui? Who? Who? I help you punch him! Terrible! These people bad for the economy de! Grrrr... -.-"

By the way, I have been experiencing sharp pain in my back. Got good Chinese Sinseh to recommend or not? I hope not stung by those Dengue mosquitoes. Nasty blood suckers! -.-"

veronika said...

Hello AK71

You might want to consider acupuncture:

Paul Tan
Comfort Chinese Physician & Acupuncture
Blk 625 #02-306
Elias Mall

Tel 6582-5308

9am-1pm
2pm-5pm
6:30pm-9pm

10am-2pm ( sundays )

He is Singaporean

I have been treated by him for various ailments and they have all disappeared.

1. Frozen shoulder
2. Pulled muscle
3. Meniere's syndrome ( this is a friend's problem which all western trained physicians were unable to treat. Symptoms are feeling nauseous and vertigo for no reason.

My relationship with him is purely patient & sinseh. He is good at acupuncture... approx $40 per session depending how many needles to 'poke' you.

All the best.

AK71 said...

Hi Veronika,

You are so nice! :D

Er, nah, I don't really have pain in my back. I was just following up on what SMOL said, sending the ball back to his side of the court.

Bantering with him, if you know what I mean. ;p

Singapore Man of Leisure said...

Er...

See lah! Talk male-chicken lah!

Cry wolf some more!

Next time you got real pain or sickness people ignore you!!!

Wait. How many exclamation marks did I use?

Eh? I angry for what?

Oh! I jealous :(

I go back to sucking my thumb and hug my dutch wife tight tight tonight...

AK71 said...

Hi SMOL,

Wah! You very cheem lor.

Male chicken. Er. Rooster talk? Talk what cock? I don't understand. -.-"

OK, I shan't give you too much stress. Enjoy sucking and hugging tonight. :D

SGYI said...

SMOL and AK,

Both of you are so humourous. I guess its because you guys have reached financial freedom and free from the worries of this world that's why can talk until like that. Haha :p

Not like those who're burdened by financial troubles and talk like a dead man. LOL!!

Song StoneCold said...

Haha guys thx u very much for the kind words ! Most importantly thx Ak71 for inviting me to give my half cents worth.

AK71 said...

HI SGYI,

Dead men can talk? Sounds like stuff from "Pirates of the Caribbean". ;p

No lah. Simi financial freedom. I bet you many people reach FF also talk like dead men. No shortage of extras for the movie's next instalment. LOL.

SMOL and I belong to a band of archers. We born with sense of humour. Sorry, cannot learn one. Have or don't have, there is no maybe. OK, this sounds familiar. I think I mangled something Yoda said. -.-"

RKC Kan said...


If I may add, wealth creation is a lifelong process involving all of the following:
1. Income: active and passive
2. Savings
3. Investing (knowledgeably)
4. Simplification

I agree with Song Stonecold's practical tips on how to make cost savings in the local context, without making life too painful.

Equally important is the process of simplification to periodically monitor and trim any excess (since there is a tendancy for one to spend more as one earns more) while maintaining an acceptable standard of living.

AK71 said...

Hi Song,

You are welcome. :)

Easy to see that your maiden effort is a resounding success. Pressure is on for your second guest blog. ;)

Song StoneCold said...

After writing this article i find that blogging is not for me la. My England sucks and i took a long time writing this and its tiring . Thx Ak For editing my vocab and grammar. I will watch you tube later la. Vocab and grammar 101

Singapore Man of Leisure said...

Giam siap gui strikes again!

So fast after got free meal go:

"Please Sir, can I have more?"

Oliver Twist my derriere!

AK71 said...

Hi Song,

You have talent. See the number of LIKEs this blog post has won in a single morning? Don't be a one-hit wonder.

Take a break and when you have recovered from this ordeal, see if you feel like writing again. I hope you do. :)

AK71 said...

Today's weather not bad hor, SMOL? This evening, I shall go for a walk. ;)

SnOOpy168 said...

AK

With so many "nice" remarks about you, I suggest you take up brisk walking or running.

AK71 said...

Hi SnOOpy168,

To dodge arrows, I might have to do a bit of sprinting. -.-"

SnOOpy168 said...

With face recognition & tracking, which appears on even the cheap compact camera & smartphone...... run, for goodness, RUN..... hahahah

yiqiang said...

"What is the point of being the richest man in the graveyard?" Nice one! Really enjoyed your blog. :)

E H said...

The Citibank Dividend card is pretty good for its cashback. A good combo would be using the card at Tang's sales where you can get 12% rebates too. Great for big ticket items like household appliances.

Janice said...

May I ask, wouldn't you need to pay a lot of annual subscription fees when you have so many credit cards?

Song StoneCold said...

Maybe one fine day we can start a fb page and we contributes all our great value ideas and lobang for sharing haha

Song StoneCold said...

Hi Janice it's all free. I never once pay any subscription . Just call the bank and ask them to waive the fee. That's why in my post i say "just ask". So more more than 99 percent of the time the bank will gladly waive the annual fee due to competition . Cheers

Capricon said...

Janice,
Nowadays you don't even need to talk to the bank's customer service, call the CS line, there will be a option for fee waiver, just follow instructions and the bank will update thru SMS on the waiver status.

Cheers

紫蔻 said...

Hi ve been reading ur posts for some time now and must say I thoroughly enjoy them including this one here. Totally relevant thoughts as there are no 'for life' job concept anymore or even if there is, the reducing marginal increase in economic return and satisfaction with age.

Singapore Man of Leisure said...

AK,

Thanks for being a good sport bring my punching bag today!

I think it's that time of the month again...

Male menopause can be murder!


AK71 said...

Hi SMOL,

Even a tavern master must visit a cleric in his chapel once in a while. Spiritual health is very important. Once a month is good. No problem.

Remember to light a candle and, ahem, the donation box is next to the altar. ;p

G. said...

Totally agree with StoneCold! Citibank Dividend is a good card for daily expenses. For travel, check out Citibank Premiermiles for double Krisflyer miles on any overseas spend. For movies, HSBC Golden Village card was great but they got wise to the promo and now it's been revised to a separate weekday ($70) and weekend ($85) card. Still, at $8.50 that's 26% savings on a weekend movie ticket.

AhJohn said...

Good post. For me, I try to avoid buying any unnecessary stuffs, one of the reason is, what we need is really little, so many stuffs just stay at home and never touch for years, should be forever.

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