12:48:00 PM

We recently overheard someone spreading a rumour that Ben is "Loaded", as in rich, as in millionaire rich! Ok, apart from Ben being loaded with annoyance 24/7, we are quite far from being millionaires but that is certainly one of our goals nevertheless ;)

Mel has started working ever since she graduated from Uni (in 2011) at a small online media agency. She held a marketing executive role for 2 years but called it quits in April 2013 as she wanted to concentrate on piano teaching full-time. While there were risks involved and endless worries ("oh no, I don't have CPF", "will I have enough students?", "is my job gonna be stable?"), she went along with what she liked to do, because ultimately that was her Passion.

Ben co-founded (with a friend) a Guitar Agency in 2010 and a Piano Agency and TravelClef in 2011 while he was still studying in NUS. Shortly after graduating from Uni in 2014, he started a Violin Agency and Music Instrument Store (Alegria) and is also giving Guitar/Ukulele lessons 2 - 3 times a week.

It is very common for friends to question our financial stability as we are both self-employed (you know... we have to make voluntary CPF contributions monthly etc.). But we've learnt a lot over the past 11 months and would like to share some tips, particularly with Young Couples out there, who might be facing the same situation as us. So here goes...

1. Be open with each other

in terms of how much you are earning, how much you are spending, and even if you are facing any personal difficulties paying off a certain loan, installment for that month.

2. Download a Savings App each

We are currently using the app, Money Journal Lite, on our iPhones. We're not sure if it's available on Android but there are many free Finance/Savings apps available for download from the app store. The interface is really straightforward.

Though tedious at the start as we had to manually key in our daily income (more for Mel because she teaches a different no. of students daily and at a different rate), it became a good habit. Sometimes you would find us walking out of the supermart or coffeeshop busy on our phones recording our expenses just so that we won't forget at the end of the day.

3. Share the load

From the first day we dated, we had the habit of "going Dutch" when dining out. Over the years, we still do the same, but naturally take turns to foot the bill whether it is for 2 plates of chicken rice or dinner for 2 at a Sushi Restaurant.

When it comes to food, Mel usually spends less so towards the end of the month, she will check up on Ben to see if he has been gone over limit in his "Food" or "Grocery" category in the Money Journal app, and offer to pay for the meal or the week's grocery shopping. Ben does the same too whenever he notices that Mel has spent a lot on transportation / cab fares for the month and he would offer to pay for the trip.

4. Open a Joint Bank Account together

Some time in late 2012 we had agreed to open an account together and that meant each putting in some money on a monthly basis. I remember we started off with S$50 each, which grew to $100 each. All this while Ben was still studying and had much school expenses. It soon became a challenge to each other on how much we should put in every month. Also because we had set several money goals to achieve by a certain deadline, which pressed us to deposit more.

Starting Nov 2013, we have been contributing about 2000% more than we started, something we wouldn't imagine from the start but hoped to achieve together!

That being said, please keep your individual bank accounts!

For us, we choose to each continue saving in our personal accounts as well and we do keep the amount quite "private" "just in case" (Pssst...Ben says this is important especially if you have a spy for a girlfriend and you need to buy that engagement ring to spring that surprise!).

5. Set Goals and work to achieve them together

Ben always reminds Mel not to be stressed over Money and whether there was going to be "enough" money because we all know... there's never quite a thing as having enough. Apart from having personal goals for the year, we also set goals to achieve as a couple. Like "Go for another trip together this year" or "Go to a country we've never been before" or "Finish a cycle of P90X together" or "Save $xxxxx by December this year" etc.

Happy to say that we did achieve our monetary and holiday goals last year except for that P90x, which is in our 2014 list of goals ;)

6. Save more than you spend

Oversave, don't overspend.

7. Save the money first

The problem with spending is usually pegged to how much money we have in the bank. Usually when your pay comes in, you will have the psychological delusion that you have a stronger buying power. Thus, you will tend to spend more then panic at the end of the month when your bank account dries up. What we usually do is to transfer the money to our joint account once we receive our pay so that we won't overspend. Also, don't be swayed by the "power" of the credit cards. It gives you a greater delusion that you have "future" money to spend. Ben has credit cards but he only uses them to get discounts and immediately goes to the AXS to pay up the bill.

If you spend future money, you may not have money for your future.- Ben

8. Understanding Needs, Wants and the "Good to have" category

For most people, you definitely know what is a need and what is a want. A branded bag or expensive watch is definitely not a "need" but a "want". It is not that you shouldn't strive to get things you want, but always make sure you can fulfill all your needs first. 

So what is a "good to have"? For different people it varies differently. For us as an example, we travel around quite often to teach and Ben travels a lot to companies as well. But yet we don't have a car. Can we afford a car? Judging by our current finances, we can afford a second hand normal saloon, but why not? Because the immediate need is to save enough money for marriage which can be in the region of $60,000 - $70,000 (not forgetting a house which comes right after!). 

Ben also has his school loans to take care of which is $36,000 at this point in time. Having a car would be good as it makes traveling much easier and more comfortable.

But... Can we do without a car? 

Yes, definitely. Ben still cabs around and takes other form public transport. He takes the cab even when he feels lazy or wants to save more traveling time.

How much does he spend on transport?

$300 inclusive of top ups of EZ-link and Taxi. So is it wise to buy a second hand car and increase this expenditure by another 300%? Not so. If we have the spare cash and if we have kids then it will be a different story. It may be a good to have or even a need in future. 

We definitely have a lot more to learn though. So let us know what other money-saving methods you have explored as a couple! :)

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  1. both couple to put 100% salary into a central account. draw fixed amount salary from it every month. make big ticket purchases together. I am 37. have a fully paid 5 rm flat collecting rent, staying in a condo, has a kid, car and dog... only worked 10 yrs. my starting pay is only 2500 then...

  2. Hi Anon,

    Thank you for your advice, but I think it is not what we would want to advocate. It is good that you manage to create assets for yourself at the age of 37 but I feel that this method may cause a lot of stress to some couples.

    I say this because the individuals of a couple in a relationship may have different salaries and it may cost conflict when one earn significantly higher than the other.

    Also, the individuals may have different liabilities and expenditure as well.
    Like for Ben, he has a school loan debt of $39,000 but Mel is debt free in that aspect.

    Talking about expenditure, a male will spend more money on food than a female, a female spends more on grooming than a male. A female has to spend $50-80 on a proper brassiere to protect the important glands that feed her children while a typical guy probably spends just <$10 on an undergarment.

    So, with due respect, while this model may have worked for you, it certainly wouldn't work for us and that's why we wouldn't advise that to our readers as well.

    Thank you and may you be blessed in greater abundance.

  3. Hi may i knw how much u charge for ukulele or guitar lessons? piano as well... thanks :)

    1. Hi Jocelyn,

      Perhaps you'd like to enquire with our music agencies, which was founded by Ben and his business partner:

      and we will be able to better advice you on the rates based on where you live etc.

      Thanks! :)

  4. Nice blog post on saving and u two seem very much in love... Good Luck for the future. I've always believed in saving money when I can especially during my poorer days but I strongly believe in keep trying to achieve a higher income rather than cut back on luxuries. But all the time try to do things which you love and love what you do while you're doing it. Stay Happy!

    1. Hi! You are right. We should always try to aim for a higher salary so that we can be able to afford items that we want to have and not just stick to our need to haves.

      Some people do get that wrong though. While we usually hear of people comparing their salaries, we hardly hear of them comparing how much they are able to save though.

      Maybe person A who has a monthly salary of $3,000 is able to save half of his/her salary every month, $1,500. While person B who has a monthly salary of $5,000 is only able to save $1,000 a month because he /she has a higher spending power perhaps.

      Which is why we would like to share with our readers that setting aside a percentage of 40-50% of their monthly salary to place into their savings is usually more ideal :)


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