23 December 2014, by Tan Li Lin
November was the month Ronald switched sides….
From being employed and enjoying a comfortable, secure 9-5pm job, to waking up everyday facing the unknown that comes with running his own business.
The first, and biggest challenge in being your own boss is being disciplined. Suddenly, there seems to be so much time and freedom and the temptation to do what you want often pulls you to the dark side – sleeping, lounging around, playing games, going out, waking up late, pottering around. Of course, it also comes with new-found energy and capacity to do some things you’ve always wanted or needed to – exercise, clear those errands, clean the house (not that Ronald does that though)…
Where did November go? No one knows. It took him almost a month to get into a light routine of work, which he seems to keep up daily now. I’ve never once nagged him when I’d catch him sneaking afternoon naps. That’s because it took my several years to fully transit into an alternative work-from-home lifestyle and I know how hard it can be. I also know that sometimes you need to laze until you’re satiated and decide you want to feel useful again!
I have to admit, now that we BOTH run business from HOME, it is really easy to slip into waking up late together, snuggling more, taking naps, going out for lunch, enjoying quiet afternoons at cafes and malls…. Again, this could be a huge perk (we got to enjoy a relatively empty Adventure Cove during the weekday for my birthday this year) or a huge stumbling block. We haven’t yet quite gotten sick of each other, but it affects our productivity for sure!
The way we’ve eventually worked around that is to take the opportunity of each others appointments to get out there and do our own work too. For example, if I have a coaching appointment early in the morning, he’ll wake up at the same time, drop me off, grab breakfast and start his day early. Or if I have a meeting at Paya Lebar, he’d go for his door-to-door sales at nearby Ubi.
The second challenge – which is what I truly wanted to share on this blog – is that of FINANCES. Sometimes I wonder what we got ourselves into. As much as business has the potential to generate more income than a fixed job, everyday is a risk. You wake up not knowing if you’re going to earn enough for the months ahead. His stable job has kept us going over the last few years, especially when I was making my transition into entrepreneurship, but with our wedding recently over, there’s much more to prepare for moving forward. We are still in the early stages of financing our home loan (in other words: the monthly installments are STILL MANAGEABLE even though interest rates are going up!!! ) and have 3 trips coming up next year (1 family trip, 1 Bali trip to explore property investments, 1 long-awaited Honeymoon), all while trying to build a solid income pipeline that would ensure we’re ready to start a family in the next couple of years. We’re relatively comfortable surviving at the moment, but if something major happens we might not have the financials to tide through.
We figured we need to adapt and change our mindset to suit this lifestyle immediately. This is important as we’re quite certain it’s not a fad, but instead a lifestyle that we are choosing since neither of us see ourselves in fixed jobs.
Here are 5 ways we’re managing our finances better as a newlywed couple:
1. Making our money count when it comes to food
Lately we’ve found (thanks to our recent Paris trip where food is served with love and pride) restaurant food here hardly worth the price we pay. Eating out as a couple easily amounts to $40-$50 even when we typically pick the cheaper dishes on the menu. The food usually isn’t cooked well or is extremely underwhelming, or unhealthy. I get really pissed off when an eatery serves me food that looks like it came out of a microwave or a frozen package I’d find in the supermarket down the street. We have come to a conclusion that we’d eat home or cook frequently most of the time, and if we should eat out, spend wisely at places that deliver great quality hearty food that respects our body (even if it costs a little more – at least it would be worth it).
2. Stop signing up for packages that hold our cash
We fought the temptation to purchase another year of Video EZY credits. “Ohh but we can just roll the credits over…“, “Waah but it makes sense right if we get additional vouchers!” are voices from the dark side. We paid $2 to combine with the last few credits, rented our last DVD, and figured we’ll watch everything else on airplanes since we’re likely to start traveling more. I used to hold several beauty packages (pedi, facial, massage, waxing…), but I’ve eradicated all except my tui na package. I figured it makes more sense to do my pedi, waxing and hair in Jakarta (where everything’s 50% cheaper but done 100% better) since we’re likely to fly in and out every quarter or so. Don’t get your cash stuck in several different places; it’s like handing money to different people and not being able to get it back when you really need it.
3. Stop buying; start repairing/maintaining
Nowadays, things get on my nerves. I have developed – likely through the need to be more frugal – an annoyance for things I have no multiple uses for. When I was working, I would blow $500 a month (sometimes in a day) on clothes that I feel “ohhh would be so nice to have!!!“. Nowadays I buy versatile pieces that I can wear for different occasions / match with many other separates / dress up and down. I’ve a box of clothing that I am sending for alteration (because I dropped 2 sizes) instead of throwing them out and using that as an excuse to buy new clothes. Each piece only costs $10 to alter, so with $100 I get another 10 pieces of clothes to wear (again). I’ve paid more attention to maintaining stuff (e.g. our non-stick pans) and cleaning them really carefully so that they last longer – the old me wouldn’t quite care thinking its easier to buy new ones.
4. Delayed gratification
This one’s tough, and exercises pure willpower. It takes understanding emotions come and go, and choosing to wait it out until the urge to spend has diminished. This means cutting down on stay-cations and saving up for a longer holiday somewhere further from Singapore. Or, doing something at home together instead of killing time at the mall. Or, ignoring the itch to snack instead of buying pretty pastries just because. Or, not buy home decor items (which I love!) almost at all…until our new place is ready 1.5 years later. All these help to cut a little here and there, and do add up. So in place of justifying why I should spend on that something now, I’m learning to justify why it’s a good idea to save instead …. to spend on something way better in the future.
ANNIs were a reason to spend – seen here at W Hotel during our staycation. Now, ANNIs are spent with a good home-cooked dinner and playing WORMS 3 in bed, with the comforting thought that the $400 contributes to a travel fund for say… staying in W Hotel somewhere else in the world.
5. Thoughtful traveling
Part of why we are happy cutting down on food and materials is because we’ve decided to invest in experiences that enrich our souls. Traveling is one and we are looking to change the way we travel. For example, for our upcoming trip to Japan, I’m trying very hard to keep to my budget by being selective of what I spend on. This means breaking out of the norm – e.g. staying at a budget hotel while my family stays 5 minutes away at The Intercon, just so that I don’t end up spending more than I should. In the past, I’d travel without any mindfulness of how much I’m spending, despite having a lame budget I set in the beginning (for the sake of ‘setting a budget’).
I’ve found the trick of cutting expenses and instilling discipline in our finances quite boils down to being creative and resourceful, and knowing where to make the right trades. We are beings of waste when we feel that we’ve time and money to spare. Taking on the mindset of conservation has helped me appreciate what I have now and what I can do with them. It is this mindset that will help us work our financials in a more intelligent way and learn to live smarter without compromising on our quality of life.
At Adventure Cove Park (sentosa) for my recent birthday…. where he found a 1-for-1 deal on entrance tickets. Half the price but same amount of fun!
I’d be excited to see how we would’ve adapted 6 months down the road.
In the meantime, MERRY CHRISTMAS and make your spending this season of gifting count! (I now trade in my holiday time instead of money, baking goodies as gifts for friends.)
Lin Tan is an Entrepreneur and an Executive Coach who dedicates more time to making society a better place over making babies (for now). Follow her blog on ilovechildren.sg/blog and journey with her as she embarks on all things ‘life after 30′.