Ultimate guide to saving money (in Singapore); so you can spend more

Well, I’m pretty well-known for being the ‘bargain hunter’ among my friends and colleagues so I guess it is time I share my ‘secrets’ to the world my readers. I’ll try my best to organize my thoughts but you know, I prefer to write in a dynamic and random style so if you’re not patient enough to sieve the information, I suppose that you’re not kiasu enough for these deals; so don’t bother.

Just some disclaimers at the start of my post (since bargain hunters tend to be very gei gao)

1. This post is NOT a sponsored (at least not yet) by anyone and all thoughts are of my own. There may be affiliate links or Google Ads as you scroll but well, click at your own risk.

2. I hold no accountability in the accuracy of data as PROMOTIONS/DEALS/OFFERS/CAMPAIGNS change all the time.

Let’s continue; The Number 1 tip in being a successful bargain hunter is..

TO ALWAYS READ THE FINE PRINTS

Well, one of my ex-boss shared to me that ‘FINE PRINTS’ are purposely small for a reason and sometimes they contain the most crucial information which marketers want you to overlook; so don’t fall for their trap.

Tip #2 would be – READ EVERY SINGLE WORD IN THE TERMS & CONDITIONS

  • Brands like Entertainer excludes usage on eve of Public Holidays & Public Holidays.
  • Deals on Fave (previously known as Groupon) usually give deals only on off peak timings such as Mon-Thu or during lunch time.
  • Shopback ‘bonus’ credit from referral can only be ‘withdrawn’ if you hit $10 worth of cashback credits.

Anyway, when something is too good to be true, very often, it is not true.

Now, let me share my list of awesome deals and experience with them.

ONLINE SHOPPING

I am an avid fan of online shopping and I get my stuff mainly from gmarket (korea) or taobao (china).

Taobao

I used to conduct sprees and mass orders a couple of years back but ezbuy (then known as 65daigou) dominated the market for Taobao. For myself, I have not tried shopping via ezbuy cause I’m too comfortable with my own shipping agent (which charges a slight premium) but it usually guarantees me my parcel within 3 to 5 days. I usually have enough purchases to fill up my own box (I try to order more than 7-8kg per order to maximise the shipping charges) and things have been great so far. My agent helps me re-pack the items in the warehouse (3 rmb per seller) and gets rid of all the unnecessary packaging which results in lower chargeable weight.

In the past, eNets (which only has a $1 surcharge) used to be the most budget friendly payment option for my Taobao purchases but it has since been removed. Right now, you will have to pay 3% surcharge for credit card, assuming you do not have an alipay account with credits. The only ‘way’ to get around this 3% is to use credit cards which give you rebates for online purchases. DBS Live Fresh gives 5% cashback for online purchases if you hit more than $700/month while OCBC 365 gives you 3% for online purchase. (Cashback information accurate as at Aug 2017)

GMarket

As much as Taobao can fulfil my online shopping hauls, I still rely on GMarket when stocking up on my skincare and makeup products. Of course, I do know that Qoo10 sells them at affordable prices but the variety is not as extensive as GMarket (the market place for korea). I can purchase almost every single brand and I usually buy during their brand sales which can go up to 50%! Moreover, there are many coupons every month and I use them to offset the purchases. Also, I generally find that the clothes in GMarket (choose those that are made in korea) to be of better quality. As you get older, you will somehow prefer quality over price but.. that being said, I still prefer online shopping to physical shopping in stores. Sad to say, the EMS shipping prices has increased in recent years and it is less as affordable.

Note: For bulk purchases from overseas, please be mindful to keep your purchases under $400. Usually, the shippers will under declare your items but there is no guarantee.

There was once I had a GMarket order which was like $420 after the exchange rate was applied. I received a call from the shipper that I had to pay GST or the goods cannot be cleared from customs. That’s like additional $30 (7% GST) for that tiny mistake. If I kept my purchases at $399, I would have more savings instead!

Lazada

I use this website to purchase most of my electronics including hard disks, thumb drives, SD cards etc. I usually ‘double up’ my savings by shopping via shopback (more will be explained below) where they will give me like 0.5% to 5% cashback amount. So far, the items that I have bought are still working fine. If you are a ‘liveup‘ member (free trial for 60 days), you can get 5% rebates on your purchases. Well, you can always consolidate your orders and get the free trial and unsubscribe later..

Zalora

Zalora is pretty aggressive with its welcome vouchers and well, it did promopt me to make my first purchase. Sad to say, their marketing is so aggressive that you see their discounts everywhere. It’s so confusing because they seem to be working with every single brand. I receive promo codes from credit card and banks, eDM and zalora is all over the internet when i surf the net. I don’t know but sometimes the more you see something too often, it kind of gives you a reverse psychology and you won’t want the item anymore. The amount of ad space they buy can annoy me sometimes.. On the hindsight, Zalora has listings for many known brands and I might just visit the physical shop and try on the product and.. complete the purchase online. This way, I can get shopback rebates (which can get pretty high at times), plus online rebates via credit card. goodbye physical shopping

Qoo10

Now, this platform is a mystery. I used to be a loyal customer back when they first started with gmarket.com.sg. I think it was 2010-2011 when I was still in school. I’m not sure what happened or perhaps the name change didn’t resonate well with me (since I’m such a fan of their korea page). I don’t surf their page regularly anymore and in recent years, I only buy cheap items such as screen protectors. There are so many similar platforms like Shopee or even Caousell which I’m still exploring out. To my knowledge, they don’t work with Shopback and neither do they provide good sign-ups or referral bonuses. Maybe that’s why I forget them over time..


OFFLINE SHOPPING & DINING

Endless Rewards & Loyalty Program

WATSONS Membership

I am a Watsons Member since 2013/2014 and the reason I paid $5 and sign up for a Watsons Card was because you get 20% discount at Gong Cha if you have a Watsons card. If you make a purchase of more than $25 at Gong Cha (I was with a rather big group), you essentially get the card for ‘free’ with the 20% discount. So.. the usual person who had the card did not bring it out for lunch with her that day and I signed up for the card so all of us can enjoy 20% OFF. Sadly, the 20% discount at Gong Cha (now known as Li Ho) was short-lived but the card remained in my wallet since it was LIFETIME membership anyway. Well, it was nice owning a WATSONS card because there are some daily/monthly essentials that you will have to buy at Watsons anyway. I can’t remember the rebate amount but the good thing is that you can redeem the rebate anytime (not having to accumulate). Over time, shopping at Watsons became a habit and.. I don’t even compare prices with Guardian anymore. Apart from points accumulation to get rebates on purchases, they have a rather unattractive member deals and promotions which is nothing more than a flower vase. I have yet to make use of any member benefit, apart from the then Gong Cha discount.

Mall Loyalty Programme

  1. Capitastar by Capitaland (https://www.capitastar.com/sg/en/about-capitastar.html)
    Bedok Mall, Bugis Junctionm, Bugis+, Bukit Panjang Plaza, Clarke Quay, IMM Building , JCube, Junction 8, Lot One, Plaza Singapura, Raffles City, Sembawang Shopping Centre, Tampines Mall, The Star Vista, Westgate
    I believe it is one of the longest mall (otherwise the longest) mall loyalty program around and I remember my mum scanning receipts at kiosks a couple of years ago. The good thing about such mall loyalty programs is that it is FREE (unlike Watsons) and that it is something that you can double and triple up with. So if I am making a purchase at Watsons, I’m gonna use my cashback credit card, watsons card to get points and scan the receipt to collect points for the mall program. Times have changed and instead of queuing up for those kiosks in the mall, you can just scan your receipt using an app – which makes it really convenient. Well, there’s a catch for this – the usual ‘rebate’ value is 0.5% and it takes you forever to clock up enough spend for a $5 Capitaland voucher ($1,000 worth of shopping). As unattractive as it is, it is free.. so, why not?
  2. Suntec Rewards (http://sunteccity.com.sg/rewards/)
    I can’t exactly remember when they launched their rewards program but if I’m not wrong, it was some time after they re-open their new extension (ding tai fung and mad for garlic area). If I didn’t recall wrongly, I signed up because there was free llao llao ice cream or something but I didn’t end up redeeming the ice cream from unknown reasons I can’t recall already. There’s some tiered rank system but I didn’t bother about it because I doubt I will ever hit $6k spend per year, given that I’m just a normal consumer (single, without family commitments and only spending on shopping, dining and entertainment).
  3. Frasers Rewards (http://www.fraserscentrepointmalls.com/page.php?CategoryID=648)
    Anchorpoint l Bedok Point l Causeway Point l Changi City Point l China Square Central l Eastpoint Mall Northpoint l Robertson Walk l The Centrepoint l Valley Point l Waterway Point l YewTee Point
    I signed up for this loyalty program because I happen to be shopping quite a bit at Changi City Point. Well, the signup was easy but the scanned receipts took forever to be approved. The good thing about this rewards program is that it requires a minimum spend of $10 (the other programs are $20) for scanning of receipts and point collection. Well, the annoying thing was that my receipts did not get approve within the 7 days (as stated on their app) plus I had to contact them via FB page + Email which drew no conclusion about ‘speeding up the process’. Eventually, my receipts were approved in about 12 to 14 days. Also, redeeming of points is done using a Frasers Rewards Card, not the more convenient physical voucher. This means that it will be harder to ‘gift’ your rewards away as the points will be converted to the card (that you will have to collect at the customer service counter – which I took forever to find – L2 of Changi City Point). Well, to ‘add on’ to the agony, they told me that the program points expire on 30 Sep 2017 and I have like 3-4 weeks more to collect my points which made me really angry because.. they take 2 weeks to ‘process’ my receipt! They are not able to ‘process’ the receipt at the counter, only through the app and I’m like.. what? Seems like I’ll end up ditching this program really soon but we shall see.

Although I currently only own/use these 3 loyalty programs, google tells me that there’s a huge list of loyalty programs available too:

I’m pretty sure there are some that I may have left out so do keep me informed in the comments section.

The best part about most mall loyalty program is that you can earn your usual credit card benefits (minimum spend, rebates) on top of the mall points. Another good thing about it is that most of my friends are not as ‘auntie’ as me yet. Whenever I’m hanging out with them, I have no issues holding on to the receipts and slowly, but surely – I’ll get to change for discounts and vouchers!


CREDIT CARD

I’ve previously compiled an article back in 2015 with regards to my top 3 recommended credit cards and there are some changes to my usage.

The #1 Credit Card that I still use monthly – OCBC 365 (http://www.ocbc.com/personal-banking/cards/365card.html)

With a minimum spend of $600/month, I get to earn extra 0.3% interest (previously 0.5%) on my 360 savings account. At the same time, I get 3% rebates for online purchases and weekday dining, 6% for weekend dining. My average monthly cashback is about $20+ (if I am using the card for the month). Assuming that I have $20,000 in my account, I will get $5/month interest by just using this card.  At the same time, if you bank your salary to this account, that’s additional 1.2% interest and another 0.3% if you make 3 online transactions a month.

Note: You can earn more with UOB One account but the thing I don’t like about it is that you need to hit the minimum spend for all 3 months in that quarter to receive the rebate. Failure to hit the consistency may result in losing your bonus – which makes it a really inflexible account. OCBC 365 on the other hand doesn’t penalty me if I miss one month (especially on months I’m trying to hit minimum spend for new credit cards)

The #2 Credit Card that I use right now is DBS Altitude (https://www.dbs.com.sg/personal/cards/credit-cards/dbs-altitude-cards)

Image result for dbs altitude

Well, I’m working my way to saving Krisflyer miles for my tickets to South Africa next year. As a result, I’m kind of using credit cards that can give me Krisflyer miles. Well, I signed up for this card a couple of months ago and I was awarded 10,000 miles by spending $2,000 in the first 2 months. So basically you will get 1.2 miles per $ spent (the lowest tier). If you make online hotel and ticketing related transactions you can go up to 3 miles per $. The only weakness in this is that the miles is not as straighforward. You will be awarded DBS points every month with your expenditure (and there’s no summary of points awarded – i have multiple dbs cards and it all contributes to the same points account). The DBS points can only be transferred in bulks of 5,000 points = 10,000 miles and there’s an admin fee of $25 + GST per transfer. I’ll do another more detailed post about Krisflyer miles separately.

The ‘temporarily not required’ cards

With the increasing number of credit cards I am signing up for, I am dropping my once favourite ‘DBS Live Fresh’ card which offers 5% rebates for online and paywave transactions. Why? I can’t seem to hit its $700 minimum spend any more (since OCBC 365 is my main card).

I signed up for this card for the welcome bonus of 10,000 miles (The sign-up bonus is now 15,250 miles; urgh). Back then, I just had to spend $2,500 within the first 3 months in order to receive that extra 5,000. Anyway, the miles e/r is like 1.1 miles per $ which is lousier than the 1.2 DBS gives but.. THE ONLY ADVANTAGE IS that the miles awarded are automatically awarded to your krisflyer account the following month. Which means that.. if I am in desperate situations where I am just few hundred miles short, I can just make a micro purchase instead of like accumulating 5,000 DBS points or taking a full price SIA flight. The only catch of this card is that it will only have free first year membership, after which I am likely to cancel and apply a new one after 6 months.

Signed up for the potential $120 CapitaLand vouchers which will come in after I make $888 spend in the first 6 months. After which, this card will probably be left.. stagnant. Anyway, the signup bonus of cards are pretty annoying and unfair. So, I signed up using an edm email link which offers me $120 Capitaland vouchers. Last week when I was at COMEX, they were only offering $50 or $70.. right now on the amex website, they are only offerring $50 vouchers. I feel so sorry for those who didn’t get the extra vochers but oh wells, everything is a while stocks last, limited promotion period T&C so.. please be the smart shopper. Usually, road shows offer the worse deals because they need to cut commission to the sales person (but I cannot guarantee this statement to be true 100% of the time).

Anyway, my rule of thumb is if a credit card gives you less than $80 worth of rewards/cashback/rebate, just continue waiting. There should be a better promotion sometime soon or, the card is not worth your time.

The cards that I have given up on

The moment I received the annual fee after my first year, I called up the friendly customer service of AMEX and canceled my card. Weirdly, my card was not canceled and I received the annual fee statement the following year (which means that I could have continued using the card for the previous year). I called the call center and told that I already requested for cancelation the year before plus.. I threw my card away already. Well, they resolved the issue and.. I made the switch to my blue amex card.

HOTELS

I’ve been using Hotels.com in order to get the stay 10 nights free 1 night promotion. If you can stick to one loyal brand – it would be good but sad to say, Hotels.com don’t usually have the best collection of accommadation choices. In the past, there were some accommodations that I booked only on Booking.com and yep, I had to book there.

Tip for Hotels – always comb through Shopback to see which accommodation gives you the best cashback! The usual cashback amount is 6% for hotels but it can go up to 9-11% during special events like the 9/9 sale happening right now as I type. If you are wondering why the discounts are so crazy, well let me tell you that booking websites usually charge 20 to 35% commission from the hotel. So.. cashback between 9 to 11% is very valid.

For my past many trips, I have stopped booking airbnb because I realised that hotels can be cheaper with the various cashback options. Airbnb on the other hand, only has a referral credit, no loyalty system and apart from the fancy apartments, I have 0 reason to remain loyal to airbnb. Some of their listings are repeated in other websites and you are kind of paying more if you book via airbnb because they charge you that extra cleaning and processing fee.

Another tip which is very bastard but.. someone taught me.. Booking websites usually offer free cancellation up to 1 month, 1 week or even 3 days! As long as you remember to ‘cancel’, feel free to book the properties the moment you set your eyes on them! There are even times where I make re-bookings for the same property (provided the previous booking has free cancelation) because Shopback’s cashback % increased suddenly. Then again, the prices might be higher since it is closer to your trip date but.. I’ve done it a few times before and the prices were the same. Sighs, somehow I feel that if I ever end up in the hospitality industry, I will suffer from all the bad karma accumulated from such unhealthy habits.

Sighs, somehow I feel that if I ever end up in the hospitality industry, I will suffer from all the bad karma accumulated from such unhealthy habits.

Well, another tip is that when in doubt, use a hotel comparison website like hotelscombined (affiliate link) which helps you compare prices across the various booking sites.

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I’m sorry for ending this article abruptly and I know my writing is very difficult to read.. I will try to improve on it when I have time to proof read. Things are just pretty tough for me right now and I’m struggling to find time and mood for blogging. I haven’t written my articles for Bali mainland, my awesome 12-day trip to korea and the taiwan trip. Had planned to cut more videos from the footages I filmed for my trips but.. WHERE IS THE TIME >_<

I spent most of my nights re-uploading photographs for my older blog posts which were affected by the Photobucket hotlinking issue. It has been more than 2 months and I’m about 80% done. I think Im left with my europe grad trips and USA work and travel which is pretty intensive but.. we will get there some day!

Thanks for being patient, clicking this link and reading it through the end. I tried to convey my thoughts on cost savings and.. I hope you kind of get the gist of it. Cost Savings are not really for people who are lazy to read through my terrible writing =p You need to dissect information and piece it to your own advantage.

Nevertheless, thanks for reading, thanks for clicking and thanks for liking my Facebook page. It has unknowingly received more than 400 ‘likes’ and in fact last month was my 3rd year anniversary for my .com website and it’s amazing how I am still willing to fork out $XXX for domain and hosting per year. For more random and immediate updates, do follow my instagram @flyhoneystarsas I’ll usually do a full IG story whenever I’m overseas. I have 2 more trips planned for the year (for now) and.. till then!


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