Sorting out my finances, one app at a time

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It’s been a long while since I last managed my meager finances but I couldn’t find an excuse to not do it, given that it is such a trying time right now and I ought to find out how much longer can I hold out without getting a steady stream of income.

When I quit my job one year ago to go on a career break, I wasn’t expecting to return to a life tainted with the unprecedented repercussions of COV-19. Everything has changed and I don’t know if it makes sense to have any sort of strategy anymore. Not sure if it will help anyone (or perhaps if anyone is even reading), I’ve decided to pen down a post on how I manage my finances, in a situation where I have.. nothing but time.

Like every economic downturn, interest rates have fallen and the savings account that I once held (OCBC 360 and UOB One) have downgraded their benefits. In the past, I could earn 2-3% interest for my accounts but now the amount has dropped down to about 0.5 – 1% for me as I am no longer able to fulfill the criteria of having a monthly debiting salary and/or min. spend of $500-$800 on my credit card.

(Decided to add a summary for my article as not many people will be keen on this topic and provide them the option to stop reading.. Ha.)

In my post below, I will be talking about the expenses that I have been tracking and how I tracked these expenses.

After which, I will go into the investment alternative I’ve discovered as an attempt to salvage the fall of interest rates. It is not a lot of money but I’m still kind of a penny wise pound foolish person but if that’s what makes me happy, I will spend that extra effort to earn that few more pennies =p

How I organize my money

There are two main things I track every month – my credit card expenditure and my account balances.

Credit card expenditure used to be very important for me as I do have many cards that provide a wide range of benefits ranging from cashback (rebates) to airline miles. Depending on the type of promotions available, I will strategize my expenditure and plan purchases for big-ticket items according to whatever promotion. The best cashback I ever had was 10% rebate on CIMB Visa/Master but since May 2019, they revised their policy and that card has been officially tossed into the bin for me. With the start of Circuit Breaker (aka lockdown in Singapore’s context), I find myself going out lesser (or perhaps hardly ever), apart from buying groceries and getting takeaway food. As such, it has become harder and harder for me to hit the min. $500 spend on credit cards as I do not order grabfood/deliveroo/food panda on a daily basis. Furthermore, most of our takeaways are from hawker centers and coffee shop which predominantly prefers and accepts (only) cash.

1. Google Docs

I shifted from Microsoft Excel to Google Docs a few years back as I did not want to be restricted to updating only on my desktop. Furthermore, Google Docs allows you to edit from your phone, and this became very handy, especially when I was in NZ.

The example I gave below is an extract from Dec 2018 where I was still spending.. a lot of money.

The best part about my spreadsheet is my ‘Rebates’ formula which will reflect the value of rebates I can earn, according to whether I have met the minimum spend or exceed the category spend or not.

My formula looks something like this: =if((B67*B68)<50,B67*B68,50)+if((C67*C68)<50,C67*C68,50)+if((D67*D68)<50,D67*D68,50)

not rocket science, just a lot of ‘if’ formulas to work that magic.

The most important thing you need to do is to know your billing cycle, in order to spend the money within the correct billing cycle. There was once I calculated wrongly and managed to call in for an appeal for my missing rebates (worthed about $30-50). They did give in and gave me my missing rebates but please bear in mind that these are exceptional cases and the economy was not that wonky and perhaps customer retention was a high priority.

By the way, most banks allow you to change your billing cycle, if it is more convenient. I called up UOB to ask them to change my UOB One Card billing cycle to be aligned with my UOB One Account (which restarts on the 1st of every month) as this would allow me to calculate better and be aware of my monthly spending.

2. Ahorro Mobile App

There are many money tracking apps but I ended up with this as it is has a clean interface with NO ADS at all. They don’t even have a premium option which bugs you for an upgrade (unlike the other more fanciful apps) and it serves my purpose fine. Initially, I used this app for tracking my travel expenses (I used it for 9+ months in NZ) and now that I’m back, I’ve decided to update it regularly as I am keen to calculate how much money I spend on a somewhat retirement basis. I know it is nowhere accurate but it’s still good to know.

The good thing about this app is that you are able to customize your own categories (like I did for my credit card). The downside of this is that you have to remember to key in your expenditure every single time you make a spending. There’s no automation process and you are not able to link up your bank accounts etc. which was why I discovered the next app..

3. Seedly App

I’ve recently re-kindled my usage of this App during the CB period. The best part of this app is that you are able to link most major bank accounts (except DBS) to their app and they will provide you a summary of your total assets.

As seen above, I had manual additions for my POSB/DBS accounts and credit cards, together with some of my other investments which are not in their auto-linkage. The downside of the app is that every time you want to sync the accounts, you have to re-login into your ibanking accounts, which is a hassle but necessary for security purposes. As a result, I only look into the numbers once a month. The good thing about this app is that it helps you categorize your spending into categories such as taxes, shopping, food & drinks, groceries etc. They will auto-populate the numbers into a fancy pie chart. You will also have the option to edit the categories if they have been incorrectly tagged. Unfortunately, they only have cashless data, which means that your cash holdings will not be recorded here. Furthermore, I often have a lot of credit card expenditure which is not mine (cause I’m paying on behalf of someone) and these data tend to mess up the summaries. At times like this, I rely on Ahorro for more accurate manual tracking. You can read more reviews about their expense tracker app here.

Furthermore, their summary also made me reflect upon my assets, where I found that 80% of my assets actually lies in investments. I have not done enough readings to conclude if this was a high or low number but I guess I’ll leave that analysis to another post (if I’m writing again).

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Now that I’m done with sharing on how I organize my money, I will touch a little on where I’ve been putting (or perhaps investing) my money,

1. SingLife

I talked about this previously in my e-learning article, and I’m here to share some updates as I have now managed to do my first ‘cashout’ via the app.

My interest was NOT 2.5%

I transferred $500 on 1st May and $9,500 on 2nd May. Based on that, I should be receiving $21.23 in interest but not sure why I only received $19.33 for the month of May. Nevertheless, I’m not complaining yet as I can’t find a better alternative to house my money and the amount is still 2.275%.

App is laggy and unstable

Next, when I was attempting to cash out interest on 1st June, there were issues in the app where they said my accounts were added unsuccessfully (UOB and OCBC) but they somehow appear in my account selection options. Despite multiple attempts of cashing out, all withdrawals were unsuccessful. Eventually, I managed to cash out by adding another account (POSB) this time and somehow it succeeded. The transaction took a couple of minutes (or less) as I had to refresh a couple of times before seeing the money in my POSB account.

Customer Service did not provide much assistance

I contacted the customer service to show them my ‘unsuccessful screens’ for adding my account and withdrawals. They told me to re-install the app and it still failed. I decide to add a brand new account and it succeeded and I have not received any responses for why my other accounts were unsuccessful. Furthermore, they told me that the app does not have the functionality to ‘remove’ accounts the list. Which means now, my withdrawal tab lists 4 account details, of which only 1 is working.

Well, we should give a chance to a kind of new start-up right? Let’s hope the experience gets better.

Here’s my referral link if you wish to get $10 credit upon ordering and activating your Singlife Visa debit card.

2. Stashaway

It has been 2 months and my portfolio is still growing stronger than ever. As of today (3rd June), my return is 9.92% which is a rather happy figure. Furthermore, I do not need to pay the management fees as I got the referral benefit which gives 6 months free management of up to $10,000. I know it could be like unfair analysis because the stock market had been on the rise, for the past 3 days at least, but for now, I’m still a happy customer.

3. FSMOne Fund Supermart

It is an online investing platform (similar to DBS Vickers, iOCBC or UOB Kay Hian) but the catch is that they have the lowest minimum fee ($10) compared to the other brokerages. However, it is very vital that you understand that FSMOne is a custodian which means that the stocks will not be purchased under your name which means that you will have no shareholder rights (like voting, attending AGM etc.) but.. in my less than 6 years of owning stocks, I have never performed any function of a shareholder.. so I guess it doesn’t really matter to me?

I haven’t given this a try yet but I would most probably be researching and making some dips into it this month. Feel free to share some tips if you have any!

Bonus

If you have an OCBC account and that if you’re currently not on Google Pay, do you know you can receive $5 by just signing up and making a transaction to anyone (via PayNow)?

Download the GooglePay app and use my referral code vw31553 to get started. https://g.co/payinvite/vw31553

Note: You do not need to have an Android Phone. The Google Pay app is available in App Store. It’s a one-time off payout and you don’t need to use it often after receiving the free $5. You can just treat it like a signup bonus, like what DBS PayLah! did in its initial days. More terms and conditions can be found here. But it is pretty straightforward.

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Sorry if you’re subscribing to my blog and realise that I have kind of pivoted my content in recent months. As I have not been been traveling (like the rest of the world), I do not have new and fresh content to write about. I’m still taking the chance to explore how I can succeed in such ‘lifestyle’ sections where I share about my daily life and random tips that I’ve been learning in the past few months. Feel free to drop me a note if there are any topics you would like me to cover!

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  • Hi, during this lockdown I’ve been watching a lot of kdrama and also reading up on investing. I’ve been tracking my expenses, insurance, net worth manually using Excel for a few years now. So your article is timely. Haha! Aiyo, I’m such an ajumma.

    • Wow, for you to be tracking your expenses, that’s already a really good habit! Most of my friends don’t bother with it. Yea, the lockdown is giving us a lot of time to reflect, think about life and do the things that we have procrastinated for a long time!

  • You are a money ninja! With those capabilities, you should be an accountant. (They work steady and make good money, too.) Outside of that recommendation, I would say that I tend to be an emotions sort of person, so I love your personal rants and opinions. Wishing you success in everthing you do!

    • In my younger days, I was pretty good at numbers but I ruled out accounting because I felt that it would be too boring and mundane for me. But I guess in times like this, it’s easier to find a job with an accountant degree >< but I guess I have to be responsible for the choices I made back then and accept the slightly more difficult job search path. Glad that you enjoyed reading my emotions and rant πŸ˜€

      • Take heart. Degrees today are no guarantee of skills or work ethic, and you may find that those traits are worth more than all the degrees in the world. Companies often use degree qualifications simply to screen out people who are NOT indebted up to their eyeballs. They all know that indebted people are more easily managed. You will find an employer who will snap you up! :-))