Budgeting Abroad

First of all, if you are celebrating the Lunar New Year: gong xi fa cai!

Just an update before I begin this post: I am currently in Jakarta, Indonesia as the Lunar New Year holiday is now in full swing in Singapore! I am now enjoying a five-day long weekend! I will be back in Singapore on Monday night.

Anyways, I wanted to talk about budgeting while abroad. My situation might be a bit different as I’m on a paid internship, with most of my housing expenses, and all of my flight expenses covered, but I hope you’ll still get something out of it.

A piggy bank.

I recently received my full stipend for the semester, so now, the task has fallen to me to manage my finances. One of the things I want to get out of this internship is to actually be able to take some money home, and not just splurge it like there’s no tomorrow while I’m in Singapore.

So shortly after opening my bank account and receiving my ATM card, I sat down and thought of ways to save and manage my money while I’m in Singapore. Here are my strategies – I hope that they will work!

Have a budget and money tracker

Like an excel file listing my monthly income, and how much I’m planning to save and spend on a monthly basis for the duration of my stay in Singapore. On a weekly basis, I’m going to update my excel file so that I know how much I’ve been spending, and what kind of things that I’ve been buying regularly (i.e. food/snacks during my lunch break) so that I can adjust my budget accordingly if needed. I suggest having some kind of excel sheet tracker so that you know how much money you’re spending on a weekly and a monthly basis.

Free food and free stuff

Because I’m working pretty much all day during weekdays, I’m almost always in the office. The Asia Research Institute hosts regular academic conferences every month – and whenever they have a conference, they have catered food, which everyone in the office is expected to eat!

I’m not joking! One of my co-workers actually went up to me and said that “it’s office culture for us to eat free food when there’s free food in the office.”

I guess the point of this little anecdote is that if there’s free food/free stuff, take advantage so that you can save money!

Don’t use taxis

Taxis are great in Singapore, and are certainly cheaper than taxis in Vancouver! However, expenses do add up, so if you’re in Singapore, I highly suggest that you use your ezLink card, and plan ahead when it comes to using public transit. gothere.sg is a great tool that allows you to figure out what bus/train to take, and the duration of the journey.

I’ll admit that I’ve been guilty of using taxis a little too frequently the last two weeks, so I’m trying to cut down on it!

Phone usage

I have a prepaid phone with SingTel, and while I don’t send a lot of texts or make a lot of phone calls, I do like to check e-mail on my phone, which is a really expensive bad habit as it tends to eat up my phone credit really quickly! My suggestion would be to only use the internet functions of your phone when you’re in a wifi spot.

Anyways, hope my suggestions help, and that I stick to my advice! I guess I’ll find out after I’m done with my internship!


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