Budgeting

Spend More Than You Earn? Do These 4 Things Before It’s Too Late

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Joanne Poh

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As a kid, if you wanted to buy that minidisc player or JNCO jeans, you had two options—either beg your parents for the money to buy it, or go without—even if it meant that being the only loser without one pretty much made you a pariah.

As adults, we’ve become a lot worse at being content with going without. That’s why more and more Singaporeans are landing in credit card debt. In fact, according to past surveys, some 20% of Singaporean households spend more than they earn.

If you’re consistently spending more than you earn, you’re in big trouble. We’re not even talking about being stuck in a menial job when you’re 80. We’re talking about credit card debt that spirals into bankruptcy, or a lifetime on the run from loansharks.

If you’ve done the math and realised that you end up with -$xxx every month, here are four things you need to do pronto.

 

Don’t passively stay in your current job

If you’re spending prudently and have cut corners where you can but still find yourself spending more than you earn each month, either there are some Prada purchases or a car you’re not telling us about, or your boss is a scrooge.

Unless you’re absolutely sure you’re going to get a significant pay increase in the coming months, you need to start actively looking for a job. And by “actively”, we don’t mean complaining vehemently about your boss to your colleagues during lunch every day and then praying a headhunter will call you.

Career growth isn’t just about working hard, it’s about being tactical about when you stay in a job, and when you say sayonara. There is a reason HR professionals think it’s a bad idea to stay in a job for more than 3 years in Singapore—there’s a high chance your salary is going to stay painfully stagnant and you won’t grow.

 

Get a side gig

Unless you’ve got headhunters banging down your door or do some very powerful networking while out clubbing, you might have to wait for some time before you manage to get a new job.

In the meantime, it’s a good idea to get a side gig, especially if your situation is so serious that you’re relying on credit to get through the month.

A side gig can be even more enjoyable than your actual job, so long as you don’t pick toilet cleaning. Working as a bartender or waiter on weekends might sound like hard work, but at least it’s less boring than staring at the soulless grey cubicle walls of your day job.

If you need quick cash fast and managed to make it through the ‘O’ or ‘A’ levels unscathed, becoming a private tutor is probably your best bet as there are many assignments on offer throughout the year thanks to all those kiasu parents, and it definitely pays more per hour than folding clothes at Giordano.

 

Be honest about how much you spend each month

So, you complain that your job doesn’t pay you enough—but so does everyone else in Singapore. If you find yourself in the red each month, it’s time to take a long hard look at your expenses.

You might be surprised to find that it’s not your job that’s paying you an unreasonably low amount, but your expenses that are unrealistically high.

For the next month, document every single thing you spend on, whether it’s Toto tickets, home loan repayments or frivolous crap. And then ask yourself which expenses it’s humanly possible for you to reduce or stop spending on.

Don’t be a wimp by insisting you absolutely need those weekly massages or 50 litres of alcohol a month to survive. Get real, you don’t.

 

Get rid of debt fast by selling your stuff online

If you’re trapped in a cycle where you’re stuck paying increasing amounts of credit card interest each month so you can never get rid of all of your debt, you need to take some desperate measures right now, especially if your job doesn’t enable you to save.

Other than getting a side gig, the easiest way to get a huge junk of cash is, no, not to approach an ah long, but to sell some of your belongings on the Internet.

Thanks to Carousell, you no longer need to spend hours uploading photos and writing lengthy descriptions of your past fashion mistakes. Just download the app, snap a picture on your phone, set a price and you’re done. Then there are sites like eBay, Gumtree, Craigslist and Locanto. Spend a weekend or two listing items and you can earn quite a bit.

Once you’ve paid off your credit card debt, you can then start working towards increasing your income while lowering your expenses.

What percentage of your income do you spend each month? Tell us in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.