Month in Review

Month in Review: April 2020

Every month, I track my spending and share them openly here. In my Month in Reviews, I go over notable (and often discretionary expenses) for the month and reflect on some key areas of life tied to money, either directly or indirectly: career, health, relationships and personal growth.

Writing these updates gives me helpful insights into my own life, and I hope they help you as well. By sharing my experiences with money, I also hope to encourage you to feel comfortable approaching your own finances and keep the conversation around money alive.

Spending Breakdown

Table 1: Singapore expenses for April 2020

It’s amazing how much I can save when I’m forced to trim down my spending to just the bare essentials.

Food – S$386.52

Rather than spend copious amounts of money ordering food delivery, I’ve attempted to hone my home-cooking skills. I don’t know about you guys, but cooking feels like an exact science that I don’t have a natural knack for. I’m not half bad at it because the food turns out edible (to me at least).

Also, I’m quite inefficient in the kitchen. There’s a certain order to things that I’m clearly missing. Like, obviously you’re supposed to boil the pasta first and prepare other ingredients while it’s boiling so you don’t have to wait around too long to get everything together. Someone should start a course on kitchen SOPs. I’m sure I wouldn’t be spending 1 hour in the kitchen if I knew how to prep and cook in the most time-efficient manner.

Taxi – S$113

I’ve stopped using public transport completely whenever I get the chance to leave the house. So, my grocery runs tend to be pretty expensive.

Table 2: Malaysia expenses for April 2020

Family – RM1,000

While I was extremely lucky that the lockdown hadn’t affected me directly, it did impact my family in some ways. I do what I can to help.

Personal Care – RM462.73

Another downside of being quarantine is that I’m more susceptible to online shopping. I bought a few skincare items that… surprise, surprise.. caused my skin to break out more! I don’t know why I never learn my lesson and always fall for hypes around some skincare products.

Goals Progress

Table 3: Goals progress for April 2020

Saving and Investing

I’m quite pleased with how I progressed on my goals in April. The reduction in my spending boosted my savings rate. And, I put all those savings into my investments in April, exceeding my monthly investing goal.

Reading

Now that I don’t go on my usual commute, I don’t have a specific time catered just for reading. My challenge with reading at the moment is I’m not able to sustain my focus for long periods of time. I get distracted too easily, even when I’m reading an interesting book. Although I managed to finish 1 book in April, I still took a long time to finish it. Does anyone else have problems focusing on reading for extended periods? How do you get into the right frame of mind for reading? What do you do to your environment to make it conducive for reading? Tips, please!

Exercise

I’m so proud of myself for my progress on this particular goal. I can’t even begin to describe how I feel! Keeping a regular exercise routine has been a massive struggle for the past few years. Given that I don’t have much else to do these days at home, I’ve somehow managed to fall into a consistent training pattern. There’s a huge improvement in my physical strength and posture because of it. Now, I hope this routine can continue once quarantine is over and life goes back to normal (or what passes for normal these days).

Meditation

While I’m practising meditation regularly, I’m unsure if there’s a noticeable shift in my behaviour, emotions or thought patterns. There are incremental improvements, I suppose. I still get anxious but it doesn’t last as long. Aside from that, who knows. I’m still keeping up with my meditation because even if I haven’t noticed any changes, I’ve grown accustomed to the 10-minute quiet time in the morning.

Writing

Just like reading, writing has also been a challenge for me. It’s a challenge partly because I already write for my day job. So, I’m more inclined to take a break from it on the weekends and weeknights. But, if I’m being completely honest, my greatest obstacle is myself when it comes to writing. I’m extremely self-critical of my work. And while most people have said otherwise countless times, there’s still a part of me that can’t help feeling like what I write isn’t worth reading.

Reflection

I’ve adapted well to life in self-isolation. Staying indoors, eating home-cooked food, and maintaining a consistent routine of work, exercise, and quiet time has surprisingly been pleasant. When Singapore announced its “circuit breaker”, I read about other people’s experiences with lockdowns everywhere else in the world. And one common advice that people kept repeating over and over again was that routines were crucial. Having routines to fall back on helped these people get through their days in quarantine. The resources that I read were especially helpful in preparing my mind and emotions for self-isolation. Don’t get me wrong, I still have bouts of anxiety and minor struggles with work and personal relationships but they’re rather typical problems that are unrelated to our current weird-ass circumstances.

While adapting to the new normal wasn’t as difficult as I expected, one aspect that I continue to have trouble with is motivation, and even more so now that I’m working from home. Just as I have missed my personal writing goals, I’ve blundered a number of times in a professional capacity as well. Some pieces I wrote came out subpar and some days (these days are becoming more frequent) I can’t find the drive to put thoughts and ideas into words, which resulted in some nearly-missed deadlines (not good!!!).

Internal motivation has never been my strong suit and working from home has exacerbated this flaw. I’ve tried a few methods to combat this. I’ve created external drivers such as personal deadlines to hold myself accountable, gave myself pep talks, used other people’s writing as inspiration, and let Shia Lebouf yell at me. Some days these methods work, other days, no matter how hard I try, nothing productive gets done. Some people say just take it easy, it’s a weird time for all of us right now. But honestly, I feel like, at this point, I’m using that as an excuse not to complete necessary work.

On the days when nothing gets done, something is blocking me, I’m just unaware still of what it is. It’s not laziness. I used to think I was lazy but as I grow older, laziness feels like a cop-out answer. In fact, laziness isn’t a problem, it’s a symptom.

If a person can’t get out of bed, something is making them exhausted. If a student isn’t writing papers, there’s some aspect of the assignment that they can’t do without help. If an employee misses deadlines constantly, something is making organization and deadline-meeting difficult. Even if a person is actively choosing to self-sabotage, there’s a reason for it — some fear they’re working through, some need not being met, a lack of self-esteem being expressed.

People do not choose to fail or disappoint. No one wants to feel incapable, apathetic, or ineffective. If you look at a person’s action (or inaction) and see only laziness, you are missing key details. There is always an explanation. There are always barriers. Just because you can’t see them, or don’t view them as legitimate, doesn’t mean they’re not there. Look harder.

Laziness Does Not Exist by Devon Price

So, I’m looking harder. It hasn’t yielded anything fruitful yet. Maybe I’ll figure it out in May. I’ll leave it on that note for now.

What motivates you? Do you also let Shia yell at you? Let me know in the comments, or come chat with me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.


Read other Month in Reviews for more insights.

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