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.
Home Maintenance – $297.50
After 3 months of lockdown, I needed to service the air-conditioning in my house because we’re using it a lot more these days. This expense would have hurt me more had my rent been at its usual rate. Luckily, my landlord returned a portion of my rental deposit when I renewed my lease – effectively I paid less in rent in June. Isn’t it great when an unexpected expense is offset by unexpected savings?
Miscellaneous – $495.61
One of my housemates moved out when our lease expired, and I reimbursed her portion of the rental deposit. A new housemate moved in, and I managed to offset that expense with the deposit from the new housemate.
Fees – $107.20
I put in my application for permanent residency in Singapore. The application fee costs $100. Wish me luck!
Finally, I managed to finish a book! What…only took me two months?
I definitely think I overestimated myself on my reading goal this year. At the start of the year, 20 books felt too little. That’s because I hear so many accounts of people reading an insane number of books all the time. I even get these ads on Instagram about how CEOs read like 50 books a year, so I thought, “eh 20 is doable”.
But alas, I’m still a long way from my goal of 20 books this year. On the bright side, I went from zero books in 2019 (yes, I didn’t read any books at all) to 4 books read already in the first half of 2020. Technically, that’s a 4x improvement.
I also had this notion that I could just fly through books. But I recently found out that I’m a slow reader. In May, I mentioned that I’m experimenting with some ways to improve my reading speed. First, I started tracking how many pages I could read in 30 minutes (10 pages). Then, I tried these speed reading techniques by Tim Ferriss. I’m pleased to say that I did see some improvement. After a month of implementing these tricks, I managed to get up to 15 pages in 30 minutes. Not a huge improvement but hey, something is better than nothing!
At around midnight of December 31, 2019, I sat at a bar with a few friends laughing, drinking and contemplating the year that lay ahead of us, eager to take on the new decade. Little did any of us know that life would drastically change for all of us in just a matter of months.
In June, I find myself reflecting on how the last 6 months have panned out since that New Year’s Eve. Beyond the adjustments that we all had to make collectively, 2020 so far has offered me a kind of stability that I didn’t have for the past couple of years. Thanks to that stability, I could progress on my goals much quicker.
If you look at my goals, in a way, the pandemic worked in my favour. I have no reason to stall on my goals. Reading, writing, exercising, meditating… these are all “inside the house” goals. Goals that became so much more achievable when the distractions of socialising and the outdoors were practically non-existent.
The lockdown in Singapore lifted on 19 June. We transitioned into “Phase 2”, where almost all businesses could begin operating, you could go out, socialise (with a limit of 5 people in a group), go to work, and dine-in at restaurants. I felt a sense of dread the moment Phase 2 was announced. With the temptation of freedom and without the forced disciplined induced by lockdown, I felt that the good habits that I’ve painstakingly built during lockdown would just disappear and I’d be back to square one again.
In the week after Phase 2, I became so protective of my lockdown routines that even the idea that things were going back to normal felt threatening. I admit it’s selfish but I couldn’t help it at the time.
How am I doing now?
Well, some of my habits have slipped (I seem to be spending money in July so far). But, for the most part, a lot of the habits I’ve cultivated during lockdown are still intact. I guess I should have given myself more credit.
One thing that’s helping me stick to my habits is a mindset shift. I’ve shifted my mindset from thinking of a habit as optional to thinking of it as non-negotiable. Instead of saying, “I’ll exercise/read/meditate when I have the time”, I’ve started saying, “Okay, how do I make time in my day for exercise/reading/meditation?” It’s not a perfect system but this mindset shift puts my days and habits in perspective in this post-lockdown era. I’m not gonna lie, I believe I wouldn’t have had this mindset at all if life stayed the same. It’s funny how it took a pandemic to get me moving in the right direction.