Learning to save with POSB’s National School Savings Campaign

Vera has been growing more aware of the value of money. I’m glad as it means she’s starting to think whenever we spend money on an item, be it food or a toy.

She asked me one day when I came back with new school shoes for her, “Mummy, how much is it?”

“$29,” came my answer.

Vera: “What? So expensive?”

I replied and said yes it is not cheap. (I would much prefer her to learn to appreciate her things rather than dismiss it as being well affordable, and having her think we can spend as we wish.)

We’ve taken pains to teach her about counting money, as well as about making daily purchasing decisions. Since young, we gave her and JJ a “cow-bank” and they slot in the coins that they want to save.

savings_piggybank

Since we started Vera on chores around the house, we’ve been rewarding her with small amounts of money too. I note down the chores that she does each day, and at the end of the week, we give her a small token to show our appreciation. She saves the money in a purse that we call her “ice-cream fund” – she can use her money for treats when we go out or even for buying a new book title for her iPad storybook app.

We allow her full control of her money, but we also talk through with her on the decisions that she makes with them.

I think it’s important to inculcate good money sense and habits from young, to avoid problems like over-spending or money recklessness when older. It also helps to impart a sense of gratitude for what we do have, and to combat feelings of entitlement.

When I heard that POSB is bringing back the National School Savings Campaign, I felt a sense of nostalgia. (Didn’t we all start our first kiddy bank account with POSB?) But more than that, I also felt gladness. I think parents today need all the help they can get in inculcating the value and habit of saving in our children.

How does the Campaign work? Through a simple savings stamp card. Each primary school student can get their POSB National School Savings stamp card from any POSB/DBS branch, SingPost outlet and at Pacific or Popular bookstores in schools from 2 February 2015 onwards. Do get hold of them for your children!

Stamps costing $0.50 each will be sold at Pacific or Popular school bookstores and at SingPost outlets. Your child can drop the stamp card into any POSB/DBS Quick Cheque Deposit location upon completion (20 x $0.50 stamps). The bank will then credit the full value of the stamp card ($10) PLUS a $1 bonus (the bonus is limited to one stamp card per child, per month and only valid for POSBkids account holders).

Easy peasy lemon squeezy!

POSB stamp card

The POSB savings stamp card will help you start the ball rolling in teaching your child how to save. You can also follow some of these tips below to make the learning more real and hands-on!

  • Let them see you save. Talk to them about how you save money, and what you can do with the money saved. For instance, saving for a family holiday.
  • Give them a piggy bank or start a “happy fund” – where they can use their savings (that they earn through chores or what’s left of their pocket money) to make themselves as well as others feel happy.
  • Be creative in the ways you save as a family. It could even be in the daily usage of finite resources like water, electricity, and food. (For more ideas, you may want to check out my earlier post on 20 ways to be a frugal family in Singapore.)
  • Involve the children. Ask your child for ideas on how to save. You’d be surprised at what they can come up with!

We can all do our part to help raise a savings-minded generation and future good stewards. Find out more about this campaign here and remember to pledge your support for this National School Savings Campaign.

If you child does not have an ePOSBkids account yet, sign up here for one.

Smiley Squirrel

*This is a sponsored post. All opinions and stories are as usual my own.

20 ways to be a frugal family in Singapore

 Singapore is an expensive place to live in. Safe no doubt, efficient uh-huh, but expensive.

For those with kids, it’s somewhat a double whammy because of the necessary items that are now on our 2-metre long shopping list. Because of the kids, we choose to eat healthy and are usually more willing to spend on good quality meat, fish and vegetables, but these can all add up to a hefty monthly grocery bill. If your kids are lactose intolerant, or have special dietary needs, it just gets worse.

Since I’ve become a mum, my money mindset has changed quite dramatically. Well, okay, I still give myself (and others) treats once in a while. I am still addicted to great coffee and chocolate cake. But gosh, the guilt when I over-spend is humongous. It sits on me like a giant panda, and makes me promise never to do it again.

In my past four years as a mother, I have limited my trips to the malls, switched from Starbucks to coffeeshop alternatives, and in the past year especially, I’ve cut down on taxi-flagging. (This last one is quite a milestone for me.)

This year, the hubs and I have made a commitment to spending wisely and saving more. We are inspired by others who are able to live on little and yet are big on giving back to society, so it’s not just about cutting back, it’s also about cutting back so we have more to give. (I know it sounds a lil’ lofty, but it’s always good to have a goal, no?)

So I’ve done some research and come up with a list of ideas.

1. Switch your mindset to frugal. You automatically save about $100 a month just by doing this mental shift. Amazing, but true. The trick is you have to really really want it. (It helps to have a goal and purpose too. For instance, wanting to save more for your children’s education, or to start a business.)

2. Have fun exploring free places. Parks, Botanic Gardens, beaches, friend’s homes, you name it. *If you’re running out of ideas, check out my Fun page or follow us on instagram.

3. Cook in batches and freeze. I used to do this when the kids were younger. It was more convenient, and gave me the assurance that the kids were having healthy home-cooked meals. I do this less now, but I hope to get back to cooking and baking in the next few months.

4. Pack a sandwich / dinner leftovers to work once a week. This is something that I picked up as a student living in Australia. The food there was pretty expensive, and it was quite the norm there because the locals packed their own too. I think it’s relatively less common in Singapore, but I know of people who do it regularly, and I think it’s quite healthy too.

5. Try not to use the air-con if the weather is cool enough. If you really need it, get the kids to bunk over for the night. It’s bonding, plus energy-saving all in one.

6. Borrow instead of buy. The library is a great place to find good books, plus it’s always a treat for the kids. Or you can always arrange a book swap with a group of friends. It’s fun and savings all in one!

7. Say no to luxury items. If you can afford it, there’s nothing wrong with pampering yourself with a new handbag or another pair of dress shoes. But imagine what long-term goals you could possibly invest in if you bought one luxury item less. Or you could buy a few quality pieces of shoes/clothing that’s on sale. Just saying.

8. Monitor your expenses. I would say this is the best way to understanding your spending habits and knowing exactly where your money goes. We have a spreadsheet to help us monitor our income/spending, and a balance sheet as well. We keep receipts and record them down at the end of the month. It may seem a bit tedious but after a few months you get the hang of it and will appreciate its beauty. When we exceed the budget for personal expenses, we try to be disciplined and cut back on spending in the following month.

9. Set up a bad mood fund. Pamper yourself and/or your spouse when you’re in a bad mood, without the fear of busting your personal budget!

10. Breastfeed for as long as you can. Hey it’s free, and it’s healthy!

11. Avoid sales like the plague. It’s the most tempting to buy items you don’t need, or may not actually like, during a sale. Unless you really need the item, and it happens to be on sale. Now that’s a different story. 

12. Sell pre-loved items online. You can do so at Buzzy Tots Exchange Corner or Craigslist. [Update on 27 April 2016: If you haven’t checked out Carousell, you should.]

13. Use baking soda and vinegar as part of your home-cleaning solutions instead of expensive supermarket cleaners. (I substitute half of my washing powder with baking soda, which also helps to make the cleaning more efficient.)

14. Buy less toys. There are some pretty good side effects of having less toys in the house. Less clutter, plus your kids get to utilise their creativity by thinking of ways to have fun with what they have.

15. Shop online. I’m a newbie at this, and but I recently bought two pairs of shoes from ASOS that were on sale. They cost half the price of ONE pair I would have bought at a store somewhere else. (A friend recommended Zalora and Saturday Club. I like Zalora because if you change your mind on your purchase, you can return it for free.) If you have a favourite shopping site to share, please do so in the comments below.

16. Don’t put your computer to sleep. Shut it down every night.

17. Switch off the lights immediately upon leaving the room. This is something I was taught to do as a child, and continue to do till this day.

18. Exchange things among friends. For instance, books, clothing, or even accessories. It’s fun, and you get to enjoy having a new look (or book), even if it’s just for a time.

19. Shower the kids together. They get a bit of fun splashing and we usually get wet in the process, but heck it’s fun and I think it does save some water and money. Well, okay maybe not…but at least it saves time. 😉

20. Cultivate a mindset of thriftiness and contentment in your kids. Teach them the value of money from a tender age and the concept of stewardship. This last tip will probably save you money through your entire lifetime. Not to mention your future generations too. 😉

Has parenthood changed the way you handle money too? If you have a money-wise tip to share, please leave a comment! 

PS. If you have a primary school child in your nest, you may want to check out Learning to Save with POSB National School Savings Campaign!

Save

Booby tricks: Tips for successful breastfeeding

I gathered a few breastfeeding advocates from the Singapore Mom Bloggers‘ group, and got them to share their tips and experiences on breastfeeding.

Here are their tricks and tips to common issues that breastfeeding mums face.

Issue #1 – I don’t know how to latch!

 Get help

Zee: Look for a good lactation consultant and a pro-breastfeeding confinement nanny. My confinement nanny gave me practical tips on breastfeeding and helped with the latching-on. May not be as pro as a lactation consultant but definitely helped on a day to day basis. She also reminded and encouraged me to pump.

My lactation consultant gave me a very good tip. When baby’s mouth opens slightly upon teasing, you have to be decisive and push the baby towards the boob. It shocked me at first because it was a little rough but it helped the baby take most of the areola and latch on correctly.

Mary: For my #2 and #3, I drank papaya and fish soup, faithfully massaged breasts before feeding, drank lots of water etc. I also got in a private lactation consultant to my place. They work like magic. In an hour, they are able to get baby to latch on and feed. Money well spent!

Editor’s note: Keep practising in the hospital, and ask to see the lactation consultant. Don’t leave the hospital without being confident of your latch.

Issue #2 – Engorgement, blocked ducts, and sore nipples = PAIN!

Massage

Zee: I had this amazing Malay lady who helped me with post-partum massage and who also helped to massage my boobies to ease engorgement and blocked ducts. Definitely helped to make breastfeeding less painful for me.

Editor’s note: Here were my three weapons: Nipple cream (I used Medela Purelan), a good lactation consultant (when I could not clear the blocked ducts myself), and air (yup air those nipples when they’re sore, it helps.)

Issue #3 – I don’t have enough milk! How do I increase my supply?

Feed on demand

Baby Hiroshi: Start as early as possible, feed exclusively and on demand.

Cindy: Feed and feed on demand, and when not on demand, pump! This demand-supply econs theory works well for me. The outcome of breastfed babies also largely depends on the food that we eat during the period. I remember pumping one side and holding a milk bottle on the other because when there’s a let-down, both sides let!

Hai Fang: During the first month I pumped after every feed to increase the supply, frequently massaged to prevent clogged ducts. After that I was too lazy, just fed on demand. I think the law of demand and supply works.

Eat well

Baby Hiroshi: Fish & green papaya soup and lots of sashimi worked for me.

Adora: I took organic nursing tea from Origins Jamu Massage called “Sacred Tea for Nursing Mothers”. It’s $25 per pack. Having a pro-breastfeeding PD and GP helps too. I have friends who have been told “You have carpel tunnel syndrome and the only cure is to take steroids, which means you’ll have to stop breastfeeding”.

Sarah: My secret ingredient is fenugreek. It really worked. My American friend convinced me to try it when she told me how she took it and lactated even though she wasn’t pregnant! She did so that she could breastfeed her adopted baby.

Sharon: I breastfed my first son by pumping exclusively until he was 12 months. For my second son, I had an over-supply of milk, but I also pumped and fed him breastmilk exclusively until he was 12 months. I drank lots of soup, milk, and milo, but fenugreek didn’t work for me.

But note that exclusive pumping sometimes creates blocked ducts, so it helps if one is able to locate the “hardened duct” and give it a gentle press from the side. When the milk shoots out, the duct is cleared.

littlebluebottle: Take lots of warm fluids, lots of rest, lots of encouragement even when you pump out pittance.

Invest in a good pump, and…pump

Zee: Invest in a good pump. Some people think its better to establish supply first then spend money on the pump. But I think a good pump is key to establishing good supply. Because baby may not latch on as often as you would like to increase supply so got to rely on pump. And if you’re using a hand-held one, chances are you will probably want to give up because of sheer tiredness.

Pamela: To increase milk supply, latch on one side and pump the other side AT THE SAME TIME!  That’s my secret to fully breastfeeding twins to 18 months!

Editor’s note: This worked for me too. I would usually pump about 1 oz. from the second breast while baby fed on the first. Then when he’s done, I would let him have the second breast. This made sure my supply was always a few steps ahead of his demand. I only did this for the first 3 months, and only during the morning and evening feeds, as these are the usually the first feeds to increase when the baby goes through growth spurts.

Sarah: Invest in a good quality pump like Medela or Ameda. Pumping was what helped me really bring on the milk for #2. He was hospitalised on day 5 for breastfeeding jaundice and my milk supply then wasn’t too great. As I stayed with him in hospital I used their Medela pump, which helped me increase my milk output from like 20-30 ml both breasts to 90- 130 ml in a matter of 2 days. Within a week, my onetime output could reach about 180ml. For my #1, I used a not so good pump and after a year only averaged 100 ml.

Editor’s note: I’ve used both Medela and Ameda electric pumps before, and I must say Medela worked better for me. 😉

Susan: Start pumping as soon as you can. Learn how to massage boobies to relax and also get the flow going.

Winnie: Drink lots of water, have a relaxed mind, and think of baby when you pump.

Cheat, just a little

Zee: I actually listened to someone’s advice and gave Aly formula the first few days before my supply came in. This has always been controversial but I took the view that if I’m not so stressed dealing with a crying baby my milk would come in more quickly. And although I had to supplement Aly with formula in the first two weeks, she has been on total breast milk ever since.

Editor’s note: Agree that this is controversial, but I did the same thing for Vera. I supplemented whenever the baby was hungry and I did not have enough, and spent the following days pumping and resting to help my supply increase. It did!

Issue #4 – There’s so much negative talk around me. I feel like giving up!

Believe in yourself

Nadia: Never ever have a tin of formula at home as “back up”. Trust yourself that you’re producing enough fluids for your little one. Once you get that tin, you’ll always see it as an easy way out.

Develop selective hearing

Selena: Develop selective hearing. Believe you will have enough, agree with those who agree with you and support you, ignore those who have less than positive impressions of breastfeeding. Decide for yourself what you’re comfortable with (feeding in public or not, how long to feed for, etc). Because at the end of the day, you know breastfeeding is a good thing!

Zhenzhu: You must be stubborn…Because no matter how ‘good’ we are at producing milk, there are always dissuading voices around. So, be stubborn and ignore everybody.

Stay positive, find support

Baby Hiroshi: Have a positive mindset, surround yourself with supportive family members / friends, and arm yourself with correct information about breastfeeding.

Set your own goals

Mama J: Been feeding non-stop (one kid after another) for 3.5 years. Main thing for me would be to have a goal on how long you want to feed. I had numerous quarrels with my mum who said I was starving my kid when I had supply issues, but having that goal helped me to stick with it through all the problems.

Thanks everyone for sharing your breastfeeding experience!

imakemilk

This post is dedicated to my closest bunch of girlfriends, many of whom are expecting at this present moment. I’m so excited for you mums-to-be, and I’m praying for the best for all of you! 🙂

Read also: Breastfeeding basics

Writer, in progress

So the old saying goes ‘Success is 10% inspiration, and 90% perspiration’.

Well what about writing? To me, it should be 50-50; half inspiration, half hard work. I’m not undermining the fact that writing is hard work. I’m just trying to say that inspiration doesn’t just drop from the sky, and that if we are truly inspired, it shouldn’t take a whole lot of striving to write from that place of abundance.

Some days, I feel I sweat at the computer desk more than I should. At those times, I can press on and keep going, but no matter how hard I squeeze, the words at most come out at dripping speed. So I usually get up and go for a walk, spend time with the kiddos, or just get some household chore done.

And then an idea strikes me. And I try to drop whatever I was distracting myself with, and write. (That’s where the phone or iPad usually comes in handy, as with a trusty notebook.)

But where do the ideas come from?

From where do words surface and bubble up into full form?

I like to think that it comes from above. By that, I mean from our creator God.

Then it comes from life itself. From personal experiences and events that combine to form an explosive mix of adrenaline, emotion, and a desire to spread the word. Something, some thought, someone, somewhere has to trigger that writer’s response in us. (Just as this post was triggered by a sudden urge to write about writing.)

Sometimes, I find inspiration in the most mundane things. Like a leaf falling from a tree, or an old man sitting with a cigarette in hand, or something innocent my little girl said.

But regardless of where you find your inspiration, I thought I’d share a little of what I know about writing:

Write from passion – Just as “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks“, so it is with writing. If it’s something that you feel strongly for / against, your writing will reflect that enthusiasm and passion, and that will help you connect with your readers.

Write what you know – Whatever life experiences you’ve been through, you are the expert of that experience. No one else has gone through the exact same experience as you and came through it the exact same way. So long as you have drawn one or two lessons from it, share about them, and let your readers take home something.

Find your anchor – Sometimes I use pictures as an anchor to my story, like the one about the grandies. It really helps to add focus. Try asking yourself that gazillion dollar question “what do you really want to say?“, and just wait for the lights to bling on. Oh yes, a great title helps too.

Draw on experts – We can never know it all. Read up on the topic you’ve chosen to write about. Google it, read what others have said, draw from experts’ opinions or books. I sometimes link to other blog posts, but only if the entire post is relevant and if it serves to add greater dimension to the topic.

Big picture, small details– Let’s say you are reviewing a play. By all means share the colourful moments with us, but remember to zoom out and give us the bird’s eye view. It will help us see why you chose to write about it, and what it means to you.

Be ruthless – Anything that doesn’t add value to your story? Cut it. In general, short paragraphs work better than long ones. Same with sentences. And yes, edit your work. I never publish a draft that I haven’t re-looked at and edited; there are always typos and grammatical errors to be weeded out, and there’s always a word that can be replaced with something better.

Keep writing, keep improving – One of the reasons why I started a blog was to improve my writing. This brings me back to the title I chose, ‘Writer, in progress’ – because I’m always learning, always wanting to improve. Let’s all try to be sponges, so that we can absorb the good stuff from the many good writers/bloggers out there. And yes, may God grant us more inspiration too!

Do you have any writing tips to share?

Congrats, you’re pregnant! Now what? (pregnancy tips)

So you’ve just found out you’re pregnant. Congrats! If you’re not sure on what you should be doing next, here are some ideas…

First trimester: Zzz

1. Sleep — as much as you can. If you’re working, seek the understanding of your boss and colleagues if you don’t feel up to doing certain tasks. Take naps during lunchtime whenever possible.

2. Bond with books & mums — Hang out with experienced mums, ask questions, and learn from them. Better still, camp at your girlfriend’s place and get a taste of what having a little baby in the house is like. (Kidding. I just said you need to rest right?) There’s something universal about becoming a mum that makes it easy to strike up a conversation with a stranger…so go ahead, widen your mummy social circle.

Check out the following books:

3. Eat like goldilocks — By that I mean everything must be “just nice” and in moderate amounts. Feel free to pig out on fruits and veggies. Fish like salmon and tuna are high in omega-3 and are safe to consume for expecting mums. I think it’s okay to satisfy your cravings once-in-a-while, as long as your weight is in check. I put on nearly 20kg in my first pregnancy, which is something you SHOULD NOT DO as it puts you at higher risk of complications. Eating small frequent meals help.

4. Oil your tummy — and everywhere around the tummy area and thighs to help prevent stretch marks. Never too early to start this. I used bio-oil, but most stretch-mark oils and creams should do the trick.

5. Acknowledge your emotions — Talk to your partner about your thoughts, fears or emotions that you are feeling. Ask for extra understanding and support during this time, as it’s quite common for pregnant ladies to experience general grouchiness (to put it rather mildly). I found myself crying quite a bit, and at the littlest of things, so there you go.

Second trimester: Let’s get moving

6. Exercise — “Fit women have to push less.” (Brain Rules for Baby) Exercise also buffers against stress. So as long as you get your gynae’s okay, pencil in regular exercise into your schedule. But start slowly if you have not been exercising regularly pre-pregnancy, and always listen to your body.

7. Talk to your baby — or sing or even slow-dance. I learnt from Brain Rules for Baby that there is actually a prime time to start communicating with the baby – in the second half of pregnancy when their senses have developed.

8. Book your confinement nanny — good ones tend to be booked early, so it’s a good time to do it once you cross your third month. Always ask for recommendations, and do interview her over the phone to make sure you’re totally comfortable, and you know what her roles and responsibilities are. I prefer younger nannies who are more up-to-date with their knowledge of caring for the baby and who will respect my desire to breastfeed / not eat certain foods. Even then, prepare to be upfront about what you want or don’t want her to do.

9. Shortlist hospitals and go take a tour — talk to friends and suss out which hospital matches your needs best. Once you have shortlisted a few, sign up for their hospital tours to have a closer look. Remember to ask questions.

10. Attend classes — Sign up for pre-natal classes once you’ve settled on your hospital of choice. The Singapore Breastfeeding Mothers’ Support Group also conducts regular courses on breastfeeding, so do check those out.

11. Go shopping — Shop for baby stuff around the 5th or 6th month of pregnancy, when you’re not too big or heavy, and can still walk comfortably. Besides physical stores such as Mums & Babes, Kiddie Palace, and Baby KingdomSingapore Motherhood Forum is a good place to get some baby essentials too, if you know exactly what you are looking for. Of course, it’s always a blessing to get hand-me-downs. 😉

Third trimester: Happy belly

12. Go for pedicures — I’m serious. A good massage for your leg and feet will do wonders for blood circulation, and help to ease water retention and prevent those late-night foot cramps (ouch). Besides, pretty feet always make us happy, don’t they?

13. Embrace your new body — It’s easy to feel down about that bulging belly, and those new wobbly bits at some point. But you know what? There’s a miracle growing inside of you, so flaunt that baby bump!

14. Stay happy — Relax, unwind, pamper yourself, and do all it takes (within budget of course) to keep yourself in good cheer. Confide in your best buddies when you’re down, and learn to walk away from stressful situations.

15. Set up a baby gift registry — Make it easy for friends and family by letting them buy you the things that you really need. You can check out the ones at Robinsons and Mothers Work.

16. Be patient — as you play the waiting game. It helps to keep your mind occupied so you don’t keep moping and hoping for your time to come. Pack your hospital bag (at least a month before you are due), do the baby’s laundry, or schedule some quality time with your partner and good friends. (It’ll be a long time before you get some semblance of a social life back.)

Honestly, there’s so much to do that I can’t quite cover in 1 blog post. But I think the most important thing is… Enjoy the journey, and make memories of it (through a blog, scrapbook, or even a photo shoot). You are on the edge of probably the most exciting and challenging point of your life.

Have an amazing 9 months! Do check out my 10 tips for new mums and 10 essentials for breastfeeding mums as well!  🙂

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