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Flowers are in Bloom 7 April, 2014

Posted by dear1dear2 in Dear2, Slice of Life.
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Barely 1 month from my previous post, flowers are now in bloom!

Flowers in bloom!

Flowers in bloom!

Amazing!  How the numerous showers give rise to flowers blooming all over Singapore in such a short span!  Greens are now a rich, luxurious, healthy green (if you didn’t manage to witness how brown our grass patches had been just a month ago, well, too bad); red, white, pink, yellow, violet, what beautiful colors of the flowers (nope, I’m not talking about those plants owned by someone.  I’m referring to the ‘wild’ trees that line our roads and streets).  Hmm… Did we used to have these flowers before the dry spell?  I really didn’t take much notice previously!

More flowers in bloom!

More flowers in bloom!

How we take things for granted!  The grasses are back to their green, and life goes back to normal for everyone.  Not that it was any abnormal for any one previously – no one bothers to save water (except for the malls that closed their water parks during the dry spell).  No one reminded any one, nor any one reminded yourself to do your part for the environment.  The dry spell came and went.  No lessons learnt.  No actions done.

Baby1 and I were nonetheless very relieved.  Even if the population at large were oblivious or the experience forgotten, I am still grateful that our trees are green now, and Baby1 appreciates the green and red and white and pink and yellow and violet more now.

- Dear2

The Trees are Dying of Thirst 12 March, 2014

Posted by dear1dear2 in Dear2, Slice of Life.
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I don’t know how long can trees go without water.  Or how far their roots can extend to reach for water.  I also don’t know how long can grass go without water.  Or if they can resuscitate if rain suddenly fall again.  But I do know that our grass patches are looking more and more brown, and our tree branches more and more white.

Rain! Or the lack of rain!

Haze! Oh, I decided that my nose is more accurate than the 3hr/ 24hr/ region by region/ what-have-you PSI!

There’s really nothing much that we can do about the weather.  We are not rain doctors, or government agencies to have Inter-Government Meets on climate change or burning problems.

But if our news says that our reservoirs levels are dropping lower day by day, and when the Minister suddenly starts to boast about our desalination/ new water capabilities, and also when they start to tell you, don’t worry, our water treaty with Malaysia will hold no matter what, and you’ve also heard that Malaysia is having water shortage to the extent of having to ration water in some places, you start to wonder why hasn’t NEA tell you to save water.

Maybe the people in Singapore has always been water-conscious; we have always been using water wisely.  Maybe it’s just myself who don’t collect laundry water to wash my toilets.  But I seriously doubt it.

If you don’t already know, clean water is very precious, and there are many areas in the world without access to clean water.

So while here in Singapore we take water all for granted, let us use this dry spell opportunity to remind ourselves to use water wisely, and to teach our children how to use water wisely too.  Just take a look at the grass patches that were once so green and lavish.  When will we see the green again?

Let’s pray for rain (ermm, moderate rain, not hail nor tornado nor floods), and let’s use water wisely always.

- Dear2

The smart shopper stretches the dollar 15 February, 2014

Posted by dear1dear2 in Dear1, Dollars & Cents, Shop till you drop.
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Sometimes, with a little planning, we can get much more out of every dollar we spend. Dear2 and I have just returned home from a grocery trip to Westgate and I would like to share an example of how we stretched our dollar.

Baby2′s milk powder was running out, so we have to buy some this weekend. The usual price of Baby2′s Gain IQ (1.8kg) is $75.90. But we knew that Guardian is having a promotion this weekend for the milk powder at $72.90.

At the same time, we have this Guardian coupon (which can be obtain directly at any Guardian counter) to Enjoy $5 off with a minmum spending of $45 in a single receipt. Purchasing the discounted milk powder definitely qualifies us to use this coupon.

Also, Guardian is a participating store in the TapForMore program with Passion Card which allows us to earn 1 point for every $1 spent, every 150 points will allow us to redeem $1 back.

Additionally, Maybank Friends and Family card gives us a 5% cash rebate (to be credited in the next credit card statement) when purchasing at Guardian stores.

During our last visit to Westgate, we visited the customer service counter at level 3 to check out the latest promotions and redemptions (just like we did at Vivocity and nearly every shopping mall that we visit). We knew that there is a Fortune Redemption program that allows us to earn 8888 STAR$ with a minimum spending of $188 in 3 receipts at Westgate.

That is on top of the STAR$ that we can already earn at all CapitaMalls at a exchange rate of $1 spend = 5 STAR$. In addition, we linked up our Passion Card with our STAR$ account which improves our exchange rate by 1.5 times, which meant that every $1 spend earns us 7.5 STAR$. STAR$ can be redeemed at a rate of 5000 STAR$ = $5 CapitaMall voucher.

Lastly, we will be using a $10 Dairy Farm voucher which we purchased from SAFRA at a discount of 8% (i.e. pay $92 for $100 Dairy Farm voucher) and a $5 CapitaMall voucher (which we redeemed using our STAR$ during our last visit to Westgate).

So off we went to Guardian at Westgate. We purchased 3 tins of Gain IQ (1.8kg) split into 3 separate receipts so that each receipt qualifies for the $5 off Guardian coupon. For one of the tins, we used our Dairy Farm and CapitaMall vouchers for another $15 off. In total, we paid ($72.90 – $5) x 3 – $15 = $188.70 using our Maybank credit card which will earn us $9.435 in our next statement.

Meanwhile, we earned 72.90 x 3 = 218.7 TapForMore points which is equivalent to 218.7 / 150 = $1.458 redeemable at our next purchase.

Next, we went to the Westgate customer service counter to earn our regular 72.90 x 3 x 5 x 1.5 = 1640.25 STAR$, and to earn our bonus 8888 STAR$. That’s a total of 10528.25 STAR$ worth $10.528 in redeemable vouchers, the caveat being these are only redeemable in 5000 STAR$ blocks. We then immediately exchanged 10000 of those just-earned STAR$ into $10 CapitaMall voucher.

Let’s tally our total savings. The original cost of 3 tins of Gain IQ (1.8kg) is $75.90 x 3 = $227.70. We paid only $188.70 at Guardian. However, we have to adjust for the Dairy Farm vouchers which was bought and not earned. So our total amount paid will be $188.70 + $9.20 = $197.90. Next, we earned $9.435 + $1.458 + $10 = $20.893 in rebates and vouchers. Therefore, effectively the 3 tins of milk powder cost us $197.90 – $20.893 =$177.007 or just $59.002 per tin.

That’s savings of 22.26%. :)

-Dear1

Building up our dividend income 12 February, 2014

Posted by dear1dear2 in Dear1, Dollars & Cents.
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I’ve talked about growing our dividend income in my new year resolution last year but I’ve not really reviewed it and discuss my strategies in this area. So, let’s do a quick review of our dividend income in 2013.

Now, before I start, let’s talk the events leading up to our position today. Dear2 and I basically wiped out our savings when we ROM and bought our house (and renovations and furnishing) back in late 2006. So, we essentially started from zero back then. I was freshly graduated and commencing my post-grad. That meant I had a tiny bit of steady income, the stipend back then was $2200 (with scholarship top-up), dropped to $1500 and gradually increased to $2800 by the time I left school in 2010. Around early 2007, Dear2 moved into her current stable employment (stable income) from her previous variable income job. So that’s about when we started building up our tiny pot of gold.

I’ve always had this idea of generating passive income. I forgot which book that I read but it left a lasting impression, that trading time for money will never get us out of the rat race. With my limited knowledge of passive income, only a few things came to mind.

  1. Rent. We just bought a house, unlikely we will be buying another house to rent out any time soon. But in the future, we may. Besides, MOP disallowed us to rent our house out.
  2. Royalties. Publish a book? Not good enough. Publish a mobile app? I’ve thought about it but not enough technical skills. Publish a game? Hmm… Next. What else? No ideas.
  3. Dividend. Not bad, achievable, can be done step by step.

So that’s when I decided to slowly build up our dividend portfolio. Both Dear2 and I have steady income at this point and I manage both our finances so we have a larger pool of money to utilize.

We made some poor investment choices in 2007-2008 leading to some paper losses. That was when I knew that I didn’t have the financial flair to analyse stocks. I decided that I will take the low risk approach. I started looking at blue chips in the Singapore market with a good reputation for dividend. We ended up making some value buys during the Global Financial Crisis, nearly all of the counters we are still holding on to today. To me, capital gain is not important, I want to grow passive income, so I will continue holding on to these counters unless they stop paying dividend. Over the years, I incrementally increased our investment when we had sufficient surplus and when the price looked right.

Fast forward to today, let’s do a review of our stocks dividend income for 2013. For the year 2013, I am holding on to 8 counters and received a total of $3949.70 in dividend at a yield of about 8.5% (I don’t even know if that’s the correct way of calculating yield.) That works out to be a passive income of $329.14 every month. :)

Happy happy. We earn about an additional $330 a month without trading time for money. But of course, the problem with dividend payment is that they don’t pay regularly every month, most of them is actually paid in May when the fiscal calendar of companies end.

Then, some time in late 2012, I met with a Relationship Manager from a bank who introduced to me unit trusts that pay monthly dividend. I was intrigued. Shortly after, I bought into 3 unit trusts that paid monthly dividend. This made our passive income much more regular and predictable.

At the end of year 2013, I received $4003.07 in dividend from unit trusts at a yield of about 5.7%. That works out to be $333.59 every month. So that’s a total passive income of $662.73 every month from stocks and unit trusts.

So what’s my investment strategy? As I’ve mentioned earlier, I do not have very sound financial background. My basic strategy is to look at blue chips that pay a consistent amount of dividend. My buy strategy is to buy when the expected dividend yield based on past records exceed 5%. My sell strategy is to hold until they stop giving out dividend or dividend yield drops below 3%. Also, I prefer to diversify. Although REITs generally provide good dividend, I only have 1 REIT counter in my portfolio. As for unit trusts, I go for dividend yield of above 5% with monthly cash payout.

Over the last 7 years or so, I have witnessed the growth of our passive income. I’ve come to believe that investments do take time to grow. They start slow, but if the profits are reinvested consistently, the rate of growth will accelerate. This is the power of compounding. Also, savings is equally important, because good saving habits will provide the first pot of gold needed to start investing, and will continue to be the cornerstone for future investments.

I do not want to burden my kids with the financial responsibility of providing for us parents when we retire. I believe that with the rising cost of living, life will be tough for the young ones when they step out into the working world. Hence, my goal is to continue to grow our passive income so that in retirement we can lead spend our time in the way that we want. To be able to spend time with our family and friends, and each other, without having to worry about making ends meet.

It’s never too late to start retirement planning. In fact, it would be better to start yesterday.

-Dear1

Chinese New Year 2014 4 February, 2014

Posted by dear1dear2 in Baby, Dear2, Learning Training, Slice of Life.
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Chinese New Year is a time of visiting your friends and relatives, as well as a time to assess the children of your friends and relatives (and for friends and relatives to assess yours too!)

The hectic first 3 days of Chinese New Year is finally over, back to normal peace and routine times.  This past 3 days, the usual procedure for Dear1 and Dear2 when we reach a relative’s or friend’s place is: take out shoes, get Baby1 to say hi to people, coax Baby1 to go play with the other kids, try to put Baby2 down who refuses to put down her legs and clings onto Mummy in the unfamiliar environment, yells at Baby1 to play safe, coax her to say Happy New Year and Thank You when she receives an Ang Bao, stays close to Baby2 as she walks around the house on her own unable to join the older kids, and we move on to the next house.  It feels almost like a battle field when there’s 6 or more kids, where I had to constantly keep an eye on both my girls, to get them to play or make sure that there’s safe playing with the other kids.  Hardly any time for me to chit chat with the relatives or friends (haiz).

So at the end of the visitations, I resolved to use this year to train Baby1 and Baby2 into independent kids who can play on their own and who will require minimum supervision this time next year.  But looking at the kids of my cousins and friends, is it me, but why do I get the feeling that kids these days are all so spoilt!

Look at 9yo K, stubborn and quiet, he did not want to play with all the younger cousins and chose to watch the telly silently in one corner.  The parents and granny and aunt had to constantly ask if he wants to drink water, if he wants to eat lunch, if he wants to do this, if he wants this want that, which he’ll solemnly reject everything.  Looks very princy, if not like a king to me.  Add his 8yo and 4yo sisters, both very soft spoken girls, who have the same eating problem as the brother, and so the whole family was constantly hunting down all 3 kids to eat a proper lunch.

In another family, the 3 J siblings, a 6yo boy, 4.5yo girl and 2.5yo boy, one was playing the computer game with his daddy throughout the 1hr we were there, the girl glued to the iPhone and the youngest throwing tantrums with the mummy.  Hmm… why does it seem that families with 3 kids do not interact with each other at all!?

Or is it a boys’ thing?  Dear1 and I had to constantly stay close to Baby1 for fear of her being hammered by the boys, all of which are younger than her.  I personally witnessed 2.5yo C hitting her head with a Thomas train, why, I don’t know the reason at all!  His granddad even had to bring him out for a walk due to him creating too much nuisance and noise in the house, when Daddy’s constantly scolding and Mummy’s constantly nagging don’t work.  It was peace for a good 30mins until C is back in the house again.

Sometimes I think it’s us parents creating such kids.  We give in to the kids too much and too easily, and they know that they can ride over our heads.  We scold, we beat, but we do not instil discipline despite these.   After the 3 days, Baby1 started to exhibit bad behaviour.  Blatantly snatched Baby2′s toys a couple of times.  Looks to me that she picked up these bad behaviour from the CNY visiting, and Dear1 and I needed to put a stop to this immediately.  We chided, we explained, we reasoned, and it seems that she remembers not to do so again.  But does it mean that bad behaviour is really so easily picked up and learnt!?

I want to be an elegant and chio mummy next Chinese New Year, but to achieve this, I need to have good behaviour in my kids. Love them lots, explain to those who can reason, and guide them with ourselves as role models.

Till next year~

- Dear2

 

Tangs @ Vivocity 31 January, 2014

Posted by dear1dear2 in Dear2, Dollars & Cents, Shop till you drop.
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Toscano Bag – $349 before less 20% Birthday Month discount

Sorella panties (3 in a pack) – $17.90 but paid $1.70 for it

Parking at Vivocity – $4.20 but paid $0, still got $0.80 credit left

Vivocity Ang Bao packets in cute box – Complimentary

Woohoo! I finally got my birthday present at Tangs Vivo last week after much comparing and deliberation. Went specially all the way down to Vivo to get the bag as Dear1 has some Tangs-Citibank membership with 20% discount on selected categories for one time purchase during birthday month. After paying, we were told that we’ve earned some credit points of about $16.20 so we grabbed a pack of panties which is worth about that amount to net this off before it’s forgotten expiry.

On our way out, we wanted to check with Vivo’s concierge if there’s a Bak Kwa shop in the building, for our new year gifts to the parents. Learnt that we can apply for Vivocity complimentary parking ($1 for every $50 spendings, cap at $5 per day), so we did the application and redeemed $5 worth of parking credits. There was a complimentary pack of ang bao in a pretty magnetic box for $180 (??) spendings during the festive season so we got one too.

Geez. $70 savings on my birthday bag, plus free panties, plus free parking, plus free ang bao packets. We used to think that there isn’t anything for us to buy in Vivocity. GAP, Coach, hmm… I don’t even know all those atas brands for young people now, mature parents as we are now only shop in supermarkets and departments stores. But what a surprise that we’ve purchased quite a few big ticket items from Tang Vivo these few years. My Toscano bag now, Dear1′s Renoma Birthday bag last year, our 2 Hush Puppies Travel luggages, and a cooking pot. Who knows, we might come back again soon~

- Dear2

2014 New Year Resolutions 26 December, 2013

Posted by dear1dear2 in Dear2, For Him For Her, Leisure & Games, Slice of Life, Sports & Health, Travel & Discovery.
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Dear1 and Dear2 reviewed our 2013 resolutions, and set our 2014 new year resolutions during a ‘date’ at JEM. We took leave that day, and spend the afternoon at the newly opened JEM grocery shopping, shopping for a replacement for Dear1′s broken wallet, and did our resolutions over a Starbucks mocha frappe and mudpie. There was some discounts using Citibank Credit Card at Starbucks, and some vouchers + gift wrap from JEM. Not bad a deal!

Anyway, for 2013 resolutions, we did pretty well, about 75% accomplished. Dear1 finally changed his job, (though I didn’t get poached anywhere), I slimmed to 53kg long time ago, Dear1 (sorta) quit facebook and pelt away from being glued to his smart phone, we went to Kitty Land and Legoland a long time ago in last December and March, and we bought a couple of dividend paying unit trusts. Not a bad year for us.

So for 2014, here we go again:

Dear1
- 70kg
- Do daily planks

Dear2
- Waist 27 inch
- Do daily abs or arms exercise
- Do 1 face mask every month
- Talk to at least 5 people (not including Dear1, Baby1 and Baby2) every day
- Speak slowly

Together
- Kiss dear Good Morning AND Good Night every day
- 1 date every month
- Weekly talk/ beer time
- Write 1 post every month (each)
- Join 3 events (1 half marathon, 1 full and 1 others)
- Monthly place of interest (somewhere new)
- 1 Batam and 1 Cruise trip
- Be patient with the kids. Read, play and listen to them.
- Maximise our cash
- Organise monthly get-together/gaming with friends, relatives, kids or dear

According to 2 fengshui masters, the year of the Horse will see Monkeys travelling to optimise opportunities. Couples also need to exercise lots of tolerance towards each other as tempers will flare easily. Wonder will it be Dear1 or Dear2 who will get to travel (dun worry, if Dear1 has to travel, then all of us will go bunk in Granny’s house; if Dear2 has to travel, then everybody go to Ah Ma’s house, relax………). Tolerance, yes, lots of it I need. Stay chill, as we work hand in hand together to create and maintain a happy family for our family.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

- Dear2

Swissotel Vertical Marathon 2013 30 November, 2013

Posted by dear1dear2 in Dear2, Sports & Health.
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Unbelievable, we really did it! Up 73 storeys, 1,336 steps, and in 22 minutes (only)! Really? I asked, unable to believe this when we reached the top. In the week leading to the climb, my thighs already feel tired when we barely reached storey 4 (and we are talking about climbing to storey 8, ONE training every day). And when I used to climb 10 storeys to home back in my twenties, I was always already cursing when I reached home. So being able to really achieve 73 storeys was really a miracle for me!

Pre-Race Training
- 3 Sundays when Baby1 was at her 45min ballet class, Dear1 and I quickly popped over to the nearby HDB block and did maximum 3 x 13 storeys
- 1 week before the actual race, we climbed the stairs to fetch Baby1 everyday. That was 8 storeys
- 1 week before actual race, Dear1 took the stairs daily to his office on level 3
- A couple of weeks before actual race, I take the stairs up to the MRT platform every morning. Becomes a daily habit for me now.

Race Day
We deposited both Baby1 and Baby2 at the grandparents around 9am, and proceeded to Raffles City. Phew, luckily there were plenty of parking lots, unlike that time when we wanted to park here during the Cold Storage Kids Run. Reporting time was 10.25am, and flag off was 11am. We went to join the queue on the dot, and were surprised to be one of the first teams to flag off.

Feeling very very nervous, I kept thinking that it’s mission impossible. Dear1 has better physiques and thighs, so this could be at best a little challenge for him. For me, stairs was really never my forte, and I just kept feeling very very nervous. 73 storey!!!

5, 4, 3, 2, 1! And off we went with 2 other couple in the Buddies and Besties Challenge. I decided to take this slow and easy. Completion. I just need to reach the top. Climbing is unlike running. If you are tired in a run, you walk, and you still get nearer to the end. But when your legs turn jelly in a vertical marathon, you just remain where you are, no movement. Some people say you can pull yourself up using the hand rails, but yikes, imagine all the sweaty palms pulling themselves on the rails. I’d rather not pull, thanks.

Up, up, up, we trailed before the second couple steadily. Apparently the female is very much like me. Her male counterpart kept looking back for her and encouraging her.

Storey 10. We reached the first rest point (I told Dear1 that every 10 storeys is our rest point). Still feeling great, so we continued the steady climb.

Storey 13. Hey, we reached Set1 of our usual HDB training where we’ll usually be panting and sweating hard by now. So far okay! Not much pant nor much sweat!

Storey 30. Hey, almost halfway there le. Our female pace-setter was showing signs of being more physically inferior now, so I decided to over take her.
Up, up, up. I hear loud cheers, and heavy pants. Oh, the Everest team. Being very laden with additional weights and face mask for their Mount Everest training, they are kind of a noisy distraction here. Over take, quick! So I fasten my pace and out paced them in few strides.

40, 50. We stopped at both rest points to catch our breaths. Already more than halfway, way surpassing all our training. And we are still going okay. Checked – no Everest Team. Checked – Let the over taking teams go first cos I don’t want to block their way, and we pushed on ahead.

53, 54, 55. Ermm, not feeling good, I can feel myself losing focus. But next stop is 60. One more stop at 70, and we’re almost there. How can give up!? 56, 57….. 60! Cannot, I’m gonna faint. Gotta sit down rest……….

63, 64, 65… 70. Eh, how come the sensor is here? And the windings of the stairs is different now, there isn’t a convenient nook to rest. All the way. 71, 72, 73, and we’re there.

Though the sun is not very bright, and people say you have to enjoy the scenery when you are finally up here, I can’t open my eyes. Got Dear1 to take a picture for momento’s sake, and I asked Dear1 to bring me down. Damn, there isn’t a lift on the roof top, you need to walk DOWN to storey 70 to take the lift down. Everyone only told me about the satisfaction when you reach the top. Why did no one ever mention that you need to be able to walk down the stairs with jelly legs too.

Back to ground floor, I took nearly 30 minutes to recuperate before regaining my senses.

Amazing. Really mission impossible becomes mission possible. Like Dear1 says, before you do a vertical marathon yourself, you’d think that it’s mission impossible. Having achieved this ourselves, we know it’s really mission possible. Would we do this next year? Nah, since we now know it’s possible. See you at Standard Chartered Full Marathon 2014. :p

- Dear2

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