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Paid off our car loan 31 August, 2014

Posted by dear1dear2 in Dear1, Dollars & Cents.
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Yes! We did it! We paid off our car loan.

We’ve had this idea of paying our car loan for a long time. Ever since we decided that we wanted to get a new house. Sometime last year, I visited a banker to explore the idea financing our new house based solely on my income instead of the combine income of Dear2 and I. This is to keep Dear2 financially ‘open’ to future investment options. To cut the long story short, the banker advised that I have to pay off my car loan and cancel most of my credit cards to be in line with the new TDSR policy.

Earlier this year, I called up Maybank to enquire about the settlement amount. I can’t recall the amount right now but it would save me roughly $20 to settle it then. However, the only Maybank branch to repay a car loan is at Textile Centre, and they only open on weekdays and closes at 2pm. It was sort of inconvenient to visit their branch. Since we were only intending to start house hunting later this year, I decided to repay the car loan at a later date.

Bad idea.

Earlier this month, I called again to check the settlement amount. In absolute terms, it was of course a smaller amount at $6559. However, it was $43 more than if I let the loan run its course ($6516). This was mainly due to a component called the early settlement fee. Oh no. If I delay any further, the disparity will only increase. With renew motivation, I visited Textile Centre last week over my lunch time to pay off our car loan.

I immediately SMS Dear2 to announce that we are debt free.

It felt like a big burden lifted off our shoulders. Now, with both of housing loan and car loan paid off, we are one more step closer to our dream of a new property. On a monthly basis, we will also see more positive cash flow in our accounts which will likely translate to higher savings. To be debt free at the age of 33, we felt delighted and fortunate.

The next step will be to cancel any unused credit cards that I have. Meanwhile, build up our savings and be ready to enter the market.

-Dear1

Garfield Run 2014 31 July, 2014

Posted by dear1dear2 in Baby, Dear2, Leisure & Games, Sports & Health.
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In June, Dear1 and I did the Jurong Lake Run. In July, I did the Garfield Run with Baby1.  It was fun!!

As usual, 1 week before the Run, we collected the Race Pack from Orchard Central. The running tees looked too big for Baby1 and me, so I went to exchange for 1 size smaller.  Alas, both adult and kid’s tees were OOS, and we ended up with 2 sizes smaller.  The length was ok, but the width was just right – let’s hope Baby1 don’t outgrow it too soon, and let’s hope mummy don’t get too fat again!

Actual run day on 19 July, it was a NDP rehearsal day too.  Means there’ll be fireworks!  We reached the Promontory@Marina Bay exactly 15 mins before the Kids Run flag off at 4.30pm.  If we thought that it’s crowded, wait till you see the Family Fun Run crowd – it’s at least 10 times bigger!

At exactly 4.30pm, the Run was flagged off with us waving to Garfield and Odie mascots on the stage.  Omg, Baby1 do not know who is Garfield, much less Odie!

Jog, run, jog, tired, jog, encourage to go on, jog, tired, walk, encourage further that running is not easy but we persevere, jog, oh there’s a U turn point ahead, jog, cheer leaders around, jog, tired, see we’ve past the U turn point, less than halfway to go, walk, encourage see can enjoy the beautiful scenery while jogging, jog, walk, oh I can see the Start Point, means End Point should be coming in view soon, jog, walk, yeah, there’s the End Point, walk, yeah we’ve past the Start Point, last 100m, jog, sprint, Yeah we did it!  Pant pant!

Sooooo proud of Baby1 for completing the 1.5km run all by herself.  Thought we were definitely the less 10 percentile of the pack, but she completed it all on her own!  After checking the time with Papa, we realised that it was barely 20mins!

By then it was only 5pm, and we had to wait till 8pm for the fireworks, oh gosh.  Ate our packed bento ricebox which Papa decorated beautifully, along the Bayfront at the Promontory, and we decided to head over the MBS Shoppes for some air con and shopping,

Oh, there’s a Marina City Gallery along the way. Wow, there’s going to be more developments out at the Marina Bay area, amazing.  Oh, there’s a DBS free movie screening at 7.3opm right outside MBS Shoppes.  Ohhhh, MBS is so big and quiet.  And thank god for the air con!

At 7.45pm, we headed outside to get a good spot.  By then, the Promontory though recommended for fireworks watching, should be packed full of all the runners from the Garfield Run, so we stationed ourselves on the waterfront outside MBS Shoppes.

At 8.10pm, the display of fireworks was amazing!  Those at the Floating Platform were partially blocked, but those from the water was in full view right in front of us.  As Baby1 and I were seated on the floor, I ended up having slight strained neck from all that head raising! Baby2 was interested in watching the fireworks but was equally frightened by the loud Booms.

The scenery at the Garfield Run was definitely fantastic.  We even went back to the Promontory for more fireworks watching the following Saturday, and contemplated to go back again this Saturday!

Will we join he Garfield Run again next year?  Hmm, if they are giving out another Garfield plush toy next year, then I’ll have to seriously consider -we don’t have the space for more plush toys!  Btw, the plush toys were only available from this week on, means we actually have to go down to Orchard Central twice! And we bought the Jumbo Garretts popcorn twice!

- Dear2

Jurong Lake Run 2014 in 1hr22mins 30 July, 2014

Posted by dear1dear2 in Dear1, Sports & Health.
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Dear2 and I had always had a special place for Jurong Lake Run. Why? Because it is near to our house and our parents’ house. So it is convenient for us to drop off the kids at our parents’ house while we attended the run. That is exactly what happened this year.

The night run this year suited us particularly well. Instead of having to wake up the kids up early to drop them off, this year, they woke up normally after their afternoon naps and off we went to my parents’ house. They will have their dinner there while we went for our first run of the year.

We started training probably 2 months earlier. With our tight schedule daily, it was really difficult to squeeze out any time for exercise. However, we found a solution. On weekends, Dear2 would wake up early at about 6 am and she would go for her run. At around 7 am, she would have returned and I would go for my run. All these while the kids were still asleep. So, by the time of Jurong Lake Run, we were not entirely unprepared.

Due to multiple road closures around the running route this year, we decided to take a bus to the starting point. However, also due to road closures, we had to alight 2 bus stops earlier and walk to the starting line. It was indeed a long walk but luckily the weather was good.

Near the starting point, we thought there were glow-in-the-dark tattoos. The tagline was to Light up the Night, right? We struggled to get the tattoos to stick to our skin. It didn’t turn out well, so we took it off instead. Later during the run, we would find out that these tattoos do not glow in the dark at all. Slightly disappointed.

The run started fairly well for us as both Dear2 and I felt good. The first leg of the run along Boon Lay Way was great. There was ample space and the evening glow was wonderful. At around the 5 km mark, we started to slow down. After a short walk, we decided to press on and keep running.

Once the run entered the Chinese Garden and Japanese Garden area, the old problems started surfacing. The running path was as narrow as before. It seemed like the organizers did not learn from their lesson. Either they have to find a better, wider running route, or limit the number of runners. I would have preferred the former.

The sky turned dark as Dear2 and I exited Japanese Garden. Quite frankly, with a tagline like Light up the Night, the least I had expected was lit running routes. But no, Japanese Garden was poorly lit and we were running in dim light. Well, it got worse. Once we entered the park area around the old Tang Dynasty, we were practically running in the darkness. It was so hard to see the running path and the drains beside. Not to mention, the crowd of runners was just as dense as before, the path were just as narrow. It wasn’t a good running experience.

Dear2 and I were getting really tired as we hit the 9 km mark. We persevered and finally crossed the finish line at 1 hr 22 mins. To us, it was a great result. It was even a little faster than many years ago when we were actively running. We queued up for our finisher entitlements, only to be greeted by another horror.

We were stuck in queue for the next 30 mins, packed like sardines with other hot sweaty tired panting runners, and with no place to sit or rest. I overheard some runners saying it was the same situation the previous year and nothing had improved. Dear2 and I were irritated. With so many years of experience behind them, how can this happen?!! We challenged ourselves, pushed ourselves, crossed the finish line with delight and get stuck in human traffic?!! Utterly disappointed. Just for this alone, Jurong Lake Run 2014 gets a 1/10 from me for organization.

Eventually, we got through the queue. We hurried off to pick up our kids. However, due to road closure, the nearest bus stop was very far away. I estimated that we must have walked for as least 20 mins before we reached an operational bus stop. Overall, it was a terrible event. The only saving grace was that we achieved a good running time and we stayed nearby so we got home rather quickly.

Epilogue: Dear2 and I fell sick the following day. It was a major illness for us, including running several days of fever. We agreed that we most likely had caught the bug during the human congestion at the finish line where the ventilation was so bad and we could feel other runner breathing hard and catching their breath all around us.

-Dear1

Great Deals shopping in Jurong 3 June, 2014

Posted by dear1dear2 in Dear2, Dollars & Cents, Shop till you drop.
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Dear1 and Dear2 do not like to go shopping outside of Jurong.

Orchard – The parking charges itself is already a killer, nooooooooooo!

Nex – Too big, and too wheels-unfriendly.

Bugis – Just imagine the human traffic………

Anywhere else, including all the new malls in town – Too many people, too few lifts, expensive parking charges etc etc.  Opps, actually the biggest problem is, we are not one of those families who can lug a couple fidgety kids and go out shopping in style. When we go shopping, it’s either grab-and-go, or walk-an-hour-while-Baby2-naps-in-stroller.  What shopping is there to talk about….

Anyway, our favourite weekend morning activity is grocery shopping recently.  After breakfast/milk, we’ll troll the supermarket until lunch, and have a quick bite before heading back home for Baby1’s afternoon nap.  Apart from IMM (best deal – free parking for 3 hours, but we don’t like Giant), there’s also Jurong Point (best raved – whatever brand you want, you can almost find them there).  JCube, Westmall, Bukit Panjang Plaza, Lot 1 – these are all very nearby too.

Until the rise of JEM and Westgate, shopping has become more varied now.  Which mall do we go today!?

For the month of June, the choice is very clear – JEM and Westgate! (Opps, my bad, though they are just besides each other, JEM and Westgate are technically still two separate malls.)

JEM: Go figure out the large number of retail and fashion stores yourself, but take note that until the last weekend of June, be sure to spend $200 and qualify for a $10 JEM voucher + $4 parking coupon;  $80 gives $2 parking coupon..  And don’t forget to get a copy of this little booklet of JEM deals which gives you some discounts from the stores.  Our favourite is this $2 discount coupon for minimum $60 spendings in NTUC (ok, just 3.33% savings, but still savings right?)

Westgate: $60 (hmm or is it $80??) spendings qualify for 5,000 capital points, which is equivalent to a $5 Capitalmall voucher.  $120 gives 5,000 capital points + a sure win game (we played spin-a-wheel and got 7,000 points in total.  Minimum win is 2,000 points).  $180 gives 10,000 capital points + the sure win game.  Very good deal!

Opps, got too carried away with the freebies, forgot to mention the stores at Westgate. Frankly, if you ask me, Westgate seems to have more food than shopping.  Tim Ho Wan, Paul, Poulet, Paradise Dynasty, some Japanese H-shape ramen shop, and a lot more other atas-looking eateries, do take your time to explore!

JEM.  Westgate.  JEM.  Westgate.  Jurong Point.  IMM.  JEM.  Westgate.  JEM.  Westgate.

Shopping in Jurong is so much fun (hmm, or rather, savings savings saving!)

- Dear2

What a fun 2D1N stay at Legoland Malaysia! 9 May, 2014

Posted by dear1dear2 in Dear2, Travel & Discovery.
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Saturday

7.00am: The 17-pax mini bus picked up the first family from Punggol. We’re going with our cousins’ families!

7.30am: Bus arrives at our house in Bukit Batok. 17-pax mini bus to ferry 10 adults and 8 children, with luggages?! Hmm… Baby2’s stroller barely had enough space at the back of the bus.

8.10am: Picked up 2 other families from Jurong West.

8.20am: Reached Tuas Checkpoint. Told you there’s a bus lane/ bay here. Tour agent whom we booked the bus with insisted that there’s none, and if we insist on using Tuas Link and not Woodlands Link, we need to top up $40 on top of the $400 that we are already paying. What the!?!?!?

8.40am: Cleared customs and asked Driver to bring us to a local Kuay Teow Soup shop. 1 bowl of small Kuay Teow Soup cost only RM4.80!! Total cost RM60 for 10 adults 8 children, unbelievable!!

10.00am: Reached Legoland Malaysia Hotel. Deposited 4 hard case suitcases at the concierge, day bags to be lugged to the parks. For our family (Dear1, Dear2, Baby1, Baby2, Uncle), we had a stroller, diaper bag, swim bag, snacks bag, and Uncle’s backpack. Heavy…….

10.30am: Finally reached Legoland Water Park. We bought the 1 Day Combo tickets. Plan is to play water park in the morning, then afternoon Land Park till closing. Baby2 was having her morning nap, so we chose a well sheltered place where Papa helped to look after all the bags while everyone go out to play! Baby2 slept for a good 2 hours while Mummy and Papa took turns trying out the rides with Baby1. She went 4 times on the big 6-pax float, twice on the Lazy River, multiple waddles on the Wave Pool, and played at the Water Zoo.

12.30pm: Lunch time. RM25 Nasi Lemak for me. RM15 Kids Meal (Fish Nuggets + Fries, 1 packet Ribena, 1 cup fruits) to be shared with Baby1. Hmm this is more worth it than the Lemak meal! Baby2 woke up, had milk, and after that, our family went back into the Wave Pool. It’s the first time that Baby2 went swimming (such was the treatment for #2s…). She loved it lots!

1.00pm: Our family showered while the others had lunch after their showers. Poor poor design for the toilets. There wasn’t a children shower area; kids have to either go with Daddy to the Male Shower Rooms, or with Mummy to the Female ones. What if only Daddies are available with older girls!?!? Mummy took Baby2 while Papa and Uncle took turns with Baby1 in the Gents.

2.30pm: Finally everyone bathed, off we went to Legoland Land Park. The older kids (9, 8, 7, 5 year olds) went to take the Roller Coaster. The younger ones (2x 4 year olds) couldn’t even clear the height limit to sit the Tea Cups. Big Uncle brought them to the Water Ride as there wasn’t any queues. Hmm… It’s way past nap time for them both le……

3.00pm: The older kids went off to the Dragon’s Cave while the rest of us stayed under a hut to look after the bags. Sudden downpour! Decided to head to the Hotel to keep away from the rain, and to find somewhere where Baby1 can take her nap. Cannot do without a nap, she’ll surely KO if she goes without one! Raincoats, umbrellas, finally reached the Hotel but the rain had subsided by then…

3.45pm: Finally can check in. Our Adventure-themed room is so cool! Very big King-sized bed overlooking Legoland; Double decker bunk bed with a pullout too. SGD 391 for 1 night’s stay is indeed very expensive, but I think it’s well worth the money.

The younger kids proceeded to take their naps, and the older ones continued on their quest in the Park. Baby1 napped. Baby2 played with the Lego bricks in the room. Papa tried to solve the code for the treasure chest. Mummy KOed too.

5.45pm: Mummy woke up with a start. Both kids are awake le. 15 more minutes to the closing of the Park, not enough time to go down le. But we paid for Combo tickets, only to go 2 rounds on the Lego car!!! (Much later, we realised that today the Park closes at 7pm. The Concierge gave us the wrong info!)

6.00pm: Arranged dinner time with the cousins, and went to Hotel Lobby to play Lego.

7.00pm: Went to Merdini Mall for dinner. We ate Mexican Food (about SGD 10 per pax) and had Secret Recipe cakes. Very full!

8.30pm: Went back to room, showered everyone, and lights out. Finally solved the puzzle and opened the Treasure Chest and found 3 packets of Lego inside! Baby1 slept in the bunk bed all by herself!

Sunday

8.00am: Breakfast buffet at the Hotel Restaurant. Luckily we were early, the queue got very long shortly afterwards. Food so-so, but the dinnerware were very dirty……

9.00am: Swimming in the Hotel Pool. Baby1 and Baby2 had so much fun in the kids pool!

10.00am: Back to room to shower and pack.

11.00am: Hotel check out. Driver brought us to Sutera Mall which was just a short drive away. You can go to Bukit Indrah Mall too, which is another mega shopping centre here in JB.
Baby1 and Baby2 fell asleep while we had lunch in Ajisen Ramen. Papa and Mummy sat and chat while Uncle walked out in search of Secret Recipe. The Durian Cake yesterday was yummy!

1.30pm: Baby1 finally woke up, got her a loaf of raisin bread, and we went outside the Mall to a durian shop. Driver said that the durians are cheap and good, but they were the same prices in Singapore! Hmm……

2.30pm: Went back to shop, and played catching running around with the cousins.

4.30pm: Driver picked us for dinner. The first dinner place was closed today; the second one was not opened for dinner yet, finally reached a third place. We wanted to eat seafood, but turns out mainly Zi Char Food….

6.15pm: Finished dinner, and proceeded to the Customs. Spent some time queuing, and saw much more crowd coming in..….

7.30pm: Dropped us off at Bukit Batok. Still in time to watch Star Awards 2014!

What a fun trip! We paid $722.60 (SGD) for hotel, driver, Park tickets, Travel Insurance for 3 Adults 2 Kids. For a 2D1N, it was considered very expensive, but being able to travel with the cousins (first time for all of us), and the Legoland Hotel being so cool, I think it’s worth the money! But we’ll probably wait till the kids are older (and taller) to go again.

- Dear2

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

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