Big Things I do to Save

While I admit that Singaporean families are facing an uphill challenge to both make time for their family and keeping on their toes to remain employable in our globalised economy, I do think that there are several things we can do to help alleviate the stress. Let us not forget the reason we work hard is for the sake of our family, without which the ultimate purpose our work or advancing our career is pretty shallow…unless we fall into the trap that our job/career gives us our self-identity.

Therefore I have always thought that if possible, children should be brought up by their own mothers, since no one would be more accountable and love them more. To me, it is sad that most Singaporeans families “subcon” child-rearing to other people because of financial reasons.(If one thinks you cannot be a stay home mom because you are not willing to give up “freedom” or feel you are not the home making type, perhaps there is some attitudes and beliefs that needs to be addressed; not in this post though) I do think that God will help us fulfil this calling as a helper to our husband and as a mother to our children, only if we are willing to obey and let go of the fears. I am glad I have a God whom I can trust in to provide us for our every need, such that I do not feel insecure nor feel the need to keep up materially in every aspect, because it no longer matters to us to keep up. Although I struggled real bad initially to be a home maker, since I felt I have had little or no knowledge or training in this aspect while growing up, I think I eventually did ok, with God’s help and assurance that I just need to keep trying… (so mothers please train your daughters!)

So although I agree it is very difficult, re-thinking how we live and having a can-do attitude for the sake of our children and their future could make a difference. When I feel like giving up (Many many times, I feel like giving up…), God’s clear commandments helped me to hang in there even when I felt so very terrible, because I do struggle with feelings of being a lousy mommy and wife. When we are sure unwaveringly what we want in life, feelings of dilemma could be avoided and it helps us ride through times of doubts and difficult times and we would not be swayed by comments of others.

Besides small things I did to save Part 1 and Part 2, I’d like to share with you some “big” things we try to do in order to make things work for our family.

1. No Car

Road tax, parking, maintenance, petrol and the crazy COE… is it worth the price?

Surely one can get almost anywhere on the Singapore public transport. It is just a matter of discipline whether you plan your outings or not. I find myself taking taxi only when I do not make preparations earlier and am running late…

While I won’t say the public transport system is flawless and all that excellent, I do think it is way better than many other countries and we should be thankful for it.

2. No Maids

Maids may have a lot of hidden costs, so try to make do without one as long as you can. Perhaps a part timer will do?

I also think that when children are old enough they can do basic things for themselves and even take up some responsibility to contribute to the maintenance of the home. Long term dependence on the very helpful domestic helper will only cripple us more and more to be sensitive to the little efforts required to make the house a home.

3. No Vacations

Holidays overseas will set you back, consider alternatives like making field trips locally or to our neighbouring country instead? We have not been to any country except to Malaysia, and that is to visit my parents and relatives.

4. Small House

We bought our flat with the budget that we could service our loan with either one of our incomes. Thank God the prices weren’t that crazy at that time. If not, downsizing the expectations of the size of flat so that you can actually enjoy your home instead of slogging for it. Make sure renovations are simple too or it will set you back, given the high costs of labour and material now…

However given the high flat prices today I’m afraid that it is difficult to service the loan on single income fully by CPF, perhaps cash needs to be forked out. I can only say that we need to ask God for help, and try our best to budget such that we can still pay for mortgage on single income.

5. Minimal Insurance

Again we don’t want to be bogged down by insurance bills. Are you buying out of fear, or thinking that you can plan for anything or everything? For all you know, due to high inflation the money is not even enough anyway, or that the company is no longer able to honor the policy because they went bust. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t buy insurance, but not all insurance are necessary. We do not buy our children’s life insurance or tertiary education-savings plan. Another way to lower the burden is to buy term insurance instead of endowment plans. We do have medical insurance for everyone though.

After talking to many agents I also found that if we listen to their financial advices, we would never have kids or quit at all as we will never save enough for retirement, have sufficient funds for our kids education etc. It only takes away the element of living by faith and the acknowledgement of God that He is sovereign. Listening to all those what-ifs makes us fearful, and Jesus has told us that we should not have this attitude.

6. No Expensive Preschool or Enrichment Courses

The main objective of not leaving my children to the hands of others, is that I wish to teach them about God. It is not about them being smarter or more knowledgeable in every aspect. If I had to work to pay for their classes and tuition, maybe something isn’t quite right. I believe good academics is a fruit of being a well-brought up child because he has the discipline and possess the qualities and desire to be excellent in whatever he does. However if he doesn’t it is not important as long as he shows good attitude and healthy curiosity in life and of course, the fear of God. Knowledge does not translate to virtues, but the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. Piano classes or good results will not save his soul and ensure a child do well in life. Plenty of talented and smart people foolishly ruined their lives by doing foolish things. A child who knows about God and trust the bible more than his textbooks will do well and will be more resilient, because the all-powerful God is with him. If you ask me I’d rather have a simple son who honors me than one who is smart and successful but breaks my heart.

I’m not saying that we need not teach our children or instil any knowledge except for God’s Word, but rather that by having knowledge they realize and appreciate God’s awesome power, rather than pursuing it for the sake of academics. Furthermore, I think they do need knowledge in order to reason for themselves. Thus do not neglect wisdom of this world, but rather we need to help them see how everything is actually God’s making, including science and history.

7. No Restaurants

Quite self-explanatory right? We try as much as possible to eat at home and go for food courts or cheaper option if we do eat out.

Conclusion: In order to pay for the house, car, insurance and even the dear domestic helper, has we become slaves to our lifestyle? I also think it isn’t that expensive to raise a child, although yes I admit they do cost money. It is really the parent’s expectations for the child. The thing that most cannot let go, is the supposed “quality of life”. But that, I tell you, may all be just an illusion. =)

1 Tim 6:6 (NASB) But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment.

Is your “dream life” actually making you slave? Having comfort in material things is not the only way that God will bless us, although it is true for some. Look up to God, don’t look sideways and compare. Blessings comes from obeying God, not just tithing faithfully. =)

Hosea 6:6 (NIV) For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgement of God rather than burnt offerings.

Disclaimer: Sometimes it may be necessary to own a car or hire a maid. It really depends on your family’s needs. However if you find yourself struggling financially, or that you “NEED” to continue working in order to pay for all the bills, or that the insurance premium is stressing you out such that you have to leave your children or home to the hands of others, I urge you to seriously consider cutting these expenses. =)


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