frugal

How to save as an NSF with $630

So you earn less than $1000 month. What’s that? You are often called cheap labour? Your salary is called an “allowance”? That’s why it’s so low? Yes it is difficult saving when you have so little to start with. But it does not mean you should not try and save. Saving is important and I firmly believe that it should be strongly inculcated in our education system from a young age. This is how I, an NSF who earns $630 a month, save my money.

TLDR

  • Track every cent that goes out of your bank account
  • Take advantage of cookhouse meals
  • During weekends, go for cheaper options

Background

Personally, I have been serving the army for about 5 months now. I can safely say that I have never been more money-conscious in my life. I have done so much reflection within the past 5 months, and it cannot even compare to my 2 years in JC.

Saving money is so important and yet many people do not know that. They resort to lifestyle inflation. This occurs when their cost of living and expenses increases as their wages increase. It is definitely not ideal for your savings.

This is how I save

It helps me track and save as an NSF.
My actual spreadsheet calculating the percentage.

I have created a spreadsheet for myself so I can track my monthly expenses, including savings, expenditure, and investment.

In addition to that, I use the Seedly app to track every cent of my expenses.

Here is an example of my expenses in February 2020.

Tracking your expenses helps you save as an NSF.
The Seedly is app is great for my usage.

I personally find the app quite user friendly and it also has the community tab for me to ask questions about personal finance as well as the blog tab, so it is quite convenient for me.

I personally do not use it to track my income. As my income is pretty fixed monthly, I consolidate the amount every month and use the data on my spreadsheet.

My expenses

By tracking your expenses, you will be able to understand where your money is going. Thus, you will be able to control your money and learn where you can cut down on expenses.

Looking at the screenshot above, the bulk of my expenses consists of necessities such as food and public transport. I eat in the cookhouse every day and avoid buying food in camp.

It is just not worth the money. I would rather spend the money on better food outside. So, the $69.95 only consists of the food I spend on outside camp.

I only use public transport because I usually plan my trips properly and do not find a need to rush anywhere. Thus, I make use of public transport as it will always be the cheaper alternative and help me save as an NSF.

My savings

Savings will add up.
Savings, no matter how little, will add up.

After deducting my expenses, I am left with roughly $550, which is the amount I try to aim for every month.

I am currently brushing up and researching about stock investing. It is not an easy topic to grasp. I am currently invested in index funds, namely ES3 as well as VT. I use the dollar-cost averaging strategy using the FSMOne broker. In a future article, I will explain my rationale behind it.

The rest of my money will go into the Standard Chartered Jumpstart account. I have been advocating for this account since the start. It is such a good bank account for youths like me.

As long as you are under 26 years old, you will get a 2% interest on your first $20,000. In addition, you are provided with a debit card which gives you a 1% cashback every month. Although it might seem minuscule, these numbers do add up.

Let’s say you have $10,000 in your account and you spend $500 monthly. This means that you will get $200 every year, or $16.67 every month as well as $5 for the cashback. This adds up to $21.67 which can probably provide you a meal for a weekend outing. Not too shabby.

Cookhouse meals

But learn to eat it, because you will save money as an NSF and you will learn the repetitiveness of life.
They definitely don’t look as good as this.

Yes, your cookhouse meals may be disgusting. But just tahan it. Just eat it. It will save your wallet tremendously.

Just think about it. SAF provides you with free accommodation as well as free food every day. Take advantage of it.

After my BMT and being posted out as a clerk at MINDEF HQ, I have to pay for my meals every day. It has not been very kind to my wallet. But I guess it is also nice that I get to book out every day, even though it adds to my transport costs. It does help that I get to save a sum of money from it as an NSF.

During weekends

Having fun should not mean that you do not save as an NSF.
Have fun sometimes!

I understand that during weekends, you want to spend time with your friends and family and you want to have fun and splurge a little.

However, I recommend you opt for cheaper options. There are many offers available every week. Keep a lookout for them.

I personally use Eatigo quite frequently because I find their deals pretty enticing especially for non-peak hours.

This telegram channel also keeps me updated often about the latest deals.

Conclusion

NS is such a good time to save your money. This money can be used for better stuff than your in-camp canteen food. Save your money as an NSF.


Spend it with your loved ones, the memories will never fade. 🙂

7 Comments

  • Gaius

    Finished reading this, and I’m so happy to know I’m not the only MINDEF NSF with this mentality. Friends called me cheap when I refused to go to Hillion for lunch now that the canteen is closed. Personally, as I eventually want to be an active investor, I’ve cancelled my RSP and started investing some of my money actively, despite the high fees. Due to WFH now, I’m actually able to save 600 monthly with 30 being spent on my phone bill.

    This allows me to invest 1.2k every 2 months.

    But I’m extremely glad to meet a like minded individual like yourself, and would love to talk more one day if the opportunity arises.

    P.s.
    You could email me on OSN, I’m from GS(Ops), PA to Hd Army COG

    • Junior

      Hi Gaius,

      I feel really happy to have a like-minded person like you too! My friends at MINDEF always splurge on food and they never seem to understand the point of saving.

      It is really nice that you want to connect with me. I would email you through OSN, but I am currently WFH right now. Is it okay if I drop an email to your personal email here?

      Would love to talk with you too 🙂

  • Uncle Henry

    Thanks for the great article. I tried to teach my son about being frugal since his NS days but I failed misreably. He spent at least $600 every month. Friends are sometimes very bad influence. It will take a big setback in life for some to really learn. 🙁

    • Junior

      Hi Uncle Henry,

      Thank you for reading my post and acknowledging the importance of being frugal! haha

      I guess I picked up this habit of being frugal from my dad. Although my mom complains about it a lot, I think what he is doing is better for me as an individual saving in his 20s.

      I guess it can be quite hard for us NSFs too. For those people staying in, you just want to splurge some money after being in camp for one week.
      Maybe you can try understanding him more and he may also learn from your point of view. On the bright side, he still has a very caring father like you who will remind him! 🙂

  • weiming

    Yo bro, fellow NSF here and after reading your article, I felt that we have the same technique/style of investing and personal finance.

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