Gifts in kind

Am I the only one who dislikes receiving gifts? I find it a chore receiving them, and then having to find storage space for them. Most of the time the giver has no clue what you really want; and for you to dictate a gift registry of some sorts, well, it’s just not in our Asian culture to do such a thing. If not giving is not an option, then I would rather the gifts come in the form of cash, like in a red packet. I know it sounds terribly money minded but it really is the most efficient to give something that is 1) practical, 2) useful and 3) never enough.

But really, I like it most when people come together with no expectations on what they should be giving or receiving. We waste too much time guessing whether something is “good enough” or “sufficient” or “of market rate”, and attending celebrations has become more of a burden than anything else. The worst thing of all is everyone is scrambling for something to gift just because it is a “tradition” or “custom”, neither which I care for at all.

I feel it necessary to include on the invitation card something along the lines of “gift us only with the honour of your presence”, but that goes against invitation card etiquette! I suppose we will casually drop the note to our guests, something I that I need to enlist A’s help with. The last thing we want is our guests fretting over something that is quite frankly immaterial to us.

Some interesting reading materials for my young readers:
Dream $110k wedding ends in debt
Price of wedding tables hits new high

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Budgeting

The truth is we can very well afford a decent sized w, but instead of spending $2k to look good just for a single night, I would really much prefer to use that money to fly off to Hokkaido instead. Sadly we are stuck here playing charades, and our plans to go to Japan in May have been shelved until further notice. Our only solace is watching Japan Hour on cable, and then fantasizing about visiting fish departments and eating karaage.

Here’s a breakdown of my budget for the entire w:

  • Banquet for 150 persons: $18,000 (60.0%)
  • Cakes, Favours, Invitation Cards: $2,000 (6.7%)
  • Clothes, Hair and Make Up: $2,500 (8.3%)
  • Chinese Things like Betrothal and Dowry: $1,000 (3.3%)
  • Flowers, Car Rental, Photography, Hotel Room: $3,700 (12.3%)
  • Miscellaneous (Ang Baos, Decorations, etc): $2,700 (9.0%)

That comes up to a staggering $30,000! If that number is not disturbing, I don’t know what is. In all honesty we could have shaved some costs off frivolous items like invitation cards and flowers, but it is easy to get caught up in wanting things to look nice and pretty. Ah the hypocrisy!

So let’s do the math for a $30,000 w. Say a relatively young couple, both graduates and have just started work, drawing a combined salary of $7,000. Their take home is $5,600 after CPF, and let’s assume they save ~20% under a special W Fund. For simplicity’s sake, let’s put it at $1,200. It will take 25 months just to save enough for a cheapskate w like ours! And that excludes rings, photoshoots and honeymoon! No wonder they say it takes at least 1 year to plan a w!

Of course I have not considered the banquet profiting while doing my calculations; I suppose it is not impossible to expect some cost offset from the ang baos collected, and indeed many people seem to leverage heavily on angbao money to pay off the banquet. They seem to forget that a red packet from a friend or a relative is merely a token of goodwill and that a guest should never be expected to pay for his own share.

The moral of the story is, as always: save more, spend less, study hard and find a good and honest job. Don’t fall into a cycle of debt. Don’t be stupid.

 

On managing finances

You’d think that with the looming financial crisis, being prudent and sensible would make the top of most people’s lists, but sadly shitheads will remain shitheads until shit actually hits the fan.

In planning for the w (as with everything else we plan), staying within budget has always been our prerogative. My default outlook on life is on a worst case scenario basis, thus I find it essential to always have a back up plan in case one of us:

  • is retrenched1
  • gets into a car accident and is paralysed waist down2
  • contracts a slow killing disease and requires extensive medication3
  • dies of cardiac arrest4

Affordable healthcare in Singapore is a topic worthy of debate, but that is for another day. The point is, shit happens. But luckily for most of the awful things that can happen to us, financial stability can help alleviate circumstances. Having emergency funds ensures that you can keep up with your mortgage payments while employed, it guarantees that your family is taken care of when you can no longer support them. Being financially stable is not a choice – it is a responsibility that everyone has to undertake.

Therefore it baffles me when young people lavishly spend on $15,000 floral arrangements, or $10,000 w rings, or $20,000 holidays. There is a difference between being able to afford a price tag, and whether something is indeed worth the price tag. Unfortunately our society is a myopic one, and coupled with a false sense of grandiosity and the need to impress, it is no wonder people of our generation are entering their marriages saddled with enormous debts.

I urge my young readers to save more and spend less; study hard and find a good and honest job. Do not fall into the cycle of debt, but if you do, there’s no one else to blame but your own stupidity.

1 In 2014, the Ministry of Manpower reported a redundancy rate of 6.3 per 1,000 paid workers (link)
2 In 2014, the Singapore Police Force reported a total of 149 fatal accidents and 7,791 accidents that resulted in injury (link)
3 Between 2010 and 2014, a total of 61,519 cases were diagnosed in Singapore (link)
4 In a study conducted by the National Heart Centre Singapore, it was found that “about 0.6 Singaporeans below 60 years old fall victim to SCD every day and that 91% of the people who died from sudden cardiac death were males.” (link)