My Money is a series looking at how people spend their money – and the sometimes tough decisions they have to make. Here, Matt Hitchcock from Singapore takes us through a week in his life during the coronavirus pandemic.
Matt is 39 and has lived in Singapore for 11 years. He works for one of the big tech companies as a cyber security consultant. His wife Imelda works in IT for a large pharmaceutical company.
Matt and Imelda have a daughter named Alex who is four and has special needs. They rent a three bedroom flat in River Valley, central Singapore.
Over to Matt…
Singapore is mandating work-from-home, or “telecommuting” as much as possible due to Covid-19 and today was back-to-back meetings for me so I didn’t leave my bedroom very much as my workspace is at the end of my bed. Imelda works from home as well and her workspace is in the lounge/diner.
At the end of the day we had chicken rice (a Singapore staple).
Amazingly, $0 spent today!
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Another day of the same… working from home. I was up at 05:00 this morning, partly because I wanted to watch the recording of Man Utd vs Southampton, but also because I had some documents to read and updates to prepare before the day started.
I was supposed to make smoothies for lunch today as part of our healthy week, we had already bought the ingredients at the weekend, but decided on going out for lunch instead. Imelda and I went to Kurry Korner in River Valley, one of our favourite Indian restaurants. We had the vegetarian lunch set, a total of Singapore $17.60 (£9.86) for the two of us.
Even though we were eating out, we were practising safe distancing in the restaurant, and only removing our masks to eat and drink. This is the norm in Singapore and we are very supportive of this practice.
After leaving the restaurant, I walked home and picked up two coffees and a sausage roll to share as an afternoon snack, a total of Singapore $19.26.
Conference calls till the end of the day, followed by a home cooked dinner of shepherd’s pie, our evening walk then settling down for the night.
Total spend: Singapore $36.86 (£20.66)
Imelda was in the mood to order breakfast this morning, so we ordered from Fun Toast to start the day. A sardines toast, hot coffee and a mee siam set us back Singapore $15.29 including the Singapore $4.99 delivery from Food Panda.
I had a quiet morning and needed to get some thinking time in so I was able to walk through the neighbourhood for over an hour. I like walking through our neighbourhood because we live on the edge of a suburb of houses valued into the tens of millions of dollars. We will never afford them, but nice to look at!
Another afternoon of full on meetings and taking my daughter to her speech therapy session. As there is no NHS for us here, we aren’t Singapore citizens with a government backed medical savings scheme, the bill is Singapore $190 for an hour with a private therapist. We’ve been seeing value in Alex’s speech therapy but two sessions of this per week soon adds up!
We have a home cooked dinner tonight so that’s no spend today but it’s my Mum’s birthday soon so I transfer £150 to my sister to put towards the B&Q vouchers we are buying for some home improvements.
Total spend: Singapore $205.29 (£115.06) + £150
I started work early again today and we had a team meeting to announce some changes in the team.
Imelda bought coffees and croissants from the local coffee shop because she needed a walk (Singapore $10). The fact that our coffee machine is still in for repair is starting to show!
We order “Impossible Kebabs” at Singapore $22.59 for two (including the Singapore $4.99 delivery fee) from Food Panda but seeing as they get our order wrong and send us chicken kebabs, Food Panda refund us the money!
In the afternoon I take Alex to speech therapy (another Singapore $190) and spend the time I’m waiting just walking and making phone calls.
For dinner tonight, our helper made pizzas! Some will be saved till tomorrow.
In the evening we decide to order bubble tea (Singapore $6 for two, plus the Singapore $4.99 delivery fee – Singapore 10.99 total) and spend some time watching British TV shows. It might be age, but we enjoy watching Doc Martin, Rosemary and Thyme, Blackadder and Poirot. Working our way through all the re-runs! Being that we are meant to stay home (Covid-19) we watch far more TV and I think of the UK quite a lot in these times.
Total spend: Singapore $210.99 (£118.26)
Another day, another morning of working in the bedroom. Each day seems like the last but at least it’s Friday. Imelda goes out for croissants and coffee (Singapore $10) as I’m feeling quite down about the changes at work. Still, I make it through the morning and have some salad for lunch and a sneaky slice of last night’s pizza! Ok, so the last two slices… I’m not looking forward to Imelda’s disapproving look when she reads this.
Since it is Friday I decide some beers are in order once I get to the end of the day so I spend Singapore $51.20 (including Singapore $0.20 service fee and Singapore $3 tip to the rider from Deliveroo) and order four beers from Peperoni Pizza. I didn’t need food, but they carry some great craft beers.
We have a dinner at home again but once we get Alex to bed, we head out for a drink at the Irish pub! We haven’t been to Scruffy Murphy since the quarantine period started in Singapore and it’s great to be back!
I have a couple of Kronenberg Blancs and we share a divine bacon sandwich (I haven’t had one for at least six months). Imelda has a coke (she’s the designated driver) and at 22:00 we are promptly issued our bill of Singapore $51 so they can close on time. Our parking fee is about Singapore $1 which isn’t bad for 90 mins. Home to fall asleep to episodes of Miss Marple.
Total spend: Singapore $113.20 (£63.45)
We all woke up later than normal today. We decide to order breakfast and Imelda wants the Burger King pancakes today, so we smash that (Singapore $20.89 for three breakfasts and delivery included) then get ready to take Alex to the doctor for her annual check up.
The doctor is about a 20 minutes drive away and after an Singapore $80 consultation fee that we can claim from our medical insurance and Singapore $3.20 in two-and-a-half hours of parking, we are on our way home.
Alex has been confirmed by the doctor to need some occupational therapy for a couple of conditions so that’s starting to sound expensive! We can put that off till next week to start looking around for a good one.
Occupational therapy will now add to the ABA therapy and speech therapy we already pay for Alex. Raising a child in Singapore is very expensive, especially when they have special needs and you’re a foreigner. We haven’t had to pay the ABA therapy bill during the week of this blog but that sets us back around Singapore $9,800 (£5,490) each month. We saved some during the circuit breaker because all sessions were remote.
It’s the dilemma of any parent whose child has suspected autism; do you hope it’s a phase and they’ll develop late or do you make a choice and invest in early intervention? Fortunately, we chose the latter and it turned out to be the right call. We are lucky that we are both employed in good jobs and salaries. We can afford it for now, but it’s massively impacting our ability to save for retirement. Luckily when she starts school that will actually be cheaper; we are looking forward to that.
We have lunch at home of leftovers from the week. Then go out for a walk at Hort Park, followed by Paddy Hills for coffee and dessert (Singapore $37.45).
In the evening I meet up with my friend David, who I’ve not seen since January. I take a taxi to get there (Singapore $11.18) and we meet at Acid Bar at Orchard Road, after spending a long time drinking beers, eating pizzas and fries and putting the world to rights, David insists strongly on fronting the bill, he chose the place and was there earlier than me after all. And I have just given him a decent USB-C travel charger, but it’ll be my turn on the bill next time.
While I spent nothing on the night out, on the way home I stop at 7-11 for weekend treats – a bottle of wine, ice creams, beers, and biscuits, which comes to about Singapore $83. All indulgences for the weekend. Covid-19 is taking its toll and we are overindulging! I get a cab home for Singapore $9.60.
Total spend: Singapore $245.32 (£137.50)
Final day of the blog! It’s a lazy Sunday and Imelda wants the pancakes from Burger King again, they are actually really good and come with maple syrup so we spend Singapore $20.89 (including the Singapore $4.99 delivery fee) and have breakfast at home in front of the TV, we watch cartoons and play with Alex until it’s time to go out for lunch and to get out of the house. With weekdays being so exhausting now, there is limited energy at the weekend.
After a Singapore $31 lunch at #87 Just Thai, we went to Sentosa for a walk along the beach. It was a super-hot day though and Alex wasn’t feeling the outdoors, so we soon wound up sitting and having a drink in the air conditioning, spending Singapore $6. The entry fee to Sentosa in a car is free now because of Covid-19 so we saved on the Singapore $5. Parking was around Singapore $3 though.
Feeling lazy from the hot day, making dinner was not on the cards and we settled for McDonalds. Singapore $30.20 saw the three of us eating very well. Since McDonalds deliver as well it’s super easy and we would rather sit at home than in the restaurant (social distancing after all).
Tomorrow, it all begins again …
Total spend: Singapore $91.09 (£51.06)
Total spent this week: Singapore $1,170.44 (£655.99)
How does Matt feel about his week?
The week was a bit of a wreck in terms of diet. That’s the most shocking thing probably. I am very much in a comfort-eating zone at the moment because my mental health is taking a bit of a hit through Covid-19 and all the changes and additional demands.
The additional expenses for occupational therapy for Alex are a point of concern, but we will find a way. As parents, we want to do as much as we can for our little one to give her as much opportunity to live an independent life as we possibly can.
As I read back over this, I do get self-conscious about how much we spend on different things and cringe when I imagine friends and family back in the UK reading this. But this is life in Singapore, and everything is relative.