A Week In Singapore On A $45,000 Salary

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Today: a senior executive working in digital marketing who makes $45,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on black soy soft serve.
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Occupation: Senior Executive
Industry: Digital Marketing
Age: 26
Location: Singapore
Salary: $45,000
Paycheck Amount (Monthly): $3,700
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,300 (My husband and I rent a two-bedroom public housing apartment. We're looking to buy a flat of our own soon, but renting for a start.)
Student Loan Payments: $0 (I graduated college with the help of a generous citizen tuition grant and my parents' support.)
Utilities: $75 (Being a citizen living in public housing makes us eligible for some perks. We've been getting $50 off our utilities bill every three months as part of a plan to ease the increase in utilities tariffs. We pay rent and utilities out of a joint account we share.)
Internet & Phone: $75 (Our apartment's internet is linked to my account where I have a phone plan as well. I cover this bill, and my husband covers the phone bill.)
Netflix: My husband pays for this.
Spotify: $7.19
Gym: $100

Day One

5:15 a.m. — I'm up as my alarm rings — this is easiest on a Monday morning after a well-rested weekend. I get changed into my gym gear and head out by 5:40. I eat a banana on my walk from my block to the train station, where I take the train using my pre-loaded card.
6:40 a.m. — I work my way through 20 minutes on the treadmill, lift weights, and finish up with simple yoga stretches to get my back and neck relaxed and loose.
8:45 a.m. — I'm at work by 8:45 a.m., and even the 10-minute walk from the gym to my office building leaves me in a sweat. Mondays are usually pretty quiet at work, but today I've got breakfast plans with a colleague. We go to a hawker center near our office (basically a large food court with many stalls). She gets fishball noodles, and I get carrot cake and coffee. (Chinese carrot cake is made with radish and eggs, and is nothing like the carrot cake you find at bakeries.) $2.90
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9:30 a.m. — At work I fill up my water bottle and pick up two bananas from the pantry. Our office is pretty well-stocked with snacks. Work is busy, and I ease into it by making a to-do list and clearing my emails.
12:30 p.m. — Time flies by, and soon it's lunch. I grab my reusable container and head back down to the same hawker center and get a takeaway salad for $3.70. This is my usual go-to lunch order. You can get salads at different price points in the CBD (Central Business District in Singapore), but this is the cheapest, and it's satisfying and convenient. I eat my lunch in the office pantry with my colleagues, and we discuss Deadpool 2. $3.70
1:30 p.m. — I get a mini KitKat (in an amazing Japanese flavor) from the pantry. Back at my desk, I eat a multivitamin and two Omega-3 capsules.
4:30 p.m. — I've been jumping between solving problems, running interference on some conversations happening with new members on my team, and attending meetings. My team has been growing very fast recently, and having been around for a little longer than most, a large part of my job is making sure the new guys pick up processes and are able to understand the needs of the team and work efficiently. It's hectic, but rewarding. I get a couple of moments free, and eat a banana.
6 p.m. — I get called into some unexpected meetings, and now my to-do list has even more items on it than it did in the morning. I hate letting work pile up, so I decide to stick around an extra hour before heading home for dinner. I text my husband, who's also working late today.
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7:30 p.m. — I take the train home, appreciating the slightly less crowded train with a little more breathing room. I spend most of my ride home playing Candy Crush and then reading a book on Overdrive.
8:30 p.m. — Aaah, home. After clearing my gym bag out and washing up, I reheat my veggies — a simple South Indian-style french bean and carrot mix, with two frozen paratas to go with it. I watch Friends on Netflix while I eat, and then clean up the kitchen.
9:45 p.m. — I slather on a face mask, zone out on my laptop for a little bit, and then catch up with my mom and my grandparents. I don't call my grandparents enough (I'm trying to change that!), but I love talking to them, especially since I don't get to visit them too often since they live in another country.
11 p.m. — My husband comes home. We flop on the bed and talk about our days, and then call it a night and fall asleep.
Daily Total: $6.60

Day Two

6 a.m. — I'm up with my alarm. I was approached by a headhunter a few weeks ago and wanted to learn more about the opportunity and get a sense of where I stand within the industry, so we set up an interview for today. I get dressed, and head out by 6:45.
7:50 a.m. — I head into a cafe with free wifi to take an 8 a.m. call before the interview. I get myself a breakfast set of pancakes with free flowing coffee for $7.50. It feels like a bit of a treat for waking up early. $7.50
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8:45 a.m. — Once my call is done, I pack up my things, head to the washroom to freshen up and make sure I look presentable, and then walk to the building to meet two ladies who are looking to hire a third person for their team. They suggest heading out for coffee, and somehow we end up back at the same cafe I was at earlier — not weird at all! I get a cup of green tea since I'm pretty full of coffee, and chat with them for an hour explaining my current work experience and and getting a better understanding of what they're aiming to do.
10:15 a.m. — I leave the meeting feeling half-hearted about the role. I call the headhunter on my walk to work and explain as much to her. She mentions that someone from a regional team would like to speak with me too, and we set that up. I'm not feeling this role as much, though. Once at the office, I shake off these thoughts and focus on work.
1:30 p.m. — Work is busy, but the morning interview has thrown me off. I feel distant and in a slight haze, which I don't like. I get the same salad for lunch and read articles on Refinery29 and Apartment Therapy while I eat. $3.70
3:30 p.m. — I take the call with the regional staff in a one-person cubicle meeting room in my office. This feels very, very weird, but I try not to think about it too much. It turns out to be a very brief call, and a very curt one as well. I don't like the tone of this woman, and I'm getting the sense that she's not happy with what's going on with the local team here — a red flag to me. I quickly speak to the headhunter again, and let her know that I'm going to need a couple of days to process my thoughts and will get back to her in two days.
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4 p.m. — Back to my meetings. I notice that the pantry's been stocked with berries! Berries are expensive in Singapore, as they come from the U.S., Korea, or Egypt. They're a luxury I largely can't afford at this point in life. I help myself to a handful of strawberries and blueberries.
6:30 p.m. — After yesterday's late night, I'm determined to be home in time to cook dinner with my husband. The trains are packed, and I spend the ride home texting an ex-colleague about my interview in the morning. He knows the feeling I have at work right now, and has good advice for me.
7:15 p.m. — My husband gets home before I do and has started cooking. He's an excellent chef and genuinely enjoys cooking. I lucked out finding someone who believes in taking on household chores in equal parts. He's cutting brinjals when I get home, and after washing up, I join him. We've become expert chapati makers. He makes the dough and I roll them out. It's a team effort.
8:30 p.m. — We eat our dinner together, watching an episode of Champions on Netflix. It's very satisfying to eat a freshly cooked homemade meal for dinner — it's healthier and cheaper than eating out. Since my husband started cooking, I do the dishes. I notice that the laundry's piling up, and run a load.
10 p.m. — I fold and put away laundry, take out the trash, and then take a nice hot shower. I feel comfortably only when I take a shower before sleeping — washing away the grime and sweat of the day. The weather in Singapore is unforgiving, and simply standing in a kitchen over the stovetop for 30 minutes leaves you sweltering.
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11:30 p.m. — Fall asleep after preparing an outfit for tomorrow and packing my gym bag. My husband's playing a game on his computer, and I've gotten used to falling asleep to mouse clicks and keyboard keys clicking away.
Daily Total: $11.20

Day Three

5:15 a.m. — I get dressed, grab a banana, and head out to the gym. I take a train in, paying with my preloaded card.
6:30 a.m. — I reach the gym a little earlier today, as planned. I have a low-intensity workout today, focusing on weights and yoga. I get dressed, making use of the iron in the ladies' gym room to make sure my dress is crease-free.
8:30 a.m. — Head over to another company for three thirty-minute interviews. This is an opportunity I found myself and applied for, and the role definitely sounds interesting.
10:20 a.m. — The interviews run over a little, and I'm ravenously hungry. I'm feeling positive about these interviews, and I'm in a better mood than yesterday. I make myself two slices of toast with peanut butter and jam at work.
1 p.m. — Work is intense today. I'm running close to launch day for several campaigns, troubleshooting issues, and working with delays and a lot of newbies on various teams. There is confusion on processes and poor communication, and things are already falling apart before campaigns are going live. I ask a colleague to pick up lunch with me from the hawker center — thunder tea rice (a Chinese Hakka dish of rice with five toppings and a coriander-parsley-based tea soup to go with it). I eat at my desk while I work. I don't usually work through lunch, but I want to compensate for coming in an hour later than usual. $4.50
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6:30 p.m. — I realize I'm not going to be home for dinner today. I send a text to my husband, and he says he's going to the gym after work and will get dinner on his way home. Then I ping my boss a general update on what's going on and mention that I'll be working late today. We get to claim dinner and a cab ride home if we're working late, which doesn't happen too often for me. I log onto Deliveroo and order a grain bowl ($14, to hit the minimum order). ($14 expensed)
8 p.m. — My meal arrived by 7:20, so I heat it up in the pantry microwave at 8. I make a cup of hot chamomile tea and have my dinner with a colleague who's also working late. We chat about life and upcoming holidays. It's a short week with a public holiday on Friday, and I cannot wait for it.
10:30 p.m. — I've checked four more items off my list and made notes for a couple of meetings happening tomorrow. The nature of my work is that it's virtually impossible to have a completely clear check list, as there is always something to research, update, or optimize, so calling it a day is an important skill. I book a car ride home using Grab, and try not to fall asleep in the car. ($22 expensed)
11 p.m. — My husband's been home for a bit, so I just fall into his arms for a hug. It helps a lot. I go straight into the shower, brush my teeth, and flop on the bed for about 10 minutes before promptly knocking out.
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Daily Total: $4.50

Day Four

6:45 a.m. — I'm sleepy, but happy about it being the last working day of the week. I'm almost there! I get dressed and head out by 7:15 to catch a 7:30 a.m. bus into the CBD. This is a mode of transport that's fairly new — low cost bus rides into the CBD from residential areas are the government's move to help ease traffic in the CBD during peak hours. I'm lucky to have one very close to where I live, so the ride costs $1.60. I pay with my pre-loaded card.
8 a.m. — I dial into my 8 a.m. call from my iPad. It's a very short call and there's nothing to discuss today. I continue reading magazines on my iPad's Zinio app.
8:15 a.m. — I make it to work earlier than usual! There's less traffic on the roads, as it's summer holidays for school kids. I make honey cinnamon instant oatmeal for breakfast and a cup of coffee from my personal stash.
8:30 a.m. — More calls. Thursdays are my worst days — full of meetings and catch ups. Leaves me with little time for work, and I'm usually very exhausted from talking too much.
12 p.m. — I have a weekly chat with my boss, and talk through work issues first. I move the conversation in the direction of promotions without mentioning the word, and he takes my bait, as I've been bringing it up almost every week for the last month or so. It's important for me to have my work acknowledged, and I've had an open conversation with my boss about it. We work really well together, and I know he's on my side, but larger forces at the company aren't working in my favor right now, and it's demoralizing. We continue our chat as we go out to get lunch. I get my salad. $3.70
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3 p.m. — Weekly team meeting time! These meetings are a little intense and long, but I've been contributing more to them recently, as I've been in charge of more campaign launches and projects. I grab Mentos from the bowl in the meeting room.
6:45 p.m. — I brief our team in Tokyo, who can cover for us while we're out tomorrow if anything pops up, and walk to the train station, stopping by a cafe to get a slice of a chocolate pastry ($6.30) for my husband — it's amazing and I want him to try it. I take the train home (paid with my preloaded card). $6.30
7:20 p.m. — I get two bottles of beer and two bottles of cider at the supermarket. I might need to come back for groceries, but it can wait. The convenience of having a supermarket literally on our block is insane. $11.30
8 p.m. — I help my husband make chapatis, and he whips up bindi masala (okra), which smells so, so good. I'm ravenously hungry by 8, and we watch Champions while we eat. We break open beers and enjoy the cake for dessert. Bring on the long weekend!
10 p.m. — Post dinner, post-clearing up the dishes, we watch more Netflix, cuddle, and fall asleep by midnight.
Daily Total: $21.30

Day Five

7:15 a.m. — We wake up, snooze the alarm, and cuddle in bed. We have plans to play squash with some of our friends today — we booked two courts for two hours. My husband orders a Grab there, as we're getting a little late. He pays.
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9 a.m. — We're the first to arrive, and some friends start dropping out. It ends up just being four of us — me and three guys, which I don't mind at all, but I'm not nearly as good as any of them. It takes me a game to get warmed up and actually be able to return their serves. I enjoy playing racquet sports and wish I could do it more often. It starts pouring — like really pouring — and the air in the courts gets even more humid.
11 a.m. — After changing up in the showers, my husband and I take the train down two stops to have a south Indian breakfast we're too lazy to make for ourselves at home. We share a plate of idly-vada, and have a rava masala dosa each. He has a cup of tea, and I get a cup of coffee. $14
2 p.m. — We take a bus ride home, going past areas we've not seen before, like the old (now private) airport. It's a nice open area — I like lazy bus rides like these. It starts to drizzle again.
4:30 p.m. — Having skipped lunch, we get hungry at an odd time. We live walking distance to a 24-hour McDonald's, which comes in handy but isn't a place we go to often at all. My husband suggests going to get some fries, so we take a walk over there. He pays for the fries, and we eat them at home in front of a movie. Living my best life!
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7:30 p.m. — I run through a list of ingredients we have at home and suggest a few dishes we can make for dinner, but admit my muscles are starting to get very, very sore from squash this morning, and the thought of cooking with my large wok sounds exhausting. My husband cheekily suggests we order pizza. I'm up for it. I'm lactose intolerant, and we're both vegetarian, but I find a local place that has a cheese-free pizza on their menu, which is really nice. My husband orders and pays since he has an account with the place. Two pizzas for $37.
9 p.m. — Pizza, beer, and a movie. It's an almost perfect Friday night in, and we still have the weekend ahead of us! I fall asleep around 1 a.m. after having a cup of Pukka's Detox tea. Mild and soothing.
Daily Total: $14

Day Six

10 a.m. — Today is my designated sleeping day. I wake up slowly around 10 a.m. My husband starts making breakfast (toast, sunny side up eggs, hash browns), and I make coffee for us. We call his parents and speak to them while we're cooking — they're overseas, and there's a time difference. I call my mom after we're done eating, and we decide that we'll come over for dinner tomorrow night.
11:30 a.m. — I also patch test a new face mask — The Ordinary's AHA/BHA mask (the famous blood mask). This mask ideally does what my skin needs — exfoliation to help with PIH thanks to my decade of dealing with cystic acne. I'm terrified it's going to end badly, but the test patch on my jawline close to my ear works out fine.
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1:30 p.m. — I head down to the supermarket to get some potatoes to cook a late lunch. We're too full from our hearty breakfast, so I decide to make a light lunch of poha. I am getting better at cooking, but am still a bit of a slow chef. I get lunch ready in an hour and then pop into the shower. $1.80
3 p.m. — We eat our late lunch, and my husband does the dishes, since I cooked. I make us fresh lime juice — the juice and pulp of a lime mixed with cold water, honey, salt, and pepper.
5 p.m. — We take a train to a central area where we've got tickets to watch a stand-up show. We bought tickets about a month and a half ago. This is my first time seeing stand-up in person, and I'm excited!
6:30 p.m. — It is a very warm day. We reach the area a little early, and I notice that a food stall selling soy-based products is open. I get black soy soft serve in a cone for $1.80, and relish in the little happiness that money can buy. My husband takes a lick, decides that he doesn't find soy ice cream as weird as he did the last time he tried it, and we walk through a maze of underpasses to get to our show. $1.50
7:30 p.m. — It's a good show. My husband is rolling with laughter — almost to tears at one point — and I enjoy it too. We needed a night out like this — work has been really tough on us this week.
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9:30 p.m. — We find a place walking distance from us and order North Indian food for dinner. We didn't actually want to go for Indian tonight, but it seemed like the first thing we walked by that was still open. $35
10:45 p.m. — My husband and I aren't tired enough to take a cab home, so we take the train. There's a very cute toddler next to us on the train who seems intrigued by us. I entertain him briefly with a wave and making funny faces, and then entertain myself with Candy Crush.
11:30 p.m. — I make myself a cup of detox tea and zone out on my laptop while my husband plays video games.
2 a.m. — I'm awake much, much later than I usually am. This is fun. I call it a night at 2 a.m. and head to bed.
Daily Total: $38.30

Day Seven

9:30 a.m. — I wake up after a good night's rest. My husband's brother called us accidentally from the U.S. at about 3 a.m., which made us nervous — but we manage to fall back asleep after that. We make breakfast of toast, hard boiled eggs, and coffee, and watch an episode of Brooklyn Nine Nine while we eat. Ah, Sundays.
11:30 a.m. — Time to house clean! We do a thorough cleaning every Sunday. We put away items lying around, dust surfaces, and get to vacuuming and mopping the apartment. My husband decides to deep clean our bedroom, and I help him dust the ceiling fan blades. He takes out the filters from the air conditioner and I wash them and hang them to try. I also hand wash a pair of pants that has dye that tends to run, wash a picnic mat that was a little muddy after we used it last weekend, wash my makeup brushes, and clear out the cabinet in the bathroom.
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2 p.m. — Where did the time go! We're not too hungry for a full meal, and settle on a very simple lunch of ragi porridge. I whip up a sizable batch for both of us, using flour that my mother-in-law made from scratch, mixing it with water and adding a pinch of salt, jaggery, and cardamom powder. I find almonds and dates as well and add them as toppings. A simple but very, very healthy meal full of fiber and iron. I expect ragi to be the "next big thing" the West "discovers" — much like the somewhat current turmeric or coconut oil trends.
6 p.m. — I have been tasked with getting a cake for dessert on my way over to my parents' house. We look around at the bakeries still open, and settle on tiramisu ($12) that is advertised as having 35% less sugar in it. I check a public transit app for bus timings, and see that our bus is 18 minutes away, so we stop by a cafe to get a quick drink. I get a glass of barley water, and my husband gets tea. He pays. $12
6:30 p.m. — We catch our bus — bless this app!
7 p.m. — It's nice being home. Everyone's in a jolly mood. Dinner is a pretty elaborate multi-course South Indian meal of avial (my mom's specialty), chapatis, rasam, bindi, and more. What a feast. It's nice sitting with family and having dinner at home.
8:30 p.m. — I've gotten into the habit of doing a once over of my stuff still at home whenever I go over there — clothes, accessories, craft items, paperwork, what have you. Today, I don't really find anything in particular that I want to take back with me, but my sister offers me a couple of things she isn't using. Of the lot, I take two mini pots of overnight masks/serums and a set of mini lipsticks by Marc Jacobs that a relative gifted us when they were in Singapore for my wedding reception. I completely forgot about this set, and am intrigued. I take a couple of the shades and she keeps a few, too.
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9:30 p.m. — My mom and dad offer to drop us home. My mom's also sending us back with leftovers so we don't have to cook tomorrow (a mom's love is boundless).
10:30 p.m. — Once home, I put things away, pack my gym bag, and get ready for another week ahead. I knock out by 11 after watching some Netflix with my husband. It's been a satisfying weekend.
Daily Total: $12
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