Mar 6, 2009

The Singaporean's Guide to Survival in Bad Times

So I've decided to adopt a new theme for my blog. It will become a crisis management guide. I'll be blogging about different strategies and ideas that we can use to cope better with the bad times.

As usual, I look forward to you readers adding your suggestions and feedback in the comment section of each post. You can also email your thoughts and views to me at

Obviously I will cover topics such as money management and job security. However, that's not all. A prolonged financial crisis can affect many different areas of a person's life, such as his family life; his emotional wellbeing and his social activities. It will also affect decisions like whether to go back to school; whether to get married; whether to have a child, and so on. I plan to write about all of that.

The times are tough, and will get tougher. But a little ingenuity, and a little perseverance can go a very long way. For the year ahead, I wish everyone all the best!


Ray said...

Economize, Localize, Produce.
The power of the community.
Community Supported Farm Initiatives.
Local Currency.
Expiry-based currency.

I leave you to ponder those words.

The Dude said...

Methinks in a matter of months, the US will be adopting trade protectionism, and the other economies will follow. May not be a bad thing, it would be a time out to do housekeeping so we clean up the mess (like nationalizing Citi...*grin*)

Then again, I not from EDB, so probably no one will give a hoot what I think.

Anonymous said...

Dear The Dude,

I didn't give a hoot about what people in EDB thinks. They can be dumber than the common man.

I think it's more important to have a competition of ideas and let the ideas compete on its merits.

Anonymous said...

Make hay while the sun shines. Come winter, go into hibernation. Meaning save as much as possible when you have income to prepare for the day when there isn't. Then you can relax.

Humans can learn from the animal world when dealing with adversity. Animals rely only on themselves to survive. Do not count too much on the gahmen, charity or sympathy.

xNSman said...

We need to accept that we have to live with more inconveniences if we want to lower our cost living. The State is not going to help as these people up there are already very comfortable and can never never understand the difficulty that the man in street (and most Singaporeans) is facing. Just as that useless Minister had proposed for the elderly, look at Johor for the lower cost of living. If you have a HDB flat, rent it out and live in Johor. You can rent an apartment or even a terrace house for RM$400-RM$1000 (S$168 - S$423 based on x 2.37) versus rental income of S$1500-$2000 for 4-5 rm flat. Cost of living is so much more lower than in Singapore and if you live frugally, you still can have a few hundred of savings every month. No conservative fees every month, lower less than half water/electricity bills. Traffic jams at the causeway? Live with it. Thousands of people take the hassle of the jams and get used to it. It is just a mindset. Crime in JB, well, is Sg completely safe with so many foreigners? You have to be more cautious and not flash your money around. You don't have to be an elderly to take advantage of the lower cost of living in Johor. So, what are you waiting for?

Anonymous said...

Good or bad times, it has minimal effect on me. I don't squander or indulge during good times, and neither do I cut down drastically during bad times. Sure, essential things are a little more expensive, but it is not unbearable.

I think the most important thing in life is still to moderate our wants, live within our means, and most important of all to have some savings to fall back on in times of need. It is an ancient concept, but remains a wise strategy to adopt today.

Lost Citizen

Jon said...

See also:

Anonymous said...

Dear Lost Citizen,

Bad times can mean you lose your job. And by then, even if you don't squander or indulge, there is no income to buy even the essential things.

I agree with your second paragraph but again, in bad times, these things are out of our control.

Been thru' bad times

Anonymous said...

Maggi mee. For a change, go then to one of the temples for vegetarian food.

Really bad . . if you're Chinese then CDAC. Also MP will give some grocery vouchers for a period of time at Meet-People session. Yah . . Town Councils too.

If you have schooling children approach the school where monthly pocket money is given to the needy apart from free books, uniforms and exemption from fees and the like.

This is Singapore lah . . . .Maju lah.

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang,

When the the global downturn or meltdown come to pass? How long & how much more can we take given our size & lack of natural resources?

Anonymous said...

Bravo! Wang san!

Singaporeans will have yet another reason to turn to the blogsphere - for real answers to their real problems.

Anonymous said...

I'm no economist, just my 2 cents worth based on my logical deductions. Change to a more recession-proof line for the tough period.

Examples of recession proof lines.
1. Undertaker. People still die. Sure relatives may opt for less extravagant affair, but die-die must still have some basic expenses.

2. Nursing. People will still fall sick. Maybe not go to the expensive hospitals/class but will still have to go to a hospital if very ill. Else, die-lor (tongue-in-cheek), then see point 1.

3. Primary production. Grow food, think there are still some farms in Singapore, supplying local vegetables, eggs, milk. Still got to eat. If SGD value drops, imports cost more, then local food becomes relatively cheaper.

4. Pawnshop. Bad times, people need cash, may trade-in their valuables for it. Gold obtained would can then be sold for higher value.

5. Cheap or 2nd-hand products sales. For sellers who are raising funds and buyers on a tight budget.

6. Open a Toto shop or sell lottery. In bad times, more people will turn to cheap chances at overcoming their financial problems.

Personally, I am practising it. Fortunately my interests are varied enough that the change of line is just another avenue of personal growth to me.

Anonymous said...

Nursing is a good choice, but it is not one that many sinkees can endure. I was a former journalist turned nurse.

Nursing pay here is also horrendous. Which is why I'm moving overseas to enjoy 3x the pay, and more respect for what I do.

auntielucia said...

I had always thought you n the majority of your supporters belong to the school that belives money isn't everything and we must focus our minds on the bigger, more impt things in life. So won't the current financial crisis, especially if it's a prolonged one, the very thing u pple have been praying for? So y not enjoy it?

Mr Wang Says So said...

quite right lucy. Seeing it all in proper perspective is certainly one of the things i'll be writing about.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
The Lab Rat said...

As a PhD student I was just paid enough to survive. Here are some of my strategies:

1. Buy second-hand stuff.

2. Reuse. Eg. for work, I used the back of paper that was printed on one side. I'd also look out for reusable discarded items.

3. Minimize frills. Eg. instead of using foolscap paper, I used blank white A4 paper.

4. Try to get freebies. At job fairs I'd get files, post-it pads, notebooks etc etc.

5. Looked out for bargains at supermarkets and shops for daily essential items.

6. I stopped buying the straits times. :)

Jimmy Mun said...

One big bugbear of mine is the format of Chinese wedding dinners in Singapore, which in effect, the wedding guests are paying for their own lavish dinner, not to mention the food wastage in contingency measures to prevent "loss of face" if the guests dont feel full, or more people than expected shows up.

The current format of Chinese wedding dinners is not "traditional". Most of our parents got married with less than 10 tables of guests at far humbler restaurants than is typical today. If your parents are the problem, ask them how shameful their wedding dinner was.

At a ripe old age of 35, I dont get much wedding invitations now, which is good, because there is a good chance I will refuse to attend.

I still remember the bad old days when dozens of friends get married at one go and bulk of my take home salary get wiped out in the form of wedding angpaos.

We should boldly put a stop to this. Stop robbing our best friends and relatives. We can,for example, use technology like youtube or facebook to announce our weddings. Feel free to twitter about your wedding night too, if you manage to wait that long. People who dont get invited shouldnt feel snubbed.

Anonymous said...

Be like a lichen - a lifeform that is a cross between algae and fungi - totally self contained and needing little from its environment to survive and florish. (The famous David Attenborough has a book "LIfe in the Freezer" ... )

Also try Ari Kiev's book 'A Strategy for Daily Living'.

Keep your state of mind intact.

Anonymous said...

after much complaining, i decided to do something more constructive..

this is my non-profit blog to list out the cheap food...

The Lab Rat said...

Here is my strategy no 7.

Getting around. For all-bus journeys, if I was not in a hurry, I'd plan my journeys way in advance by checking out the individual bus routes details. I'd look out for things like journeys that are 4.5, 7.5, 10.5 fare stages long. This would mean that if I get off one stop earlier, or walk to the next bus stop to board, I can save 20c.

If the journey involved a transfer, I'd make sure that one sector was 4 fare stages long. (You can do the sums to check this).

With the new fares in April, I have found that most all-bus journeys involving transfers will be cheaper than direct journeys.

The Lab Rat said...

It is interesting to note Jimmy Mun's complaint. I share the same complaint too.

Complaint No 1. They last too long and they never start on time. The main problem for me was the lack of time. I really couldn't spare 4-5 hours in each evening to eat as I was behind schedule in my research.

Complaint No 2. The Red packet thing. Well, all i can say that for those dinners which I could not avoid attending, I did not write my name on the red packet (if I gave one).

Anonymous said...

"The Singaporean's Guide to Survival in Bad Times". I thought I share with readers this piece from President Abraham Lincoln.

It is perhaps one of the most outstanding analogies in the history of eloquence; it was used by Lincoln in answer to his critics during a crucial period of the Civil War:

"Gentlemen, I want you to suppose a case for a moment. Suppose that all the property you were worth was in gold, and you had it in the hands of Blondin, the famous rope-walker, to carry across the Niagara Falls on a tightrope. Would you shake the rope while he was passing over it or keep shouting to him. "Blondin, stoop a little more! Go a little faster!" No, I am sure you would not. You would hold your breath as well as your tongue and keep your hands off until he was safely over. Now the government is in the same situation. It is carrying immense weight across a stormy ocean. Untold treasures are in its hands. It is doing the best it can. Don't badger it! Just pray, keep still and hope it will get all of you safely over."

Anonymous said...

you don't read the news? Blondin already fell. That's why Ms Ho Ho Ho decided to make a quick exit. My condolences to those of you who need your CPF and actually expect to get it back.

Anonymous said...

i live simply, whether it is bad times or good.

For example, I don't buy branded luxury handbags, shoes costing a few hundred dollars, like those featured in magazines. I always wonder how those people featured can bear to part with so much to tote up with designer goods from top to toe.

kids wear second hand clothes mostly. No need to buy expensive oshkosh or mothercare stuff, just local 3 for $10 shirts.

we don't sent them to enrichment classes or tuition, instead we bring them to the many parks, picnic, seaside, museum

and if one wants to buy a property , make sure you have enough savings to last at least half a year of loan in case of unemployment

Mr Wang Says So said...

I am not publishing any further Blondin-related comments, as they are irrelevant to my main post - which is about how the kind of steps that individuals can take, to cope better with the financial crisis.

Common sense does tell you however that if you had a choice and any brains at all, you wouldn't entrust all your property to any one Blondin, or one political party or government, or any one asset class.

"Diversification" .... Remember that?

Trebuchet said...

Give tuition. And I don't mean just taking kids through the homework they ought to be doing whether you are there or not.

I mean, take on students with the intention of providing value-added education. Get to know them well. Give them good advice and be generous with your time and attention. Nurture them.

Remember, you are doing 1-on-1 education, and you can provide what the 1-on-30 (or 1-on-40) public education sector can't provide.

If you are good at providing the extras that cost you nothing financially (attention, encouragement, patient understanding, a sound basis for future learning) then people will pay you enough per hour to make it worthwhile.

The general principles are the same. Whether you're an undertaker or a tutor or a lawyer, you can be a better service provider and earn more per hour or per case, even in these hard times.

Alvin said...

Sounds great, Mr. Wang :)