For this week’s “Redbrick conversations with”, we met up with SG Budget Babe founder, Ms. Dawn Cher. She has established herself a successful financial blogger by the moniker of Budget Babe and brands herself as an ordinary Singaporean who deals with financial issues across broad aspects of life; Insurance, CPF, Investments in stocks, family, and pregnancy amongst many others.
Q. Can you tell us more about yourself and how Budget Babe started?
Dawn: Since young, my childhood ambition is to be an author. However, my family was not supportive as they felt that I will not be paid well. Moreover, when I actually started on journalism, I realized that it meant long work hours, it is a tiring job, and I was uncertain about it being a long-term commitment.
I received the support from my, then-boyfriend, now husband, who supported my writing passion. My first article dated 22 December 2014 was, “How I saved $20,000 in a year” sharing insights from using expense-tracking applications to cutting down on café-hopping.
Throughout my journey, I strongly believe that money is very central to our lives and any decision-making boils down to dollars and cents. For example, transport, food, or even student expenses.
Hence, I felt it was a natural transition to be a financial blogger and that’s why my web moniker is Budget Babe.
Q. What does success mean to you?
Dawn: I believe that success can be asked as “Would I be able to do what I want at my comfort and sustain a lifestyle?”. During my younger days, I aspired towards success as an end goal – perhaps to be a well-known writer or hitting X number of views.
However, I realized that this thinking doesn’t do anything for my mental state or happiness. In my late teens and early twenties, I reached an enlightenment that success is about happiness and gratitude – not about stressing over what is lacking. I still have goals, but happiness is now a journey rather than a destination. It is not quantified as results but rather, a state of mind.
Q. Where do you get writing inspirations and how is like working on Budget Babe?
Dawn: Ideas and inspirations can strike at any time and I would usually write them down first before working on it over the weekend. My writing process is an ongoing activity.
I can read the news or talk a walk to get inspired, too. I would stick the topic in my head and establish a clear objective. Thereafter, when I sit in front of the computer, my inspiration naturally flows to write it. Sometimes, corporate clients engage me to work on sponsored content, too.
I think when you genuinely like what you’re doing (and I love my nature of work), inspiration can come from anywhere, anyplace, any time.
Q. How do you maintain the appeal of Budget Babe to your audience?
Dawn: I don’t. I focus on being the best version of myself and do not compare with other influencers. If I receive any sponsored items, I will declare as I’ve always felt that it was the right thing to do (even before ASAS issued their guidelines for social media influencers). I always stay true to my content where I strictly review and post mostly when I’ve personally used it, or feel confident enough about it to recommend it to my own girlfriends. I will continuously remind clients that they need to let me be upfront about the pros or cons of their product – so as to not lose the trust of customers when they discover otherwise. If clients do not agree with my terms, then I walk away from the deal…my reputation means more to me than any freebie or monetary sum.
Q. How would you like your audience to respond to your articles?
Dawn: I love reading emails from my readers who share with me about how their lives had changed after reading my blog, or having attended courses or webinars I conducted before. There is one reader who told me a few years ago that she was inspired to the point that she didn’t just clear her debts, but eventually ended up building a successful 5-figure monthly income from her business! I am motivated to continue with more content work when I know I can help my readers “wake up” and achieve much more with their lives and their money.
Q. Could you share more on your home-ownership journey?
Dawn: We decided to buy a resale flat as we couldn’t wait for a Built-to-order (BTO) flat then. For me, the choice of HDB was clear; the lower cost of living and not being financially stressed even with kids, as opposed to committing to a condominium with higher monthly mortgage and MCST fees. However, I would want to purchase a second property for investment when my financials are ready.
Q. What advice would you share with the future generation?
Dawn: The young tend to be overwhelmed by too much information, coupled with the Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO). I feel that the greatest mistake in buying a home is expecting both capital appreciation and great living conditions. If you prioritize living in close proximity to schools or in matured estates, then you must be prepared to fork out more and expect potentially lesser monetary profit when you buy high.
On another hand, if you purchase a condominium for capital appreciation, you can eventually rent it out for passive income. In some cases, you may even flip it for capital gains. In return, you can rent a HDB at a lower cost that suits your qualitative needs more. Some of my friends are doing this.
Personally, I feel that HDB is a depreciating asset but since my HDB costs around $600 – $700 monthly (inclusive of the renovation bill we paid), I see this as a lower rental for the next few decades in contrast to the market rental rates of $1,200 or up. Even though my HDB flat will eventually go back to the government, it doesn’t matter because it allows me to live on cheap rent during these few decades while bringing up my children and supporting our retired parents. Some of my friends who have successfully sold their property, have made a profit and upgraded, but some seem to be always stressed out about their mortgages compared to us HDB dwellers. It all really boils down to an individual’s choice and how much you can stomach. You can make profits from property, but are you willing to ride that whole journey through?
Another piece of advice that I would like to share is – “Always have a buffer”. There are newly launched condominiums which can certainly provide great investment with its good pricing, matured estate, and even well-located near prestigious schools. Before you make the purchase, depending on your life stage and family, you should always have a buffer to handle unexpected family illnesses and family commitments.
There is a recent hyped scheme of owning 2 properties instead of just one. Although I feel that this is definitely financially viable, I would like to give a word of caution that you should only make decisions that you feel are suitable for your situation. If you’re someone who cannot manage the stress of having 2 properties, then perhaps you should think twice. Moreover, you should not feel FOMO as those who do own 2 properties may have performed certain sacrifices that we are not aware of, or may be simply lucky (which is not within our control). Some of my friends own 2 properties because their parents gifted them one. Isn’t that great?
Q. Which is your favourite estate in Singapore and why?
Dawn: Personally, I like the southern side of Singapore. If I had money, I would love to live within the Greater Southern Waterfront (GSW), which comprises a 30km coastline stretching from Gardens by the Bay East to Pasir Panjang. There will be 9000 new homes in the GSW, including BTO flats and Private Residences as well.
One of my friends purchased a unit at Avenue South Residences, which crowned as the first residential development at the doorstep of Singapore’s newest Central Business District. Its success can be highly attributed to its distance to the town area and Orchard Road. Compared to other redevelopment projects such as in Jurong, many preferred facilities and services such as enrichment centers, dance classes are still located in town.
But financially (and emotionally, since we’re expecting our second baby), now is not the right time for us to commit to a second property purchase. But watch my blog for updates, I’ll let you know when we make our move.
Check out BudgetBabe’s content on her website https://www.sgbudgetbabe.com/. You can follow her on Instagram @sgbudgetbabe as well.