Whether or not you agree that HDB flats can be used to host tourists, Deborah Tan hopes you can understand why so many are tempted to do it.
Until last year, I never knew what it was like to worry about money. Petrol prices gone up again? Who cares? This route will take me through 25 ERPs? So? I didn’t even bother noting down when people borrowed money from me. Money – to me back then – was not something that plagued my every waking hour. It was just there.
Then I left my job.
Then I cancelled my insurance policies because I couldn’t afford the premiums. I used to joke how if I died, my family would get more than a million dollars. Well, now everyone, you can drop any idea of murdering me.
Then my CPF dwindled to almost nothing.
Then I gave up my investments so I could pump money back into my CPF to pay for my mortgage.
Then I finally gave up my car.
The situation was depressing but I am glad I wasn’t crippled by it.
But today, my business is running well – thank god. I earn enough each month to pay my bills and to set aside some money for rainy days. Nonetheless the way I now see money has irrevocably changed.
The recent news that HDB flat owners are running foul of the law by renting out their flats to tourists struck a chord with me because I can understand why some of us would grab on to whatever opportunity we have to make some more money. To the person earning $10,000 a month, a $100 a day may not mean much. To the person earning just $1,000, $100 is a lot.
I went through a period where I needed money so badly I wanted to stop for people trying to get a cab and ask them how much they would pay me to give them a lift!
This isn’t an article about whether HDB flat owners should be allowed to use their properties to earn a little extra cash. This is an article to explain why some of us would do something like this.
You don’t need me to tell you – once again – that it is expensive to live in Singapore. Rather, here’s what a little more money can do for the person who earns less than $5,000 a month.
1. It helps us breathe just that little easier
Ever looked at your bank statement the day before an amount is due to be “Giro-ed” out of it? Have you gotten stressed over how you would find enough money to put into your bank account? If so, then you will understand why $100, $50 or even $20 would make a difference.
2. It helps us plan our lives just a little better
I had a bank account where I promised I won’t never dip into. That bank account is now gone. How? Whenever a bill needed to be paid, and I didn’t have enough, I would transfer money from one account to another. You may say, “Well, put it back when you get money next”, but it doesn’t work that way. Because when money next came in, more bills needed paying. The hole never really gets filled – unless a windfall happens. Dealing With Life 1, Planning For The Future 0.
3. It keeps us from making soul-killing decisions
I won’t go as far as to use the word “bad”. When I found myself strapped for cash, I made decisions based on how much money I would have had to spend, and often, that led me to greater disappointment. I scrambled for work that weren’t worth my time and ended up feeling worse about myself. I was blinded by my need to hold on to as much cash as possible and I compromised on my pride and happiness, and eventually my confidence. Without confidence, it was just one bad call after another. There was no dignity to speak of.
Why is it important for people to be able to repurpose what they already have? Because Life keeps on going and we need to keep on going with our heads held high. Dignity is not only for the rich. We need to be able to use what we’ve got to help us make a little more money so Life can be just a little better. We want to be able to have a solution that doesn’t take away more money, time or energy, so that we can focus on being better employees, better parents, better spouses, better people.
Worrying about money is crippling and although money isn’t everything, having more of it really doesn’t hurt.
Oh, by the way, if you think this is a post about entitlements, you are clearly too comfortable and too sheltered to realize why so many of us would hold on to $20 tighter than you would hold on to your designer totes.
Dignity cannot be bought but we can most certainly earn it.
About The Author: Deborah Tan is a founder of Material World. After 10 years of working in magazines Cleo and Cosmopolitan Singapore, she is now a freelance writer/editor who works on this website full-time. Homestays – she believes – are some of the best ways for a traveller to experience a city. Follow her on Twitter @DebTanTweets.