Money, Self-Improvement

Bounce Back After Overspending On Christmas – Vanessa Tai

Like many people, December is typically the most expensive month for me. Apart from spending on gifts for friends and family, there are usually more parties and gatherings to attend (i.e additional spending on dining out, cabbing, and party outfits). Plus, all the stores will be having massive sales, which just adds to everybody’s “spend, spend, spend” frenzy.

New Year’s Eve isn’t even here yet, and I’m already beginning to feel the pinch in my bank balance. A financial intervention is definitely in order. It won’t be fun, but at least it’ll ensure we won’t start 2014 with a dark financial cloud hanging over our heads. Here are some tips on how to recover from a season of overspending:

Step 1: Figure out what went wrong

After the hullabaloo of festivities have died down, find a quiet moment where you can sit down to closely examine your expenses for the month. Look through your receipts – did you buy expensive gifts for friends just so you won’t “look cheap”, or perhaps you went a little crazy at the post-season sales? Whatever it is, identifying your weak spots will help you not make the same mistake in future.

Looking through your receipts can be harrowing, but it's a necessary pain.

Looking through your receipts can be harrowing, but it’s a necessary pain.

Drastic times call for drastic measures.

Drastic times call for drastic measures.

Step 2: Implement a spending freeze

A drastic measure would be to lock all your credit cards in a drawer, and hand the key to a trusted friend or family member. That way, you can only work with the cash you have on-hand, and won’t rack up any additional debt. If that’s too difficult, you’ll need to work out what are the non-essential items you can cut out from your expenditure – for example, dining out or taking cabs everywhere you go. Come up with ways on how you can cut back over the next three to six months, and channel these extra cash to paying off Christmas debt. (Bonus: if you stick to this frugal behaviour, it may very well translate to a long-term behaviour pattern!)

Step 3: Find ways to earn some cash, quickly

Do you have barely-worn clothes and shoes lying around the house, simply collecting dust? Dig them out, gather a group of girlfriends, and hold a mini flea market at your place. You probably won’t earn much, but at least it’ll give you some extra liquidity. Alternatively, if it’s feasible, you can also consider taking on a temporary weekend job – just a few hours every weekend can be helpful in easing your financial burden.

Don't put off thinking seriously about your finances any longer.

Don’t put off thinking seriously about your finances any longer.

Step 4: Prevent future overspending

This ties in with the first step. A lot of us over-spenders tend to be in denial when it comes to our spending habits. In fact, this denial exacerbates during the holiday season. According to an ongoing study done by researchers at the University of Sheffield, people tend to put thoughts of losing weight or saving money at the back of their minds during the holiday season. In an interview, the lead researcher on the project, Dr Thomas Webb said, “Avoiding monitoring may allow people to escape from negative feelings associated with an accurate appraisal of progress. For example, people might not want to know how much money they have spent or what their partner thinks of their social skills. We call this motivated inattention.”

However, it’s important that we get real with ourselves, and not remain in this state of denial. Apart from identifying our financial weak spots (and avoiding them), it’s also prudent to work out a simple budget that we can stick to. In upcoming posts, I will be touching on how we can break out of our dysfunctional relationships with money. Do keep a lookout for those!

About The Author: Vanessa Tai is a founder of Material World who has previously worked on magazines Simply Her and Cosmopolitan Singapore. Now a freelance writer and a full-time contributor to this website, the 26-year-old dreams of attending every single major music festival before she turns 30. Follow her on Twitter @VannTaiTweets.

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Beauty & Shopping, Skincare

[Material World x The Body Shop] Christmas Gifts For That Special Someone – Vanessa Tai

Christmas will be here in just a few days! By now, you’ve probably bought most of your Christmas presents already, but if you haven’t, not to worry. The Body Shop – already a hot favourite during the festive season for their gift sets – have upped the ante this year with even more variants, ensuring there’s something for everybody. Whether you’re on a tight budget or are looking for something unique, you can be sure you’ll find the perfect gift at The Body Shop.

To help speed up your gift-buying process, we’ve picked out four sets you can zoom in on when you visit the store:

For your boss … Vanilla Bliss Body & Lip Care Collection, $65.90

Vanilla Bliss Body and Lip Care ($65.90)

Comes with shower gel, body polish, body butter, and lip balm

She’s your mentor at work, and always has your back during inter-department meetings. Working so closely with her, you know exactly the kind of stress she faces. She probably doesn’t have a lot of time to indulge in spa treatments, so why not bring the indulgence to her home? The luxurious scent of vanilla combined with its rich, creamy texture will no doubt soothe any frazzled nerves.

For your best male buddy … White Musk® Sport Locker Room Essentials, $70.90

White Musk Sport Locker Room Essentials ($70.90)

Comes with hair & body wash, antiperspirant deodorant, and Eau de Toilette

He’s the Harry Potter to your Hermione, or for fans of Mad Men, the Don Draper to your Peggy Olson. You can talk to him about anything, and he always knows what to say to make you laugh. And both of you agree your relationship is better off as it is – platonic. For your best male buddy (and for most men actually), a practical gift works best. This handy gift set has everything he’ll need when he hits the gym – hair & body wash, antiperspirant deodorant and even a 100-ml bottle of fragrance!

For your jet-setting BFF … Japanese Cherry Blossom Shower, Soften & Spritz Voyage Set, $65.90

Japanese Cherry Blossom Shower, Soften and Spritz Voyage Set ($65.90)

Comes with shower gel, body lotion, Eau de Toilette, and Ultra Fine Mini Bath Lily Coral

She’s always taking off on a whim – one month she could be traipsing the streets of Paris, and another, exploring ancient ruins in Cambodia. For the frequent traveller, it can be comforting to have a familiar scent to return “home” to after a day of sightseeing. Cherry blossoms have a discreet, elegant scent, and leave your skin feeling refreshed.

For your younger sister … Shea Scrub & Soften Gift Set, $36.90

Shea Scrub and Soften Gift Set ($36.90)

It’s never too early to introduce your younger sis to the joys of beauty and skincare. Get her started with this Shea Scrub & Soften set, which comes in an adorable snowman-shaped tin. With all her long hours spent mugging in the school library, she’ll need a good scrub-and-moisturise regime to keep her skin feeling silky smooth!

Purchase any of The Body Shop gift sets to contribute towards its Gingerbread School House Project. Check out The Body Shop’s website for a full listing of their stores in Singapore.

This post is brought to you by The Body Shop. The Body Shop worked with Material World to highlight some of its Christmas gift sets. All opinions are the author’s own. This post was not vetted by The Body Shop. Read our advertising policy here.

[Check out other posts in The Body Shop’s Christmas campaign with Material World below]
1. The Stories Behind Your Favourite The Body Shop Christmas Products
2. The Flavours Of Christmas!
3. Perfect Your Party Look
4. The Body Shop Gift Sets: The Material World Curation
5. Cheat Sheet For The Budget-Conscious

Arts & Events, Lifestyle

A French Kiss With Material World – Vanessa Tai

There seems to be something about the festive season that makes people feel more lovey-dovey. The weather is cooler, people are more relaxed and there are many parties to attend! In fact, I won’t be surprised if more people get coupled up during this period than any other time in the year.

A French Kiss In Singapore is a musical revue that explores love in all its curious forms – from the love between mother and son to even the love between drinking buddies. Combining singing, dancing and sketches, this production stars local theatre stalwarts like Hossan Leong and Robin Goh, and is brought to you by the same team behind the sold-out musical “A Singaporean In Paris”.


With music from France’s most popular contemporary musicians – Charles Aznavour, Jacques Brel, Charles Trenet and Serge Gainsbourg – you just might find yourself bopping along to the familiar tunes. As director and choreographer George Chan says, “Don’t be scared off by the four French composers! Their songs have been translated into many languages; I’m sure a few of these songs will surprise you because they have been worldwide hits and no one knew they started out as French songs.” In this interview, George shares what else you can expect from A French Kiss In Singapore:

George Chan

George Chan

What can theatergoers in Singapore expect from this production?
Hossan Leong, Linden Furnell, Robin Goh and myself will be singing, dancing and charming our way into your hearts. This is a fresh collaboration that we are all excited about. Bang Wen Fu who created wonderful musical arrangements for shows like Forbidden City and Lao Jiu: The Musical will be helming the role of musical director. And I will be cracking the whip as dance choreographer.

Humour can be very particular to a certain culture, and may not translate well in another language or culture. How do you ensure the comedy in the production is universal enough to be appreciated by a wide audience?
I have directed many episodes of The Hossan Leong Show and most recently Kumar’s one-man show at the Esplanade. Even the humour between these two comedians are very different, so the writers and I always consider our audiences before creating the productions. No difference here.

Were there any funny or touching moments you and the team had during rehearsals?
This is the third theatre show I am working on with Sing’theatre. The late Emma Yong was in the last two productions with me and we had such a blast working together and learning French. I must admit, she was very much on my mind during the creation of A French Kiss In Singapore. One of the numbers in the show has been put together just for her and I am looking forward to sharing it with my fellow cast members and the audience.

Without giving too much away, tell us which is your favourite scene of the entire production and why?
It is a song written by Serge Gainsbourg called ‘I love you … me either’. It was sung by Gainsbourg himself and his then-lover, Brigitte Bardot. It caused quite a stir when it was released in 1967 because rumors were flying about that there was “heavy petting” going on in the recording booth. We will be presenting our own naughty version of the song and let’s just say there will be unbuttoned shirts and Hossan Leong doing his best moan!

Tickets for A French Kiss in Singapore are now on sale at

We are giving away SIX PAIRS of tickets to the opening night of A French Kiss In Singapore worth $3,000!


You and a friend will get to enjoy the show before mingling with the cast and crew over cocktails and canapés! Here are the details:

DATE: 28 November 2013, Thursday
TIME: 7pm sharp (Please note that if your tickets are not collected by 7.30pm, the organiser reserves the right to release the tickets to someone else.)
VENUE: SOTA (School of the Arts) 1 Zubir Said Drive, Singapore 227968

Here’s how to win:

1. In the Comment section, answer this question: “Apart from A French Kiss In Singapore, name two other productions by Sing’theatre.”

2. Share this post on Facebook with your friends, and tag the friend you would invite to enjoy this production with. Remember to tag Material World’s Facebook on your post.

3. Click on this link to Like our Facebook Page. Only Material World’s followers qualify for this contest.

4. Private message us your details – name, age, gender, NRIC, and email address. State “A French Kiss In Singapore” in your message.

Contest ends November 18, 2013, Monday. Good luck!