Money, Self-Improvement

So, You Have No Money To Buy A Car? – Deborah Tan

Every time I test-drive a car, my heart will get what we in Singapore like to call the “itchy feeling”. If only one can change cars as easily as they change – say – bags … Well, in Singapore, owning a car is not only ridiculously expensive, it is now also made more difficult.  As of June 2013, buyers of new and used cars are unable to take any loan higher than 60 percent of the car’s total value (inclusive of COE). And, to make things even more untenable, the loan period is capped at a maximum of five years.

Lease a VW Polo for about $2,000 a month with no downpayment?

Lease a VW Polo for about $2,000 a month with no downpayment?

Allow me explain this in another way:

When I bought my Volkswagen Polo in August 2011, I paid a deposit of something like less than $2,000, and took up a seven-year loan to cover the rest. Currently, my monthly car loan is about $1,200.

Now, if I wanted to buy a car, I would need to pay IN CASH 40 percent of the car’s price. It means if I wanted to buy a car that is priced at $100,000, I have to cough up some $40,000 first. Servicing a $60,000 loan over 60 months with interest will lead to a monthly repayment amount of roughly what I’m paying now, if not more. That’s just ridiculous.

Who has $40,000 spare cash lying around?!?! Oh wait! Let me go check my piggy bank, shall I???

Yes, yes … I know what many of you are going to say next:

1. “Don’t drive!”

2. “Take public transport!”

3. “That’s the whole point, isn’t it? To curb the number of cars in Singapore!”

Sorry. Not possible. If I took a cab everywhere and spend about $100 (5 trips a day, each trip roughly $20) on cabs every day, my monthly transport bills for 20 working days would be about $2,000. And I can’t leave bags of products, my laptop, and all the heavy stuff inside a cab while I go for a meeting or attend an event, can I? And this is just for weekdays!

While it’s true I have to pay ERP, pay for petrol, pay for parking etc … the convenience that comes with having a car is – as Mastercard says it – PRICELESS.

The Volkswagen Golf GTI Cabriolet: I'll probably have to live in it if I bought it.

The Volkswagen Golf GTI Cabriolet: I’ll probably have to live in it if I bought it.

So in a conversation with Volkswagen last week, I was told about this leasing programme that VW (along with a number of other car brands in Singapore) has launched. Called the Volkswagen Care-free Ownership Programme, this basically lets you have the convenience of having a car without actually owning it.

Every month, you pay Volkswagen a fixed sum of money (based on the prevailing COE price at the time of you starting this programme) for a model you want to drive.

1. Zero downpayment (you don’t have to cough up 40% cash)
2. Zero servicing charge
3. Zero insurance fee
4. Zero road tax

This programme is available for all models in Volkswagen. Sounds too good to be true? Well, I did a bit more prying and got some of my questions answered:

Q. What is the minimum and the maximum length of contract?
Between 3 and 7 years. How much you pay each month for leasing the car will also depend on the length of your contract.

Q. What is the termination penalty?
Half the cost of the time remaining on the contract. So if you are paying $2,000 a month for a 3-year lease and want to stop after a year, your penalty is roughly 50% of $2,000 X 24 months.

Q. So I don’t own the car, what happens if I get a fine? 
The fine will be sent to the leasing company and the company will then inform you.

Q. How does insurance coverage work then?
Normal car insurance coverage procedures apply. You’ll be informed of the “out of pocket” component of any repair costs incurred, the rest is covered by insurance.

Q. So roughly how much will it cost to lease a car from Volkswagen?
Assuming you are taking a 5-year lease, it will cost you $2,108 to lease a Polo 1.2 TSI and $2,319 to lease a Golf 1.4 TSI. These rates are valid only until TODAY (new COE prices will be announced later so these rates will be adjusted).

A number of car brands in Singapore have also launched similar leasing plans. Mercedes-Benz reportedly offers the longest lease period in the market (also 7 years like VW), while Suzuki offers an attractive monthly rate of $998 for its leasing programme. To find out more about Volkswagen’s programme, call +65 6474 8288.

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. She likes liquid eyeliners, bright red lipsticks, tattoos, rock & roll, Mad Men, Suits and thinks it’s ridiculous that cars in Singapore cost the same as a flat. Follow her on Twitter @DebTanTweets.

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Barefaced with Linda Black – Denise Li

I had a few encounters with model and presenter Linda Black at my previous job, and I’ve always loved working with her. She’s funny, candid and an absolute riot to be around.

A few months ago, I got wind of her “Barefaced Sundays” campaign (she had tweeted about it), and I was curious about what inspired her to do it. What followed was this very inspiring interview.

What inspired you to go makeup-free on Sundays?

Linda Black, without makeup

Linda Black, gorgeous even without makeup

“Barefaced” began about a year ago after I called my girlfriend (Zurina Bryant – frequent conspirator and profile photographer) and said quite spontaneously, “Let’s go for lunch!”.  Her reply was that she needed some time to “put her face on”. And in that split second I made a decision: I never wanted to say I couldn’t do ANYTHING simply because I needed to do my hair, or put on my face just to be sen in public. What does that even mean? Why do I need to look a certain way to appear in public? So I told her, “Screw it! I’m on my way to pick you up! Barefaced!”, and that was how it all began.

When you first went makeup-free, did you feel self-conscious at all?

No way – I’m comfortable in my skin, and I believe most women look best without it. I have the confidence to be me and totally me! Barefaced and all!

How have people responded to your “campaign”?

Ha! Well, I was surprised to get some retweets and favorites on Twitter. One gal pal of mine wrote me and said she was inspired by my tweet (and accompanying picture to prove it) that she started going barefaced on the weekends – and was promptly told she looked “tired”. I told her, “You look amazing!” But its true, it’s very annoying that in this culture that if you don’t have makeup on, you are frequently told very bluntly that you “look tired.” My reply is, “Hmm. Well, I’m not tired. So no thank you for that”. Most people blurt things out without any real knowledge of what they are actually saying, and what their words might affect someone else. I think it’s important to stay positive.

As a media personality, do you feel the pressure to look good all the time and, how do you cope with that?

Honestly, I do feel the pressure to look my best at most times, and I have a makeup routine that I can do in three minutes flat if I have to. But I’m conscious of my daughter developing this impression that she needs lipgloss to be seen as “pretty” and it often makes me stop and wonder what the hell I’m doing. I ask myself, “Why am I perpetuating this myth?” So I make it a point to wear makeup only if I’m going to be attending meetings or going to work – not if I’m just running errands. I don’t feel like I need makeup to look my best. Plus, I get the most compliments from my husband about how youthful I look and how my skin glows when I’m not wearing makeup. To me, looking great means having great skin – and what’s so bad about flaunting that?

Linda, with makeup

Linda, with makeup

What are some of the lessons in body image and confidence that you wish to pass on to your kids?

That having confidence is what makes people feel at ease around you. Your looks may help you open doors, but it’s your intelligence that keeps them open. My daughter is at that age where she has an opinion about everything she sees – pregnancy is of special interest to her at the moment. She is incredibly impressionable – so if she says someone has a “big tummy” or is “ugly”, I deal with these comments in a calm, understanding manner. Sometimes she understands, sometimes she doesn’t. You know, I’m still frequently dealing with comments about how I look as well. And I deal with them the same way I dealt with  comments that I was anorexic – like water off a duck’s back. I want my kids to know that worrying about what size they are or of other people’s opinions about how they look is ridiculous and a waste of time.

What are some tips you can offer to feeling confident in your own skin?

I accept that when I look in the mirror, I will never see anyone but me looking back at me. I would love for all women to feel that confidence. But to look great in your own skin, you MUST take care of it. Your skin is, after all, the largest organ of your body, and your first line of defense against some diseases.

About the Author: Denise Li is a founder of Material World and a freelance writer-editor. Before that, she spent a few years in the Features section of CLEO and Cosmopolitan Singapore. She considers Chiang Mai her spiritual home and makes it a point to head there for a yearly pilgrimage. She’s also a fitness buff and enjoys boxing, running and the occasional yoga session. Lastly, she believes that everyone should make it a point to travel solo at least once in their lives. Follow her on Twitter @DeniseLiTweets.

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Arts & Events, Lifestyle

Food For Change – Denise Li

Nicholas and Nichol Ng, founders of The Food Bank

Nicholas and Nichol Ng, founders of The Food Bank

Singapore seems to be a nation obsessed with food. While we’re having breakfast, we can already be talking about what we’d be having for lunch or dinner! But food is so much more than just sustenance for the body. It can also be a medium through which we can better understand ourselves. At least, that’s the idea behind Food-O-Philia, a food series organised by The Arts House which comprises panel discussions, book launches, plays, films, music and photography.Nichol and Nicholas Ng, the brother-and-sister team behind The Food Bank Singapore – an organisation that helps distribute food to the needy – are two of the panelists for the panel event Get Involved: Makanising For Change. This discussion aims to find out how food can be used as a means of outreach and provoke social change. We have a quick chat with them to find out more.

What is the idea behind The Food Bank?

The idea is to centralise food donations and distribute them to charities and individuals in need. Currently, each charity has to get its own food donations.

What inspired the two of you to start The Food Bank?

Having been in the food business for a long time, we have noticed that there is food that can be put to better use instead of just being thrown away. These include excess food that is near expiry or those sitting in offices and homes that are unlikely to be consumed. And on the other end, there are people and organisations in need of food. These charities have to work very hard to raise funds and then use the money to buy food at retail price. Such funds could be channeled towards other pertinent needs. Our role is to acquire donated food and make it available to those in need through a network of community agencies.

What are your respective roles at The Food Bank?

Both of us currently work as a team not only for the marketing & Publicity of the Food Bank, all the day to day issues like arranging for pick ups and deliveries are all done by us. We are also in-charge of putting proposals together for potential individual and corporate donors who are interested in running their own Food Drives. Basically, anything and everything that needs to be done, is managed mainly by both of us and two other regular volunteers.

What more do you think can be done to help the needy poor in Singapore?

Not many people know there are really needy people in Singapore and perhaps this is an area that needs to be highlighted. For the needy, other than looking after their basic well-being by providing basic necessities such as shelter and food, we think it’s also important to look after their emotional wellbeing. We are also hoping to work closely with Family Service Centres to reach out to the needy that fall between the cracks and unable to get direct help from the relevant agencies.

What are some of the challenges you faced starting The Food Bank?

Regular donations are our biggest challenge. While we have ad hoc donations from individuals and companies, we could do better if we have regular donations of the needed food so that our beneficiaries can have a more predictable supply of food. Another key challenge is the lack of knowledge and understanding of the severity of food waste in Singapore and having other options to deal with the foods rather than dumping them.

What are some of the ways in which people can contribute to The Food Bank?

Corporations can contribute by donating food or money to buy food for the needy. They can also organise food donation drives within their companies to collect such food. Individuals can donate food or volunteer to help out in different ways – collection, sorting out or distribution. We are also looking for service volunteers that can help with publicity, reaching out to donors, helping with our website or coming up with ideas for projects that can be organised for The Food Bank.

Get Involved: Makanising For Change will take place on June 29, 2013 at Play Den at The Arts House. Admission is free.Food-O-Philia runs from June 19 to July 31, 2013. Notable events include screenings of local films such as Mee Pok Man, Chicken Rice War, and more. For detailed information on Food-O-Philia, click on this link

About the Author: Denise Li is a founder of Material World and a freelance writer-editor. Before that, she spent a few years in the Features section of CLEO and Cosmopolitan Singapore. She considers Chiang Mai her spiritual home and makes it a point to head there for a yearly pilgrimage. She’s also a fitness buff and enjoys boxing, running and the occasional yoga session. Lastly, she believes that everyone should make it a point to travel solo at least once in their lives. Follow her on Twitter @DeniseLiTweets.

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Single Women and Discrimination In the Workplace – Denise Li

"I have so much on my plate ... and now I have to do someone else's work for them?!"

“I have so much on my plate … and now I have to do someone else’s work for them?!”

There’s a lot been said recently about the discrimination of women with children in the workplace, and the voices grew even louder following the publishing of Facebook COO’s Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In. Her detractors have said that in the call to action for women to stop holding themselves back at work, she has brushed aside the toll it takes on women to tackle both a career and raising a family.

Now, let me first make it clear that I have nothing but respect for women who are able to juggle a full-time career, raising kids and who still manage to carve out time to work out or do things they love. One of my friends from my previous muay thai gym is one such powerhouse – she’s only 31, but she already has three children (I believe her oldest is 7 years old), and yet, she always managed to make it for regular evening training.

Still, I cannot help but feel that there’s another side to this story relating to single women in the workplace. Having spoken to a few non-married friends from both the private and public sectors, a common gripe voiced by them is that, because they are single, they are expected to do more than their fair share of work, such as having to attend evening functions or working the occasional weekend. Their female colleagues, however, are usually let off the hook, and the reason being given to the single women is that their “colleagues with families need to tend to family commitments at night and on weekends”.

You know what? I think this is outright discrimination. Don’t single women also have mums and dads? Aren’t single women also entitled to free time to pursue their passions and hobbies or even … a social life? Single women may not be raising the future of the nation, but that doesn’t mean that their time not spent working is dispensable and less important than that of a woman whose time is spent raising kids. Whether she wants to spend that time working out or having a few drinks with her friends, that’s entirely her prerogative.

What I’m especially miffed by is the ASSUMPTION that single women will happily go beyond the call of duty at work. In many workplaces, their time spent working after office hours is not compensated – not with more pay, not with extra off days. The assumption that’s made here is that since we’re career-driven individuals with an eye on the promotion, we should be happy to be given more responsibility at work to prove our worth.

The single women who face such discrimination would simply grin and bear it. They tell themselves, “Someday, my boss will notice and reward me for my hard work with a promotion.” That is if their boss even notices the extra effort! Most of the time, this effort merely regarded as them doing their job. Single women will not come right out to say, “It’s not fair that I have to work xx more hours than Mrs So-and-So. Aren’t we part of the same team?” They won’t voice their unhappiness to their bosses because it’s taboo and it goes against everything we have learnt about sisterly solidarity. They won’t voice their unhappiness because of the negative repercussions – being seen as a whiner, complainer, and not enough of a team player.

You see, it’s not that single women unsympathetic to how tough it is for a woman to have a family and hold down a full-time job. But I think we are entitled to be a little bit angry when it seems that someone else’s priorities are held in higher regard than ours even though we hold the same job title. When we put in the extra hours and pick up the slack for colleagues who have families, we want it to be seen as us doing them a favour, and not simply their entitlement.

Women who choose to have families do not have it easy – but the choice was entirely theirs, and I believe it’s their responsibility to work out an arrangement such that they are able to still give their 100 percent at work and not expect someone else to pick up where they left off simply because they have other commitments to tend to. As a single woman, I have to trade off certain things (my workouts, my social life) to put in my hours in the office when the going gets tough. I don’t think it’s unfair to expect the same attitude of everyone else in the office.

The reward for a non-married woman’s hard work should not be more work. After all, the government is always quick to point out that women these days are getting married later and putting off having children. Now, tell me. How on earth is anyone to go about creating opportunities for meeting a life partner when they are chained to their desks till 9pm each night?!

About the Author: Denise Li is a founder of Material World and a freelance writer-editor. Before that, she spent a few years in the Features section of CLEO and Cosmopolitan Singapore. She considers Chiang Mai her spiritual home and makes it a point to head there for a yearly pilgrimage. She’s also a fitness buff and enjoys boxing, running and the occasional yoga session. Lastly, she believes that everyone should make it a point to travel solo at least once in their lives. Follow her on Twitter @DeniseLiTweets.

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[Infographic] Shopping Safely Online – Denise Li

If you have an Internet connection, chances are, you would have recently bought something online. A simple search on Google would turn up these statistics: Between two-thirds to 80 percent of Singaporeans have bought or frequently buy things off the Internet.

I read another study which stated that the number one shopping site favoured by Singaporeans is ASOS. Not surprising, as all of Material World’s founders are frequent customers of the site as well. First of all, we love the fact that it offers free shipping without a minimum purchase. Their sales are also quite phenomenal. For instance, you can score a pair of limited edition Dr Martens for below $100 if you shop at the right time!

Besides ASOS, here are some other online shopping websites Material World’s founders love.

Vanessa Tai

Favourite site: Modparade (They have a bricks-and-mortar-store at Haji Lane too). I like the clothes because of the quirky style and interesting prints, and the offbeat styling of the models makes browsing the site really fun.

Things I look for out for on an online store: Clear and in-depth info (type of fabric, measurements, whether it’s sheer, etc), being able to sort the items by price and brand and, lastly, being able to zoom into the images from all angles.

Best online purchase made to date: This wolf-print silkscreen dress I bought three years ago from Modparade for just $28. I never fail to receive compliments when I wear this out.

Vanessa in her Modparade dress

Vanessa in her Modparade dress

Tan Lili

Favourite site: Threadless. Not only does it have a wide selection of graphic tees, I love that it supports the international artist community. Artists from around the world submit the designs, and 10 are chosen every week for printing on tees and hoodies.

Things I look out for on an online store: As I usually visit overseas online stores, I’d check whether it ships internationally and, if so, how much it costs. Security is also important to me so there needs to be an order tracking system and a reliable payment gateway.

Best online purchase made to date: This Threadless tee. I bought it years ago during a sale for just 10 USD and have worn it countless times!

Lili in her Threadless tee

Lili in her Threadless tee

Deborah Tan

Favourite site: AmazonBecause I have a Kindle and buying a book using the Kindle is REVOLUTIONARY. Trust me, I’m now able to read so much more (and almost everywhere I go) because of this lightweight gadget. Amazon also sells other stuff besides books, as I’ve come to realise too! I recently bought wireless spotlights with motion-sensors from Amazon. How cool is that!??!

Things I look out for on an online store: Definitely how easily I can pay for my purchases. I don’t want to have to key in my credit card details every time I buy something! With my Kindle, I choose the book I want to buy, click “Buy” and, the book gets downloaded in my Kindle. No need to whip out the credit card at all.

Best online purchase made to date: My set of 3 wireless spotlights. When I open my door, they light up! Only if the surrounding gets very dark though … so they don’t work when the room is flooded with daylight. Hahaha!

Deborah's spotlights ... proof that you can buy ANYTHING off Amazon

Deborah’s spotlights … proof that you can buy ANYTHING off Amazon

Denise Li

Favourite site: Book Depository. Not only is there free shipping worldwide, no matter how small your purchase. You can also find a wide selection and often, the books sold here are cheaper than what you get at the bookstores locally.

Things I look out for on an online store: A variety of payment options and whether it offers free shipping. Also, the bargain hunter in me loves the dedicated “Sale” section.

Best online purchase made to date: This Moleskine weekly planner with a print of my favourite childhood story The Little Prince on the cover. I’m a Moleskine junkie – they’re the ONLY notebooks I use so it’s great that Book Depository stocks them at around 20 percent cheaper than the stores here.

Denise's The Little Prince notebook from Book Depository

Denise’s The Little Prince notebook from Book Depository

Before you click “Buy now” though, you need to ensure that you get what you pay for. In addition to checking about whether the item will be shipped free of charge to you, you also need to check on their returns policy just in case you’re ever unhappy with your purchase. What are some of the other things you need to take note of? This infographic provided by Comgateway will tell you more.
Infographic provided by Comgateway

Infographic provided by Comgateway

About the Author: Denise Li is a founder of Material World and a freelance writer-editor. Before that, she spent a few years in the Features section of CLEO and Cosmopolitan Singapore. She considers Chiang Mai her spiritual home and makes it a point to head there for a yearly pilgrimage. She’s also a fitness buff and enjoys boxing, running and the occasional yoga session. Lastly, she believes that everyone should make it a point to travel solo at least once in their lives. Follow her on Twitter @DeniseLiTweets.

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A Weekend At Jalan Besar – Denise Li

I have the fondest memories of the Jalan Besar area. I remember my dad taking us to the Jalan Besar Stadium to watch football matches in the heyday of the sport in the 90s. The atmosphere was simply electric; people would be singing in unison and cheering on the Lions to frenetic drum beats. We also visited the Sungei Road market (known to locals as the “Thieves’ Market”) once in awhile to kill time on Sunday afternoons … it was where you could get anything from stools to vinyl players and even car engine parts (though, for obvious reasons, you never asked about the origins of the items!).

When my fiancé Alain was back in town over the weekend, was decided to stay at Kam Leng Hotel on Jalan Besar just opposite Lavender Food Square We’d been to the hotel’s restaurant Suprette a few months ago and was curious to see how they’d restored the rooms of this old Chinese hotel, which was apparently established in 1927.


The hotel offers three types of the rooms: standard queen, superior queen, and executive queen, with the first and last categories being the smallest and largest respectively.

We’d made a booking via, and ended up paying about $130 per night for the superior queen (inclusive of taxes). When we checked in, we were given the standard queen (the smallest room) by mistake.

When we opened the room door, we were, quite frankly, appalled. As Alain put it, “This is not a room. It’s a broom closet!” The queen-sized bed took up close to two-thirds of the room, and there was only space for a small dressing table. The bathroom was literally two steps away from the bed. The worst part was, the room didn’t have a window! If you have mild claustrophobia like I do, you would not be able to stay in there for 10 minutes without going bonkers.

The claustrophobic Standard Queen room

The claustrophobic Standard Queen room

Kudos to the staff at the reception though. When we informed them of their mistake, they immediately upgraded us to the largest category of rooms, the executive queen.

The room, though not large, was comfortably sized for a couple. Don’t expect it to have all the trimmings of a regular hotel though. It’s pretty basic, with a fridge, hairdryer and shampoo and conditioner coming out of a dispenser by the shower.

The more spacious and comfortable Executive Queen room

The more spacious and comfortable Executive Queen room

To me, what stands out about this hotel is not so much the rooms as much as how the place was restored. Instead of hollowing out and re-doing the interior completely, they left some of the original elements of the hotel intact, such as this sign pointing to what was previously a restaurant on its top floor (it’s no longer there). Judging from the worn condition of some of the tiles in the building, I’d hazard a guess that they are original. The staircase still had peeling plaster on it, which I found quite charming. I guess this is what they call “shabby chic”.

Pardon the photobomb ....

Pardon the photobomb ….

The amenities kit has been given a nostalgic touch.

The amenities kit has been given a nostalgic touch.

I found the listed room rates at Kam Leng a bit steep, it starts at $200 for the standard queen (the broom closet), and goes up to $300 for the executive queen (what we ended up staying in). You’ll find better deals online so be sure to check out travel sites like Agoda or AsiaRooms before you make a booking.

Anyway, you wouldn’t be spending much time in the room, not when the area surrounding the hotel is calling out to be explored. The Jalan Besar area is famed for its culinary offerings, and this is a place where you can never go hungry, no matter how late it gets. Lavender Food Square just across the road from the hotel is home to the famed Kok Kee Wantan Noodles. You can never miss it as it’s the stall with a permanently long queue. My only gripe about this stall is that the portions are measly. A “big” plate of noodles that costs $5 will only get you two pathetic wantans and a few pieces of char siew, though its sauce is undeniably tasty.

But it’s just as well as the you don’t fill yourself up on the noodles, because the other stalls have fab offerings as well. In particular, I like the pork stall which serves meat balls, spine meat and pig’s organs soup, as well as the stall opposite which sells popiah and carrot cake. The food court also houses the famous Eminent Frog Leg Porridge, if that’s your thing.

Walk down the road along Jalan Besar and you’ll find other gems such as Swee Choon Dim Sum (at the corner of Desker Road and Syed Alwi Road). We headed there for an early dinner and it turned out to be a great decision. By the time we finished our meal and left at 6.45pm, there was a snaking queue with hordes of people on the five-foot way waiting for a table! When you’re there, you HAVE to order the Swee Choon Mee Suah Kueh. It’s essentially like a carrot cake – only with mee suah instead of radish. Pan fried to golden goodness, it was crispy on the outside and oozing with the mushy and familiar goodness of mee suah on the inside.

Mee Suah Kueh at Swee Choon Dim Sum

Mee Suah Kueh at Swee Choon Dim Sum

I didn’t time to sample all of Jalan Besar’s offerings, but the following places: Beach Road Scissor Cut Curry Rice (just before Kitchener Road if you’re walking from the direction of Kam Leng); the prata shop at Rowell Road; and Windowsill Pies (78 Horne Road) all came highly recommended from friends.

One of my favourite restaurants of late, Suprette, lies within Kam Leng Hotel itself. When I’m there, I always order the Hangar Steak with Marrow, $29. The slab of steak is generously portioned and cooked to perfection, and both the marrow and the steak are topped with caramelised onions on a huge serving of fries. Simply delish!

Suprette seats just over 30 people so be sure to make reservations if you're coming on a weekend.

Suprette seats just over 30 people so be sure to make reservations if you’re coming on a weekend.

Hangar Steak and Marrow at Suprette

Hangar Steak and Marrow at Suprette

All in all, I’d recommend Kam Leng Hotel for flashpackers who want to experience a slice of real Singapore away from the glitzy hotels and posh nightclubs. However, they should check out several travel sites to score the best deal.

Kam Leng Hotel is at 383 Jalan Besar. Tel: 6239 9399.

Material World paid for its own stay and meals at Kam Leng Hotel. All opinions expressed are the author’s own.

About the Author: Denise Li is a founder of Material World and a freelance writer-editor. Before that, she spent a few years in the Features section of CLEO and Cosmopolitan Singapore. She considers Chiang Mai her spiritual home and makes it a point to head there for a yearly pilgrimage. She’s also a fitness buff and enjoys boxing, running and the occasional yoga session. Lastly, she believes that everyone should make it a point to travel solo at least once in their lives. Follow her on Twitter @DeniseLiTweets

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What You Need To Know About Renting in Singapore – Denise Li

Have $18,000 lying around somewhere? You can rent Mick Jagger's villa on the island of Mustique for a week.

Have $18,000 you don’t know what do with? You can rent Mick Jagger’s villa on the island of Mustique for a week.

Having rented the master bedroom of a house for the past six months while my Belgian fiance Alain was in town, I’ll just tell it like it is: It’s TOUGH. Financially, yes. But also when you’re living with your landlords and, like, six housemates (it’s a landed property), it’s hardly a place you’ll call home. In a way though, I’m glad I did it. Not many people in their 20s in Singapore have taken or would take that big step, and understandably so. The amount you pay for rent is just astronomical, and you have to give up the perks of living at home, such as having someone help you wash your laundry or having a home-cooked meal ready for you every night. But my experience has taught me a lot of financial management, independence and has also given me a glimpse into what it’s like to be living with my partner. Seriously … when you’ve seen pretty much all of his bad habits and quirks and you can still say with utter conviction that you’re completely in love with this man, you know you’re pretty much set for life.

Here are some of lessons I’ve learnt from renting, which I hope will be of value to you should you ever take the brave (some say foolhardy) step.

1. Managing Your Money

No more than one third of your monthly salary should go towards your share of the rent. Anything more and you’ll find it a huge struggle to pay your bills and feed yourself. Also, you should still do your best to save … try to put aside at least 10 percent of your salary aside so you don’t feel like you’re bleeding yourself dry every month. And you know what they say about rainy days …

When you’re in talks with the landlord or the property company that’s helping you find a place, you also need to check with them if the monthly rent includes utilities such as water and electricity to save yourself in the unsavory situation of finding yourself saddled with even more bills you didn’t consider before. Also, check whether the rent includes internet connection. In addition to our monthly rent, Alain and I had to pay $15 extra each for this (although utilities were included in our rent).

Also, you’ll need to have cash on hand as a deposit for the landlord’s safekeeping. This is typically one month’s rent. You’ll also need to set aside a sum for services rendered to the property company for engaging their services – this sum is usually equivalent to half a month’s rent. So, bear in mind that before you even live in that house, you’re already shelling out a sum of money to reserve it. While some people would prefer to search for a property on sites such as Craigslist to cut out the costs of the middleman, I was actually quite thankful for the services of property company. First, it saved me the hassle of looking for something suitable (I just gave the property agent a laundry list such as (1) A bedroom large enough to comfortably accommodate a couple and (2) Must have attached bathroom). Second, they were also able to get all the boring paperwork done, which brings me to my next point …

2. Read Every Word of Your Rental Contract

You need to scrutinise the terms of your contract VERY carefully before signing on the dotted line. This is, after all, not a small sum of money you’re dealing with here. Most importantly, what you need to look out for is how long will you have to stay before you are able to “tender your resignation” with no penalty. For us, we were able to leave at a month’s notice after staying for a minimum of six months (this was for a one-year contract).

3. Living By Someone Else’s Rules

Thought you were (literally) home free now that you no longer have to abide by your parents’ rules? Think again. Unless you’re so completely loaded that you can afford to rent the whole damn apartment, what you’re doing is essentially swapping your parents’ rules for a strangers’. Our landlady, for instance, did not allow us to do laundry more than twice a week; partly to ensure the machine was free for the other tenants’ use, but mostly to save on her water bills. This proved to be quite a struggle for two active individuals who, in addition to our regular clothes, had to contend with a growing mountain of stinky workout clothes festering in our bathroom until Laundry Day. And, other than the use of the microwave, we were not allowed to use the kitchen to cook, which I learnt is quite a common rule for those renting rooms, so you’ll need to make peace with eating out for every single meal.

Yep, it was definitely a challenging six months for me (and Alain), but it was definitely an experience that bonded us and brought us closer as a couple. But more about that another time. Stay tuned!

About the Author: Denise Li is a founder of Material World and a freelance writer-editor. Before that, she spent a few years in the Features section of CLEO and Cosmopolitan Singapore. She considers Chiang Mai her spiritual home and makes it a point to head there for a yearly pilgrimage. She’s also a fitness buff and enjoys boxing, running and the occasional yoga session. Lastly, she believes that everyone should make it a point to travel solo at least once in their lives. Follow her on Twitter @DeniseLiTweets

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