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Taking on the $7 a day challenge

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Can a millennial really survive on a tight budget in Singapore?

To combat the misconception that millennials have no concept of money, I decided to take one for the team and lived on a $49 budget for a week.

With merely $7 a day, I had to carefully budget for my personal expenditure, including shopping, personal bills, and food.

Reality set in after I set aside money for my phone bill and transport, and realised I only had $20 left for the next seven days. That leaves me with merely $2.83 for breakfast, lunch, dinner and (maybe) bubble tea each day!


Based on my meticulous calculations, I had to set aside more budget for transport than my daily meals!
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/KYLIE KAY

I may have unintentionally embarked on an impossible, but I was determined to make it work. After the gruelling seven days of extreme perseverance, I emerged to share the quintessential tips you need for this challenge:

1. Be prepared: it's not easy being cheap

Do not expect to eat and live lavishly on a budget. No expensive name-brand foods, haircuts, and massive shopping sprees. In fact, my budget was so tight it only allowed me to settle groceries, which proved to be a mini ordeal.  


Who needs fast food when you can afford an all-you-can-eat buffet of homemade fries. 
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/KYLIE KAY 

For example, 500 grams of name-brand oats could cost me as much as a 1kg container of house-brand oats. But the house-brand items are usually not the ones that receive the most publicity, and you would have to scour for them. 

As I had to save money by preparing all my own meals, I realised that the loner life chose me for the duration of the week as I could not afford to eat out with friends.

2. You can still be an Insta-worthy #MealPrep chef on a budget

The main challenge with meal prepping for me is that I had to plan what to eat in advance. You have to be clear with how much food you need or you will end up starving on one day and being too stuffed to function the next. 

For a fickle-minded millennial like myself, it is almost a punishment to come up with a meal plan and stick to it. And unfortunately, my experience did not look as glamourous as those on Instagram.

While avid meal preppers do not restrict themselves to just one type of dish for the whole week, I ended up with two variations that I switched around when I got bored.


I hope Gordon Ramsay does not get the misfortune to see this lunch box. 
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/KYLIE KAY

3. Let it rain freebies

Most people overlook the free things in life. Those mini salt, pepper and sugar sachets readily available at food joints, and "free" teabags available at the office pantry became lifesavers when I was out.

Despite losing bits of my dignity when grabbing handfuls of free items, the power of free tea and coffee should never be underestimated in sustaining one on a shoestring budget.


I swear to stock up the snack stash when this challenge is over.
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/STEPHANIE SOH

I also became grateful for the water-cooler at the office, for those buy-one-get-one-free deals, and especially for my friends who offered me food upon begging. 

Like the Chinese saying goes: "One relies on family at home, but depends on his friends when away."

Final thoughts

My biggest take away from this past week of micro budgeting is that this lifestyle requires some meticulous planning and being realistic about your budget to avoid failure.

Because I overshot my budget.

Before I get shot down for living up to the stereotypes of the older generation, allow me to clarify: I merely added $1 to my daily budget, bringing my total up to $56, which is still pretty impressive for a week.

 
With this extra dollar, I could sustain those urgent needs...of a mid-day snack.
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/KYLIE KAY

Eventually, it all boils down to the planning and execution. To those who wish to try this challenge, all I have to say to you is: GOOD LUCK. 

BANNER AND TEASER CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/ROSALIND ANG