30 June 2016

How Much Thy Lunch?

There are some things we sometimes take for granted in our work routine. Lunch, is certainly a necessity in a typical work day.  But how much does your lunch at work cost?

Having worked in an away-from-CBD area for years, I've gotten so used to hawker centre food that is usually in the below $5 price range, kopi included.

Recently, I've shifted to a new workplace in the city and found myself experiencing instant lifestyle inflation. It's really hard to find a decent lunch at below $5 in town. It's not unusual for a lunch to be in the region of $20 even. WTF.

It's either the meal is expensive, or else it's "cheap" with a bad taste! I experienced the misfortune of being served a plate of rice which came with one tiny piece of meat and not much else. Really. I counted. It wasn't difficult. Their average customer must have the appetite of a rat. Had to hunt for an additional Ya Kun toast after that. I'm no rat.

Assuming an incremental cost of $5 per meal, that's easily an additional expense of $100 per month, or $1,200 a year.

There's of course the alternative of bringing your own lunch. But I very much prefer to walk around for lunch to get a bit of my step count going and get a bit of Vitamin D. It's a vice. And I'm no Dracula either.

Is that a nice slab of red meat?

14 June 2016

Creative Eateries Membership Card

Here's another one of those restaurant membership card that seems to be 'giving' away money/credit.

I was having lunch at Tajimaya at VivoCity and was introduced to their membership card.  Sign on for a fee of $24, fill up some details at the online registration, and voila! You get $40 of credit on the card which can you use immediately to pay for that meal.

Member benefits include 5% rebate on meals and $20 voucher during birthday month.

I'm definitely a meatosaurus. The meat is great. So this works well for me. Perhaps bad for health given the obscene calories count and smoke inhalation? It's one of those meals where I binge at lunch and give dinner a miss. Maybe a light vegetables and fruit salad for dinner? The smoke isn't too bad at this restaurant. The ventilation design sure beats a lot of those at Korean BBQ joints.

For a steamboat version, go next door to Shabuya.

If you're a vegesaurus, definitely give this a miss.

The Creative Eateries membership card can be used at a number of other Thai, Chinese, Japanese and Western restaurants as well. Seems like they are franchises of the same chain. More info at: http://creativeeateries.com.sg/.

And while you're at it, don't forget to charge to your favourite credit card for rebate, and redeem points at VivoCity for carpark credits.

06 June 2016

Beating the Benchmarks

I especially like to read Sunday Times where there are various Personal Finance articles towards the back of the stack each weekend. In recent months, they have been putting up a series on hypothetical investment portfolios for three people with very distinct profiles.

All three portfolios have consistently performed below their equivalent market benchmarks. The common reason stated was transaction costs which eroded the performance, especially for the smaller portfolios. The portfolios have not been around long. So to be fair, they need to be given more time to show results over a longer term, perhaps three years? I wonder if they will ever pan out?

At the same time, the portfolio advisors have decided to start including an Asia-Pacific ETF to diversify the portfolio from a Singapore-centric portfolio to a more diversified one. That seems to be an attempt at coming closer to the market benchmark since the ETF tracks the benchmark anyway. Or are they trying to play around with the benchmarks - e.g. holding Asia-Pac ETF will keeping to STI as market benchmark!?

My personal experience with ETFs on the SGX is that their bid-ask spread are extremely large, yet set against the backdrop of poor liquidity. There just isn't enough of an active market to get good prices? In this regard, Unit Trust turns out to be easier to buy and sell. But of course, the fund management fees are a world of difference.