Monthly Archives: June 2011

#26 Being Thrifty

I’m alive! And being overworked (sob) by my boss, who also happens to be my Singaporean Mom. JUST KIDDING MOM! (in case you’re reading this on your MacBook Air *shifty*)

Anyway….on to the topic of the day – being thrifty.


This may be more of an Asian thing rather than a Singaporean one, but Singaporeans are pretty disciplined when it comes to being thrifty. This is because from the time you first get your allowance, your Singaporean parents would have already impressed upon you the sacred Thrift Mantra.

There are three simple principles to the Thrift Mantra: use money wisely (“Because money doesn’t grow on trees!” as my Singaporean Dad likes to say), save as much as possible, and reuse anything that doesn’t warrant a safety violation, including the little styrofoam dish you get when you buy raw meat from the supermarket (One of my friends totally used that as a soap dish once. I laughed at her for being such an auntie, but then I realized that it’s actually quite clever because then the soap bar won’t slip and slide around as much.)

The Thrift Mantra to Singaporean parents is like what om mani padme hum is to Guanyin (who, by the way, has some crazy robes. Girl needs to go easy on the layering stat.) You must live it, breathe it and let it absorb into every fibre of your being. Because even if you don’t, your Singaporean Mom will make sure that you’ve got it down pat by the time you go off to college.

She will do this by skimping on extras around the house (no fancy Handi Snacks for you! Just the bag of lao hong crackers from Singapore Airlines), introducing a system of hand-me-downs (let me tell you right now that this system sucks and is least beneficial for the youngest child, because by the time you get your sister’s old uniforms, they’re bound to be discoloured and out of shape and everyone will make fun of how your uniform belt is a different shade of blue from your actual uniform) and buying everything in bulk (When I say everything, I really do mean everything. Every time my Singaporean Mom goes to Costco, she comes back with all sorts of random things, like a gallon-full of mixed nuts – “For when I’m playing mahjong!” – and a year’s supply of panty liners.)

Take note that all this bulk-buying and recycling of things has nothing to do with saving the environment. The Singaporean Mom does not give a rat’s ass about saving the earth. Instead, it is a culture of thrift so deeply-rooted into the recesses of your mind that by age eight, you would have become an expert at folding NTUC plastic bags into neat little triangles for future use.

So how exactly do you engage in Thrift Mantra-worthy behavior, you may ask. First – no shopping sprees (even if the end of season sales are going on), for the Thrift Mantra frowns upon frivolous spending. Do you know why squirrels are associated with being thrifty? Because they’re too busy saving acorns, not spending their life savings on

Second –  learn the revered art of Reusing Things That You Never Thought Could Be Useful. I.e. Aforementioned styrofoam dish for raw meat or the little cloth toiletry pouch you get when you’re on a Singapore Airlines night flight. True story – my Singaporean Dad put moth balls in that pouch after cutting a few holes in it “to let the moth balls breathe out”. The holey pouch is now hanging in his closet among his suits, and there haven’t been any moth attacks as of late so I guess it’s pretty effective after all. Thrift Mantra win.

And finally – save whatever can be saved, including that free loofah from Four Seasons which you will probably never use.