I Outsourced My Entire Salary to A Friend to Manage. Here’s What Happened
All images by Khaliq Masuri. Instagram: @KhaliqMasuri

Lance is my friend. He is also rich, and kind of a prick.

While he sports a luxury watch that I could only ever afford if I built it on Minecraft, I still own the same black, $30 Casio I bought for NS.

That Casio is not a testament to my frugality. Rather, it is the embodiment of how irresponsible I am with my money. I’ve had my eye on a Seiko automatic for a while now, but somehow, even after drawing a salary of $3000 a month for almost a year, I never seem to have enough money left at the end of the month to make that purchase.

“You’re too bloody irresponsible,” Lance often scoffs.

Sometimes, he would add, “If you can’t take control of your finances, maybe I should do it for you.”

I used to laugh at this; I never believed it would actually happen. We all have our demons, and never having savings is simply my cross to bear.

But last week, after yet again failing to save enough, something snapped.

“Enough is enough”, Lance sighed. And with that, he removed my debit card from my wallet, and told me he was going to take charge of my salary for the next month.

2 seconds later, breaking into a grin, he said, “We’re going to have some fun with this.”

The Rules of the Game:

After CPF deductions, I would be left with $2,400 each month. The rest of my salary then goes automatically into my Multiplier Account, where I get 1.85% interest per annum just for crediting my salary in there and using it for credit card expenses.

After deducting monthly essentials like insurance, transport, bills and my parents’ allowance, I’m usually left with about $1,200 for all outstanding expenses, which is 50% of my salary. Of course, many people survive on less, but I eat much more than the average man.

And so during each of the next four weeks, I would be given $300 to spend. While that might seem like a lot for an entire week, it includes outings that I have with friends, during which I tend to spend more.

A special condition would also come into effect, with each condition meant to target one of my most needless spending habits. If I were to break any of them, I would I get $100 dollars less for the week after.

I survived on a dollar a day in primary school. This should be easy, right?

Week 1: Go Green, Stay Lean

Budget: $300
Remaining Funds: $900

As a man of reasonable heft, I consume a large quantity of meat every day, which was why Lance went for the jugular for the first week’s challenge. I was only to eat either economical rice or nasi padang, with two vegetable dishes for every single one of my meals.

“Look, you’re going to save a tidy amount from not ordering meat. Do you know that the richest people on Earth are vegetarians?” Lance claimed, although I had my doubts.

“Plus, you get to lose those love handles that’re just collecting dust anyway.”

He was clearly enjoying this a little too much, and I did not want to give him the satisfaction of me failing the challenge. I mean, how difficult could it be?

On the first day, I ordered a medley of vegetables with some rice. If you could eat an episode of “Keeping Up With The Kardashians”, this is exactly what it would taste like.

Needless to say, I was unsatisfied, and went to bed a very hungry and angry man.

This is not food
This is not food
They say that too much of a good thing is a bad thing. Does that mean that too much of a bad thing is a good thing? On the second day, I tested this hypothesis by ordering two portions of the same dish. Unfortunately, this did not fill the meat-shaped hole in my heart and stomach.

Nevertheless, I knuckled down and repeated this painful ordeal for the next few days.

Two is not better than one
Two is not better than one
By the sixth day, the repetition had gotten to me. My meals lacked not quantity but variety, and eating the same few dishes filled me up, while making me long for the days of my childhood, when I would come home to three dishes and a soup to be paired with a bowl of white rice.

Eventually, the nostalgia got too much, and I caved by ordering a popiah to go with my Nasi Padang. I texted Lance to inform him of my failure, to which he replied, “:)”.

His cockiness got to me, and I knew I had to do my utmost best to complete the next week’s challenge, whatever it was.

For motivation, I went to KFC on the final day of the week and ordered a three-piece meal.

Week 2: Eat, Sleep, Grab, Repeat

Budget: $200 ($100 penalty for failing previous challenge)
Remaining Funds: $700

I might only have had $200 due to my failures from the previous week, but I remained upbeat and confident. That was, until Lance said that for the second week’s challenge, I would not be allowed to take anything other than public transport.

Like many of you irresponsible millennials reading this, I too cannot wake up at 7 AM, read the newspaper, take a long shit, have my morning coffee, and finally get to work on time. Hence, the only reason why I am still gainfully employed is because Grab exists.

I made sure I would go into the challenge with a fresh body and mind, and woke up refreshed on Monday morning. However, my editor had recently implemented “Mental Health Mondays”, meaning we had to get to work half an hour earlier to discuss how the previous week went.

Not the best start to the second week, but I decided to just be late. I might get reprimanded, but at least I wouldn’t have to suffer Lance’s smug expression.

The next day, forcing myself to get up earlier to prepare for work made me feel, for the first time, as though I had full control of myself. I was not putting myself at the mercy of the punctuality of buses during peak traffic, and it felt incredible.

On the fourth night, I went out for some drinks with friends and barely caught the last train. I was proud of myself, but the heavy night of drinking resulted in a hangover that made waking up the next morning a monumental task. I woke up an hour late, and booked a Grab to work.

I had failed myself. Again, Lance was going to lord it over me, and I would only have $200 again for the next week.

That morning, just as I thought things couldn’t get any worse, I heard a beep as the Grab Car glided along the expressway.

“Boy ah, later got additional charge for ERP hor,” the driver proceeded to growl.


Week 3: Dry Week

Budget: $200 ($100 penalty for failing previous challenge)
Remaining Funds: $500

“Never beat a man when he’s down” are words that Lance does not subscribe to.

Usually, at the start of a long day at work, I like to prime myself to write the best I can by beginning with coffee at the neighbourhood cafe. When the day ends, I wind down by grabbing a beer from either the kopitiam or a nearby pub. There are those who say that alcohol is liquid courage. For me, it is liquid sanity. Without it, I am but a shambles of a human being.

Case in point.
Case in point.
With this in mind, Lance announced that for the coming week, I was not allowed to have my morning coffee or my post-work pint. At $5 and $12 respectively, it adds up to about $85 for the week, and as I yet again had only $200, complying with the rules would be the smartest thing to do.

But guess what? I pulled it off.

I might have had several migraines from the lack of caffeine, and I even ended up taking several naps at work. But I was glad that the tides were turning, and that I finally had a win under my belt.

Lance even gave me a call when the week ended.

“I’m so proud of you Shaun,” he said, “The past two weeks were tough, but you managed to pull through. It’s nice to see some growth, isn’t it?”

“As a reward for completing the challenge, the $200 I took away from the first two weeks will be handed over next week. It should make next week’s challenge easier. You deserve it.”

Oh, what a fool I was for believing him.

Week 4: Retail Deathtrap

Budget: $500
Remaining Funds: $0

At the end of the month, our inboxes get spammed by online retailers, notifying us of payday sales offering substantial discounts if we seized the moment.

This is also usually when my inhibitions start to loosen. Normally, I don’t have that much money to spend at the end of the month. Yet due to Lance’s “generosity”, I now had $500 for the week, and I could indulge in anything under the sun, except for online shopping.

You sick, sick man.

Over the past year, I had bought over 10 pairs of sneakers through online sales, and it had become an itch I had to scratch. Against the advice of my financial advisor, I constantly looked for more deals to capitalise on. Back then, I thought that whatever money I had saved would mean more funds to spend on shoes. I could not have been more wrong.


My one achilles heel
My one achilles heel
People who spend during more during sales are the modern day version of the coupon auntie. You might be buying something at a much lower price, but buying more of it means that ultimately, you’re spending more than you intended.

Yet strangely, as I scrolled through page upon page of shoes, I was not tempted to checkout the three pairs in my shopping cart. Perhaps it was the image of Lance smirking to himself that drove me to restraint; it gave me strength just knowing how much he’d love that I wouldn’t be able to spend all that money.

All the same, I chose to believe that it was my newly-developed thriftiness.

In no time at all, seven days passed, and I overcame the final challenge.

After the month ended, I met Lance for dinner, and he told me that I had saved over $400 during the past month, much to my disbelief.

Challenge Breakdown:

Week 1 Budget: $300
Remainder: $83

Week 2 Budget: $200
Remainder: $35

Week 3 Budget: $200
Remainder: $23

Week 4 Budget: $500
Remainder: $282

Total Saved: $423

While I failed two of the challenges and struggled with the rest, I had also come to appreciate the virtues of being thrifty. I felt free of my impulses, and the assurance I got from having reserves in my bank account was more valuable than any big-ticket item that I could have bought with that money.

But of course, not everyone has to resort to such drastic measures to save money. You do not have to cut yourself off in every area just to save. While it’s important to build up a reserve, we need to strike a balance between that and indulging ourselves once in awhile, just to keep our sanity.

Then, after Lance paid for dinner (I made sure he did), he handed me a small paper bag with the word “Seiko” printed on it. As much as he was an ass, I always knew that Lance could be a great friend.

After counting my blessings, I looked into the paper bag, only to find that instead of a Seiko watch, it was a copy of “Minecraft”.

“Now build yourself a watch, nerd!” he cackled, nearly falling out of his chair.

What an idiot.

For more stories on making your money work for you, on your own terms, click here. Failing that, you could also opt for a Financial “GPS” that provides personalised financial suggestions for you based on your goals. May you live to spend another day.
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