I am ashamed to admit that every day after lunch, like clockwork, I would go to my very generous colleague’s chocolate jar to help myself to a mini candy bar (sometimes three if I am really craving sugar).
But when my "chocolate supplier" went on leave for an entire week and locked his candy jar away, I had no choice but to get my fix from the office vending machine. $1.50 for a Snickers bar? Sure. Another $1.50 for Crunch? Why not. After all, this is probably what it would cost at the supermarket.
This continued for a few days until one evening, I walked past my neighbourhood Value Dollar store and a familiar blaring pop art wrapper and sign that read “3 for $1” caught my attention. There it was, boxes upon boxes of Crunch chocolate bars. I went into mad mental calculation mode: with $1.50, I could have scored myself almost five Crunch bars at the bargain store!
I wasn’t furious that I had overpaid for candy, I was pissed that I was beaten at my own game. You see, I thrive on scoring a bargain and am a regular at Value Dollar – it is my go-to place for household items like wet wipes (10 cents for pack of 10 sheets), hand wash ($1.25 for a very moisturising bottle of Dove), detergent and zip lock bags - I just never ventured to the snack and candy aisle because of our office Willy Wonka. And lest you think they are expiring, they are not. I always check the dates because that’s what savvy shoppers do.
Don’t be mistaken, I enjoy the finer things in life, I just don’t like to get “ripped off”. I live a frugal lifestyle by making smart choices with my money and you’ll be surprised at how small changes and habits can make a difference to your bank account over time. My annual savings from chocolates alone is enough to buy me a weekend getaway to a neighbouring country.
One of the baby steps is to spend less without compromising your lifestyle. I recommend starting with groceries and toiletries which are the easiest to save money on. When supermarket shopping, make a list and stick to it. Opt for house brands which are usually cheaper than established brands but comparable in quality, and always, ALWAYS compare prices.
I learnt from a very young age that margins for toiletries are huge. I used to take orders for beauty products from my family members, buy them for much cheaper at mini marts, wet market stalls or Chinese medical halls, and pocket the difference... but that’s a story for another day.
These days, I get my necessities at neighbourhood beauty supplies stores like Pink Beauty and Venus Beauty, and sometimes Value Dollar. Prices at such stores are still cheaper even with rebates and discounts at supermarkets and drugstores. For example, a 400ml bottle of Vaseline body lotion costs $8.95 at a chain pharmacy, while a 600ml one goes for $3.95 at Value Dollar ($4.50 at Venus Beauty). It helps that these stores are all within walking distance in my ‘hood so comparing prices is a breeze. Alternatively, you can check out their online stores.
Other bargains that I keep going back to Value Dollar for.
Over the years, finding the best deals has become sort of a hobby. I dedicate a couple of afternoons a month to “auntie shopping” where I scour my favourite shops to compare prices (I record them on my shopping list app so I have all the info at my fingertips) and stock up on supplies for myself and my family (if they ask, though I no longer charge them for it), so I never have to buy them last minute elsewhere.
There are things that I refuse to pay for though, like tap water at a restaurant, fruit juice (I can juice it myself), hot tea (that tea bag costs mere cents), and salads (refer to tea). Now, I can add chocolate bar from the office vending machine to the list.