{Interview #10}: Christine Teo – Social Worker

Christine Teo, 37, is a Mental Health Social Worker and Founder of Generation 414. She achieved the Golden Key Award for academic excellence, won first prize in RMIT University’s Business Plan Competition 2015 and attained the Litmus Group Productivity Award.

This initiative is part of our 101 Paths to Success series of interviews to gain insight into how successful people came to do what they are doing, and enlighten parents that there is a vast array of occupations for our children to discover. Hopefully it might spark an interest in our children and youths to start their journey of discerning their life’s path.

Your qualifications

Masters in Social Work
Masters in Counselling
Graduate Diploma in Theology
Bachelor of Business Management
Diploma in Human Resource Management

Christine Teo

Describe your job

I support people living with severe and chronic mental illness with complex issues by providing a more coordinated system response to their mental health needs. I work closely with the client, carers and family by getting multiple sectors, services and support they may come into contact with to work in a more collaborative, coordinated and integrated way, ensuring the best possible outcome for their recovery.

In my work at Generation 414, we provide dignified employment and personal development opportunities for women affected by human trafficking. We offer skills training, educational support, and a long-term sustainable income channel through the online sale of bags and clothes handmade by the survivors of the sex industry.

Tell us about your career path

I started out in the corporate world as a consultant in one of the Big Fours. I loved the challenges the job offered and the money was great and I enjoyed my time there. However, after a while I started to question that there must be more meaning in life than this.

I regularly volunteered in mission trips and enjoyed the interactions I had with the communities that I worked with, so I made the decision to change my career and applied for a post-graduate course in the helping profession.

I was privileged to be granted a full scholarship so I quit my job, packed my bags and moved to Australia. It’s been 10 years now and I’ve never looked back.

How did you find your passion?

I have always enjoyed helping people. My parents, being traditional Chinese Singaporeans, are not very supportive of my career move. It’s been 10 years and they are still trying to convince me to go back to the corporate sector so that I can “make more money”, and to “give up my ideals”. I am very blessed that I had a grandmother (who has since passed on) who was the kindest, most selfless role model.

I had the value instilled in me that there is so much more to life than making lots of money which you cannot bring into your grave anyway. I am glad I listened to that advice instead and have never been happier. The satisfaction and fulfilment I get out of being able to be a positive impact on the lives of others is priceless!

Which aspect of your job gives you the most satisfaction?

I find it a huge honour and privilege that I have been given the most broken and fragile of people (mental health clients or survivors of trafficking) to journey life with, to walk alongside them, to care for and support them in their journey of recovery to make a better life for themselves.

What does success mean to you?

Success to me is when I work myself out of a job! When the person I have journeyed life with comes and tells me, “Thank you for all that you have done for me. I don’t need your help anymore because I can do life on my own now.” That is the  best thing a social worker can ever hear.

Does this job enable good work/life balance?

You learn to set healthy boundaries and with experience you know that if you don’t set yourself good work/life balance, you will burn out quickly. We are in this profession for the long haul. It is a marathon not a sprint, and if you don’t take care of yourself first, you will not be able to take care of others.

When I am at work I give my 100% and am fully engaged with my clients. When I am away from work, I shut that out of my personal life and give my loved ones my 100% attention and also make time for myself to love and care for myself by doing things that I absolutely enjoy.

You must be incredibly busy. How do you avoid being burnt out?

I am very organised and I plan. I plan time to work, to play and to rest. Most people burn out because they fill their diaries with so much work and do not allocate specific time to rest. “No” is a very important word to learn how to say. I also make sure I eat healthy, exercise regularly by doing bikum yoga and going for long runs or swims to help me relax and decompress the day’s stresses. I balance work with a good social life and I get enough sleep.

Are you involved in any charity work?

Yes. I am an advisor and consultant for Atlanta Alliance Against Trafficking, resource manager for Hillsong Church, and I volunteer at the Human Trafficking Resource & Assistance Centre, NightLight International, The A21 Campaign, and in Passion City Church.

One piece of advice to parents

Allow your children to dream and to follow their hearts. Do not be too quick to shut them down just because they may not conform to society’s template. Everyone is unique, with a different set of talents and gifts.

Your actions, even more than your words, are critical in helping children adopt good moral and ethical standards. If you are a good role model from early on, that is the best thing you can do for your children. The provision of material possessions, although good, is not the crux of it all. If you raise them well, your children will be resourceful enough to be able to provide for themselves and take care of you in your old age.

One piece of advice to teens

Be the change you wish to see in your world. Not all of us can do great things but we ALL can do small things with great love. Dare to dream. The only person who can truly prevent your dream from becoming your reality is yourself.

To be a good social worker, it takes someone… who will not give up on doing small things with great love. If you work from a framework of unconditional, unjudgemental love, the people you are working with will appreciate the efforts. Their lives may not become perfect overnight but to know that someone out there cares enough to want to help and support them changes their world for them.

{Interviews} 101 Paths to Success

#1 – Dr Karen Crasta Scientist Associate Prof at the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine

#2 – Jeremiah Choy Creative Director Sing50 Mega concert at the National Stadium
#3 – Elaine Yeo Musician Singapore Symphony Orchestra
#4 – Chong Ee Jay Cyber Wellness Educator TOUCH Cyber Wellness
#5 – Professor Tan Huay Cheem Cardiologist Director of National University Heart Centre
#6 – Ruth Wan Children’s Book Author Timmy and Tammy series
#7 – Andrea Decruz Media Personality Owner of CINQ Salon & Belmont Flora
#8 – Ebelle Chong Dance Practitioner / Choreographer SSLD:7 in R.e.P 2015
#9 – Dr Phillip A. Towndrow Research Scientist Centre for Research in Pedagogy and Practice

~ www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Volunteering overseas: #1’s experience

During the December holidays, #1 flew to Shanghai on her own to visit her aunt. Her aunt had been encouraging them to go over during their school holidays to get immersed in the Chinese culture. Now that she had completed her ‘O’ level exams, the timing was right for her to make the trip.

Besides the usual sight-seeing, shopping and eating agenda, we decided it would be a great opportunity for her to help out at Will Foundation.

What is Will Foundation?

It is a sustainable and self-sufficient eco-learning centre for disadvantaged children. Imagine that! I was intrigued. I learned that the founder, Pilar, took in several orphans as her own because she felt that she would be able to give them a better future under her care. What a big heart. And where would they find such a huge place for all of them to live in? A kind family generously donated their unused land to this project.

Their garden

It was wonderful that Pilar agreed to take #1 in at such short notice, and the arrangements were quickly made. She spent a week there volunteering as an intern, which basically meant helping out wherever necessary, which included doing household chores and playing with the 10 children. We called her one evening, and her siblings wanted to know how she spent her time there. She told us that she had just finished mopping the floor with freezing cold water! Definitely a first for her (yes, both the mopping and the freezing water).

This is #1’s account of her 1-week stint with the Will family:

The children follow a time-table and every morning, they would do their running rounds in the courtyard before coming in for breakfast. After breakfast, they will make their way to class for lessons. The household is run with strict rules, and lights out is at 8pm. There is no wifi available and the use of handphones is discouraged. (This is probably harder for the volunteers than the children!)

School room
After a few sessions, it is time for a break, and the kids will go out to the courtyard to play. Even the ones with aids will help themselves to a round of soccer.
The two younger children have physiotherapy in a separate room, and this is where they also do little kid’s stuff like playing with blocks and working with picture cards. It was the Christmas season and we had fun fooling around with the hats! Mary is the only girl in the family and she took to me immediately. The kids are very adorable and boisterous, which is to be expected from having 9 young boys in the house! It was a very meaningful and eye-opening experience.
Lil’ Santarina
Volunteering opportunities:

If you are able to spare some time, and can help out in areas like tutoring, crafting, mentoring or cleaning, do drop them an email at info@email.willfound.org.

You could also make a direct donation online, and any amount, both big and small will make a difference to these young lives.

The Will kids at home

Even though #1 spent a short one week there, Mary became attached to her and when it was time to say goodbye, she was reluctant to see her go.

After her week at Will home, I kept my fingers crossed that she would help out more when she returned, and perhaps start mopping the floor. No such luck though. Nonetheless, I can see that #1 has a soft spot for children and she must have enjoyed her time with the kids.

Hmmm, I should run my household like the Will home. Impressive.

Goodbyes are hard…

Getting there:

Will Foundation is located on Chong Ming island, which is 1 hour from Hong Qiao.
It will take you about 1.5 to 2 hours by public transport, depending on which part of Shanghai you are coming from.
~ www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Christmas – simple is best

It’s that time of the year again. Christmas! I love this season, simply because it is filled with 2 of my favourite things. Friends and food. And they go together so well, no?

As we approach the advent season, I am reflecting on our priorities in life. It is easy to get caught up in this year end frenzy, so I have decided to make a conscious effort not to be drawn in to all the unnecessary excesses. I will try to simplify our activities and preparations and pare down to the essentials. Perhaps I will get the kids to list down some non-material gifts they would like to have and when their grandparents or aunties ask them what they want, they don’t have to accumulate more material things. On my part, I will try to fill our home with more love, patience and peace. Hard to do, especially with Kate entering the ‘terrible twos’ and #1 getting into her ‘teenage ways’. But I will try. As Christmas is about baby Jesus coming into our world, I will let go and let God.

It is also the school holidays, and a time for the kids to remember the less fortunate. The kids saw me taking out the scrapbooking box and they can tell this Christmas crafting is going to be one of our yearly routines. Last year we had lots of fun making handmade tags, with the proceeds going to MINDS.

This year, along with our community of mummy bloggers, we will be supporting Radion International, a non-profit organisation working in one of the roughest neighbourhoods in Thailand. They are dedicated to transforming the lives of street children, abused women and broken families.

These lovingly made Christmas tags will be going at $3 each. You can place your orders in batches of 5 for $15. Designs are one of a kind as all our materials have been donated.
5 for $15
For more lovely designs, hop over to the other crafty mummy bloggers for a variety of Christmas cards and tags. More will be added to this list in time.

1) Little Blue Bottle
2) A Pancake Princess

Do support us and place your orders via email at mummyweedotcom@gmail.com or our Facebook page. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

~ www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Life Lesson #12: Who’s selfish? The kids or me?

It just dawned on me that all kids are altruistic. Somehow somewhere along the line, they learn the mentality of scarcity and start to hoard things for themselves.

Last week, I was discussing the issue of happiness with them and trying to impress on them that we don’t need material things to be happy, but if we learn to give from our hearts, that’s where we will find happiness. 

We were sponsored a really beautiful shower head from GROHE and I used the opportunity to ask them if they would like to give that up to another child. I made it real to them by telling them that many other children are not as lucky as them to be living in a big new house with such nice spacious bathrooms, and a gift like that would surely brighten up another child’s day. Honestly I was surprised that they agreed to give it away without much hesitation (although #3 did say, “But it’s really really nice, mum”). I’m quite sure that was the end of it for them and they never thought about it again.

But you know what? I thought about it the whole day. Especially when I read your comments on our Facebook page about how pretty it was and how delighted your kids would be to receive it. And I was asking myself why in the world did I suggest to the kids to give it away.

“Give money to the cow?”

I thought back to the other times when I asked them to be charitable and their generosity became apparent to me. The fact that #4 decided to donate her entire collection of rainbow loom charms to raise funds for the chronically ill children without second thought. The previous time when I asked them if they would like to donate any of their pocket money to help the dear elderly nuns, I told them the story of how their convent was old and leaking. #1 did not donate, but the other girls donated between $30 and $120 each, and #5 even told me to take all the money from his piggy bank.

I realise that so long as you tell kids the story behind it, their natural response is to help. Sadly, as we grow older, we become apathetic to other people’s plight. Perhaps if we keep giving them opportunities to practice being charitable it will become second nature to them.

I am still peering into their hearts and learning from them, and maybe one day, I am able to say “Here, take everything I have.”

Other life lessons (which I’ve learnt the hard way):

Life Lesson #2: Don’t over-sacrifice
Life Lesson #4: My bucket list
Life Lesson #6: Passion vs Family

Linking up with:


~ www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Looming for Club Rainbow

Among my kids, #4 was the only one who got really hooked on the looming craze. Her aunt introduced her to it in April and bought the starter kit for her birthday present. She requested for the original coloured refills (for safety issues) from relatives and friends who asked her what she wanted for her birthday so she had a whole stash to work with. She was very content to spend the June holidays creating all sorts of designs and very soon she ran out of bands. She decided to dig into her savings to buy more refills and spent about $60 on the coloured bands. She finished them up within a couple of days and wanted to buy more. I take every opportunity to get them to make their own financial decisions, so I didn’t stop her but got her to think for herself. I asked her if she felt it was worth it to spend so much on some coloured bands. Her answer took me by surprise.

She said, “Mummy, I have been saving all my money for the past 4 years and now I’ve found something I like to do. Anyway, it’s crafting, which is good right. If I don’t spend my money at all even when I really wish to, then what’s the point of saving and saving without enjoying anything?” Gosh. Such financial wisdom at the age of 10. Dare I say I have taught her well 😉 In the end, she spent another $60 (free delivery above $60) and told me that was her last buy and she will stop after that. Which she did. Delayed gratification. Check. Allocated percentage for hobby. Check. Will-power and discipline. Check. Truly impressive.

A fellow blogger, Susan, who blogs at A Juggling Mum suggested we get together to sell our creations to raise funds for Club Rainbow (Singapore). Lots of updates and events on their Facebook page if you can spare the time to get involved for such a good cause.

I asked #4 if she would like to donate any bands or charms from her collection for charity and she said “You can take all and sell so we can raise more money for the children”. Bless this child. Even if we don’t manage to sell all, I am humbled by her generous heart. I am also glad she is not attached to her possessions.

So here’s everything she has made, and hopefully we can do our bit for these children and youths who are coping with chronic and life-threatening illnesses. Every single cent we collect will go to Club Rainbow (Singapore).

Tray 1: Charms with hooks
This tray of charms all have hooks and would make really colourful decorations on table Christmas trees!
Tray 2: Mini Figures
Tray 3: Charms
#3 also made bracelets with lots of variations. They can fit children from about 2-8 years old.
Her aunt came over last night and was the first to show her support by buying 7 items. The kids were overjoyed! #3 helped me to edit the photos by numbering and labelling all the items (“Mum, there’s an app for everything. Easy peasy.”)

Rainbow Loom Singapore sent over some packets of refills for this charity drive. Many thanks for their support and #4 is so excited to be able to do some looming again!
Assorted Bracelets and Rings
This is my personal favourite: An adorable lil’ backpack #4 made just for me 🙂 If you would like her to make one just for you, she’ll be happy to customise one at $10 with your choice of 2 colours (subject to availability).

Customised backpack $10

For more designs, hop over to the other mums involved and give them some support too (more will be added to the list once their posts are up). If everyone of us does our little part, it will go a long way to help others in need.

1) Little Blue Bottle
2) A Juggling Mum

Just let us know which item # you would like via the comments or over at our Facebook page or drop as an email at mummyweedotcom@gmail.com from now till 31 October 2014. Even buying 1 band or charm helps! We will be happy to post them out to you, with a personalised message from #4 🙂

Sold Out: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 18, 19, 20, 22, 23, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 37, 39, 42, 46, 47, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54,55, 56, 57, 58, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 82, 83, 87, 89, 92, 93, 94, 95, 102, 104, 105, 106, 107, 109, 100, 110, 111, 113, 115, 118, 121, 122, 130, 134, 139, 141, 147,148.

Thanks in advance and have a fantastic day everyone!

~ www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Willing Hearts (Soup kitchen) – anyone can volunteer!

Every school holiday I try to get the kids to spend at least 1 day doing something for charity. As this June break has been rather hectic, we did not get anything organised. #2 remembered her teacher telling them about Willing Hearts and that anyone can go and volunteer. The good thing is that you don’t need to give them advanced notice and can just drop in and lend a pair (or many pairs) of willing hands!

#2 brought a friend along

Willing Hearts prepares about 3000 meals everyday for the needy, so you can imagine how much chopping, cooking and packing needs to be done.

We arrived at 10.30 am and the place was a hive of activity. There were many groups of teenagers around and they were all busy with different tasks. We walked right in to see what else was happening and there were many aunties hard at work cooking up a storm. A middle-aged man noticed as wandering in and he immediately asked, “Looking for something to do?”

As he saw that my kids were young (7 – 13 years), he gave us the easy job of preparing the beans. He hauled 2 cartons full of beans onto the table and demonstrated how to pluck off both ends and remove the stringy line running through the beans. Within 5 minutes of entering the premise, we had an assembly line going.

1st time plucking beans

All was going well until the kids found some little white worms on the beans. “Worms! Worms!” they shrieked. The gallant SJI boys working opposite us helped the kids get rid of the worms. They had been here since 7 am and came with their CCA mates to clock 5 hours for their CIP (community involvement programme), which is mandatory for secondary school studentsBesides volunteering in the soup kitchen, you can also help with delivery of the meals or collection of the supplies. 

After an hour of plucking the beans, the monotony got to them and when the older boys were needed to help with other tasks like hauling boxes, they took over the chopping which they said was so much more fun.

Taught how to slice with a slant

We were there for 2 hours and the kids were all hot and tired and asked if we could leave. As there was just a little bit left, I told them to quickly finish up the 2 boxes and we could go for lunch.

4 trays of our hard work!

Trays heaped with beans, cucumber, chilli and lots of other vegetables.

By doing charitable works, not only does it enable us to help the less fortunate, but it never fails to remind us to be thankful for all that we have. It’s a sombre reminder for myself and my kids that while we take our 3 meals for granted, there are people out there who don’t have enough to eat.

Sane tip: This is one of the rare few charities which allow children to volunteer. Unless you are turning up with a big group, you do not need to inform them. As this is basically a giant kitchen, it might not be such a good idea to bring very young children unless you are able to supervise them well. The best time to go seems to be early in the morning as things start to wind down at 12. If you go in the afternoons, it would probably be to help preparing the kitchen for the next day’s cooking.

Save tip: A great way to spend a morning with the kids (or several mornings) to do something meaningful during the school holiday, instead of spending on activities to entertain them. After we cleared up and was about to leave, the nice uncle invited us to stay for lunch as there was a mass lunch prepared. If your secondary school kids need the CIP hours, they have forms there and the uncle will sign it for you.

Willing Hearts (Soup Kitchen) 
Operating Hours:

6 am – 4 pm daily

50 Genting Lane
#04-06 Cideco Building
Singapore 349558

As of 1 August 2014, they will be moving to a new premise:

11 Jalan Ubi Block 6
#01-51 Kembangan – Chai Chee Community Hub
Singapore 409074

Thankful Tuesdays:

“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has” – Epictetus

Linking up with:

~ www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Influenced… luckily in a good way

Recently #1 joined the Youth Symphony at Church of the Risen Christ. She was persuaded by her classmates to join them as they were performing in a charity concert to raise funds for Assisi Hospice. Initially I was reluctant to allow her to go as she had to practice for about 8 sessions before the concert. She was going to have her first prelims for her ‘O’ levels and was already telling me that she didn’t have enough time for revision. Moreover she was staying back 4-5 times a week for her school band as they were going to have their grand concert at the Esplanade. She really wanted to join her friends and in the end I relented.

Risen Christ Youth Symphony

I went to watch the performance and supported the charity drive, and I’m glad I allowed her to have this experience. The band was recently formed to bring together the youths in the various Catholic parishes to come together for the purpose of performing to raise funds for different charities. Youths from other religions are warmly welcomed as the philosophy of this band is to champion the integrity of the human person. It is about developing respect for one another, building friendships and learning to live in harmony with different races, cultures and religion. It doesn’t matter what religion a person may belong to, as they believe that Christ is for everyone. A fair proportion of the band is made up of Christian, Buddhist, and even Muslim youths who hail from our polytechnics, junior colleges and even the international schools. Some of them have parents who are accomplished musicians and they have volunteered their time to join their children in the event. Youths between the ages of 12 – 18 who play an instrument and are keen to join can contact them. It is a great way for them to be exposed to public performances.

Assisi Hospice Fun Fair

I was immersed in the beauty of the music and heartened at the gathering of young people of different faiths, all for a noble cause.

Assisi Hospice provides end of life care to both adults and children in a very compassionate and loving environment. They do not deny anyone because of who they are or how much they can afford, thus they need to constantly engage in fund raising activities throughout the year. They are having their annual fun fair this Sunday at SJI International over at Thomson. Do try and support and head down with your families to have some fun!

Ah, that reminds me. One of the items on my bucket list is to work in palliative care. Since I’m not able to go into full time work at the present moment, I shall make time to volunteer at Assisi Hospice. Clicking on their website while doing up this post, I learnt that they require a minimum of 2 hours a week for 3 months. That I can do!

Sane tip: It also dawned on me that who my kids choose to hang around with becomes very important at this age, and I’m glad that they do positive things together instead of destructive activities, if not I’ll have endless sleepless nights!

~ mummy wee – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

How to use your children’s hong bao money to teach them financial literacy

When the kids were younger and we took them out, they would invariable ask to buy something. I would have 5 incessant pleas of “Mom, can I buy this… please?” If I said no, they would take another item and say “What about this? Please?” It drove me nuts. And I would have to make a decision to allow the purchase or not. Sometimes just to get them out of my hair so I could shop properly, I would allow them to buy the toys if they were not too expensive. Or if some days they kept badgering me until I lost my patience, it was “All cannot buy!”

So I started thinking about this issue seriously. What did I want them to learn about money? I wanted to teach them to make the decisions themselves, to decide if the item was necessary and if it was value for money. I also wanted to teach them to spend within their means, and to learn values like thrift and charity. And I definitely wanted them to know that money didn’t grow on trees, which I concluded when I was young, as my parents bought me everything I asked for.

I was a financial consultant for a decade, and I saw too many adults not having the proper financial skills needed in life. It did not matter if they were earning $2,000 or $20,000. They could be making the same mistakes and I realised that it was not only how much you earned but what you did with your money that mattered.

I formulated a plan. I realised that giving them a little extra in pocket money and teaching them to save to buy something did teach them delayed gratification, but not much else. So I didn’t use their pocket money as a teaching tool. I gave them $1 per day for recess starting from Primary 1, with an increment of $0.50 every 2 years. That was to cover their food in school. For all other purchases, I allowed them to keep a small portion of the money collected during Chinese new year, which they were free to use as they pleased for the rest of the year. 

$200 to last them a year

This program commences the year they enter Primary 1. For me, I need to standardise everything so that it’s fair and easy for me to remember. However, based on your own family’s needs, you can start the child at an earlier or later age as you deem appropriate. Generally, kids from 0-4 are contented with hand-me-downs and creating fun out of simple or recycled objects. It is around the age of 4 onwards where they start to ask for particular toys as seen on TV or something their friends have. So at that age, I started to discuss and teach them simple concepts such as what are needs and wants and how much toys cost in relation to something else. For example, I told #5 that a box of Lego ninjago can buy us 20 packets of chicken rice, and his eyes widened in surprise. When they reached 6, that’s when I started to give them a lump sum from their hong bao money to allow them the opportunity to learn the financial lessons themselves.

This is how I derived the figure – I roughly estimated what I was currently spending on each child in 1 year on non-necessities like toys, watches, fancy stationary etc. I rounded it down, and was comfortable with a figure of $200 per child per year to spend as they like. The rest of the money went into their bank account, which is earmarked for their tertiary education. (Another option is to start them off on a smaller amount for the first couple of years, say $100, before increasing it as they get older).

The first time #3 had her money, she was overjoyed and spent it freely. She bought all sorts of cute stationary from her school bookshop, toys when we went to the malls, and even knick-knacks for her friends. I didn’t chastise her as I wanted her to learn the lessons on her own. Within a few short months, she was shocked to find that her wallet was empty. She came to me and told me tearfully that she was ‘wallet-krupt’. I didn’t quite understand, until the older girls told me that it’s not her bank account that was depleted, but her wallet. She watched in misery for the rest of the year as the others had money to spend. It also taught them generosity as there were occasions when the others had money to buy something and she didn’t, and they bought it for her, knowing that she had fallen on ‘tough times’. The favour would be repaid the following year when her finances were better. All these situations mimic real life, and they are teaching moments which can be used to reinforce the things they are doing right and to teach them other options if they are not quite on the right track. I figured that it was better for them to make the mistakes when they are young, than to learn the hard way when they are older and the amounts are more substantial.

So for #3, I instructed her to gather all the things she bought that year, and she was puzzled as to where the money went as there was not much to show for it. She realised that $2 here and $5 there amounted to a lot of money, and she regretted buying some of the items which she didn’t even want anymore. The next year, she was much more prudent with her buys and by the end of the year, she still had a good portion of the money left.

As for the rest, #1 is very meticulous and she notes down every little purchase and carefully budgets her money to ensure it lasts her the year. #2 never liked shopping and saved almost all of her money. #4 was very careful with her buys from the get-go as she saw what happened to #3. Last year was the first time #5 had his money and he readily spent it all on Lego and didn’t mind that the rest of the year he had no money left as he spent the year happily playing with what he had bought. Let’s see if his spending pattern changes over the years. It was also really interesting to see how their characters were reflected in their spending habits.

When they reached Primary 5, I gave each of them a little notebook to record their purchases. They will write down the item, how much they have to begin with, how much the item costs, and their balance. This allows them to look back after a year to see if the purchases were worth it or not. If they were still using the items and it was serving them well, that’s good as they got a lot of mileage out of it. They will put a tick under the ‘Note’ if it was a wise buy and a cross if it was not a good buy. It can then be seen at a glance if a majority of their purchases were good or not, and they can try to improve on that the next year. They also naturally realised that a lot of stuff they bought were useless or bought on the spur of the moment. This leads them to consider more carefully in future before they bought something.

Cashbook to record their purchases

The only times they get presents are during their birthdays and Christmas. During the year, if they want something which would take up a sizeable chunk of their money, they will note it down, and if some months later they still want that item, they will request it for Christmas, either from us, their grandparents, or their aunts and uncles. That teaches them delayed gratification and also helped cut down a lot of unnecessary spur of the moment “I really want” type of purchase, only to regret it later.

Sane tip: The best part of my program? No more “Mom, pleassse, just this 1 thing?” I can now shop in peace while they are busy figuring if they should buy an item, or comparing prices, or sharing info with each other about where to get cheaper and nicer items which they were looking for. And instead of thinking that “Mom is mean” when I refuse to buy them something, they are empowered to make a wise decision. They have also learnt the very important skill of budgeting and spending within their means. Giving to charity has also taken on more significance to them, as it is given out of their own pocket.

Save tip: I have saved quite a lot of money, because now, everything comes out of their $200, even concert tickets! They used to bug me to take them to Hi 5Disney on ice, and High School Musical when they were younger. A concert outing could easily set me back $500, not only for tickets for everyone, but they also wanted those silly wand sticks or ice balls which cost more than $10 each! After they turned 6 and had to spend their own money, they bought it once, forking out $68 each. After the show, I asked them if it was worth their money. They replied that it was not bad, but that I had taken them to enough concerts over the years and that they wouldn’t go the next year (that was what I had been trying to tell them all along!) And of course, they did not part with their money to buy any of the overpriced memorabilia after the concert. The good thing is that you can still take them to any concerts or events which you feel you want them to be exposed to, and believe me, the kids will be so grateful to you for paying for it 🙂

Here are more tips on how to keep their birthday parties within $100 while equipping them with financial skills like planning and budgeting.

~ www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~