Managing Money 2014

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Disclaimer: This article presents decisions undertaken by the author, and should not be construed as an enticement to buy or sell the products mentioned. Readers are advised to carry out due diligence. No warranty whatsoever is given and no liability whatsoever is accepted for any loss howsoever arising directly or indirectly as a result of actions taken based on ideas found in the article. The views represented herein are solely the author’s own and not by any of the entities mentioned.

Having overstayed his welcome as a student, this Eatvestigator was recently ejected by his university. Armed with a pricey piece of papyrus, and having donned a magician cloak with mortar hat, this Eatvestigator must now use his cunning and convince Other People to fund his eating escapades. However, there is only that much Other People’s Money that the Eatvestigator can obtain by turning up regularly on time at some dreadful building in the morning. This is called a day job/active income.

Luckily, this Eatvestigator also works as an Investigator (the kind that does investments, rather than spying on other people’s mistresses) on the sidelines. Putting on his Investigator hat, this Eatvestigator has figured out some financial voodoo to conjure more Other People’s Money into his pockets, so he can buy more food. The key to these financial voodoo is really to make use of financial instruments (bank accounts, credit cards etc) that a) provide high incentives or interests while b) having low fees. Participating in these programs/instruments should ideally not require extra time or additional spending than what the Eatvestigator is already doing. This can be considered as passive income.

1.  Bank Account

Thanks to the 2008 Financial Crisis, banks have been forced to keep interest rates near zero (by the Federal Reserve). The Eatvestigator’s POSB savings account earns a paltry 0.05% interest annually. Assuming a $10,000 deposit, the 0.05% interest would yield $5, allowing the Eatvestigator to buy one meal of $5 McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish EVM (Extra Value Meal) in that year. (YES YES, I know, Mcdonald’s is the worse. Example only ok.) What about the other 364 days and 2 meals? We assume that 3 meals are needed a day. Slide2

The Investigator discovered the OCBC360 account which offers a generous 3.05% interest. With the same $10,000, the account would yield $305 in a year, providing 61 McDonald’s EVMs. That is an impressive 61 times better than the POSB account, allowing the Eatvestigator to worry about 20 lesser days of food. The catch to the 3% interest lies in 3 conditions, which earns The Investigator 1% each:

- Salary Crediting of At Least $2000 Monthly
- Pay 3 Distinct Bills Monthly
- Spend At Least $400 Monthly via OCBC Credit Card

Even if the Eatvestigator did not meet all 3 conditions, but only just 1, the 1.05% of interest is still superior to the normal peasant rate of 0.05%. The only downside of the 360 is that the interest rate only applies up to the first $50,000 balances. However if the Investigator did have this much cash, he would have invested it in stocks to get better returns than 3.05%.

2.  Credit Card

The last condition of the 360 account compelled the Investigator to look into an OCBC card. Two candidates turned up, the 365 and the FRANK credit cards. Both are cash rebate cards and do not require the Investigator to accumulate silly points for redemption. The marketing folks seem intent on positioning the 360 Account and 365 card as complementary products. Which to choose depends on the usage:

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Both cards require meeting a monthly minimum spend amount before the Investigator can obtain the rebates. At the same time, the Investigator can also meet the 2nd condition ($400 monthly minimum spending) of the 360 account.

The 365 provides excellent an excellent 6% rebate for weekend dining. The $600 minimum monthly spend is steep. But if the Eatvestigator was taking up the bill for meals with a big group (and collecting cash afterwards), he can quite easily meet this. This would be the Eatvestigator’s choice card.

On the other hand, the FRANK provides 6% rebates for online purchases and NETS Flashpay top-ups, which can be used for public transport. Increasingly, besides supermarkets, more places are accepting NETS Flashpay (e.g. McDonalds, Old Chang Kee). The Investigator is also able to pay his Singtel mobile bill online to get a 6% rebate on it too. Even better if the Investigator travels regularly on company expense, and needs to buy plane tickets online with his own card. Not only can he claim the plane ticket expense, he can also keep the 6% rebate on it. Therefore the FRANK is hands down the Investigator’s choice due to its superior rebate in a wider variety of usage by the Investigator and lower minimum monthly spend.

Both are excellent cards in their domains. However since the Investigator instigated this post, he finds the FRANK to be the better of the two.

Back to you Eatvestigator.

Chaiwalla & Co Container Cafe

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Someone asked this Eatvestigator where they could find some decent chai tea at decent prices. This Eatvestigator had to first point out the redundancy of the phrase “chai tea” because the word chai essentially means tea in India (which was itself derived from the Chinese word “cha/茶”). However this chai is typically infused with spices. It thereby follows that a “Chaiwalla” is very much the Indian version of a barista who makes tea for you.
Chaiwalla
Thoroughly disappointed by the chai latte offered at a certain Seattle coffee chain, this Eatvestigator decided to seek out some chai that wasn’t exorbitantly priced or watery. Here lies this gem of a Chaiwalla Container Cafe in the Little India of Singapore Johor Bahru. The shop operates out of an actual container, providing a scenic view of a car park with al fresco seating. The locals do NOT appeared to be concerned with any sort of outdoor daylight muggings. There is of course safety when gathering in numbers. It is located at Jalan Tan Hiok Nee, which is a mere stone throw away from City Square.

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You get reasonably priced chai at around RM3.8-5.8, with choice of original or additive flavours, done hot or cold. This Eatvestigator tried both the original hot chai and cold chai, and can attest that it has not been diluted watery like certain overpopulated establishments. There were other beverage choices such as milk, thai milk tea to suit your mood. Pies were also on offer but this Eatvestigator didn’t have the time or stomach to try them.

Nearby, there were also various venerable old eateries, ranging from a coffeeshop to a bakery. As of writing, they have opened a second outlet at The Curve in Kuala Lumpur. (No love for tea drinkers in Singapore).

Lot 2810, Jalan Tan Hiok Nee
80000 Johor Bahru
https://www.facebook.com/chaiwalla.co

Restoran Todak

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Right opposite Singapore’s Sembawang coast is this al fresco seafood restaurant on stilts that offers a somewhat scenic view of the Johor straits and shipyards in Singapore. The restaurant is set amidst a sleepy fishing village of the Orang Asli (Malaysia’s true aboriginals) whom this eatvestigator observed digging the mud for some of the “fresh” catch which are supplied to the restaurant.
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The location is a good 30 minutes away from the Causeway by car, single one way taxi fare is approximately RM30-40 depending on your haggling skills. The main reason to venture here is for the reasonably fresh seafood that is about half price of what you get in Singapore. There are in fact a few other restaurants in the vicinity but this was observed to be the most crowded (for good reason).
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As with any respectable seafood restaurant, prices are prominently displayed alongside the live produce. It is this eatvestigator’s opinion that restaurants which refuse to prominently display prices have the utmost intentions of  fudging their calculations and you often end up with astronomical prices.
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Grouper, mud crabs and clams are in great abundance. There are about 4 categories of mud crabs that vary from the smallest to the largest. The cheapest being RM3/100g, upsizing to RM5/100g, RM7/100g, RM10/100g. The cheapest are the first to be gone, so the eatvestigator’s party went with the RM7 ones. Boy they were huge.
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First blood was the whole grouper (RM100, ~SGD39), steamed in Teochew style. Very sweet and fresh, well executed.
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The obligatory prawns (RM45, ~SGD18) were never particularly impressive every single time that the eatvestigator has been here. Get them if you are not broke and just want some variety.
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We also had crabs done in two different styles, the first being salted egg york, the second being chilli. The eatvestigator preferred the former, but both had their merits. Both dishes utilised 3 crabs each, totalling approximately 3.5kg for a grand total of RM231 or SGD90 for both. This is approximately half of Singapore price.
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It is obligatory when having chilli crab to also have fried mantous for dipping with the sauce. These were pretty addictive and the party ended up having a second helping.
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We arrive at the most pertinent aspect of the venture across the straits. There was crab, fish, prawn, cuttlefish, and assorted vegetable stir fries, even coconuts. For a meal of 11 persons, this worked out into about RM50 ~SGD19 a person. Truly Malaysia boleh value. Beware, cash only and make sure you pre-arrange a ride back if arriving by taxi.
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1, Kampung Orang Asli, Telok Jawa, Masai, Johor Baru
11.30am ~ 11.30pm