Saturday, July 31, 2010

TWFT: Singapore GST

Saving on Singapore GST

Great news for tourists to Singapore - thanks to their Tourist Refund Scheme (TRS) you can receive a refund of the GST you paid while shopping during your stay.

Not all stores in Singapore participate, and you need to spend a minimum of S$100 per day at that store, and the goods can't be consumable within Singapore (i.e. your hotel or a meal) to be eligible, but it's a great scheme regardless.

Here's the details:

~ carry your passport when shopping as the store clerk will need to sight it when you make your purchases

~ once eligible (spent enough) the participating store will give you your TRS receipt in an envelop (it's REALLY long and will be separate to your normal purchase receipt)

~ when you fly out of Singapore you have 2 opportunities to claim at the airport
1. For goods packed in you Check-in luggage, take your TRS receipt + the goods you purchased to the GST Customs table in the departure hall, or
2. Once checked in take your TRS receipt + the purchased goods to the GST Customs table near the departure gates (it's near the Duty Free shops)

I got a little confused at this point so learn from my bumblings...

~ Show the Customs officer your
  • passport
  • flight ticket
  • goods
  • purchase receipt 
  • TRS receipt
They'll then stamp the TRS

~ Now you have a choice of 2 counters - look at the envelop your TRS receipt came in, it'll have a company logo (i.e Global Refund OR Premier Tax Free) [I didn't notice this and went to the wrong counter...opps]

~ The clerk at the counter will just need to see your stamped TRS receipt and will then give you the option to have your GST reimbursed as Cash or direct to your Credit Card

And you're done! If there's not to big a queue you should be in and out in 15 minutes - with enough time to spend your change at Duty Free before departure :) [I stocked up on some Bombay Gin, tasty]

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Fancy feast

When I lived in Australia I didn't think very highly of a Buffet - to me they were a cheap way for restaurants to churn customers with substandard food (Sizzler). Made me think of pigs at a trough asking for selmanela poisoning...nice.

Hong Kong, as always, flips Buffet on its head and takes it to a whole new level. All the top hotels produce an amazing variety of buffet choices, and the quality always amazes me (nothing like Sizzler).

I've stumbled upon this great website, Foodeasy, which lists all the latest buffets and specials - perfect for wowing visitors or when your feeling a little greedy (oink oink).

Sunday, July 18, 2010

TWFT: Kindle

I have bought a Kindle!

What's a Kindle? A Kindle is an electronic book reader - you download books directly from and then store and read them on the Kindle. Its not an ipad, you can't check your email, it's for people who just really love their books. You can type notes, look up unknown words in a dictionary or wikipedia - lots of fun booky stuff.

So how can spending USD$180 be a money saving tip?! To be honest, this post could really just be my way of justifying my purchase (all the other girls in book group have one. And they love theirs...funnily enough I bought mine right after the last book group hehe). Anyway, here's my rationale.

Each book you purchase on the Kindle is about 30% cheaper than buying the physical book. This is probably because the publisher is saving on paper, printing, transport...all those things.

So let's say you read one book per month and each book is USD$20 - you spend $240 per year on books. If you bought those books on a Kindle you would spend only $168, which means you save $72 per year. OK, given I've just bought the Kindle, if we include the purchase cost it'll take me almost 16 months before I'm ahead, but after that I'll save save save!

The financial downside of a Kindle is - you can't borrow someone else's 'book' (which would be free) and you can't sell a read book.

Plus, as the Kindle is hooked up to your credit card the danger to go 'shopping' at Amazon is always there. I've made myself promise - no new book can be bought until the current one is read. Two weeks in and the promise has been kept (ask me in 6 months...).

Fine, so maybe the Kindle isn't the most awesome money saving tip, but you are saving the planet from producing books each year. This alone has to be a HUGE saving of global resources!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

trust and fear

Today's blog is more of a rant. I don't have any immediate solutions for this huge problem but as an industry, financial services really needs to start working on regaining faith and trust.

For research I read a lot of articles on personal finance. One of the things that has struck me recently is how fearful people are, and how the trust for those in the financial planning/institutions has really been decimated. Any blog post about investing will be commented on numerous times by every-day investors frozen by fear. They not only no longer believe the so-call experts, they don't know who to believe and trust.

What to do?! People want to get ahead, to earn more on their hard-earned savings than a bank account can provide...but the fear of losing it all to dodgy advisers/companies is freezing people into inaction.

The past 2 years have really seen the financial services industry fall into a very sorry state of affairs. Maddoff in the US, Storm Financial in Australia, banks falling over in the UK, the share market dropping by insane double digits, financial firms bankrupting left right and centre.

Who is to blame? Greedy financiers out to squeeze every last penny from consumers? Greedy banks for not stress-testing their policies? Regulators for not protecting consumers from shonky operators? Consumers for either being too greedy for high returns or too ignorant of risks? How can we prevent this from happening again?

Prevent is always better than cure and while I think there's no immediate cure to this ill, we should use education to make sure consumers become more financially savvy to prevent being fooled a second time.

Educating kids in school about spending, savings, debt and investment is a great start. Educating adults about what is a realistic return for a level of risk can help check the greed-led decisions. Empowering consumers with financial literacy knowledge will give them the courage to ask questions of those they put their trust in (and dollars with).

I'm loving the work of the Australian Financial Literacy Foundation and their website Understanding Money. The sooner this sort of information becomes a compulsory subject in schools the better.

Financial Planners and Institutions need to step up to the plate - stop biting the hand that feeds you! The focus needs to be less on immediate revenue from ripping off a few consumers, and more on providing transparent advice in a simple to understand language to build long-term relationships with customers. Financial Planning needs to be seen as a professional equal to that of Accounting and Law - by charging fees in the same way (rather than commissions) and demanding tertiary qualifications of its practitioners. Institutions need to be better regulated and more clearly disclose their fees - get rid of the mountains of gobbly-gook in Disclosure Statements!

Sigh. Rant over.