Leaving Home: 4 years and 4 houses later, 26-year-old fitness trainer has finally found her dream home
Leaving Home is an original AsiaOne series where we speak to young people who have taken the leap to move out of their parents' homes. Who says you have to wait till marriage or the age of 35? They share just what it takes to have a space you can call your own.
At 26 years old, this young lass has already gone through four rental homes.
Moving out of her parents' home at 22, fitness trainer Tiong Jia En started living alone in a small studio apartment that she got off the internet.
"I was searching online for my first home for about three months, and while there are a variety of homes online, [there isn't much of] a choice when you don't have a lot of money. So you filter by cost and there's only like five [options], so you just choose one of the five," shares the bubbly trainer.
She then moved on to live in a co-living space, a loft, and now, a mid-sized condominium apartment in the central region.
"I like the idea of living in different places, experiencing different environments," explains Jia En, better known as JE to her riders, pilates students and 116,000 Instagram followers.
But four years and four homes later, she has finally found her 'dream home' — at least for now.
"Everything I've ever wanted is more or less here. If I can change the view to that of an ocean, that'd be even better, but for now, this is it.
"I am very content with what I have. I cannot keep having the appetite to get more or get a bigger [space]. I think that's not helpful, and won't be very sensible as well. So this is the maximum [I'd go] and I don't want to go any bigger," JE tells AsiaOne.
The start of it all
JE first moved out when she transitioned to being a full-time fitness trainer. With her sporadic teaching timetable, it just "made more sense" to move nearer to the town area, where most of the studios are.
"I could teach at 7am, 8am and then 12pm, 4pm, so I find it more sustainable and sensible to move somewhere closer to town," shares JE.
Another reason was that she wanted more space. Literally.
Back in her parents' home in the East, her mum, dad, her three sisters and herself would squeeze into one bedroom in triple bunk beds.
"It was always in my mind, even as a student in my teens, that this will eventually be my plan. But I just had to make sure like, financially, it's sensible. I don't want to move out, not be able to afford the rent and come back in again. That's going to cause a lot of trouble for a lot of people, including my family," she shares.
But despite moving out, she still remains close with her family.
With three other sisters at home, each of them take on a different role in terms of caring for the family. Her role? The 'wallet'.
"I am the wallet of the family, so while my sisters give care, time and company, I give money. So if anything happens at home, I will help out financially.
"And sometimes if I can't see them physically, I'd order food [for them] back home, then they'd receive a random bunch of collagen soup, for example, in the middle of the night for dinner so that they know that I'm thinking of them," she adds.
The daunting aspect of moving out
To do that, the young, yet sensible trainer has had to manage her finances wisely, saving wherever she can.
JE, who started working and saving up to move out since she was 15 years old, has always been a hustler.
"In university, I would teach tuition after school, then work as a waitress in the evening, and once the clock hits 11pm, I'd go to work at Zouk as a waitress. I'd finish at 4am, rest, and go back to school, and the cycle repeats," shares JE, adding that while it was tiring, it was also how she eventually saved enough money to move out.
Moving out was something that she always had in her mind, and she was always working and saving up for it. The only daunting aspect to her was the financials of it.
As a self-employed fitness trainer, no classes during lockdown periods means zero income
'I have to always make sure that I have enough savings to feed myself, pay my taxes and pay for my rent, and save up to invest for the future. Everything has to be planned properly, so it can be a little scary.
"But I want to make sure that I live the way I want to live, so I have to make sacrifices," she reveals.
While she has #noregrets moving out at 22, JE reveals that she would have told her younger self to set aside more savings to buttress anything, in case a pandemic hits.
And if you were to ask her for more tips on saving money, she'd tell you this: do your own viewings to save on agent fees.
"I find all my rental apartments online, see what's suitable and go for viewings myself so as to avoid paying agent fees as much as possible. Agent fees are about 50 per cent of your first month's rent, and I don't want to pay that extra cost!"
Another reason for going for viewings herself? "I like feeling things out myself — do I like this, do I hate this, are there any spirits here," says JE with a laugh.
"And when I feel like it's sensible for me, I take it!"
If there's one word to describe her homes, it'd be "peace".
"I think in terms of the environment, I make sure that there are a lot of greens at home, and a lot of wooden tones to it. It's spacious, and it's aesthetic. In some sense, when I walk in, I'm like, 'Okay, I want to be here,'" shares the plant mama of over 40 planters.
"They are my best purchases," she enthuses.
And the most expensive item she has bought for her home? A wooden dining table that costs over $1,000.
"I do Google and DIY some items at home, but I also believe in paying more for good quality furniture that I will use for the rest of my life," shares JE.
While investing in pieces that will last forever are her thing now, investing in a forever home is still not quite on her mind.
"Given the lack of stability in my job and the nature of my job as a self-employed fitness person, I don't think that I am ready yet to purchase a house, but I personally do believe in the concept of purchasing to invest and then renting to stay, so eventually down the road I'd probably buy a place, but more to invest rather than to stay for my own.
While JE declines to reveal her current monthly rent, she has some advice for those who are thinking of moving out — weigh out the pros and cons for yourself and consider whether you're able to sustain the rent payments over an extended period of time.
"So, for example, if you're making $2,000 a month and rent is $1,500, don't go," She says with a laugh.
"Don't do it because you're upset with your family, and don't do it because you feel like it's cool."