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5 things I wish I knew about saving & investing while serving NS

5 things I wish I knew about saving & investing while serving NS
PHOTO: Unsplash

Just the other day, I was having dinner with my cousin who is currently serving National Service (NS) as a National Service Full Time (NSF).

At the dinner, I was happy to hear about his experiences and find out more about how serving NS has changed over the years.

But, I couldn’t help but reminisce about my time in the army as an NSF.

As I served NS about 10 years ago, my memories of it are a bit hazy.

But I would say that overall, my NSF experience was rather positive even though I had my fair share of ups and downs.

And one of the downs I want to talk about today is the fact that I only saved a pitiful $1,200 after NS, and did not invest while I was serving.

This is in my opinion criminal. considering that I only saved 5 per cent of my NS allowance after I reached my Operationally Ready Date (ORD).

If I had a time machine, I would go back and tell my past self these things.

But since time machines have yet to be invented, I hope you can learn a thing a two about what I would have told my past self about saving and investing.

If you are an NSF or soon-to-be NSF who wants to learn more about managing your personal finance and/or investing; this article is for you!

1. Don’t eat at the canteen too often

Although the food served in the army has improved much over the years, it is not Michelin Bib Gourmand worthy fare.

And for the longest time, I was only allowed to eat at the cookhouse as I was still a trainee.

But once I passed out of my trainee course, I was able to eat at the canteen. This was a gamechanger for me.

Being able to go upstairs and buy my own meal was empowering as I now had the choice to pick my own meals.

Not to mention that the food served at the canteen was miles better than what we got at the cookhouse as everything was made fresh on the spot.

I still can taste the fried Maggi and the runny sunny side up which was such a comfort when the training got tough.

As a result, I went to the canteen to eat any chance I got.

This habit cost me quite a chunk of my NS allowance as I ate at the canteen two to three times a week and spent about $5 each meal.

In total, this habit cost me about $780 a year which is quite substantial considering I only saved $1,200 after two years.

I would think that indulging occasionally at the canteen is fine. But, don’t take it too far.

2. Resist peer pressure to spend

During my time as an NSF, I spent excessively on food.

I would head out with my detachment mates and indulge in a meal that on average costs around $20.

Every month, we would also go out for a buffet meal that cost on average costs around $50.

That’s $3,460 a year if you are counting.

This applies to any other activity or hobby you might have.

Unfortunately, I was not able to resist peer pressure and spent excessively as a result.

Of course, go ahead and enjoy yourself every now and then but don’t do it every week.

3. Stay in and take public transport

Truth be told, the allowance you are getting in NS is not a big amount.

If you are blessed with being able to stay out as an NSF, I would advise you to opt to stay in if possible.

This is because transport costs can add up if you are travelling daily.

Even if you use the PAssion NSF Concession Card, the amount you spend monthly can be quite a bit.

NSF concession pass price

Concession Pass Price (Monthly)
Bus Concession Pass $55.50
Train Concession Pass $48.00
Hybrid Concession Pass* $90.50

But if you have no choice, these concessionary rates will minimise your travel expenses, especially if your unit is a great distance from your house.

Not to mention that you will get PAssion card benefits too.

As far as possible avoid taking private hire transport like Grab, GoJek or Taxis unless really necessary.

4. Start investing

Once you have started saving more, you can consider investing.

Here is a checklist we would recommend you tick off before you start investing!

Also here is our curated NSF Personal Finance Package which will let you know how to invest with as low as $1 per month.

5. Invest in yourself

Whether you like it or not, you would have to serve NS or face the consequences.

In the past, I used to feel bitter about the situation, and while my time away as an NSF, gaming excessively and reading fiction books to pass the time.

There’s nothing wrong with those pursuits, but it was too much of a good thing for me.

I look back with regret as I did not spend my time better as there is lots to learn while you are serving NS for one year and 10 months.

For example, if you want to learn more about investing, here are some of the best books you can read as an investor.

There are also numerous free online courses where you can learn something and improve yourself either.

Not to mention our free to use National Library Board (NLB) app where you can read books, magazines, newspapers and even attend courses at

Ace Your IPPT

On top of investing in your learning, you should invest in your physical fitness and health by working hard to ace individual physical proficiency test (IPPT).

Not to mention the direct financial benefit.

Considering that people actually pay for gym memberships in the real world, I would think that it is a blessing to able to get paid when you do well for IPPT.

You will actually be rewarded with either $200 if you get silver for your IPPT or $300 if you get gold.

Not to mention the time you are saving as you do not have to go for remedial training.

This amount is a bonus as you can use it to save or invest.

Bonus: NSF personal finance package

If you are reading this, you are probably an NSF or soon-to-be NSF who’s struggling with managing personal finance and/or investing?

While you’re busy serving the nation, we’ve curated an NSF personal finance package to help you out! 

Find out:

  • How you could save up to $10,000 during NS
  • Invest with as low as $1 per month
  • What classic books to read as a beginner investor
  • If you should cancel the AVIVA MINDEF/AHA Group Insurance after you ORD
  • Starting salaries and benefits of signing on
  • If the SAFRA membership is worth it
  • Cheap buffets to go with your bros
  • Dating apps… and more!

How to get the package?

From now till March 28, 2021, simply NSF personal finance package and fill up this google form to get the package!

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