About Grace Tan

Grace owns the award-winning business and lifestyle blog, WorkingWithGrace.wordpress.com. She is also the author of the best-selling book 'Blogging For A Living'.

Get Some Cash After The Train Breakdowns

Have you noticed how the trains in Singapore tend to break down pretty often during rush hour? Could be due to a signal fault, train fault, track fault, whatever fault.

The silver lining to this is the possibility of making some cash out of taking off-peak trains. I, for one, LOVE avoiding peak hour (human) traffic and I travel off-peak pretty often. Hence, I’ve taken full advantage of the Travel Smart Rewards program which rewards commuters for taking off-peak trains.

Here’s a screenshot of my actual CASH earnings:

Travel Smart Rewards

Yup, I’ve made a total of S$58 so far. Not bad eh?

Here are the Frequently Asked Questions:

1) How do I earn points?

You earn points by taking train trips using the CEPAS card registered in Travel Smart Rewards. You will automatically earn 1 point for every 1 kilometre you travel on the train all day during a weekday, Monday through Friday. Weekend and bus travel does not count. If your trip on the train begins during a designated decongesting hour on a weekday you will receive 3 points per kilometre instead of 1 if you are Bronze, 4 points if you are Silver, 5 points if you are Gold and 6 points if you are Platinum! Decongesting hours are between 6:15 – 7:15am and 8:45 – 9:45am.

2) What are “decongesting trips”?

Travel Smart Rewards targets peak-hour commuters by offering them additional credits for shifting their schedules to less congested trains before or after the morning peak commute hour. Specifically, a “decongesting” trip is initiated between 6:15am and before 7:15am, or between 8:45am and before 9:45am on a weekday. You will receive 3, 4, 5 or 6 points per kilometre travelled if you are Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum respectively, when you tap into the train station during one of these decongesting hours.

3) What are “peak” trips?

A “peak” trip is any trip Monday through Friday initiated between 7:15am and 8:45am. You will receive 1 point per kilometre travelled when you tap into a train station during this hour.

4) What are “off-peak” trips?

An “off-peak” trip is any train trip Monday through Friday, which is initiated after 9:45am and before 6:15am. You will receive 1 point per kilometre travelled when you tap into a train station during these hours.

5) How many points do I earn on weekends?

Train travel on Saturdays and Sundays are not part of Travel Smart Rewards at this time and no points are earned for travel on weekends.

In short, all you need to do is sign up for a free account, link your ezlink card with your account, and you will automatically start collecting points each time you travel by train on weekdays. You can have the system auto-spin the wheel using your points, and when you earn any amount of cash, you will receive an email to notify you to either get the cash credited to your ezlink card at any top-up machine, or be credited to your bank account. I’ll always get the $$ added to my ezlink card balance. Free travel. :)

Sign up here -> https://travelsmartrewards.sg/r/8Lv7vtMx/

National Flowers of the World (In My #Migmepedia)

I’ve been having fun on a new social media platform (*new in Singapore, but rather established elsewhere). Head over to Migme and look for me (‘thegracetan’) :D I’ve recently been doing a series of posts about the National Flowers of various countries over on Mig and this blogpost is a summary of the posts that I’ve uploaded.

-> Connect with me: http://mig.me/u/thegracetan <-

1) National Flower of Nepal

National Flower of Nepal

2) National Flower of Bangladesh

National Flower of Bangladesh

3) National Flower of India

National Flower of India

4) National Flower of Pakistan

National Flower of Pakistan

5) National Flower of Singapore

National Flower of Singapore

6) National Flower of Maldives

National Flower of Maldives

*repost of National Flower of Nepal*

National Flower of Nepal repost

7) National Flower of Indonesia

National Flower of Indonesia

8) National Flower of Korea

National Flower of Korea

9) National Flower of Malaysia

National Flower of Malaysia

10) National Flower of Syria

National Flower of Syria

Career Advice for Fresh Graduates

The reason I am putting this post together is because I received an email last week from an angmoh working for a job portal. He wanted to know my take on this issue. I don’t know if it’s for an article, their newsletter or what not. And like all such requests, there is no guarantee they will post my answers on their site, so I’ve decided to post it here too, so my efforts don’t go to waste.

1) If you were going to give career advice to a fresh college graduate based on your experiences what would it be? Would it be to settle for nothing less than something they are passionate about?

Grace: My take is always to gain as much working experience as necessary. It would be best to get a job in sales right after graduation. This is because the skills learnt will be very useful in any job later on, even if he/she decides to become an entrepreneur.

The danger lies in getting too comfortable in any one job. If you stay in a company for too long, i.e. anything more than 2 years, you might get addicted to that (reliable) monthly paycheque. And quash your dreams of becoming your own boss in an instant.

[Addition: My first job right after graduation from NUS with a History degree was in real estate. After I’d sold property (off the piece of paper) worth over a million Singapore dollars, it gave me an unshakeable confidence that I can sell just about anything, except for rockets I guess]

2) Would you tell them to not put too much stock into their first job?

Grace: Whatever you do, give it your best shot. Don’t hold back.

[Addition: I don’t know why this question was even put together. Who, in their right minds, would advise a fresh graduate to ‘not put too much stock’ into a first job. NO! How you do anything is how you do everything! If you hold back, if you are lazy, if you don’t take the initiative, if you like to take the backseat always… well, good luck for getting that testimony that will land you your next job :P]

3) Would you tell them to put as much money into their savings as possible?

Grace: Savings are important but investments are even more important. Make sure you set aside some funds for investments every month. And don’t forget about investing in yourself too – no, not that new Chanel bag! Go for courses, workshops, buy great books.

No matter how much you can save, you won’t beat inflation. Make sure your money works as hard as you do.

[Addition: Set up passive streams of income too. You could write a book and get royalties. Buy the right stocks and get dividends? THINK… then DO… and grow rich!]

Book Review: ‘Naked Ape. Naked Boss – The Man Behind The Singapore Zoo & The World’s First Night Safari’ by Kirpal Singh

Naked Ape Naked Boss

I was at the library yesterday and this is the book which immediately caught my eye. Hello, almost-naked man on the cover? Why is this allowed in NLB? Hahaha.

I remember reading a review about it, possibly in The Straits Times, so I quickly went to borrow this book and I’m already done reading it! :D

Because the cover photo was so arresting, I didn’t even notice that it’s not an autobiography. It’s about the man behind the zoo – Bernard Harrison – but written mainly by his friend, Kirpal Singh.

There are lots of interesting nuggets of information in this book, and it’ll make you see the Zoo and its management (hur hur) in a new light.

One of the first few notes I made while reading the book is about Bernard’s distinction between ‘love’ and ‘respect’. Ask him where his love of animals comes from, and he’ll tell you he has been taught to respect all animals and human beings. He explains that ‘love’ is restricted to only a select few, and it narrows your worldview and eliminates many from your attention. Respect, on the other hand, is all-encompassing, keeps you curious, aware, appreciative and willing to explore.

But, of course, he has a greater respect for animals than humans “because animals don’t lie or cheat or deceive”.

The book has its humorous aspects too, such as on pages 138 and 139 in which Bernard shares about why (the late) Ah Meng didn’t like him very much, and how he would not be photographed with her unless her keepers were close by.

Also, under that chastity-protecting leaf (as shown on the book’s cover) are balls, indeed. On pages 179 and 180, Bernard gives his account of how he thinks the man who replaced Dr Kwa as Executive Chairman of WRS is a money-grubbing fella (my words!) who priced tickets and other services (like F&B) within the zoo out of reach of average households. :D

Bernard also thinks that 90% of zoos should be shut down because they do not treat animals with respect. And he happily names those zoos that he thinks treat animals well.

I think this book, while confusing at the start (it suddenly mentions the name of Bernard’s third wife without any introduction before that, and I am left wondering who this lady is), succeeds in shedding light on this enigmatic figure – half-Tarzan, half-visionary – who now lives in Bali while his wife dreams of starting a handbag museum in Penang.

Some notable quotes:

1) On pg 191: “Always value every single person you get to meet in life. You never know if anyone right now will later become someone you would need help from in the future.”

2) His son, Sean, has this to say about him: “My dad has the gift of being absolutely present during a given time.” (I’d have to say that many parents don’t have this gift)

3) On Creativity (pg 214) “Creativity is not for the weak of heart, nor for those who constantly worry what others might think of them or their work.”

All in all, I think this book offers a good read. Definitely not a stuffy biography. :)

Freshen Food’s Ready-to-Drink Double-Boiled Soups :D

Freshen Food Singapore

This product (or rather, the idea of it) amuses me to no end. Who is the genius who came up with this idea of packaging double-boiled soups?! It’s brilliant! No need to labor over the stove for some soup anymore! :D

However, I’d have to say that this product still requires a bit more refining.

But first, here are the 3 soups I’ve tried. They were super easy to prepare – just open the bag, pour the soup into a small pot or saucepan, heat it up, and voila! You get a piping hot bowl of double-boiled goodness.

Carrot & Potato Chicken Soup 260g (S$5.95)

Freshen Food Singapore

Radish & Carrot Chicken Soup 260g (S$5.95)

Freshen Food Singapore

Lotus Root & Peanut Chicken Soup 260g (S$6.95) *This is my fav, and evidently, pricier. 

Freshen Food Singapore

The only reason I agreed to review these soups is because they don’t contain any of these ‘nasties': MSG and preservatives.

They are all incredibly easy to prepare, but I really have to question the small serving size and who this product is targeted at.

The packet looks to be of a decent size but the contents weigh only 260g. That’s less than a can of Coke (at 330ml).

I’m a big fan of home-brewed soups, and my mother usually cooks a big pot of soup. This product from Freshen Food doesn’t seem to weigh up. It fills about 40% of my ‘soup bowl’. So… would I purchase this product on my own? My straightforward answer is ‘No’. Not till it’s in a bigger serving size. I’m not on a supermodel’s diet! :D

*Alternatively, Freshen Food could make their soups more concentrated in flavor by reducing it down, so consumers can add more water to the mix when reheating it at home.

So… who do I think will buy this product?

1) Erm… MINDEF? So NSmen can have a taste of home when out in the jungles? After all, you’ll just need a fire to heat up this soup. No other preparation required.

2) Social workers? This would be a great product for old folks who live on their own, need the nourishment but are unable to cook these soups from scratch.

3) Parents who don’t have the time to cook for their ‘latchkey kids’. At least those kiddos will be able to enjoy some nourishing soup after all the hamburgers and fries.

4) Insurance agents. For their clients who have been hospitalized. It’s a more interesting gift compared to the inedible flowers, fruit, and (too many) bottles of essence of chicken.

5) Any woman who want to impress the future mother-in-law, but cannot cook to save her own life. Hahaha! (*Remember to add some pepper and a bit more salt to avoid being told your soup is bland)

6) Busy urbanites who want to enjoy soups without all the added MSG and seasonings.

~

Get this product at FairPrice Finest, FairPrice Xtra and NTUC Fairprice :)

Book Review plus Giveaway: Arianna Huffington’s ‘Thrive’

Arianna Huffington THRIVE

I knew this would be a good read even before I got my hands on the book! After all, the author is none other than Arianna Huffington of Huffington Post fame. I have to say that this book does not disappoint, and I foresee myself reading it again and again.

This book really ‘speaks’ to me because it seems to know intimately some of the challenges I face. For instance, Arianna shares about how we need to redefine ‘Success’. Society dictates that you are successful when you have two things: Money and Power. However, these things are not what people remember you for when they attend your funeral wake, and not what goes into eulogies either!

Were you kind? Were you happy? Were you genuine? Were you a good friend? Were you a good daughter? Were you a joy to have around?

THESE are the things that go into eulogies. So why do we spend our lives chasing after Money and Power, when they ultimately do not matter?

Most of the time, I don’t care about these things. People tell me that I should be less happy now since I don’t earn the 6-figure income that I used to earn in a job before I turned to full-time blogging. I give these people a knowing smile while thinking that ho-ho, they know nothing about the 7-figure Happiness I enjoy now.

Also, I don’t feel the need to own a big house. The bf thinks we should apply for a 5-room flat, or a 4-room flat, at least. Because we are both NUS graduates and people would EXPECT us to be able to afford bigger flats even if it’s just the two of us living in it.

I usually look at him like he has gone insane when he says these things.

Give me a 3-room flat any time.

I don’t want a maid or any other person cleaning up after me in MY house. And I don’t want to spend all of my time cleaning a huge house either. I don’t need that much space, though admittedly I have many shoes, bags and books. (I’ll learn to live with less) I want a house just big enough for us, and requires very little time to clean and tidy up, so we can have more time for movies, date nights, traveling, hanging out with friends, blogging, enjoying life, etc.

WHY THE HELL WOULD I NEED A BIG HOUSE JUST TO “LOOK GOOD” in front of others? :P

If you judge me based on my choice of residence, instead of how I am as a person and as a friend, then just let me say that I don’t want to have anything to do with you. Because you evidently don’t know a thing about me. :)

Secondly, this book also shares about how society encourages people to work themselves to the bone. If you are busy, if you are working long hours, if you’re working overtime, if you are constantly on the phone and ‘closing deals’, people seem to think that’s a good thing. I guess this is because being busy implies that you are earning more money and striving to get more power – the two things that society values.

However, who cares about whether you have fed your soul? Who cares whether you are getting enough sleep or not? Who cares whether you are battling the effects of stress, depression or burnout? The truth is that no one cares. BUT, you had better start caring for yourself!

Like this book has mentioned, very few people are supportive of those who lead the 4-hour work week lifestyles. They look down on these people as being lazy buggers, good-for-nothing losers, or worse. In fact, most people don’t think that being a blogger is a profession. I have had everyone from teachers to advertisers question me on whether my full-time job is indeed ‘Blogging’ and whether that’s even a “real job” (their words, not mine).

No, it’s not a real job. It’s just a great job. And if you cannot appreciate it, thank goodness I can. :D

So, if you would like to know more about these weirdos like me, and about how to redefine Success on your own terms, and how to really THRIVE instead of just being good at what you are doing, then read this book. You will never regret it.

I’ve made a few notes of the tips which have leaped out at me:

Arianna Huffington THRIVE

Here are 5 of my favorites:

1) Work in 90-minute sprints

2) Train your mind to be still (so I did the drawing of a stick figure fishing with no bait on the fishing hook)

3) A ‘red light’ at the traffic junction is a reminder to you to BREATHE and enjoy the moment

4) Do the 10-finger gratitude exercise

5) STOP HURRYING

Go ahead and grab a copy of this book wherever books are sold near you. It costs just S$27.99 before tax. Or take part in my giveaway…

~ GIVEAWAY ~

To WIN a copy of this amazing book, leave a comment here and tell me what your profession is, and why you want to read this book. :D

Soufeel: Beautiful Personalized Charms For Your Charm Bracelet

soufeel

I’ve never quite understood why people spend hundreds of dollars on charm bracelets. Each charm can cost more than S$100, if you get them from a popular ‘P’ brand. (@_@)

I ordered some charms from Soufeel.com, together with a bracelet. As you can probably guess from the picture above, the two heart-shaped charms are my favorites. One is of the Singapore flag (not customized; they are sold on soufeel.com) and the other was made using a picture of me and my BF (customized for under USD10 when there was a promotion).

You can customize your own charms here for under USD20: http://www.soufeel.com/soufeel-charms/memorable-charms

soufeel charm bracelet

As for the other charms, the wizard’s hat reminds me to never forget to look for the magic in everyday life. The pink charm is a birthstone (gem) charm. The fortune kitty is supposed to bring me good luck and prosperity – hehe. The aeroplane charm is a reminder of the wonders of travel, and to visit at least one new country every year. And the final one is a gift from Soufeel – not picked by me.

As for the bracelet, I bought it for S$5 from a stall at Bugis Village.

Go ahead and pick your own charms at Soufeel or design your own with a customized charm. Feel free to share your designs with me, and the story behind each charm, and I’ll be happy to feature them here. :)

soufeel

http://www.soufeel.com/

PartTimeJobs.SG: A New Part-Time Jobs Portal in Singapore

I know my BF is looking for a telemarketer for his agency. So I decided to post an ad on PartTimeJobs.sg, a part time jobs portal in Singapore, and see what the response will be like. If you happen to be looking for a part-time or freelance job in Singapore, check out this site for some pretty cool job offers too!

part time jobs sg

I like that the site is relatively clean and easy to browse. What’s more, it’s free to post job ads here. But that’s not all…

The portal requires employers to state their official work email (e.g. xyz.com.sg instead of xyz@gmail.com or xyz@hotmail.com). If I’m a job seeker, I’d be quite pleased to note this safeguard.

Part Time Jobs Sg

What’s more, your job ad listing must be approved before it will be uploaded. Approval takes just a few hours. And I’m glad my first attempt at putting together a job posting (with no help from the bf) was approved so quickly! :)

Part Time Jobs Sg

And here’s my job listing that has been approved:

Part Time Jobs Sg

Part Time Jobs SG

Part Time Jobs SG

Well, I like the whole job ad. :D I hope some good people spot it and request for an interview soon! It’s more-than-decent pay, after all.

Since this portal is new, what I’d like to see on it in future is an option to state a lump-sum salary for freelance jobs, e.g. it is S$2500 for this job ad I’ve posted above, but the site only allows me to list the per hour rate. Also, it’d be great if there’s a stat counter for each job listing so I can tell at a glance how many people have spotted my ad, and can experiment with different headlines, etc. :)

All in all, it’s a job portal that is easy to use and navigate around, offers free-of-charge job postings and has a number of safeguards in place to ensure only legitimate employers get to post ads. Thumbs up!

Job seekers, definitely check out this site. Employers, go ahead and post, and let PartTimeJobs.SG help you find the right match soon! :D

http://www.parttimejobs.sg/

(Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/easyparttimejobs.sg)

Secret Recipe at Vivocity: Yummy Tom Yum Kung! Must Try!

I’m a huge fan of Secret Recipe’s Tom Yum Kung, but I’ve never ordered the dish in Singapore before. I’ve always ordered it when overseas, in Malaysia. After all, if I’m paying ‘half price’ for the same thing in JB, why would I want to order it here, right?

In Singapore, it costs S$14.90 before tax. (I’ll update this post with the RM price in future)

Secret Recipe vivocity

It’s actually an award-winning dish, so do try it when you next visit Secret Recipe. I had a late lunch there today, and I was starving as it was right after gym. It was either this or Marche. But I’ve been to Marche many times already, so Secret Recipe it was.

There were few diners then as it was already close to 4pm. And I got to enjoy the ‘tea time special’ of a slice of cake and a beverage for just S$6.90 before tax. And oh, keropok is on the house.

Secret Recipe vivocity

I have to warn you, though, that the dish does not look terribly appetizing when served. In fact, the prawns were overcooked and hence, no amount of filters could ‘save’ it…

Secret Recipe vivocity

Not the most photo-worthy dish, I know. But I still slurped up all the noodles. And that broth is pretty good. Any fan of this dish will know that it’s slightly different from the ones served in Malaysia. There, it’s spicier and less sweet. Also, the noodles there are just a little bit thicker I think, or it could just be my imagination.

Anyhow, service at Secret Recipe (Vivocity) was fab today. The very young wait staff, Aryna, was polite, served me iced water promptly (without my having to request for it), cheerful, and very quickly noticed that I had left my water bottle behind when I got up from the table to head to the cashier – she quickly retrieved it and handed it to me. *If I’d been ‘mystery shopping’ here, she’d have gotten top marks.

Because I was dining on my own, I overheard (ok, call it eavesdropping if you want) her conversation with her colleague. Apparently, her dad had wanted to name her ‘Arena’ ‘cos he’s a big soccer fan. Like, erm… ok. But after her mother opposed to that choice of name, blah blah blah, they settled on Aryna, I believe. :D Interesting.

And I also had *ahem* chocolate banana cake. I just really like Secret Recipe’s cakes – they hit the right spot, always. If I can’t get Awfully Chocolate’s, I’ll settle for Secret Recipe’s anytime. :)

My lunch cost a total of S$25.65 – this could easily have bought a meal for two in JB. The prawns were overcooked, but the service was awesome. So I’d have to say that the money’s well-spent anyway.

~

Add: Vivocity, 1 Harbourfront Walk #02-108/109

Tel: 63769618

Book Review and Giveaway: The Reputation Economy by Michael Fertik

The Reputation Economy by Michael Fertik

This is one book I believe most people cannot afford to not read. Your digital reputation is going to have a huge impact on your life, if it doesn’t already exert such an influence. “It determines whether your bank will lend you money to buy a house or a car, whether a landlord will accept you as a tenant, which employers will hire you and how much they will pay you. It can even affect your marriage prospects.”

In fact, it is possible to access tonnes of information about you – your buying habits, your finances, your professional and personal networks and even your physical whereabouts.

Even if you stop using credit cards and pay for everything with cash, don’t own a social media account on any platform, and don’t allow anyone to ‘tag’ you when checking in to any venue, you can’t stop people from writing about you (even with a protection order, heh heh) or upload a picture with you in it (face recognition technology, anyone?)

This book offers a treasure trove of information, including which keywords to put into your LinkedIn profile so you come up tops in search results, how to curate your on- and offline activity to reduce premiums calculated by insurers, lenders and investors, tricks to get express or VIP treatment at banks and hotels, etc.

In fact, the author leads by example. On the back cover, there is “Advance Praise” for the book. It seems that many best-selling authors and famous people are happy to endorse this book. The power of having a good reputation, it seems. ;)

The Reputation Economy by Michael Fertik

Some Of The Highlights:

1) Insurance Companies use social media platforms like Facebook to investigate claims. On page 55: “a Californian woman was convicted of workers’ compensation fraud after she typed more than two hundred posts (not terribly clever) to Facebook after claiming that a wrist injury prevented her from typing at work.”

2) If you are flagged for having a concern about fitness or health (this could affect your insurance premiums, job or dating prospects), take steps to reverse this. The author’s cheeky suggestion is to strap a Fitbit to a dog and make your Fitbit profile public – it’ll make people think you are “the fittest person in your town”, OR “start posting photos of your coworkers’ salads on Instagram while you chow down on french fries”. :D [page 39]

3) Hang out with the right crowd (pg 59) as you will be judged based on the company you keep too! (@_@)

4) [pg 95] “…your professional reputation can mean the difference between whether you are offered a million-dollar signing bonus or a meager starting salary (or not offered the job at all).”

It reminds me of the AIA S$50 angpow saga that I blogged about here. I’d mentioned, and tagged, Ho Lee Yen (AIA’s Chief Marketing Officer). If you do a Google search with her name, my blogpost appears on Page 1 of the results. Unfortunately, she may not have realized this, as she doesn’t seem to want to take any action to rectify the glaring mistake in sending out those AIA letters. I have already alerted MAS and will definitely be following up on this issue.

The book even provides the key to resolving this, on pg 195: “Reconcile with anyone who is publicly complaining about you.”

5) Be a responsible guest everywhere: [p145-146] “prospective guests who enjoy good digital reputations on Airbnb will likely soon enjoy lower prices, diminished or disappeared down payments and deposits, and other privileges… Get blacklisted from Airbnb, and other services may follow as well.”

The Reputation Economy by Michael Fertik

And chapter 9 is a particular must-read. I love that line on pg 179 – “nothing motivates bloggers more than legal threats to shut them down”. Remember the obnoxious legal letters I received for my Data Register blogpost? ;)

I’ve ‘collected’ so many nuggets of wisdom from this book, therefore I highly recommend it. Go get a copy from your nearest bookstore! It costs just S$30.79 before GST – and what is 30 bucks when the things you learn from this book could help lead to a 6-figure starting salary?!

Whatever you do, online or offline, be sure to “carefully curate the reputation you have”. :)

~ Giveaway ~

WIN a copy of ‘The Reputation Economy’ by leaving me a comment on this blogpost and telling me why you want to read this book. :)

~

Also, read my earlier book reviews here:

1) Leading Women by Nancy D. O’reilly *giveaway*

2) Playing Big by Tara Mohr *giveaway*