How I Tackle Rising Cost of Living

In recent weeks, the cost of living in Singapore has risen exponentially with electricity, fuel, transportation and food costs biting families in their wallet. How can we tackle these costs? Let me share some of my ideas, and please do contribute your ideas in the comments too.

The pandemic prepared us

The lockdowns and pandemic in Singapore have in some ways prepared us for the challenge of high inflation we face today. I remember that during the lockdown and pandemic that lasted about two years, we learned how to adjust ourselves to a simpler lifestyle. We ate out less, and cooked and ate in often. We even went marketing less to avoid crowds or we bought our food via Redmart, and stocked our fridges with as much fresh food as possible. Even fresh chicken became frozen chicken. We got used to eating frozen foods which were usually cheaper than the fresh version. We worked from home and saved a bundle on transportation costs. Perhaps the greatest savings came from being unable to travel overseas for vacation. We made do with staycations and outdoor pursuits like hiking and cycling- two activities which boomed during the pandemic. The current inflation can be handled by living like we did during the pandemic: the simplified life. 

Pinch or punch

Many Singaporeans though are earning sufficiently as a family to feel only a pinch to their pockets and I do not see them alarmed by the rising costs (except for those who own cars), nor do I see them willing to sacrifice fine meals in restaurants, or even overseas vacations as costlier jet fuel impacts the cost of air travel. For the lower income earners, struggling single income families, and less resourced retirees the impact will be less of a pinch, and more of a punch in the stomach.

Newly minted retiree

As a fairly resourced newly minted retiree, it is not as bad. It has been a year and a half since I retired. I mostly live off my savings and my children’s generosity. I leave my CPF retirement income undrawn so that it continues to earn interest. I find that my needs have lessened considerably with retirement. I do not need to buy new clothes like I did before because my current wardrobe is more than adequate, and it keeps growing with my eldest son’s hand me downs. However, recently I had to buy shoes and quick-dry sports clothes from Decathlon for the new sport I adopted – pickleball.

My wife and I cook and eat home often. I prepare breakfast, she does lunch and dinner, thank God for her. She is happy whenever we fast from some meals. I have a hand me down bread making machine from another son, and I sometimes make bread. Nicer experience, healthier, cheaper. Two or three times a week we go out to the hawker center or malls for meals. For health’s sake, we try to eat the way our parents fed us: more vegetables and less meat. Besides health benefits, it costs less.

It seems that Singapore will move towards being more of a first world nation. In most of these countries, it is expensive to eat out, and people do it occasionally unlike in Singapore. Admittedly, it is wonderful that we had enjoyed first world efficiency, institutions, and standards and yet managed to keep eating out affordable, but now this seems to be gradually fading. Hawker food prices have been inching up, and it is set to increase considerably in the near future. In time, we will be like other first world nations.

Car and travel

When I see how the COE prices have escalated, I cannot but thank God that the ten years of COE I purchased costs only about $26,000 at the time I bought it. Now it is $73,000 (category C). Talk about inflation! My Toyota Allion is about 13 years old now and though fuel prices have rocketed, I do not drive as much as before retirement, but I still keep this little bit of luxury for convenience. 

After retirement, I was hoping to travel and vegetate/hibernate overseas in different countries for about a month each. Not as a tourist flitting from one interesting place to another, but soaking and being fully present in a locality for a few weeks. But the pandemic crashed these plans. I was not deeply disappointed though. Travel is fun, but I would not feel less alive if I am deprived of it. When I was working, travel was like a temporary escape bubble, to take my mind and emotions off stressful situations, albeit for a week or two. I prefer silent retreats as they are more like a decompression chamber, a healing room, a car servicing center, a spa where I soak in God’s love. Now that I have retired, I find less need of a vacation to destress. If I do travel, it will probably for interest, for friendship, for family, for discovery not recovery.

From production to reduction, accumulation to consumption

In retirement and during the pandemic, I find myself in a natural process of moving from production to reduction. However, this does not have to mean that I stifle or strangulate myself from enjoyment. I do not have to be stingy towards myself or others. Nor do I have to be less hospitable.

Retirement is also a movement from wealth accumulation towards consumption, from less saving to more spending. The squirrel gathers food for winter in order to consume it not to further preserve it. Whatever I have (whether saved or given to me) still belongs to the Lord and he is not a tight-fisted nor stingy. Rather he is very generous and is happy to bless me, his son, and see me enjoying the good things he has provided. I can still give to the church and those in needs, buy people meals, and buy myself things for my hobbies. When I see my grand-children doing life without worry because they know they have parents who provide for them, I want to have that child-like trust in my Father in heaven, who promised to love and provide for me in my old age: “Even to your old age and grey hairs I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you” (Isaiah 46:4).

Yet I save money whenever and wherever I can, if it is sensible. I like Carousell. I have bought quite a number of pre-loved things like camera lenses, furniture, bicycle and bicycle accessories and have been satisfied with them. Now with the impending GST increase from Jan 2023, I need to think of any big-ticket items I may need and consider buying them earlier. With Malaysia opening up, making a day trip up would be a good money saver for certain items as well as having good food at affordable prices.

Reduce debt and be debt-free

I also maintain as far as possible a freedom from the debt trap. I do this as part of my stewardship values: to borrow as little as possible and to live within my means. Credit card debt is a big “No” for me. Any loans taken must be justifiable (house, car – if needed for work), and payable without being stifling or suffocating. I would not take loans for renovations, travel or big-ticket consumer items. Loans are to be taken seriously and paid back responsibly and diligently, reducing the principal as often and as soon as possible. Very conservative, you might say. However, it fits my faith conviction that borrowers are the tail and not the head. Borrowers are slaves at the mercy of lenders and interest rates they have no control of. With this kind of practice, I worry less and have maximum flexibility to live without being bound to a means of livelihood.

Godliness with contentment

I find joy in my relationships with God, family, church, and friends. I find joy in ministry, spiritual growth, hobbies like hiking, cycling, photography, writing, reading, and lately a new sport I picked up called pickleball. This last sport has enlarged the circle of people I am getting to know. When I am deeply and widely connected with God and people, I become more whole, integrated and life takes on greater depth, because we were created in God’s image, and God is love, which is found in meaningful relationships. Indeed, as St Paul teaches, “Now godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6).

It is natural to complain about rising prices but I find it self-defeating and depressing. I find it more fruitful and blessed to be thankful for everyone, and for everything that God has provided and will provide in the future. It is so good to be thankful that I have a loving and faithful God in every situation I find myself in. I rest in the blessedness of knowing I am deeply loved, greatly blessed and highly flavoured (deliberately misspelled). It is time for me and you to live out the songs we sing every Sunday!

This is how I tackle rising prices, but my life is relatively simple. Others have much more complicated lives. God has blessed some with millions and God would require more of them in faithful stewardship. Others run businesses and have employees. Others support a large extended family. Then there are people in the opposite spectrum: those who have gambling or shopping addictions or heavy credit card debt. They are at a loss. I encourage them to obtain financial advice from godly money management experts. In the meantime, pick up some of the above ideas that are applicable for you! These are matters about which we can agree to disagree. So be at peace. God bless you! 

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Combining Two Pleasures

To be able to combine two pleasures is a great blessing. I enjoy catching up with pastor friends and cycling, so to have these two pleasures combined is time well spent. I have had the pleasure of doing this recently in two cycling trips with pastors. One was from Khatib MRT to Labrador MRT following the Round the Island route. A second was from East Coast Park (car park D1) to Changi Point and back. 

Khatib to Labrador (RTI)

When National Parks published the partially completed Round The Island (RTI) route, it inspired me and I asked a more experienced pastor, cyclist and YouTuber, Eng Hwa if he would like to do this route. He said yes and we agreed on the date. Later I invited one pastor Paul Loh to join us. Paul was a pastor in charge of logistics in New Creation Church before he began his own regional ministry of equipping pastors and church planting. They both lived in the north, one in Sembawang and one in Yishun. I lived in Jurong East. So I folded my Brompton bike at Jurong East MRT and took the train to Khatib MRT station. It was 23 Feb at 7am when I boarded the train. The ride all the way to Changi Point was predictable with a few familiar scenic places, where we stopped at to take pictures and rest. 

At Changi Point we ate at the hawker center and we got to know each other better, lingering over cans of 100 Plus, a necessary isotonic drink for such long-distance rides of over 70km. It helps to prevent cramps. 

After lunch we continued our ride and took regular timeouts to rest, drink and chat. We were stuck for about 15 minutes at a bus-stop along the East Coast because of sudden rain. After that we kept going all the way to Marina Bay and passed the many bridges along the Singapore river. 

Fatigue began to set in along the Alexandra PCN. From then the going was tough but somehow by God’s grace, sheer perseverance and 100Plus, we finally reached our destination with great joy and a sense of satisfaction. We reached Labrador MRT station at 5.23pm. From there we took the train home with our folded bikes. What an unforgettable trip. I now have a deeper respect for those who do the full round the island route like it was a piece of cake. 

East Coast D1 to Changi Point

There were more pastors on this trip because it was organised on a Monday so a still-working Anglican pastor Vincent could join us. Another pastor Richard Wong is executive director of T-NET, a disciple-making ministry. Although he is working, he has a flexible schedule. The rest of us are retired pastors Eng Hwa and Seng Chor and myself. We enjoy doing whatever the Lord bids us to do in this new season of our lives. We have the greater flexibility.

This was not our first pastors cycling trip. We met at a free car park D1 at the East Coast Park. The day was beautiful but according to the weather report, sunny at noon and rainy in the afternoon. It was one of those days when the weather forecast was highly accurate. We had fun riding all the way to Changi Point and chatting over Tiong Bahru chicken rice, and later downed with chendol dessert at another location opposite the hawker center. The talk over the table was about the church during the pandemic, catching up with each other about what’s happening in our lives, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

On the way back, the rain hit us in the afternoon, and we had to speed up and ended in the exact same bus stop as during the February cycling trip, all wet from the rain. After a while we decided to ride in the drizzle until we reached the hawker center near the Bedok Jetty. There we loitered for quite a while over hot teh tarik, and left under a drizzle because the rain refused to stop. 

I gave a ride to pastor Vincent who lived fifteen minutes from my home. Thankfully we could put two foldable bikes in the car. Although we were drenched, it was an eventful outing, and I enjoyed the ride of 40km, and the camaraderie. This is one kind of environment that helps men to build relationships: doing things we enjoy together and tossing in some meaningful conversations. We are planning another cycling trip, this time from Jurong East to Marina Bay and back.

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Retirement: Keeping Yourself Occupied

A good friend of mine who knows I have retired and is concerned, asked me, “Brother, how are you keeping yourself occupied?”. As I framed my reply, I thought, “Hey, this would make a good blogpost.” I decided to post my reply to him in my blog, thinking there may be retirees, pastors and laypeople, asking how best to occupy themselves after their retirement.

I am still in the honeymoon and adjustment period and this may not be what I will do after the “honeymoon” is over. Some retirees tell me that after a year or two of feeling happy to be free of all burdens and responsibilities, time management issues, social and financial realities kick in. I doubt I will face the challenge of having lots of free time with nothing meaningful to do. Perhaps, a later blogpost would be needed for an update then.

For the time being, I use a model that served me well when I had my weekly Monday off, or when sabbatical months were given to me. I would be mindful of three key words which I derive from Bible study on the purpose of the sabbath day in the Old Testament. The key words are REMEMBER (to attend to God’s word and presence), REST (to give attention to physical and soul rest), and RELISH (to take delight in activities and matters that give you life).  I give priority to meeting these three purposes each day, and if not possible, then to each week.

The activities or matters that belong to each purpose can be different and is flexible day by day, week by week. And the listed items too will get changed. To be more specific this is what the categories and items look like:


Scripture meditation (currently Psalms)

Bible study (currently Ezekiel)


Review of the day


Reading Christian literature (dipping into various books)

Participating in worship service 


Adequate sleep and afternoon naps when needed



Cycling the park connectors

Stretching and strengthening exercises


Time with grandkids and family

Meeting with friends and pastors

Journeying with younger pastors

Writing and social media

Books, dramas and movies


In addition to these, there are all the household chores and tasks that seldom get done when I was actively pastoring the church. Things like decluttering, re-organising stuff, car maintenance, purchasing stuff I need, filling up warranty cards, and tiny repair jobs. I was surprised the amount of time and attention to details it took, and doubly surprised by my energy to do it. What seems to be left behind are big projects like clearing and tidying up the store room, painting all the ceilings and rooms, using my Skills Future credits, and learning how to better use my new mirrorless camera.

These, as you can see easily fills up my calendar, fills up my emotional tank, and my spiritual reserves. I suppose that with time, some items will be taken off the list, and new ones added. Some will be more frequently done, some regularly, and others occasionally. There is structure but spontaneity and flexibility as well. 

I am contented with the place I am in. I do not feel restless. I used to take pleasure in the fact that I did not have to bear certain leadership responsibilities on certain days like Tuesday staff meetings and Sunday Worship, thanking God for being free from that, while others carry them, but not anymore. I have a settled rhythm and feel the Lord has brought me to a place of space, abundance and peace. I focus on being faithful in obeying the Spirit and what he has assigned me thus far. After all the main idea is not to occupy the time productively but to be occupied with Him and what he wants of us.

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Preaching a Christmas sermon

This meditation was written during the Christmas of 2016. I read it again this morning as I was tidying up my website. It has a freshness and relevance to it. I decided to repost it:


The wonderful truth, the magnificent truth, the incredible truth of the Christmas story is that God came to this hopeless, blinded, wayward world dressed in robes of humanity to live with us and suffer for us and die in our place. God dwelt among us as a babe, as a toddler, as a child, as a teenager, as a working young adult. He identified with our suffering, divided, and uncaring world. He revealed himself to us so we could know him through his words and deeds. He came to make salvation and union with God possible. Without the incarnation there would be no salvation, as much as without the cross and empty tomb there would be no redemption.


There are many characters or “lampstands” in the Christmas story: Zechariah and Elizabeth, Mary and Joseph, wise men, shepherds, Simeon, and Anna. However, when we preach about the characters in the Christmas story we need to hold before the congregation the main thing: Jesus was God incarnate who came to reconcile rebellious humankind to himself. The characters were like menorah lampstands shedding light together so that we can all see that God sent Jesus to save us from all our sins.

Without ignoring this contextual truth, we can look at some smaller picture highlights and use them as focused points of relevance. I am thinking of all the seniors. There are four of them and their journeys lend secondary insights that we could apply to lives of seniors today.


There are so many seniors in the churches in Singapore. During the heyday of the revival among evangelicals and the charismatics many youths came and followed Christ fervently. Most of these people are now gray-haired and white-haired and no-haired in our churches. If ladies stop dyeing their hair for a year we will indeed get a clearer impression of the ageing of our congregations. And there is a spirituality for seniors just as there is one for the kids in Sunday School. The seniors have to learn to navigate in a godly way some of the transitions and experiences they will encounter from 55 to 95. The four inspiring seniors in the Christmas story addresses some of them.

Seniors will face a faith challenge. As they near the end of their life, they will think more deeply about faith and life after death.  They will think about God, about religion, and about death and eternity. Zechariah’s story of a disappointed faith restored is a good story to inspire people to think about the quality of their own personal faith, and how God wants to assure them when they have doubts.


Elizabeth’s story is one of deep disappointment, shame, sadness and barrenness. She would have often recalled her past and felt she had failed to make a meaningful life. However, the angel came along and intercepted her pain and tears and delivered the impossible. In her senior years, her life took on purpose and meaning for she and her husband would have the privilege of rearing John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Messiah. This inspiring senior prods us to realize that even in senior years and beyond retirement there can be a higher purpose and great weight attached to living out our faith till death or Jesus comes.


Simeon was another godly senior, a prophet without a card. A man ahead of his time. 400 years of silence – no prophetic word to Israel. Suddenly Simeon filled with the Spirit, guided by the Spirit declares by the Spirt the destiny of the child Jesus when the parents came to do Mary’s purification rites and the child’s dedication. Then he prays, Lord I am now ready to go home. I am ready to die. I have seen the Messiah and it is enough. Simeon was able to pray like that because he lived well –he walked in the Spirit and did not gratify the lusts of the flesh. Seniors in our churches need to learn to live well so that they can die well.


Finally, there was Anna. Great material for inspiring seniors. Seniors will need to learn to grieve well for they will lose loved ones, lose health, lose investments, lose their beauty and they would need to learn to grieve well. As well as Anna who lost her husband at the probable age of 21 after seven years of marriage. The text is silent after that but indications are that she grieved well and had no bitterness towards God or man for she spent her years in dedicated prayers and fasting, serving God and his people and the Temple. What an inspiring elder.

Advent has four Sundays leading up to Christmas day. Do consider preaching a series on inspiring seniors in the Christmas story. Singapore churches need to hear a relevant word for them. Let’s not always focus on the young; speak up to meet the needs of the elderly and inspire them to finish well.

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Getting back my fitness and health

I did not know how unfit I was until I tried to to summit Bukit Timah Hill via Dairy Farm. I would park near Hillview MRT and take the Wallace Trail and veer off a side path that leads to the Dairy Farm Loop, and thence to Jungle Fall Path, and down Rengas Path and back to the Wallace Trail. A good workout that takes about 45 minutes or more, depending on your fitness.

I did this once with my wife and daughter after the Circuit Breaker and found it too challenging. In the past, with regular weekly training, this route would have been fairly easy and routine. I realised how unfit I was and decided that I need to devote more time to getting fit and healthy again. In addition, I noticed that I have been gaining weight the past year. So I have decided on a program to get healthy and fit again.


This has now become a weekly affair. It has been about a month or more of hiking the route, and I could feel that I am better able to tackle the Dairy Farm and Jungle Fall staircases with greater ease. I hope to reach my previous level of conditioning and fitness when it comes to hiking.


This is a more accessible activity and exercise. It is so convenient for me. When I hike I have to drive a good 15 minutes to get to the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. When I cycle, within ten minutes of cycling, I would be in the Jurong Lakeside park connector, or the Ulu Pandan park connector. This makes cycling something I can do on the spur of the moment. Even when the cloud looks grey and heavy, I could take a risk and ride, for within minutes, I can take shelter and return once the rain stopped.

Cycling gives me a sense of freedom, of being mobile. I can explore different places and even take the foldable bike on the train to another park connector close to a MRT station. Besides the sense of freedom and adventure, I feel the pleasure of being faster and more relaxed than the joggers I pass by. Jogging is strenuous and requires tremendous effort. I need motivation to merely put on my shoes. Most times I give up before I leave the house. But with cycling I feel different: I look forward to it, the breeze and the coolness, the scenery I can immerse myself in, the people I can observe and look at. It is so much fun. And such a good exercise.

I have many pastor friends who cycle as well, and that makes it more fun when we cycle together and stop by places for a meal or a snack and catch up on what has been happening in our lives, what the Lord has been teaching us. Recently, I did one such jaunt with pastor Eng Hwa. We did a ride from Jurong East where I live, to Jurong Lake Gardens, Bukit Gombak’s Little Guilin, and Bukit Batok Park before we stopped for lunch and fellowship. Fun, exercise and edification – wonderful trinitarian combination.


Now for the second week I have begun to swim laps. I find this so good for the upper body and heart fitness. My arms felt weak and limp, and I was out of breath after ten minutes of non-stop swimming. I need to do this more often, especially since the swimming pool is literally in front of my block. No excuses – just do it. I hope I will be able to sustain this. I need to learn to enjoy the swim and not think of it as an exercise I “have to” do.

Besides these I try to do my planking; and work on stretching and strengthening exercises which can be done at home.

I feel that I have neglected my physical health while in pastoral ministry. I often cannot join my hiking friends who hike on Saturday mornings because of ministry commitments. Then on Monday, I feel emotionally drained and what I needed most was a restful and quiet day to remember, rest and relish, not to forget the chores and errands to run. Inevitably, my fitness and health suffers.

I really admire people with iron discipline and great time management and self-control. These people can squeeze time in the schedule and hit the gym and workout or run or exercise like a machine. They don’t need to enjoy what they do. Just do it. Get it over with. It’s necessary so just do it. Enjoyment, pleasure is not in the sights: its purely to oil the human machinery. Like taking bitter medicine: its good for you so down it. I am not like this. Too bad. I need to find something I enjoy so that it is sustainable for the long run.

This is all part of the spirituality of ageing well.

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