Budgeting on a $3,000 income for a family of five. Is it even possible?

By February 15, 2020Local Life, People, The Dive, Work
Singapore Budget

TL;DR – There is more government help compared to a decade ago.

Hi everyone, my name is Mohamed Irwan Bin Mohamed Ramli.

This is how my wife and I raise our family of five with a combined household income of $3,000 a month.

Actually, let’s look back at how far we have come.

A decade ago, things were pretty bad.

I had a nasty fall at work. We ran into financial difficulties and we had to sell off our HDB flat.

Our family of five slept in the living room of my parents’ place, then her parents’ place.

There were 11 of us squeezed into a four-room HDB flat, but we had no choice. It was more important that our family had a roof over our heads.

My children were still young then. My two older sons, Dasuki and Damiri, were in primary school. Thank goodness we had financial assistance for school fees.

Singapore Budget 2019

In 2010, the Ministry of Education funded $7,000 per primary school student, 110% more than in 2000. (via)


Singapore Budget

MOE has been increasing its expenditure per student in the last decade.(via)

I managed to get a job working night shifts as an aviation officer at the airport. This was before the Progressive Wage Model (PWM) for the security sector finally kicked in on September 2016.

Without the Progressive Wage Model at that time, I was the only breadwinner on a job that paid less than $1,200 a month.

It was tough, coming home in the morning and seeing my children for a very short while before they prepared to go to school.

So, we asked a sandwich-class S’porean the million-dollar question, “Is the Govt doing enough?”


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I was very tired. All the time.

We had so little time to talk, play and spend time with each other. My relationship with my boys was breaking apart. I felt extremely sad.

Although we stayed with our parents, the lack of space in the HDB flat was stressful as there were 11 of us.

My wife cried in private when she thought no one was looking. She was trying very hard to be a good wife, mother to our sons, and daughter to our parents.

It wasn’t easy for her, managing Dasuki’s and Damiri’s schedule and schoolwork and looking after Dani, our youngest boy who was a preschooler.

We wanted to apply for another HDB flat, but my applications kept getting rejected as I was only earning $1,200 a month on a job that was perceived as unstable, plus I had very little CPF earnings.

One day, when I came home from work, as I stood in the doorway watching my family sleeping in the living room, I felt a burst of energy in my heart.

The Dive: Budget 2020 – How to decide who and where to spend money on? What if money no enough?

I told myself, ‘I am their Papa, I cannot give up. I will find a way to make things better’.

I quit my job and found another job working at a statutory board. As my income was more stable with CPF, I wrote to Dr Yaacob Ibrahim and Minister Khaw Boon Wan, asking for their help to get my family an HDB flat.

A few days later, I received a call and email from Minister Khaw’s secretary, and was very happy to obtain our HDB 2-room flat keys a few months later.

Singapore Budget

This is a photo of our family in our new 2-room HDB flat a few years ago. (via)

Singapore Budget

My wife, Diana, finally has her own kitchen to prepare our family meals.

Over the years, life has improved.

I’m currently working as an Assistant Officer with a statutory board. Now I earn between $2,200 to $2,300 a month.

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My wife, Diana, has also started working part-time with a local bakery earning between $900 to $1,000 a month. Last year, she also received Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) of around $2,000, the Workfare Bicentennial Bonus of $150 and transport subsidies of $50.

These helped with our daily expenses.

Singapore Budget


My eldest son, Muhammad Dasuki Bin Mohamed Irwan, is 18 years old and is currently waiting for his Higher Nitec ITE results.

My second son, Muhammad Damiri Bin Mohamed Irwan, is 17 years old and is doing his second year of Nitec studies.

My third son, Muhammad Dani Irfan Bin Mohamed Irwan, is 14 years old and currently in Secondary 2 Normal Academic.

We received several financial assistances from the government for my sons’ education too.

As my eldest and second son are in ITE, I learnt that up to 90% of the ITE fees are already subsidised by the government. For the balance ITE fees, my two boys received ITE Bursary Awards that fully paid off these fees.

My youngest son also received MOE financial assistance that waives school fees and provides transport assistance.

Last year, the government announced a $150 top-up into Edusave Accounts per child too.

On top of this, as I have been a NTUC union member for several years, my three children have been receiving Bursary Awards from the union to help with school fees.

My family also receives yearly NTUC Back-to-School vouchers for their school items like stationery, bags, shoes and books.

What about rising costs of living?

Although our combined household income is around $3,000 (or $600+ per capita), assistance from government helps us cope with rising costs.

Singapore Budget

We enjoy family meals over local food. Although costs have been rising, we have been receiving help from the government that lowers our costs. (Photo: Md Irwan)

Last year we received $300 in GST Voucher (Bicentennial Payment).

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Already over the years my family has been receiving GST Vouchers in other forms, such as cash payment of $300 in August 2019, and S&CC rebates of $400 in 2019.

We also have Blue CHAS cards and my parents have the Pioneer Generation Card and Merdeka Generation Card.

With a regular job, our own home and assistance from government Budget, union and NTUC, I feel more relieved now compared to a decade ago.

I have more time to spend with my family which makes me very happy.

Singapore Budget

Irwan likes to surprise his family with surprise outings. (Photo: Md Irwan)

Even if it is a simple family outing nearby, I am grateful for the chance to see my kids grow up.

Featured photo: Irwan and family on a family outing to Melaka. From left: Dasuki (first son), Irwan, Dani (third son), Diana (Irwan’s wife) and Damiri (second son). (Photo: Md Irwan)

One of the most important things you will ever teach your kids – Money Values



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Gabrielle Teo

Author Gabrielle Teo

I read lots, and I also spend an indecent amount of time trying to get my mostly unpopular opinions published. Oh, I argue a lot with fellow Singaporeans who complain incessantly about Singapore too.

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