Real life preschool fees in Singapore (Family Economics)

Different parents have different aspiration for their kids, some might wished to pay more for private Montessori preschool education, up to 4 digit figure a month after subsidies. While with enhanced kifas scheme kicking in this year, the lowest fees for good basic pre school kindergarden/ childcare/ infant care can go as low as 2 digit figure a month, with many low to middle income families paying averagely a low 3 digit figure each month for childcare infant care, and low 2 digit figure for kindergarten.

After the CDA 1 for 1 top up and CDA first step of $3,000 for every child born, the enhanced kifas subsidies scheme is the next best thing, promising good preschool education at very low fees for all singaporean children, especially beneficial to the low income group.

In modern 21st Singapore society, it is hard to survive on a single income, most families are on dual income mode, with infant/ childcare services almost essential and critical to every family, while some roped in the grandparents and relatives, as it truly takes a village to raise children. There will be families on single income, and this is especially tough for the low income group.

Previously i was paying $170+ a month for sparkletots preschool from N1 onwards, 4 years of preschooling from age 3 to 6 will costs me about $8160 ($170 x12 months x 4 years), with $3,000 CDA first step and if i top up $3,000 into my child CDA account, the govt will match 1 for 1 for another $3,000, total $9,000 which is just nice to cover the 4 years preschooling. All in all i paid $3,000 for 4 years of preschool fees, with perhaps another $1,000 set aside for miscellaneous cash payment, like photos, concert, material fees etc. It is really affordable as compared to many other countries.

While this is the cheapest basic package available and the most common scenario for most of the families, i have no doubt that is good quality pre-schooling at affordable pricing. My kids love the teachers and their school a lot.

Previously, the plan was to deposit into the child CDA account $1,000 each year from age 4, 5, and 6, we have $3,000 from CDA first step which is enough to cover the first year in N1. The amount will be just nice for successful deduction for the children preschool fees until the child enter primary school.

With enhanced kifas kicking in just recently, we are now paying a low 2 digit figure, and as such, we do not need to top up $1,000 each year, the first step $3,000 is more than sufficient to cover the 4 years, Preschool kindergarden at Anchor Operator is now basically free, for low income families who is also intending to use the $3,000 CDA first step for education instead of other expenses.

Money not spent is not yet money saved, thus i will be channeling the $1,000 each year into the children stock portfolio, and when the child reached 12th, i will deposit the $3,000 saved into the CDA account for the govt to match it 1 for 1, earning a good 100% returns, while also earning the returns gained over the years, which can be more than 100%, at a rate of 10% CAGR, it takes about 7 years for you to double your money.

The cash gift ranging from $8,000 to $10,000 is also saved and invested into the child’s portfolio, which is perhaps the best gift i can give them after my companionship, being around for their childhood.


ALl the money saved and invested can then be used for their tertiary education, though i encouraged them to take a study loan and repay it by themselves after they step into the workforce. Over the years, it can be used for their enrichment, or any other hobbies that they are interested in, i am particularly inclined towards music choices for them, as i believe music can heal many wounds and can accompany them for many years to come.

Musang King’s Price and value (MSW Singapore 2020 June to August main season)

Price used in this article $23/kg in Early July 2020.
Early August, many stores are selling grade B MSW at $11 to $13/kg, and Grade A close to $20. Grade B at this price offers more value than Grade A MSW, with per seed going to as low as $2/seed, go for the rounder grade B, you can even get 4 to 5 rows of seeds if you are lucky. Grade B shape are irregular, however on and off you do get grade A shape, sometimes it is just because the Grade A MSW split open, and are categorised into Grade B with a rubber band tied.
Price might go lower in August, about 2 weeks from start of August before the season ends.

TL;DR information:
Grade A MSW durian yield: >33%, above 1.4kg
Grade B MSW durian yield: 25%
Grade C: buying by per pcs is more logical than buying by the weight.

For pre-packed, you are not getting a good deal when you pay more than $1 per 10 grams (June to August 2020), e.x. $40 for 400g – expensive, $30 for 400g, better value.
More than >$3 per seed, not valuable for money, hopefully it is good. Per seed weight is normally about 40 to 50g for Grade A.
For 300g pack, you should be looking at 5 to 7 seeds, and at $30 you are paying $5/seed. Expensive.
Price is what you pay, value is what you get. Paying more for better quality or that trusted seller or good recovery customer service is understandable. These are intangible qualities.

Durians are getting more and more expensive. It is harder to find seller selling by per durian, everywhere now is priced by the kg, and pre-packed with delivery are all the norm now with the covid crisis.

This is the first year where selling pre-packed took over selling and weighting with husk.

There are a ton of new sellers, using social platform, and e-commerce website to sell pre-packed durians, with no physical shop or walk-in service.

From observation, most of the pre packed sellers are selling at about $30 per kg if you use a yield calculation of 33% since you are paying Grade A price, with additional fees for delivery, 25% yield can never be justified for Grade A, even 99 old trees is using a 28% yield, to cover for its excellent customer service and recovery cost.

Walk in store buying with husk: $23/kg for Grade A MSW with >33% yield
Buying Pre-packed durian with delivery: $30/kg based on 25% yield, with additional delivery fee ranging from $4(Shopee), $4.90(99 old trees) to $8 to $10 for other online seller. (Paying Grade A price for Grade B yield)

A normal average MSW of 1.7kg will set you back for $39.10 at $23 per kg based on July 2020 pricing. It is priced equivalent to a 6 bottles boxed bird nest or a can of abalone, with every seed of MSW costing more than a pack of chicken rice.

MSW has a grading system set by the plantation for export purposes, grade A, B and C. The in between AB Grade, the crème de la crème Grade AA which is further selected from Grade A.

When you see the durian seller putting up the pricing signage like Pahang Grade A MSW at $23 kg, you should be looking at very uniform, round shape, with size ranging from 1.xkg to maybe 3.x kg, please do not go beyond 2kg if this is your first time buying from that store, do request for dehusk and check the durians on the spot, avoid stores with weighting machine that seems to be deliberately avoiding you, and separate dehusk/packing station that you can’t access.

Grading of MSW has nothing to do with taste, it is mainly on the yield of the durian flesh with seeds.

Good info on durian grading by 99 old trees, 4 roomer that is.

For grade A MSW, you should ideally be looking at >33% yield, the lucky occasional >40%. As grade A msw is round without any odd shape or sunken in husk, you should be getting 4 to 5 rows of seeds, with average of 2 to 3 seeds per row. Lesser seeds per row for smaller sized MSW.

As we move on down the grade to grade B, or some called it grade AB, due to the irregular shape of the durians, some rows of the durian will be empty, reducing the yield or number of seeds, so some honest sellers will sell grade B with husk at cheaper pricing. The cheaper pricing is to make up for the lesser yield, resulting in same pricing on a per seed basic.

Grading has nothing to do with taste, however over the years, there are a lot of misinformation on the seller and buyer side, resulting in some using grading for MSW taste, with many feeling that grade A should taste better than grade B, It’s not true.
Legend has it that, one seed in a row taste better than multiple seeds in a row, try it yourself!
(If i am buying pre-packed at a fixed weight, i do not mind getting all the Grade B, every row in the same durians can have different taste, the side that the sun shine on, and the side with lesser sunlight etc.) By having more Grade B durian rows in a pack, i get to experience many more, provided the durians are all good.

So how does this apply to pre packed durians, actually the grading should not apply to per-packed durians, you should not be paying more for grade A or less for grade B/C if the weight of the pack remains the same.

Next we move on to the pricing of pre-packed durains, almost all of the pricing for pre-packed is based on MSW grade A durians, with 400g pack the standard with price about $40, you might be able to get it below $30 occasionally when there are promo code, last min deals etc.

Let’s do a simple calculation on a 400g per-packed msw at $40, which is the standard pricing for June/July season. since this is based on a grade A pricing, we take a yield of 33%, you do get yield higher than 35% for the better ones. So, 400g flesh with seeds at 33% yield is equivalent to a 1.2kg msw with husk, using 1.2kg at $23/kg, the price should be $27.6, you are losing out $12.4 excluding delivery yet. Why is that so, a lot of seller selling pre-packed are using 25% yield for their own calculation, however 25% is very low for grade A MSW, especially when you are paying more for a grade A regular round shape durian, 25% yield is more for grade B MSW.

Next onto the packing weight at 400g, you are getting 2 rows, or 3 rows if you are lucky, and that is 40% to 60% of a whole durian, when you pay $30 or more and get 2-3 rows of durians, that feeling is strange, with slight disappointment as you received the box from the delivery guy, and you referred back to the seller advertised photos, with each box full of 4-5 rows of durians (Advertising 800g box while selling 400g box, or that iconic photo which every seller has taken, that 3 rows of durian on the durian husk semi-opened.) Pro tip, always look out for photos/videos with packing process, or the already packed many boxes ready to be send out, rather than the hero shot.

My recommendation is to go for 550g and above for pre packed durian, 550g at 33% yield is equivalent to a 1.66kg durian with husk, which is a good weight for good grade A msw durians. you will be getting the whole durian in a box, 4 to 5 rows, a good way to start and a good portion for 1 to 2 person.

Last but not least, to know whether you are getting a good rate for your durians, you can do a per seed calculation, take your total purchase price divide by the number of msw seeds.

Based on $23/kg pricing, if you are getting $3 or below per seed, it is a good deal, some of the market stalls are selling pre-packed at less than $20(might be overnight durians), so if you choose one with more seeds, it is highly possible to get such a good deal. Some of the expensive stalls can go up to $5-6 per seed.

Some shops has higher price which can be justified by a better recovery service with 100% replacement, partial refund for bad seeds, or their exclusive access to a particular plantation with old tree, black gold etc. It is ultimately up to you if you are willing to pay more for a good durian experience, but for the many new online seller that pop up this year, do yourself a favour by doing a simple calculation to see if it is worth getting pre-packed or going for durian with husk.

Eating durian has become so expensive, with many getting conned, paying grade A msw prices for grade B/C msw durians, paying msw prices for d13, d101, chanee etc. There are many telltale signs, like abnormal big durian sizes, mixing different breed together in the MSW shelving and selling it to people who do not know it, overnight msw selling at grade a prices. Even in the same store, stores that appeared in the news, people do get conned from time to time, it takes high integrity to treat each and every customer the same.

Some tactics that a lot of less integrity durian sellers like to use, is to mix different cultivars durian in the MSW basket, so the person who got that fake durian every now and then, if he knows nothing about durian, he will be bringing back home a D101 at the price of MSW, and it is all defined as an honest mistake which the seller made. Another is swapping the durians at the packing station, or keeping 1 row of durian that should have belonged to you, and packing all of that into pre-packed to be sold for more profit at your expenses.

Please do your own due dilligence, and always look out for that bright yellow flesh, sometimes with light black bruise (lucky blackgold) and peekaboo seeds which is some of the telltale signs of it being MSW. MSW thorns are thick, while D101 thorns are slim, Thai durians looks like MSW, but they are a lot bigger, in doubt, always reject the bigger durian, they can go up to 5kg, at $20/kg that is a $100 for a thai durian, very often used in the tourist hot spots to con tourists. Chinatown?

Some sellers are good at identifying the blackgolds among the MSWs, ideal for people who prefer bitter durians, blackgold are priced more expensive by some sellers, and is dependent on the seller ability to choose the durians. Some sellers offers impeccable recovery services, for any unripe, overripe/watery or sour taste, while most honest sellers will offer a partial refund based on seeds rejected, or free add on to make up to you for your next visit. (Blackgold are slightly more watery than normal MSW but to an acceptable extent, you are afterall paying for fresh grade A durians.

I prefer to get my durians delivered, and my most value for money purchase this season was $43 including delivery and after discount for a pack of 700g MSW. That gives me a yield of 37% at $23/kg, not too bad, but people going to their regular store buying durians with husk are constantly getting close to 40% or more. For $43 with delivery for 700g, i can’t ask for more, and it wont burn a big hole in my pocket for every durian purchase.

The MSW family terms explained:
Blackgold: It is a more bitter type of MSW with black bruises on the flesh, you pay more for the seller skill on identifying this kind of MSW, if the blackgold you brought is sweet with minimal bitterness with no black bruises, stick to the normal MSW instead.
Old Tree MSW: Typically plucked from above 20/30 years old MSW trees, flat and smaller seeds are expected, giving you more flesh per seed, if seeds are big or equivalent to normal MSW, stick to the normal MSW instead.
WZW: It used to be the crème de la crème of the MSW, but soon every seller start using this term, with some sellers selling other cultivar of durians, like D101 using WZW name, so WZW can mean any durians, you are not protected in any way. Highly recommend to avoid it at all costs. Different stores now have different term for their in house crème de la crème, like empire king etc, MSW is already a very expensive “bao jiak” durian, paying more for better ones can be harmful to the market, please choose your sellers wisely when you are going to pay top notch prices.

It is really hard to guarantee the yield, all the comprehensive information are at best a guide, for you to understand what you are in for, sometimes you get below 25% for Grade A MSW, there are many loopholes in the grading of MSW, with every sellers giving different definition.

Until now many cannot agree if MSW is considered a “Bao jiak” or “Bao Ho Jiak” durian, can we choose our own MSW and reject those with lousy yield or unripe seeds, will the seller top up the unripe seeds with ripe seeds since we are paying so much on a per seed basic. Why are there different pricing for MSW in the same store for two different baskets, it is the grade, but very few sellers mentioned it.

I think personally, paying for Grade A MSW, means i am paying for both quantity(yield) and quality. At $40 for a 2kg +/- MSW, i can’t be getting less than 10 seeds, even if the seeds are outstanding in every way, for a 4 roomer to 5 roomer, i will be expecting 12 seeds and above, making my per seed price at $3.33, not too bad, but anything below $3 is a good deal. Durian is a product from nature, and as such a lot of things are beyond control, then came the grading for sellers to make more money, and thus it is right for consumer to have expectation for the grade that they are buying, i can’t control the durian, but i can control the grade that i want to buy, the reasonable yield it should have, and a partial refund/replace policy for the unripe seed. After all the price for one seed of MSW has increased too much that it is now more expensive than a pack of chicken rice, what would you do if you get a pack of inedible rice.

I appreciate the stalls that sell MSW as MSW, no additional marketing gimmicks like blackgold, old tree, WZW etc, if your msw is good, your plantation are old trees, your msw would be good, intense and flat seeds, and then you can justify that higher pricing as compared to other stores, people know they are paying more for quality. Your per kg pricing is automatically higher than the rest, and your regulars customer will always be back.

Perhaps after evaluating what durian has to offer in terms of value, i should stick to eating chicken rice instead. That is, if i can manage my craving of durians.

It is hard.

Habits of cutting down the monthly fixed expenses

There are many fixed expenses when you have a house of your own.

Electricity bill, S&CC charges, Insurance, Internet, Mobile, & the biggest of all housing loan.

When the open market started for the electricity services, i switched to Geneco, and got some good rebates, and when my Geneco 2 years plan ends, i would like to switch to the Wholesale electricity market though Sp group. Every switch in theory should saved about $10 to $20 dollars every month, however i am not seeing a big difference in the billing, probably due to the hot weather or covid staying home period which blast the monthly bill through the rooftop.

The Singapore Government gives a big sum of rebates for the S&CC and electricity/water bills. After rebates, we are looking at <$100 per month for 2019 electricity & water, pretty decent for a family of 5.

For Insurance, i have switched to Aviva group term $400k at $196.80 plus Living Care (CI) $200k at $144, i am still on Great eastern Term life+CI $200,000 at $626, and i will be cancelling it at the end of the year before the next premium is due.

That is a saving of $285.20 per year until i am 36 years old with more coverage quantum. With Aviva group insurance, there are pros and cons.
36 years old onwards, the living care (CI) will be increased from $12/month to $19.80/ month, that’s a saving of $191.60 per year from 36 years old to 45 years old. After 46 years old, the aviva term and living care combination will be more expensive than Great Eastern, by then i should be cancelling my CI plan, as the family finance situation would have outgrown the $200,000 Aviva living care.

I am on Great Eastern Hospitalisation plan covered up to A ward, while i am more inclined towards getting covered up to private, the higher pricing especially towards the end hold me off. It’s a fine balance. Mine was signed many years back, so i still can claim up to 100% as charged.

For internet, i started off with 1Gbps, and i have since downgraded to 500Mbps, and saved about $7.50/month, i got 6 months free when i signed up for the 1gbps plan back then.

Mobile plan back then was about $40 minimum for a data plan, and i switched to the Starhub lite plan at $15/month and when the promo price ended after 2 years reverting back to $30 a month, i have switched to Giga at $10/month.

For expenses, less is more.

Looking to refinance the housing loan.

As our home reached the 5 years MOP, and our daughter going to primary school next year. There are thoughts of moving if we can get into a preferred school which is within the 1km to 2km radius but near to my mother in law house, though chances are very slim. We stayed near my mother-in-law house, a few bus stops away, but there are always lingering thoughts to move closer, as that travelling time always eat up the remaining energy after a long day. My mother in law plays a very big part in the children upbringing, which we are very appreciatively of, a lot of activities and school location are planned around that, which indirectly increase our travelling time and effort.

With interest rates dropping to a low level not seen for quite some time, i am thinking of changing our default HDB 2.6% to the POSB 5 years fixed rate at 1.5%.

With a remaining 25 years duration and about $320,000 loan amount, refinancing could save us $200 a month for the first 5 years, which is a total of $12,000 saved. And we intend to increase the CPF monthly payment, to free up more cash for investing purposes.

We have some very simple requirements, which is not looking at the cheapest of all but required us to refinance every now and then, rather something more stable, with preferably longer locked in period with rates better than HDB 2.6%.

The primary school phase 2c will be from 3th to 5th August, and by 17th August we will decide on our next move.

Updated 15.08.2020 – we got a <1km primary school, and thus we will be staying put, we have also decided not to proceed with bank housing loan, mainly due to my unstable income that dropped a lot in the covid period (self-employed). From my understanding and online research, even when we have signed up and locked in the housing loan, if my spouse’s income suddenly drop a lot or stop due to any unforseen event, the bank can demand for us to pay the whole loan even if we are able to continue paying the monthly payment. This is the biggest downside for us, as my income is too unpredictable from time to time and with the current HDB loan, we won’t have any issues with that and we are covered under Hps which is payable by cpf and have generous rebates from time to time. The $200 savings per month is really attractive, but the peace of mind gained by sticking to the HDB loan is priceless.

If anyone have a better idea with regards to my situation above, please feel free to comment below.