What Carrie Bradshaw Taught Singaporean Girls About Money

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money lessons from carrie bradshaw

The good, the bad, and the utterly ridiculous things Singaporean girls picked up from Sex and the City’s leading lady.

Carrie Bradshaw is the ultimate single girl. For better or for worse, she has been a major influence on the way we dress, how we think about life and love, and even our choice of cocktail since 1998.

But make no mistake, the Sex And The City protagonist has made her fair share of poor, ludicrous, what-on-earth-was-she-thinking decisions: A midriff shirt with a belt on her ribcage? Cheating on her boyfriend with her married ex? Putting a bird on her head on her wedding day? And not backing up her work — ever? No, no, no, and no.

And perhaps the biggest no-no of all is her money management skills. Or lack thereof. Explain to us: How does a thirty-something woman own more Choos than cold, hard, buckeroos? Carrie Bradshaw may know her fashion, but when it comes to making sound financial decisions, do we call her out and give her the boot?

Lesson #1: Your Closet Is Not The Bank

“I like my money right where I can see it — hanging in my closet.”

Let’s be honest. We’ve all used this infamous Bradshawism at some point to convince ourselves that we should invest in another Chanel bag or one more pair of Louboutins. But let Carrie Bradshaw be a cautionary tale to all the single ladies. Our favourite TV fashion icon may have a highly covetable closet that’s rich with sartorial treasures (Dior! Prada! Cavalli!) but alas, the same cannot be said of her bank account.

But let Carrie Bradshaw be a cautionary tale to all the single ladies. Our favourite TV fashion icon may have a highly covetable closet that’s rich with sartorial treasures (Dior! Prada! Cavalli!) but alas, the same cannot be said of her bank account.

In fact, when she was forced to take out a loan to buy her apartment back from estranged fiancé Aidan, the bank declared her “an undesirable candidate”. The girl, in her 30s, has US$957 in her savings account, but owns about 100 pairs of US$400 shoes. Yes, that adds up to a staggering US$40,000 which — surprise, surprise — is maths that Carrie apparently can’t do. (To be fair, she’s better with words.)

So let’s be clear: Money is better where you don’t see it. Take a leaf out of Sophia Amoruso’s books instead: “Money looks better in the bank than on your feet.”

Lesson #2: A Little Less Lady Who Lunch, A Little More Make Your Own Lunch

Have you ever seen Carrie ­— gasp — cook? Her oven functions as a mini storeroom. She has a rat in her kitchen. She doesn’t even have a Nespresso machine. You know what that means? She has breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee and a lot of Cosmopolitans out. In fancy cafés and restaurants. In New York City.

Let’s picture living like that in Singapore — it’d easily set us back S$100 a day on average.  Multiply that by 30, and that’s someone’s pay check for the month. Even if you’re no Sophie Dahl, boil an egg, buy a jar of Ovalmaltine and make a sandwich, for goodness’ sake.

Lesson #3: Pick The Write Right Career

I’m a writer. I have been for a decade. Yet, I have never met a freelance or contract writer/columnist who makes more than S$1 per word in this part of the world. And if your rate is at S$1, you’re basically the Birkin of writers.

I can’t help but wonder: How much does Carrie get paid by her employers — the fictional newspaper The New York Star — for her weekly column? (One online article posits that it’s about US$350 apiece based on The New York Observer’s rates.) We know that Vogue values her word at US$4. Every 100 words she types then is happily equivalent to a new pair of shoes. Quick mental calculation: A thousand-word article a week for a month… US$16,000! Cha-cha-cha-ching! Now that would make sense.

But let’s not get Carrie-d away. In our non-fictional world, being a writer is not the most lucrative job. So, if you wish to brand it like Bradshaw, maybe writing is not the right job for you. Unless you get a call from Anna Wintour.

Lesson #4: Ask For A Discount

You can’t afford to be shy about discounts. Whether you’re at the mall, in a restaurant, booking a trip, always check for deals, promotions or some hush-hush exclusives unbeknownst to you. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

Remember that episode when Carrie met Aidan at his furniture fair? She told a little white lie (that she’s a fellow designer) to get a little discount on a chair. Hurts no one. And your wallet will surely thank you for it.

Lesson #5: Friends With Money

“Year after year, my single girlfriends were my salvation. And as it turns out, my meal ticket.”

Carrie is a lucky girl. Her three best friends are not only the fount of ideas and inspiration for her column (and later bestselling books), but they are also power women in their own right. Charlotte is an art gallery curator and “Park Avenue Princess”. Miranda is a go-getting lawyer. And Samantha is a PR force to be reckoned with (she reps Lucy Liu!). They earn big bucks and actually have some common sense when it comes to counting dollars.

So when you’re in a bit of a financial pickle — like when the bank snubs your loan application because you have no cash and shoes are your only assets — who you gonna call? Your besties who’d write you a cheque in a heartbeat or have a carat or two to dangle before you — interest free — who else?

We’re not suggesting that you be a gold-digging friend. All we’re saying is it’s essential to have a support network. After all, there’s a place in hell for women who don’t help other women, right?

Pro-tip: if you’re savvy enough to handle your money, you can save a lot on your wardrobe with the right shopping credit card. Use them to earn points, discounts, or vouchers from your favourite stores!

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Alexa FangBy Alexa Fang
Alexa is a pop-culture vulture. She lives to read, write and travel, and decided long ago that life is stranger than fiction. When she’s having croissant, she thinks in French. “31 Rue Cambon” is her favourite address, and she believes that money one enjoyed spending is never money wasted.