Monday, November 25, 2013

Tightening my belt in December

As December approaches, I'll be careful to monitor my mental health for signs of depression. Why? I think I'm sort of a workaholic. Work fulfills me, not just in terms of the obvious financial gains that I will get, but also it's therapeutic to me. I cannot recall the countless times that doing my work (tutoring) makes me feel better. As year end approaches, I get 'retrenched'. Whatever amount of salary that I accumulated from the start of the year by getting more assignments gets blown away. I start off the new year with much reduced pay and I work my way upwards, before the dreaded winter months wipe it off again.

December is also a period of time where people get informed of their year end bonuses. Generally it's a festive month for them as the hard earned bonuses makes them spend a little on themselves and their families. For me? It's a month of tightening my belt. My income probably become less than 1k during the winter months - not even sufficient to offset my fixed expenses of 3.5k. Usually it's not a problem but this year is bad due to a variety of reasons that I don't wish to explain, hence there's little excess from the good months to tide over the winter months.

"It's time to tank behind a shield and wait for the harsh months to pass"
Pic by zgul-osr1113 from deviant art

As I've less work and more time at hand, I usually take the quieter period to think about whether this is the kind of life that I want to be in, or is it time to do something different. Always it's the same few thoughts:

1. Have faith - Think positively and fulfilling work will come your way. So much so that I will have to reject some of them because I don't have time to take them up.

2. Have a break - I've been working hard for the months leading up to my winter months, so relax and give myself a hiatus before cheonging again for the coming new year. I rest now so that I can walk further later.

3. Have a life - Work, though it seems like play to me, is fulfilling but there are other aspects to life as well that can be equally fulfilling. I take this opportunity to experience life, spend more time with loved ones, exercise hard, sleep late, devour tonnes of books and play games that I wouldn't have the time/energy to do in my peak months.

I guess ten years being a full time tutor already allowed me to understand what it is like to be in this business. I voluntarily choose to have no paid leave, no paternity leave (if I have a kid), no bonus, no CPF employers contribution, no medical benefits, no chance to travel overseas, no colleagues, no career track, no company functions, no fanciful resumes and no corporate titles. Instead, what I do have is a lot more free time, a meaningful work that doesn't even feel like work, and a goddamnit will to survive years of seasonal retrenchment and pick myself up again and again.

Time to sit tight in the winter months and wait for the robins to appear.


B said...


I believe your situation and determination to work like you live is rare in Singapore. I hope all the no bonus, no leave, no CPF contributions is not a deterrent for you. Oh well, you've been this longer enough to know it better than anyone :)

la papillion said...

Hi B,

Well, I hope that another 20 years later, I don't regret my choices in life!

There's certainly advantages to being self employed - and there are disadvantages as well.

Singapore Man of Leisure said...


You get to experience the 4 seasons in Singapore.

You should be so lucky!

Fasting is a good reminder for us to say thanks ;)

la papillion said...


I like that! You know the power of your mind is so strong - the moment I posted this article, I got 3 pending assignments, 2 of which are almost guaranteed to happen.

I'm indeed thankful :)

Singapore Man of Leisure said...


Anonymous said...

If you diversify to accept primary school tuition, (dun pay as well per hour), especially P5 kids. You will still get tuition requests even in December.

I used to moonlight when I am younger (Sad that I am only in my Mid-thirties, and I consider late twenties as much younger), I have parents asking me to continue my tuition from December onwards, to prepare their kids for PSLE.

I always say, "no, I will only come in the last week of December, to let them warm up their engines, they need a break too." Usually, after I say this, I will get a big smile from the parents.

Are they smiling because they think I am caring or they think I am silly? hahaha

la papillion said...

Hi Sillyinvestor,

Nah, unlikely to teach pri school kids for's really not worth sacrificing my time slots throughout the year for some income during the quiet months. It's unlikely for me to drop a student once I've taken them's not responsible. So, I only take students that I can commit till their major exams are over :)