Spend-thrift

The word “spendthrift” has always been confusing to me. It describes a person who is the exact opposite of “thrifty”. Without further investigation one would not know that the meaning of “thrift”, as used in the word “spendthrift”, was prosperity or wealth, which is to say that a spendthrift is someone who spends all his wealth.

I’m going to hijack this word for my blog to share what i spend money on, and how i try to be thrifty while spending. You get double the thrill when you spend, while being convinced you’ve spent the least amount possible, right? It sounds ironic, but, spend to save!

Taobao parcel forwarder review – SGShop

I never expected to have to try yet another Taobao parcel forwarder after i have already gone through Taobao official shipping, ezbuy and 86of. I had to ship a piece of phone battery, which is obviously a sensitive item. Taobao official sea shipping does not allow it. Ezbuy still does not work (and probably won’t for the foreseeable future, unless you use VPN as suggested by Aber). As for 86of, i can’t get a definite answer from them whether they can ship a phone battery.

I have actually registered with SGShop for some time, but didn’t find their rates attractive. Anyway, since the other options are not available, i decided to check them out, and I discovered a major advantage they have over the others: instant response local chat service (ezbuy has chat service too). I was able to get confirmation (they verified with the Chinese counterpart) that they can ship the phone battery via sea shipping.

Continue reading Taobao parcel forwarder review – SGShop

2019 Credit Card Cashback Strategy

It’s been a long time since i did a check on the ins-and-outs of the world of cashback credit cards. Things have changed tremendously. For the longest time (more than a year), i’ve been relying on the OCBC 365 Credit Card, but they put a stop to the benefit i needed the most from the card and i probably have to kiss it goodbye.

Nevermind if the minimum spending was raised from $600 to $800, the 3% cashback for online transactions (unless it is travel related) was removed. There’s no way i can hit the minimum spending of $800 if i can’t accumulate online purchases towards the $800. So, what’s next?

There are two cards that look like suitable candidates for replacement: OCBC FRANK and Standard Chartered Unlimited.

OCBC FRANK gives 6% cashback for online transactions (capped at $60 which allows spending up to $1000 for these online transactions). The catch is this: you have to hit a minimum spending of $400 in card-present retail transactions (i.e. online transactions are excluded). FRANKly, i can hardly achieve that. Maybe only 4 months in a year. During these months, the FRANK card makes sense.

Standard Chartered Unlimited gives unlimited 1.5% cashback with no minimum spending required. Despite the seemingly lower cashback rate, it still beats earning zero cashback. All the other cards either have very high minimum spending required (usually at least $500) or very complicated rules designed to make you fail (like hitting a certain amount for consecutive months). When all other cards don’t work, one can always fall back to the Standard Chartered Unlimited.

For petrol, POSB Everyday + SPC works well. Standard Chartered + Caltex would do too. For Groceries, Maybank Family and Friends card is still hard to beat – 5% with $500 minimum spend, or 8% with $800 minimum spend. If you buy groceries from Sheng Siong exclusively, then the 5% from POSB is not bad too. For online spending in foreign currency, use YouTrip, or OCBC Frank (6% cashback should be able to nullify the exchange rate premium, provided you can meet the $400 minimum card-present spend). Finally, Standard Chartered Manhattan remains the best card when spending over $3k in a month – you get 3% cashback, regardless of spending category, which is fantastic.

Another ezbuy fail – eBay forwarding

Update: Not sure what happened, but i don’t get that error message anymore. So my post below does not apply anymore, and yes, i’m using ezbuy for USA forwarding.

I have used ezbuy to forward eBay purchases from the US countless times, but when i tried to checkout my cart today, i encountered this error message: “This item cannot be purchased because this item cannot be sent to your shipping address.”.

Scratch my head.. the address has never been changed and it is correct. I tried to register a new eBay account, and then i discovered the reason – a mobile number must be paired with the shipping address. A landline won’t do. I guess this almost means goodbye to ezbuy, because i can practically ship nothing through them anymore (i haven’t tried their latest China forwarding address though).

Instead, i might turn to SGshop or vPost or comgateway. I have done a Taobao sea freight forwarding through SGshop and will post my review very soon. Now, i might try to forward my eBay purchases through them also. Their USA shipping rates are almost the same as ezbuy – S$3.99 per 500g, plus a clearance fee of $0.98 for each parcel (which also applies to China parcels, lame). ezbuy is still the cheapest, with no per parcel fee, and there is an option of charging by actual weight, at S$3.99 per 500g. Unbeatable. Hopefully they can supply a mobile phone number in the future.

By the way, i am not endorsing SGshop, not yet at least. They seem to be just a “reseller” for uclick2buy, because the warehouse address is exactly identical, and “UCB” is part of your forwarding address, and it obviously refers to uclick2buy. Interestingly, uclick2buy charges S$13.50 for the first 500g and every additional 500g costs $4.25, which is a lot more expensive.

The Google results also show that sellers have been scammed when sending to freight forwarded buyers – the recipient receives the products but they claim they got an empty box and refuse to release payment. Sellers are probably quite wary when they see freight forwarding addresses, so you probably need to have a credible purchase history for them to trust you.

Taobao product recommendation – UHF wireless audio transceiver

I have previously tried Bluetooth as a means of transmitting audio wirelessly, and it was unreliable. Bluetooth 4 is just not good enough (i didn’t try the Bluetooth dongles that supported apt-x though and maybe those work). I have yet to try Bluetooth 5, but it is quite a bit more expensive. Instead, i decided to try UHF wireless transmission (these cost less than half that of the Bluetooth 5 implementation). UHF had been in use for a long time for on-stage wireless audio transmission (microphone, electric guitars and such).

Continue reading Taobao product recommendation – UHF wireless audio transceiver

Taobao product recommendation – Midiplus X6 Pro keyboard

Midiplus is a Taiwanese brand that’s been around for some time, and they have a range of budget Midi controller keyboards. No, don’t compare them with the likes of Roland, Nord, Korg or Yamaha, but having read the reviews for their competitors like m-audio, Nektar Impact, i chose Midiplus.

Continue reading Taobao product recommendation – Midiplus X6 Pro keyboard

Qoo10 product recommendation – Imex CR-100 coffee bean roaster

Doing home coffee bean roasting isn’t so popular in Singapore, so it’s not easy to buy a home coffee bean roaster machine. Thanks to Qoo10, we have access to Korean made machines, and Imex is an established brand. Specifically, the CR-100 is a good entry level bean roaster. It is a fluid bed roaster (hot air keeps the beans moving while roasting), which is supposed to produce an even roast.

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Taobao product recommendation – Bluetooth earpiece

I still remember I bought my first Bluetooth earpiece more than 10 years ago for around S$70. Fast forward to today, it cost just 15 Yuan (S$3). The M8 is the best selling product of this category.

Pairing the earpiece with the phone was simple, as expected. The sound from the earpiece was a little soft, but if you just need something no frills, it works. I guess sometimes being able to cut loose the wires is more beneficial than not having to charge a wired earpiece.

Those who are into music can consider getting a set of stereo earpiece. They do actually cost much more, but are still reasonably cheap – this qcy one is among the cheaper ones around at 100 Yuan (S$20).

Sign up with Shopback to earn cashback on your Taobao purchases!

Taobao product recommendation – Coffee filter

My coffee sock became worn out and I looked for a replacement on Taobao. You could say the options are plentiful now because the Chinese are drinking coffee. Not kopi, but filtered coffee, and of course Espresso. Well, a coffee sock isn’t actually cheaper on Taobao than what you can get in Malaysia, where it sells for just RM2 (S$0.68), but I did find something interesting – a metallic filter, that could potentially last forever.

Replacement long overdue
Continue reading Taobao product recommendation – Coffee filter

Qoo10 product recommendation – Pantum M6550NW wireless laser printer

Laser printers are not very lasting – specifically, the drum. After going through 2 or 3 toner cartridges, the print quality deteriorates and the drum has to be replaced, and it does not come cheap. In my opinion, it is better to buy a new printer than to replace the drum – you are guaranteed excellent print quality.

Pantum is a Chinese brand, and they are shaking up the market with their low priced products. Granted, the M6550NW printer is not as refined as similar products from Japanese and US brands, but it sets up and works fine, and that’s all i care. It costs $155 on Qoo10 at the time of my purchase, but as usual, i was able to apply a cart coupon and Qpoints to shave more than $20 off the price, plus getting cashback from Shopback and from the credit card. If there happens to be a $30 off $150 Super Sale deal on Qoo10, it would be perfect.

Continue reading Qoo10 product recommendation – Pantum M6550NW wireless laser printer

How not to install the Taobao App

I’m not sure about you, but i find the Taobao mobile App obnoxious. When i tried it more than a year ago, it drained my phone battery, reducing my mileage to half a day. It was always doing something in the background (wasting your data allowance and phone storage), and it popped up ads way too often than i can tolerate.

I get redirected to the Google play store when I access the Taobao site through Chrome browser (i’m not sure what happens on the iPhone), prompting you to install the Taobao App. It’s annoying that they try to force you to use the App, but there’s an easy way around this – use the Desktop mode on your browser. This works, except some pages are cropped on the right hand side, like the shipping consolidation page. So, unfortunately, you don’t have a fully functional Taobao this way, but this still beats installing the App. Update: the Taobao mobile site works fine in the CM browser, i.e. I don’t get redirected to install Taobao app.

Incidentally, if you access Taobao via the Shopback App, you are not prompted to install the App, so it is fully working. Might as well, since you should do all your Taobao purchases through Shopback anyway to earn cashback.

The other important function that you miss out when you opt not to install the Taobao App is notification of seller messages. Sometimes, sellers need to reach out to you to inform you of stock shortage, or to clarify with you on your chosen options. To mitigate this problem, install the Wangxin (旺信) App. This is the Taobao instant messaging (Aliwangwang) App. Besides providing the instant messaging functionality, it also gives updates on all your parcels, which is really handy. I muted the App notifications, and it doesn’t run in the background unnecessarily. Perfect.

Parcel update in the Wangxin App. This is showing the status of your consolidated shipment (to SG, or wherever). Such convenience!