Can You Survive Without Credit Cards And ATM Cards? Here's How Kumar Did It

He withdraws the cash he needs daily from a bank teller instead. Hardcore or what?

Kumar has ditched his designer bags for a frugal lifestyle. He’s cancelled his credit cards — he doesn’t even own an ATM card, and makes a physical trip to the bank to withdraw money daily...from a bank teller. 

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Kumar in a promotional poster for his Kumar50 show next year. 

Never mind that when you go watch the 49-year-old comedian’s Golden Jubilee show happening next year called Kumar50 (so named to celebrate his 50th birthday — Kumar’s a national icon, okay?), you’ll be looking at his shiniest and most extravagant self.

His everyday life is the opposite of a flashy sequined dress; when he turned 40, he Marie Kondo-ed his wallet by getting rid of his credit cards and cutting down on unnecessary expenditure, choosing to spend cent-sibly instead. What happened?

8 DAYS: You’re a self-professed reformed spendthrift. What sparked this change?
KUMAR: Things changed a lot when I turned 40. My priorities are different now. Three years ago, I did social work for [youth charity] Beyond Social Services and I realised the under-privileged families are so happy despite their circumstances. If they can be happy, why can’t we? 

I see a lot of unhappy people around me and I think it’s ’cos of greed. I thought about how greed is feeding us and nothing is ever enough. For a long time, I didn’t like the person I saw in the mirror, but when I was 40 I finally liked [who I am]. I don’t want to be part of the whole circus anymore.

How has your lifestyle changed?
It was such a transition for me. If I want to buy new things, I go to [a heartland place like] Ang Mo Kio Hub [instead of an upscale shop]. I have a few Gucci and Prada bags, but [buying them] didn’t make me any happier. I just want to be happy.

Going to the supermarket is very therapeutic for me now. On my last trip to the supermarket, I bought some Christmas decor and chicken ’cos I often cook at home. That’s what happens when you get older! When you’re young, you talk about where to eat or about fashion trends, but now, you discuss allergies and where to find an acupuncturist.

What do you splurge on these days then?
My glasses are usually designer. But [Japanese optical chain] Owndays makes very nice and affordable glasses. I also own a lot of [Issey Miyake] Bao Bao bags, but I stopped buying them ’cos everyone was carrying them. And I must walk into Charles & Keith whenever I pass by their shops; they have such nice shoes! [Everyone has Charles & Keith shoes too], but a Bao Bao bag is more obvious when everybody’s carrying it.

And I cannot do without perfume, from Elizabeth Arden to Chanel. A 100ml bottle lasts me two weeks. I shower myself with it!

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Kumar's Scottish Terrier, Oreo. 

You’re the fur-parent of Oreo, a Scottish Terrier (above). Did you cut back on your pet expenditure too?
I cut down on my own spending, but I make sure she gets the best. I frequently send her to the groomer’s for a bath. I got her when she was three months old and initially I bathed her myself, but I didn’t know if I was doing it right. The blow-dry is a lot of work to do at home.

Each grooming visit costs about $18, which is still okay. I spoil her a lot. She’s got over 80 toys. Every time I go out of the house, I feel so bad about leaving her, so I always stop by the pet shop on my way home to buy a toy or a treat for her. Bribery lah!

What was the last thing you bought before this interview?
I just came back from doing my hair. I take care of my hair, ’cos you need nice hair to go on stage. The hairstylist at the salon at my block knows exactly what I want. I also got make-up removing wipes from the pharmacy for $12.90.

If you were to set up a Carousell account, what would you put up for sale?
Most of my Bao Bao bags. I have about seven. At my age, I should put myself up for sale too lah. Maybe someone will buy!


His home: A four-room flat in Serangoon North, where he has been living alone for the past three years.

His ride: “I flag a taxi. I don’t use [apps like] Grab or Uber. I still have an [early model] Samsung Note 4, I don’t have a laptop, and I’m not even on social media! I just spend my time watching TV or having friends over to chit-chat, or playing with my dog."

What’s in his wallet: Cash, and nothing else. “I cancelled my credit card before I turned 40. When you’re a spendthrift, it’s not good to have a credit card. I’d go drinking with freeloading friends and become too generous [with treating people] when I got tipsy. I don’t have an ATM card either; I just calculate how much money I need every day and go to the bank to withdraw cash from the bank teller. If I can’t go to the bank, I borrow some money from my sister who stays near me.”

Catch Kumar in Kumar50, Feb 28 to Mar 11, 2018, Capitol Theatre. Tix from Sistic.


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