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Feature

No money? Here’s honey

Taking the cue from Winnie-the-Pooh, Andrew Duffy offers some audacious ways to go totally cash-free on campus
ILLUSTRATION: DEREK CHUA

Try going cash-free. Not in the beep-beep-ka-ching sense of waving your card at a hawker-stall electronic reader and hoping it hasn’t been hacked by the Russian mafia, who will empty your account via shell companies in Batam, Nigeria and Zurich, and offshore banks in Bermuda, Nevis and the Cayman Islands.

I mean actually not spending any money. I know it can be done because Winnie-the-Pooh does it. I watched his new movie and he seemed to have a constant supply of honey without ever carrying any money or even having pockets to put it in. So here are some suggestions to learn from Pooh Bear and go cash-free on campus. (Of course, there are bursaries available; these are for the occasional days or weeks when you want to stay on top of your budget.)

#1 Transport

Within Pulau NTU, it’s easy. Shuttle buses or maybe – it’s possible – walking. The real challenge is travelling to NTU for free. Of course, you can take one of the free buses laid on by the university from as far afield as Punggol and, so they say, even Pasir Ris. But if you want to travel in style, you must cultivate wealthy friends whose parents have given them a zippy little hatchback. Befriend them and they will drive you in air-conditioned, leather-seated comfort.

Access to the wealthy elite does not come easy, however, as anyone who has watched Crazy Rich Asians knows. You must bring them something in return. What do you give people who can buy anything? Offer them great conversation in the car, based on long hours of research into interesting global political topics. Failing that, really fruity gossip. Or share immensely cool, obscure playlists not found on Spotify, but downloaded from the dark web and played in illegal Bangkok speakeasies where the doorway has no sign and the venue changes every night. No, I’ve no idea what the URL is.

#2 Accommodation

With all the new buildings, it’s increasingly hard to find a place to pitch a tent. And crossing the drainage to camp in the SAF firing range at the back of Saraca, Tamarind and Meranti Halls is not recommended.

Although you may be able to snag a wild boar for supper, it’s best not to try for safety reasons because a) they have sharp tusks, b) they also want to eat you and c) they may run towards the line of fire while you are chasing them. But there are corners of NTU where you can sleep the night away for free. The Hive is open all night long, and the benches at the top offer a fresh breeze and a view of the stars, or rain, depending. Fresh-air fans may also opt for the wind-cooled rooftop walkways of N2. Busy by day but deserted at 2am. And pontianak-free. Probably.

#3 Food

If BBQing wild boars is beyond your abilities, seek out buffets. They pop up every day on campus, and there are always plenty of lukewarm noodles and broccoli in brown gloop left after all the cereal-covered prawns and sambal fish have been eaten. You’ll need to prowl the campus like the hunter-gatherers of old or look out online for university-wide happenings. These events are irregular, so you’ll also need to carry plastic tar-pau boxes to scoop up an extra serving. And then discover the joy of four-day-old hor fun when you unpack your bag on Friday evening. A better investment is to attend free talks organised by NTUitive, which come with a buffet and – better still – information on how to become fabulously rich so you need never go hungry again. Beep-beep-ka-ching, indeed.


Andrew Duffy is an Assistant Professor at the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication & Information. He has previously worked for The New Paper and The Straits Times.