Behind The Scenes With Budget Barbie

When Qiu Qiu waltzes into the clicknetwok office on Monday morning, she’s dressed in what she describes as Harajuku style.

“(My husband) Josh said I look cheena, but I told him it’s Harajuku style OK,” she says, as the crew gets ready to set off for Johor Bahru. They’re filming a special episode of Qiu Qiu’s show Budget Barbie, where she finds the best deals with $100 in shopping money.

And so began our great Johor adventure.

As we drove past the Johor Bahru Checkpoint, we saw the City Square mall sign in the distance – beaming at us like a beacon of hope, after we had just sat through an hour-long jam leading up to the checkpoint.

“Yessss! Time to shop!” Qiu Qiu cheers, as the rest of us sit up excitedly upon hearing the news. That is, until we get confused by the road signs and somehow end up back at the Johor checkpoint.

We stopped to ask for help and were given a form to fill out…except the entire thing was in Bahasa Melayu. Needless to say, while Google Maps may have failed us, Google Translate did not. (Google Maps got us lost again shortly after, and we ended up on the highway to what possibly could have been Malacca.)


When we finally get to City Square, we have a quick lunch before getting down to business – the shopping and the show. I never really realised how much skill it takes to be a natural on camera, especially when people are staring at you because it looks like you’re talking to yourself. Qiu Qiu browses through racks of clothes in a store, talking to the camera like a friend. We enter a store called Garage Sale, and Qiu Qiu’s eyes glaze over as rows of bargain bins beckon to her. This is what Budget Barbie heaven must look like, I think to myself.

She walks through the aisles in a hypnotised sort of daze, zoning in on the areas with attractive sale signs. Very much like a moth to flame, or bees to honey, or…well, a true-blue shopaholic to bright sale signs.

IMG_7919This is the expression Qiu Qiu has whenever she’s contemplating if something is a good bargain or not. But it could also be her mentally converting the Ringgit prices to SGD.

IMG_7934Shooting close ups of items.

IMG_7968Qiu Qiu posing for the camera with some of her shopping finds.

IMG_7998Rummaging through the bargain bin. “Shopping is exercise right?” says Qiu Qiu.

IMG_8013Clearly very pleased with her shopping haul. I think this was the store where Qiu Qiu busted her shopping budget for the show. “Nevermind lah, must spend more when you’re overseas so your travelling costs are worth it!” she reasons with the producers.

IMG_7947Qiu Qiu got distracted by this top on her way to the cashier. “Omg this top is so me! Should I get it? But I’m going to go over budget. Aiyah, get lah!” she says in one breath.

After City Square, we headed to KSL City Mall – a place strangely known to be infested with mosquitoes. Also, the pungent smell of Penang laksa wafting through its basement floor.

After a quick stop at the pharmacy to pick up some mosquito patches (Qiu Qiu warned us not to stand still or we’d get bitten, and unabashedly jiggled on the escalator to avoid being too still.) we headed to Wardrobe, one of Qiu Qiu’s favourite stores at KSL City Mall.

IMG_8061She picks out some good buys at Wardrobe, including a cute #OOTD tee that she claims is “Instagram-worthy”.

IMG_8065We also spot this strange NIU NIU York tee, which I can only imagine is a bad pun on the words New York and Miu Miu?

IMG_8047Qiu Qiu saw the bright lights emanating from this cart of watches and could not resist buying some.

IMG_8110Shooting a closing link for the episode. We got photobombed so many times by passersby, including a small girl who crouched down like Gollum and crawled past Qiu Qiu when she realised she was in the shot.

After shopping, we check out the night market across the street from KSL City Mall. Qiu Qiu brings us to the famous muah chee uncle, who hams it up for the crowd upon seeing the camera crew.

IMG_8219“来来!” The illustrious muah chee uncle beckons, as he puts on an elaborate show of muah chee-making. He then presents the box of muah chee to us with great flourish.

IMG_8220The muah chee was indeed impressive.

IMG_8232Qiu Qiu then leads us to another stall selling kueh (“Can sample one!” she says gleefully.) and we hover around shamelessly for samples.

We end the trip with a quick stop at hypermart Tesco, where I stock up on bags of Oat Krunch cookies like an auntie (it’s much cheaper in Malaysia OK). While lining up at the cashier, we spy Qiu Qiu engrossed in the clothing aisle at Tesco. Never passes up a a chance to shop, this one. (“I think it might be a disorder, you know. I have this compulsive need to buy something…like every day.” she says forlornly.)

Our journey back to Singapore ended with a massive 2 hour jam to the checkpoint. And yes, my bagful of snacks came in very handy.

Qiu Qiu’s Budget Shopping Tips

1. Best places to get good deals?

Song & Song, SingSale and warehouse sales (info is usually posted on local forums like CozyCot).

2. Foolproof ways to bargain?

Wear makeup (or look attractive) and ask nicely. It’s easier to bargain when you’re a girl, because you can act cute! But don’t try bargaining if the auntie or uncle looks grumpy.

3. Tips on getting freebies?

Talk to the staff at makeup counters and be nice to them! They’ll probably give you free samples. One time I talked to the staff at (Japanese skincare brand) Astalift and she gave me a lot of samples. She even gave me a small pouch you know!

Look out for the special episode of Budget Barbie on clicknetwork, coming out soon! Qiu bought A LOT of stuff for the giveaway, so you’ll definitely want to catch this episode.