Going out in Singapore can be a terrifying experience if you’re broke. Grab a drink at Clarke Quay and you find yourself scanning the menu helplessly, searching for something that costs less than $20 besides the $7 Pepsi. Miss the last bus home and you either hike all the way back or take a cab ride souped up with midnight surcharge.
If you want to leave the house without becoming the victim of daylight robbery, you have to think like Doraemon or Mary Poppins—both of them carry bags that can contain “everything but the kitchen sink”, and some of these items often end up saving the day—or, in this case, your money. Here are some things to pack in your bag.
Water and snacks
Never underestimate the ability of Singapore’s environment to make you hungry and thirsty as hell. If you’re walking long distances under the hot sun, you’re going to be ready to drink every drop in the filthy Singapore River by the time you get to your destination. If you’re walking around in a crowded mall, you can bet having to wrestle aggressive aunties out of the way every three steps is going to make you work up quite an appetite.
To make matters worse, if you rely on public transport to get around and don’t live near the city centre, you can’t just scoot home when you get hungry. You might need to endure a long ride on the crowded bus or MRT before you can get back.
That’s why it’s essential to always have water and some small snacks to keep you afloat when you go out if you don’t intend to eat out. Tao Kae Noi, nuts or even sandwiches are easy to carry around and will prevent you from caving and sitting down to a meal. An alternative is to work out where the supermarkets are you in the area you’re visiting and get your drinks and snacks there, instead of at cafes and restaurants.
Things you can entertain your friends with and discourage them from spending money out of boredom
So you’re meeting your usual bunch of friends again, and you don’t have any particular activity in mind. This is quite a dangerous situation, as when Singaporeans are bored, the first thing they do is spend money. The worst is when your friends decide to go cafe-hopping or bar-hopping. The more cafes and bars you visit, the lighter your wallet becomes.
I’ve found that bringing stuff that can keep the people around you entertained also stops them from throwing away their money. The classic example is a pack of cards, especially effective if your friends are casino addicts. Just be aware that gambling in public is illegal.
There are tons of free rooftop gardens to hang out at these days, so whip out a groundsheet and some snacks and you’ve got a makeshift picnic that will save all of you from having to try some cafe’s overpriced rainbow cake that tastes no better than a standard BreadTalk pastry. If you’re a hipster, impress people with your ukulele skills or teach your friends tricks on your longboard. Or not.
I have a friend who loads up his iPad with movies and then watches them with friends at East Coast Park beach. Those capsule speakers you can hook up to your phone are also pretty fun to have.
Something to do while you wait
The amount of time you spend just waiting can be quite frustrating. Some Singaporeans are hideously unpunctual, especially when it comes to pushing back after-work appointments because their bosses dumped work on their desks at 6pm. Waiting 30 to 60 minutes for your friends to finally leave the office is normal here.
There are other times when you’ll find yourself with time to kill—waiting for the bus which just never seems to arrive, deciding to hang around in town a little longer so you don’t get trapped in rush hour traffic, or twiddling your thumbs until your dental appointment.
During those pockets of spare time, it’s all too easy to end up wandering through shops or peeking into hipster cafes, and before you know it you’ve spent half your life savings on new clothes and overpriced coffee.
Avoid that by always bringing a book to read or, if you’re illiterate, something to do besides stare at your smartphone. It could be Sudoko puzzles, a volume of some manga or even the newspapers. These tend to be more engaging and less zombie-state-inducing than staring at your smartphone.
What do you never leave home without? Tell us in the comments!
Image credit: Khalzuri Yazid