Tell a Singaporean to DIY something—cook his own meals, change his car’s engine oil, or even walk down to the McDonald’s outlet and buy his own meal, and he’ll tell you he has no time.
So okay, there are a lot of things we just don’t want to do on their own because it’s easier to pay something else to do it.
But thanks to the power of the internet, there are many things that Singaporeans are now choosing to DIY—and saving hundreds or even thousands of dollars while they’re at it. Who cares about that $4 McDelivery surcharge when you just saved yourself $8,000 by selling your home without an agent?
Here are three things Singaporeans can now DIY, and save money while they’re at it.
1. Sell and buy property without an agent
Real estate agents charge you 1% to 2% of the property price when you engage them to help you sell your home, or to find you a new one. 1% of $1,000,000 is $10,000. Yeah, I know, ouch.
In the past, not engaging a property agent usually meant that property ad you placed in the papers wouldn’t be seen by too many people, and you’d either take centuries to sell your home or get a lousy price.
But these days, selling an HDB flat, for example, is more convenient now than ever before. Thanks to the numerous internet portals and apps catering to home buyers and sellers, Singaporeans can reach thousands of eyeballs by publishing ads online. Some useful sites include iProperty, TheEdgeProperty and PropertyGuru’s listings section.
Sure, you might not get to be driven around in your agent’s BMW, and having to attend viewings on your own can be a lot of work. But you literally save thousands of dollars, so it’s worth it.
2. Planning their own overseas trips
Once upon a time, people used to book their trips the old school way—through a travel agent. They’d pick up the phone and speak with their trusty agent, who’d then check for air tickets and hotels. The agent would then quote a price for the entire package, adding their own mark up into the bargain.
Unfortunately, back then it was much more difficult to check the true cost of tickets and hotels, so the only way to compare prices was to call up multiple travel agents and get them to all provide quotations. Needless to say, many people couldn’t be bothered to do this, and so agents often tacked on arbitrary sums to make up their margins.
These days, the only people who use travel agents are old folks or people who go on package tours. Everyone else knows it’s cheaper to research and book flights and hotel stays online thanks to sites like Kayak and Agoda.
3. Buying insurance and financial planning
It’s only in the past few decades that the average Singaporean has become more aware about the need to plan their finances by making sure they’re investing enough, are adequately insured and have a retirement plan.
The path to becoming insured used to be to get in touch with an insurance agent (or have one get in touch with you first), and then listen to what they had to say about their policies before deciding to buy one.
Financial planning also used to be something only people “with money” used to bother about, and they’d usually figure out what to do with that cash by hiring a financial planner, or even someone to manage their money for them.
The tables have turned. Every single person in Singapore, whether they’re struggling to survive or rolling in money, needs to plan for the future and be adequately insured. That’s because there is no social safety net or pension, and medical bills can be so high that even the rich feel the pinch if they fall seriously ill.
But insurance and financial planning are now no longer the esoteric subjects they were thought to be, stuff that only the experts could understand and explain.
Thanks to the internet, Singaporeans can now compare insurance plans online and decide—without being pulled in several directions by insurance agents representing different companies—which plans are best for them. In fact, you can compare plans right here on MoneySmart—we’ve got wizards for all types of insurance, from health insurance to travel insurance.
People are also starting to realise that planning for retirement isn’t rocket science. There’s a wealth of resources both online and off that help you to figure out how much you need to invest, and in what, in order to reach your retirement goals.
What have you DIYed for free thanks to the internet? Tell us in the comments!