Deep in their heart of hearts, despite their complaints about the rising cost of living, most Singaporeans know that it’s possible for them to save more money—sure, you could give up your car or taxi rides and start squeezing onto the MRT with the rest of the sweaty world. You could skip those trips to the salon and start cutting your own hair and appearing in public like a relic from the Flintstones era. But nobody wants to do that because it seems too darned painful.
There are, however, many things Singaporeans spend money on that are surprisingly easy to give up. These things don’t really add as much to your daily life as you think they do. Try going cold turkey on any of the following for a few months, and you might find you don’t become as suicidal as you thought you would.
Incessant clothes shopping
You don’t have to be some Instagram fashionista to spend a ton of money on clothes. In fact, many of the people who are guilty of spending hundreds of dollars on clothes a month are actually perfectly boring-looking salarymen and OLs.
A former colleague of mine used to tailor several work shirts per month, at $100+ a pop, in addition to frequently purchasing expensive ties and shoes for the office. Ironically, he looked pretty much the same very day in his office get-up.
Clothes shopping is one of the easiest things to give up, especially if you’ve already built up a sizeable wardrobe over the years. The fact is, clothes do not disintegrate or rot in your closet if you don’t wear them. You can always wear something you bought last month, last year or even last century.
Pick out a few outfits you already own that make you feel like, okay maybe not a million bucks, but like someone who wouldn’t get kicked out of a restaurant. Get used to wearing them regularly, and stop worrying that people will think your’e always wearing the same thing. When you get into the habit of rotating between a few items rather than having to always wear something new, you’ll realise it’s actually pretty painless.
Expensive phone plans and changing smartphones every two years
I’m always amazed at the number of people who get suckered into signing up for their telco’s most expensive data plan because they wanted an iPhone at a “cheap” price a few years ago.
First of all, before you recontract at a higher price in order to get a phone, do the math to see if you’ll be paying more over the course of two years than you would if you stuck with a cheaper plan and then bought the phone separately. You might be surprised to find that a lot of the time you’re actually not saving much money at all.
(Case in point: If you upgrade to a $62/month plan with M1, you get to buy an iPhone 6+ 16 GB for $375. This means your total cost over 2 years is $1,863. If you were to stick with a cheaper $42/month plan (3 GB of data instead of 4GB), you would pay $1,008 a year for your contract. Since the iPhone 6+ 16 GB costs $800+ on the market right now ($888 on the Apple website), you would end up paying almost the same amount in total.)
The real danger is that people often end up paying for the more expensive phone plans for years afterwards, long after the initial phone purchase. The phone company will let you buy a new phone after two years to keep you on the more expensive plan, and you think you’re getting a good deal since you get a “discount” on a new phone, when you don’t actually need to buy a new smartphone every two years, dammit!
Downgrading an expensive phone plan is really not that painful, considering most people work in places that give them free wifi all day, and then head home to their own broadband connections. If you’re connected to your office’s wifi from 9am to 6pm, a fairly light plan should be enough. 3 GB is enough for most people provided they don’t go overboard.
Downgrading to a 3 GB $40+ plan makes a lot of sense, as you reduce your phone bills by 1/3, when you can limit your data usage to 3 GB quite easily. If you’re not watching videos or uploading copious photos to Instagram, it probably makes no difference to your life whatsoever.
You might have thought it was essential to change your smartphone every two years, but seriously, the only reason you thought so was because the telco kept bugging you to do so and you thought you were “missing out”.
Toto and 4D tickets
In light of the fact that it’s Chinese New Year season now and many of you are going to be “investing” all your ang bao money in the annual Toto Hong Bao Draw, we’d like to drop the shattering news that your life is not going to change in any way whatsoever if you don’t join the queue at Singapore Pools this year.
If you’re not in the habit of buying Toto and 4D tickets, congrats, but for those people who have a stack of blank 4D/Toto cards at home to make it easier to place orders at Singapore Pools, or who have their very own Singapore Pools accounts online, forgetting to buy 4D after witnessing a spectacular accident or missing the biggest Toto draw of the year ($12 million leh!) can seem like a disaster.
In these people’s minds, you’re not just giving up the chance to spend $10 or $20 at Singapore Pools. You could potentially be giving up the chance to own a Ferrari.
Fortunately, we’re here to assure you that this is one of those things that looks hard to give up, but is actually very easy—we promise your life won’t change in any way, apart from the fact that you’ll now have a little more spending money on your hands.
What other things do Singaporeans spend on that are easy to give up? Tell us in the comments!