Budgeting

3 Ways Singaporeans Tend to Overspend Out of Carelessness

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Joanne Poh

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When you stick your ATM card into the machine at the end of the month, only to be greeted with an onscreen message disdainfully informing you that you do not have enough funds to make the minimum $20 withdrawal, it comes as a surprise every time.

Nobody plans to live from paycheck to paycheck, just like nobody plans to end up with a hole in the head. But we unconsciously waste money in so many ways we never intended to, not because we’re disadvantaged in life or super unlucky, but simply because we’re too careless to put in the effort to save that $20 here and that $50 there. Here are some common situations where we waste money.

 

Missing the last bus or train home

If you often go out until late at night, you’re familiar with the sinking feeling of forking out $30 for a cab ride home after midnight. If you had left an hour earlier, you would have been able to catch the last MRT home.

While Night Rider and Night Owl buses used to run well after 4am on Fridays and Saturdays, our profit-making transport companies have decided to scale them back to 2am so they don’t lose money. This means you are pretty much forced to take a taxi after 2am or so.

The thing is, unless you’re planning to party full on until 5 or 6am, getting on the last night bus is usually just a matter of leaving one or two hours early. Is leaving an hour earlier worth the $30 you save? You be the judge.

Hack: Check the time of the last bus or train at your location, and set an alarm on your phone to alert you as to when you need to make your way to the bus stop or train station. It might be hard to tear yourself away from your friends at first, but that’s better than missing the bus, only to have everyone else jump into a cab half an hour later.

 

Getting pressured into spending before you can make a good decision

The best way to save yourself from unnecessary spending is to have a good, long think about it. When it comes to shopping, waiting a few days before making a purchase usually dilutes your desire in the same way ten years made the Backstreet Boys a lot less attractive.

Unfortunately, we often find ourselves caught in situations where we’re pressured to make a quick choice, and that’s when we falter.

Maybe your friends just invited you to a dirty weekend in Bangkok, and they want to book tickets asap, so you’ll have to tell them if it’s a yes or no by the end of the day. Or that salesperson just offered you a special price he claims is valid only today.

Hack: Whenever you’re pressured to make a fast decision, buy time by requesting 24 to 48 hours to make a choice. Nobody wants to entertain someone who can’t make up their mind and could keep them waiting forever, but if you tell whoever’s pressuring you that you need exactly 24 hours, the time limit can be quite persuasive.

 

Ordering more drinks when you’re buzzed

Alcohol and bad decisions go hand in hand. And we’re not talking about those nights after which you wake up in a trolley in a parking lot behind NTUC, either. You don’t even have to feel the slightest bit drunk to have your judgement impaired.

After just one beer, even the more hardened of drunks can attest to feeling a little bit more relaxed, a a little more at peace with the world. The problem is that this feeling of wellbeing often translates to your buying more drinks—even if you had told yourself you were imposing a $15 alcohol budget on yourself that night.

Singapore is not a good place to be if you like a good, strong drink after work. We’ve got the dubious honour of having some of the highest alcohol prices in the world thanks to stiff taxes. With a beer at a bar  easily costing $15 and cocktails $20++, making sure you don’t “accidentally” drink too much can go a long way towards saving you from going broke.

Hack: Set an alcohol budget for the night before you leave the house, and then use the Memo function on your smartphone to keep track each time you order a drink. Whenever you order a drink, check with the bar how much it will cost you and then calculate the GST and service charge on your phone so you know exactly how much you’re paying. Keeping tabs on you much you’re spending will make a real difference to your level of self control.

What other ways do you waste money without realising it? Tell us in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.