Budgeting

4 Irritating Ways the Haze is Costing You Money and What You Can Do About It

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Joanne Poh

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Once upon a time, I used to tell people the main reason I would never move to Shanghai or Beijing was the terrible air quality. I now believe in karma because emergency-levels of haze seem to have become a yearly affair in Singapore.

Sure, schools were closed last week because of the haze, but the real kicker is that two of the O Level exams were rescheduled. If the haze is something we’re going to have to get used to, like a chronic disease one has to learn to live with,  it also means we can anticipate the additional costs we’ll be incurring year after year when our neighbours down south get burn-happy. Here are four costs to look out for during the annual haze.

 

Masks

Many Singaporeans are kicking themselves for assuming the crazy haze was a one-time thing back in 2013 and not stocking up on N95 masks and air purifiers for the home. While the masks aren’t in as short supply as they were before, some clowns have been spotted trying to sell them at hideously inflated prices nonetheless.

Which is not to say these masks come cheap in the first place, as a box of 20 N95 masks sells for $43 at FairPrice. Some other masks have been touted as being able to filter out finer particles, such as the EN-149 masks, which are less common.

Tip: It’s better to be safe than sorry, so stock up each year on N95 masks before the haze hits. To save on costs, some savvy shoppers over at The Asian Parent have recommended buying masks directly from distributors and suppliers such as QMT Industrial & Safety Pte Ltd or the 3M distributors.

 

Air purifiers

If you suffer from haze-related ailments even after hiding in an air conditioned room all day, you might want to consider purchasing an air purifier. These gadgets can cost from $99 to over $1,000 and most larger stores selling electrical appliances should carry them in some form or other.

Obviously, this is not a small purchase, so make sure you do your research and also use a credit card that rewards you for retail spending—we recommended the American Express True Cashback Card, which gives you 5% cash rebates in the first three months of card membership, and 1.5% thereafter..

Tip: Whether you’re purchasing at small mom and pop stores or bigger chains like Harvey Norman, remember that the salesperson usually has a degree of discretion over the price of such big items, so bargain hard. But don’t wait till haze season hits, or your bargaining power will fall.

 

Lost earnings

While children all over Singapore were celebrating the closure of schools last week, their long-suffering parents weren’t quite as happy about having to brave the haze to get to work as usual. Still, things could be worse—if you’re a business owner, self-employed or in sales, the haze might have a direct impact on how much money you’re able to bring in.

For instance, if you’re an insurance agent whose livelihood depends largely on meeting people in the streets and setting up appointments with your clients, the haze could be a big deterrent. I’m pretty sure I would not brave the haze for a meeting with an insurance agent.

Tip: Plan ahead to put in place measures to stop the haze from affecting business. For instance, if you’re in the F&B line, equipping your interior with air purifiers and advertising the fact might encourage passers-by to take refuge on your premises. Insurance agents who need to run around to meet potential clients might offer to make house calls so the latter need not expose themselves to the haze.

 

Healthcare

Just like what happened in 2013, doctors have reported seeing a spike in the number of visitors during the haze season. If you’re unlucky enough to suffer from haze-related conditions like coughs, colds and eye irritation, monitor your condition closely and make sure you see a doctor before the problem worsens.

Making the effort to keep yourself healthy all year round can help to soften the blow when the haze descends. If you are generally well-hydrated and have a strong immune system, you might be less likely to be affected. For instance, I keep my sinus problems at bay by using a neti pot and doing yoga breathing exercises, and continue doing so during the haze. I can feel a real difference when I stop taking the above measures as I wake up with the voice of Daffy Duck..

Tip: Check if you qualify for the Haze Subsidy Scheme, designed to provide affordable healthcare to people with haze-related ailments. All children aged 18 and below, all elderly people aged 65 and above, as well as Singaporeans who earn $1,800 a month and below have to pay just $5 to $10 to see doctors at polyclinics and selected private clinics.

How has the haze affected you? 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.