No matter how great or how awful 2017 was for you, you probably share the same lament that every other Singaporean makes at the end of the year: I should have saved more money. No matter how big of a scrooge or a spender you are, money is one thing nobody ever has enough of.
To avoid the same thing from happening next year, it’s crucial to create budgets that will limit your spending.
So take your projected income for next year, subtract the amounts you’re aiming to save and invest, and then subtract all your fixed/recurring costs like phone/utilities bills, insurance premiums and allowance for family members.
The sum you’re left with is what you can spend. You can then create budget categories to determine how much of that money you will allow yourself to spend in each.
Here are four budget categories every Singaporean needs.
Singaporeans travel a lot, and you can’t blame us—travel more than two hours in any direction and you’re out of the country (unless the MRT breaks down, that is). Many of us painstakingly save up our annual leave so we can use it all on overseas trips.
But travel is also the easiest thing to overspend on. When you exchange currencies, you’re no longer as aware of how much you’re spending. And it’s all too easy to forget that the cost of air tickets, accommodation and sightseeing can really add up.
Come up with a holiday budget, and then figure out which of the trips you’re dying to go on in 2018 you can actually afford. If you want to go on a big, expensive trip to Europe or the Americas and it’s eating up most of your budget, you’ll have to cut back and take fewer (or no) weekend getaways.
Food and dining out
Eating out is one of Singaporeans’ biggest pleasures and also one of our biggest necessities. A 2010 HPB survey showed that 60% of Singaporeans eat out at least four times a week. Socialising also takes place around food more often than not—if you ask a friend out for a coffee or a drink, it’s likely you’ll end up sharing a meal with them, too.
But all that dining out can really take a toll on your wallet—Singaporeans are amongst the Asia Pacific’s top spenders on dining out.
To ensure you don’t go overboard, you should definitely enforce a budget on the amount you spend on food. Know how much you’re allowing yourself to spend on food each month. When you are nearing the limit of that budget, you’ll know it’s time to stop dining out and eat at home for the rest of the month.
Even the most reclusive hermit is likely to spend at least some amount of money on entertainment every month.
Whether your poison of choice is frequent trips to the cinema, excessive amounts of alcohol, off-tune karaoke sessions or going to the opera, you’ll want to watch how much you spend on entertainment every month.
The good news is that there are cheap or free ways to keep yourself entertained in Singapore, such as by (cough) streaming movies at home, visiting free exhibitions at galleries, going to museums or enjoying one of our many parks or nature reserves.
Identifying the point at which you’re about to bust your monthly budget will enable you to opt for these free or cheap alternatives before you overspend.
You don’t have to be a fashionista to benefit from a strict shopping budget. Just about any form of shopping, online or offline, needs to be limited.
So if you often find yourself splurging on electronics, video games, homeware, cosmetics, books or toys for your kids, you’ll need to work out how much a month you can really afford to spend.
When you’re reaching the end of your budget, you’ll know that you need to wait till next month before buying more stuff.
Here’s one way to ease your grocery budget
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Do you set a monthly budget for yourself? Tell us why or why not in the comments!