Budgeting

4 Things Singaporeans Think are Essential But are Really Not

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Joanne Poh

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Life is an ongoing struggle to distribute your resources so that you fulfil all of you needs, and enough of your wants to not make you miserable. From the looks of it, Singaporeans have so many necessities that many lower income families don’t have anything left over to satisfy their wants. According to a recent report, the average 4-person household in Singapore spends $1,250 a month on bare essentials including food, clothing and shelter. Here are a couple of items that may look like essentials but actually aren’t.

 

Air conditioning

Most people don’t realise just how expensive it is to have air conditioning at home. If you’re purchasing a brand new flat, you’ll have to install your own air con, which will set you back at least $2,000 per unit. You will also need to get the air con maintained and serviced from time to time. On top of all that, cut out air con and you’ll realise that your utility bills become significantly cheaper.

Still, the average Singaporean household spends tons of money on air con because they think it’s a necessity. We’re not going to lie and say that Singapore weather is pleasant, as an insane 30 degrees Celcius at 2am is not unheard of. But arm yourself with a couple of good fans and trust us, you’ll survive.

 

Television

Different people have different levels of dependence on their TV sets. Some need a Channel 8 drama playing in the background as they go about their daily lives or they feel incomplete. Others think TV is for barbarians. You can stream most programmes on the Internet using Toggle if you’re one of those people who can actually tolerate local TV. Most international programmes can be streamed or downloaded. That makes TV pretty much obsolete.

You can even buy a big screen to hook your computer up to if you don’t want to be hunched over your laptop, which will still be cheaper than a full-blown TV set, the price of which is usually over $800 and can go up to $3,500 and beyond. Bear in mind that a TV screen’s display gets dimmer and duller over time, and you might find yourself scrambling to upgrade yours a few years down the road.

 

Newspaper subscription

I’m not sure if anyone still reads Singapore newspapers anymore, but back in the day, every family used to have one of the daily broadsheets delivered to their doorsteps. Fast forward to today and lots of people still continue to subscribe to the newspapers and then don’t even bother touching them, because they read the news on their mobile devices as they commute to work.

Besides, thanks to the Internet, many people are realising that they can get more balanced or alternative reports from overseas news providers online anyway, so there is also the issue of quality. In any case, admit it, everyone just gets their news on Facebook anyway.

 

Smartphone

It might be hard to believe, but I got my first smartphone a year and a half ago. I was the last person in the universe to get a Whatsapp account. So believe me when I say that it is possible to survive without a smartphone. (Just to set the record straight, I could check email on my previous phone’s browser but could not run apps).

In fact, although I use my smartphone a lot right now and it has definitely changed my life in some ways, I can’t say for sure that my life was necessarily worse without it. I rarely chatted since I could only send SMSes and nobody in the world does that anymore. When I was out or with another person, I wouldn’t check my phone at all, to the frustration of people trying to contact me.

In some ways, I can’t imagine going back to my pre-smartphone days. But if there were a need for it, it could probably happen with minimal psychosis. Heck, it might even be an enjoyable experience, eventually. Which leads me to wonder whether we’re so attached to our smartphones because of their functionality and convenience, or because we’re just addicts.

What other wants disguised as needs can you identify? 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.

  • Apple

    I have a smart phone but I don’t have whatapps etc…LOL

    • Josh

      If you have a smart phone no whatapps you may lost out many friend who nowadays using Whatapp as social media cycle. Or you can download wechat is free no renew fee or line. Again Whatapp got call feature now. U got smart phone if you don’t you all this application free is really a waste and miss out opportunity somehow!

  • michelle

    TV is totally unnecessary. Clothes are tehnically also unnecessary since I’m sure all of us have enough clothing to last a few years.

  • Moses Liao Gangzheng

    Smart Phone is a necessity if you are a developer