For some people, forcing themselves to steer clear of designer sales or slum it by eating at a hawker centre instead of a restaurant makes them feel like they are being inauthentic to their true, fashionable selves.
If that sounds like you, simply declaring you’re going cold turkey and not shopping for a month may not be very useful, because you’ll just end up buying twice the amount of stuff next month to make up for it.
No, if you’re serious about changing your spending patterns, not just this month but for life (or at least until you strike Toto), you need to change your entire perspective on who you are, how you behave and how you think about money. Here are four ways you can do that.
Stop trying to keep up appearances
Part of the reason so many Singaporeans spend so much is because they want to look rich. It’s considered shameful to admit you can’t afford something, because that means you’re a failure of the system.
This is dumb and no better than the mentality of those parents who insist their children throw lavish wedding banquets just so they can show off to their relatives.
Part of the reason you’re spending so much could be because you’ve painted an image of yourself as a well-off professional. If you suddenly tell your friends you’re going to stop hanging out anywhere that tries to charge more than $25 for a cocktail, they start to question your sanity.
But guess what, it pays to be that humble or even broke guy. Never again will you have to worry about being spotted in the same outfit three times, feel pressured to pick up the tab for your group of friends or admit that you’re taking the MRT instead of a cab at the end of the evening.
Turn saving money into a game
Gone are the days when grown adults could force themselves to do unpleasant things by sheer force of will. We now live in a world of kidults where everything has to be fun. These days, any app that promises to gamify exercise/language learning/doing housework gets lauded as being revolutionary.
If you’re lazy, you can just download an app like SaveUp that turns saving money into a game on your smartphone.
Otherwise, I’m sure you can come up with your own ways to gamify money saving—after all, if you can come up with a bribery system to get your kids to study for their exams, surely you can do this.
The easiest way is to set up a rewards or penalties system that will help you reach your savings goals. Didn’t manage to save $x this month? Go for a 10km run around the neighbourhood or volunteer to clean the house for your family.
Get enthusiastic about a cause that indirectly leads to decreased spending
While nobody can accuse Singaporeans of not like money, not many people actually find the nitty gritties of saving and investing interesting.
When forced to choose between spending $200 on a meal at x fine dining restaurant and investing the cash, it’s obvious that the former seems more fun and exciting, unless you’re a personal finance geek or MoneySmart writer.
The cure for this expensive apathy is to find a cause that you do care about, one that can indirectly help you to decrease your spending, and then pursue it with gusto.
For instance, becoming an environmentally-conscious tree hugger could well save you money as you stop wasting water and electricity and, more crucially, quit flooding the home with unnecessary purchases that add to our landfills.
Pledging to spend quality time with the people you love can save you money if you concentrate less on accumulating stuff for yourself or wasting hours shopping online/wandering through shopping malls and actually start being present in their lives.
Think about what’s important to you in life and find a way to achieve these goals in tandem with your money-saving goals. That extra $100 you save in your bank account doesn’t have to just be a couple of meaningless digits you see when you withdraw cash from your ATM machine.
Think about how long it takes you to earn money
If you feel like you’re constantly stuck on the hamster wheel, desperately trying to earn enough money to pay your credit card bills each month, you really need to think about whether those designer handbags are worth all the sweat and blood you expend at work.
What you may not realise is that you’re actually paying for your expensive lifestyle with hours and hours of work each week. If you spent less, you would be able to work less, either by taking on a less demanding job or retiring a few years earlier.
These days, mid-range restaurant meals costing $25 to $40 a pop are common, but people rarely think about the fact that someone earning the median salary of $3,949 a month is effectively earning slightly less than $25 an hour—and that’s assuming they only work 8 hours a day without OT. Would you really rather work an extra 2 hours to pay for that nice restaurant meal?
How can Singaporeans modify their behaviour so they spend less? Tell us in the comments!