5 Most Common Money Wasters in Singapore

Ryan Ong



There were SO many problems writing this, because apparently, “money waster” is a subjective term. Some people think newspapers are a waste of money. Some people think cars are a waste of money. Some people think toilet paper is a waste of money* (true story; don’t shake their hands). But after annoying everyone in my block with stupid questions, I’ve picked out the things Singaporeans love to buy, but don’t really need:

* Some people confessed to stealing all their toilet rolls from public toilets. As more than two people mentioned this, I imagine it’s why you can walk into a loo at midday, and find the whole dispenser’s been cleaned out. Give the janitor a break.


1. Unused Credit Cards

Most Singaporeans don’t like to cancel credit cards, even when they’re not using them. The most common reason is sheer laziness; they’ve already applied for it, and they don’t want to end up doing it again. Because, you know, the 10 minutes it takes to drop by comparison sites like MoneySmart.sg is so much work.

What’s the dollar cost? Admittedly trivial. Perhaps $130 a year, maybe more with supplementary cards. But it’s not this small fee that’s the problem. Remember: An open credit line is a perpetual source of temptation. That’s why banks make it so easy to hold on to cards, even the ones you don’t seem to use.

Having a few reserve cards makes you that little bit more reckless. You’re more likely to splurge on a nice restaurant, or go clubbing even when cash strapped…just this once. And all too often, that’s where a reliance on “credit crack” begins.

If you don’t use the card, get rid of it. It’s an indirect money waster, and one of the worst sorts. If you want to know more about which Singapore credit cards are worth keeping, then follow us on Facebook.


Man working out his credit card bill
Work out the bill? I only use this card as a pocket ruler (true story).


2. Buying Drinks One at a Time

Do you know why soda cans are sold in packs of six? Because that’s the quantity you’re supposed to buy them in. Likewise, it’s the reason fruit juices and milk are sold in litre sized bottles.

When you’re going for a barbecue,  do you buy individual cans of beer? Would it occur to you to walk into 7-11 and buy three Carlsbergs and two Tigers? What kind of freak does that? It’s not cost effective, alright? And you can apply that to just about any other beverage.

Forget the piddly $1.20 bottles that you can down in 7 seconds, or 350ml milk bottles. Same goes for the single cans of soda, which can go for $1.10 each. Those are for the odd occasion when you’re out and need a quick drink. When you’re stocking your fridge at home, just buy the economy-sized quantities.

And for those of you who say “I don’t drink that much”, I have a great revelation for you. Be amazed by this remarkable tool.


Drink bottles
Just get one first. If you’re still thirsty we’ll get in the car, drive back here, pay ERP and parking, and get another one.


3. Multiple Game Consoles

Game consoles have gotten cheaper with time. We’ve come pretty far from the days when getting one meant saving for a year; today a Secondary school student can afford one without help.

Which still doesn’t excuse the freaks with an Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, two PSPs, a DS, and a computer in the house. For some reason, Singapore’s thriving game industry has bred a mutant strain of gamers: The sort who buy consoles not to use or collect them, but just because.

It’s got nothing to do with fun, because most of the best games are cross-platform (they can be run on any one of those machines). And there’s no appreciating value here, because most of those gamers aren’t collectors. They don’t maintain and clean their console collections; they buy them at $500 – $600 a pop, play them for a week, then hurl them into a dust-pit corner of the room.

Look, if you’re going to waste money on video games (and I fully empathize), waste them on games and not game consoles. 


Video game consoles
I need three copies of the same game. I have three consoles, so that makes sense.


4. Meaningless Smartphone Apps

Hey, can I see your smartphone? What the… there are more buttons here than there are copyright violations in China. I hope as heck they’re all free.

But they’re not are they?

In fact, I’ll bet at least half those apps were paid for. Hey, for a few bucks a pop, there’s no sting when you hit “download”. But here’s a fact: Regardless of how many apps you’ve downloaded, studies show you probably just use 10.

At most, you’ll download a cool app and marvel at it for a week or two. Then it’s resigned to a file folder on some far flung location, never to be retrieved again. Kind of like the winners’ resumes on The Apprentice.

And now you’re expecting me to say “you should only download what you need, yadda, yadda.” Well yes, that’s part of what I’m suggesting. But also, maybe the next time you buy a phone, the number of available apps shouldn’t count for so much?

I mean, when you get right down to it, telling the salesman “I don’t want a blackberry because there’s no app that simulates zips” makes you look like a moron.


Smartphone Apps
I’m not losing productivity from game apps. I just…didn’t get any those e-mails. All of them.


5. Seating Space

No, really, Singaporeans buy seating space. As in, when they’re waiting for someone, they like to buy a drink to justify a seat in a cafe (typically Starbucks).

It shouldn’t be surprising; in fact, high end coffee-shops count on this for business. But what’s amazing is how subtly, and how often, this can break a budget. Here’s an example of illogical behaviour you’ve probably seen (or been a part of):

Person A: Oh, we can’t go to that restaurant because it’s too expensive.

Person B: Yeah, let’s go to the cheap one where everything tastes like potential hepatitis. We’ll save $10.

Person A: Where’s the rest of our dinner gang though?

Person B: Not here yet. Let’s wait in that hipster cafe and spend $14 on overpriced coffee.

If you don’t want to stand at wait, at least find a cheaper outlet. What’s the point of getting a mocha-frappa-whateva-ccino at $5 or $7, just for a seat? It’s especially delusional to buy “just the small one”, which is an equal waste of money.

Go find a seat at Burger King or something. It worked fine when you were 14 and it works fine now.


Starbucks coffee
How do I pay my tuition fees? I bet a $12 coffee will help me figure it out.


Image Credits:
narin-flickrWonderlaneksuyin, PsuedoGil, Wyemji, missbossy

What are your favourite money wasters? Comment and let us know!

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Ryan Ong

I was a freelance writer for over a decade, and covered topics from music to super-contagious foot diseases. I took this job because I believe financial news should be accessible and fun to read. Also, because the assignments don't involve shouting teenagers and debilitating plagues.