Singapore has two faces. On the one hand, you have affluent people popping champagne at Catalunya before riding off into the sunset to their luxury condos.
On the other hand, you have the frugal Singaporeans and bargain hunting aunties elbowing their way in and out of MRT cabins and crowding up Giant supermarket. This article is going to be relevant only to people who identify more with the second. But people who act like they’re in the first group but should be in the second are also welcome.
To the Singaporeans who call themselves frugal, does the following scenario strike a chord? At the end of every month, you check your bank account balance, and you realise all your money has mysteriously vanished. The worst thing is, you’re not even sure what you spent that money on.
Maybe the money is flowing out in the below 7 ways.
1. Eating out every day
Eating out every day can add up. With 60% of Singaporeans eating out 4 times a week, Singaporeans may be over-spending on food.
Take for instance, if you have breakfast every day at the kopitiam, you will be spending $3 to $4 a day. But if you bought bread and ate with your favourite spread from home, you could eat a simple breakfast for $3 to $4 a week.
For lunch and dinner, you probably visit restaurants and food courts, which can get much more expensive than cooking at home.
Okay, so at this point you might be thinking: What about hawker food? It’s cheap right?
Well, if you’re one of those people who enjoys hawker meals three times a day, you might be saving money, but the poor food choices are going to bite back later on. A study over 10 years shows that as Singaporeans eat out more, the amount of calories consumed has actually increased from 2,062 a day to 2,624 a day.
Apart from the larger portion sizes, which may contribute to obesity, hawker food is typically oily and high in sodium and saturated fat. Even a seemingly harmless noodles with soup like Ban Mian is very high in saturated fat and sodium.
It’s no wonder Singaporeans are living longer but suffering from health issues like diabetes and colorectal cancer. Getting struck down by serious health problems can even lead to medical bankruptcy. In the short term, having persistent flus and feeling sluggish all day can put a serious dent in your productivity and quality of life.
2. Not maintaining their vehicles
Cars in Singapore aren’t just expensive to buy, they’re also expensive to maintain. When you’re at the showroom getting sweet-talked by a car salesman, the only things you can visualise are the babes on your arm or zipping down the highway with the top down and the wind in your hair.
In reality, owning a car means you’re probably going to be spending more time chatting up Ah Tiong at the workshop as he services your car than luring beautiful women into your new chariot. Between oil changes, tyre rotations and replacements and cleaning the engine, you’re looking at expenses of over $1,000 a month.
It can be tempting to just cut corners and not get your car maintained as often as you should. After all, those worn out tyres won’t really affect you when you’re crawling along at 3km/h in peak hour traffic, right? Unfortunately, not looking after your car increases the likelihood of major failures. For instance, if you’re too lazy to change your oil, your engine could screw up big time, which will most certainly cost you thousands of dollars.
3. Not keeping track of online and offline subscriptions
Thanks to the Internet, it’s all too easy to unknowingly sign up for subscriptions without knowing it. Many companies will ask for your credit card details in exchange for a “free trial”. What you don’t realise is that, once the free trial is over, you will be charged automatically for this subscription.
Take Singapore’s new car-sharing scheme, BlueSG, for instance. They’re currently offering $10 CapitaLand voucher for those who sign up, though you’d have to furnish your credit card details. And one year from now, these people who’ve signed up for the promo are going to get charged for the next year’s subscription.
In another example, Fitness subscription KFIT has an auto-renewal feature that customers cannot opt out or disable on their own. You can only email KFIT to remove the membership. Otherwise, you may be charged for another cycle of membership.
Here are a few examples of online subscriptions you may have and how much each will cost you:
|Netflix (4 screens + Ultra HD)||$16.98 a month|
|Spotify Premium||$9.90 a month|
|Office 365 Personal||$10.80 a month|
|Amazon Prime||$2.99 a month (normally $8.99)|
Don’t forget that GST will soon be implemented on these and other digital services by 2020! You’ll end up wasting even more money by then.
So it pays to monitor your account statements and, whenever you realise you’ve been charged for a subscription that you had forgotten about, call up the provider and cancel it immediately, not forgetting to ask for a refund if not much time has elapsed.
4. Coffee money
To some of us, coffee is the lifeblood that keeps us alive through long, grinding work days and stops us from collapsing and dying when we need to look chipper.
But coffee is also one of the things we tend to consume rather mindlessly, without really being aware of the cost. In the morning, you make a quick detour at Starbucks for a takeaway cup to get you through the morning. ~$6, gone. After lunch, you grab another coffee on the way back to the office. And the cycle continues.
Because many of these coffees are purchased when you’re very sleepy or on the brink of exhaustion, we tend not to pay attention to how much we’re spending.
5. Money owed to you when you pay for the group
This has happened to me so many times that I’m convinced it’s a common phenomenon in Singapore. Here’s the scenario: you’re dining at a restaurant in a big group. When the waiter arrives, you pay with your credit card, and everyone promises to pay you back.
However, when the time comes to pay up, half the people claim they have no cash. It’s fine, you say, you can transfer me the money electronically instead.
Subsequently, some of these people disappear off the face of the earth, conveniently pretending to forget to pay you back, or no doubt hoping you’ll be too embarrassed to ask for the money back. The only way to get your money back is to bug them, which is annoying since it is after all your money.
The worst thing is that you can easily lose a few hundred bucks each time this happens, especially when alcohol is involved.
If this is a frequent occurrence, you might want to consider asking to pay only for your own share when you flash your credit card at a restaurant the next time you dine in a group. And if you’re often losing money because you’re too embarrassed to hound people for money, ask yourself who should really be the one getting embarrassed here.
Have any of your attempts to be frugal backfired? Tell us about them in the comments!