How Living Like a True Hippie Can Help You Save Money in Singapore

hippie save money singapore

Joanne Poh



Back in the 60s and 70s, hippies were a persecuted bunch in Singapore. Long hair on men was banned (the law was silent on long nose hair though) and the only mushrooms you could find were the kinds in Chinese soups. These days, while males can wear their hair as long as they like (don’t expect to be employed except as a bouncer though), the ethos of the hippies is completely lost on most Singaporeans.

In fact, almost everything that Singapore stands for goes against the values of the hippies—from conspicuous consumption to an aversion to resource sharing. Well, that’s one reason Singapore is so darned expensive—because other than their relaxed appearance hippies were also famous for living cheaply. Here are some hippie values that Singaporeans can adopt in order to lower the cost of living:


1. DIY

Back in the day, hippies loved to DIY. Anything from macrame belts to tie dye tshirts to special brownies was fair game for the enterprising hippie.  Unfortunately, the typical Singaporean tends to live by the opposite credo—if you can pay someone to do it, why do it yourself? As a result, we outsource everything from childrearing to cleaning our own homes.

If DIY culture were more prevalent in Singapore, we’d be saving a lot of money. When was the last time someone you know tried to service their air con on their own, change their own engine oil or even feed themselves without having to rely on the hawker centre downstairs? Thought so. While you don’t exactly need to start growing your own vegetables just yet, assessing the viability of doing it yourself can save you some money.


2. Waste not, want not

Hippies had a reputation for being tree huggers, and in line with their commitment to the environment they believed in never wasting anything. Instead of throwing things out, they tried to fix, repurpose or recycle them.

Unfortunately, in Singapore, where people just love to consume stuff and shopping malls are available in abundance, we tend to take the opposite tack—we buy stuff even when we don’t need it, and the first thing we think of when something breaks or becomes outmoded is where to get a new one.

Whether it’s mobile phones, cars or clothing, we’re encouraged by advertising to get the newest, shiniest version. When it comes to cars, the COE system basically forces people to keep changing their cars. If only we learnt the value of keeping for a long time well-made items that were built to last.

In addition, the average person thinks nothing of wasting water and electricity. A Singaporean couple recently became infamous for leaving the aircon on 24/7 at a guesthouse in Taiwan. The hippies would surely not have approved of such behaviour.


3. Cook with love

As much as most Singaporeans profess that they’re foodies, there is really very little appreciation of food made in the home. A recent survey revealed that more than half of Singaporeans consider themselves handicapped in the kitchen, and our spending on eating out is the region’s highest.

In line with their DIY ethos, the hippies were all about preparing their own (often bizarre) foods as it gave them control over what they put into their mouths (and also distanced them from the capitalist machine).

Not saying you need to start growing vegetables in your HDB flat (although it’s possible), but many Singaporeans would do well to start acquainting themselves with how things work in the kitchen. If you don’t try, you never know, right?


4. Non-materialism

In line with not wanting to be controlled by the corporations etc, the hippies espoused non-materialism. This was during a time when people weren’t as bombarded by the media and advertising as we are now.

It always amazes me how people can be such suckers of advertising—and either don’t realise it or don’t care. You see it in the way people can spend more than a month’s salary on a designer bag they saw on some “fashionista’s” blog, or the way women blatantly compare the size of their engagement ring rocks (FYI the price of diamonds is artificially inflated). And I know people who actually spend every single one of their precious weekends in shopping malls.

Not saying you need to start swearing off shampoo and wearing only threads purchased at the Salvation Army. But materialism is the reason so many affluent Singaporeans are constantly cash-strapped. At the moment, things don’t seem to be turning around. Maybe we need a long-haired, barefoot saviour to change the way things are done here.

Do you think the typical Singaporean is an anti-hippie? Let us know 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.

  • Dico

    It is sad that Sinkies pays everything for others to do their work. Yes, DIY culture is non-existence in Singapore.

    The worst part is if you try to get your hands to DIY, all your family members and friends will think that you are so broke that you cannot afford to pay someone to do it or that you are crazy.

    The worst part is when your DIY didn’t go well. Everybody will give you this ‘I know you will mess up. I told you to get somebody to do it’ look.

    I think this had to do with our education system and culture. Sinkies are simple too NUTS(No U-Turn Syndrome). Nobody wants to try anything new and we wanted to be successful on the very first try. Even the slightest problem on something new that they try, they will immediate give up and be more than happy to engage a ‘professional’ to finish it. In school, we were taught to only give the ‘approved’ answers and anything that is ‘creative’ is not acceptable.

    I once changed a door lock in my office that was broken for months and everybody in the office was like that they had just witnessed a miracle. Some even ask me why I changed it and it should left it to the ‘professionals’. It only took me 10-15 mins to change the lock and I wondered why everybody was so ‘uncomfortable’? To them, it seems that it is impossible that I can change a lock because I am not a locksmith! Maybe I din thread the ‘Ant-line’ like the neurotic ant in the movie ‘Antz’ in our totalitarian society.

    I think this is why Sinkies will never get any Nobel Prize, no matter how well we do in school and exams. Very few Sinkies have the spirit of taking risk and we were overly critical on failures and sticking too much to social norms. In Singapore, everybody is on the rat race to getting that big house, that big car, that big fat remuneration and the big ego!

    I read that many years ago, some big shot civil servant brought some China visiting officials to visit the newly completed Changi Airport(T1 at that time). He boasted about the facilities and state of art technology of the airport. The Chinese officials nodded in agreement(maybe out of courtesy) when suddenly one of them asked him who built the airport. The red-faced civil servant had to reply that it was built by a Japanese company and we are not so big deal after all.

    More than 30 years had passed and I think we still not capable of building the next phase of our airport!

    Maybe we should learn from the Hippie that we should not think too highly of ourselves and learn that life is not all about making and spending money.