We won’t sugarcoat it. It’s pretty darn scary heading into a year of an oncoming GST hike, a looming recession, and inevitable inflation.
First step, breathe.
As you do that, we’ve put together a list of manageable new year resolutions to help you live your best life in 2023. If you had zero financial discipline in 2022, don’t worry—let’s hit reset. New year, new you, right?
From becoming a smarter shopper to a savvy saver, here are nine ways to begin taking charge of your finances and the steps to achieve them.
1. Navigate the GST hike like a pro
New year, new GST. With GST now at 8% (and slated to increase to 9% in 2024), it pays to be prudent about navigating the new rates.
The first thing you should do is check if you’re eligible for the government’s GST Voucher Scheme (GSTV). Targeted at lower- and middle-income households, the scheme comprises four components: Cash for immediate needs, MediSave for seniors’ medical needs, U-Save for utilities bills; and S&CC Rebate for service and conservancy charges. Log in to the GSTV dashboard via Singpass to check if you’re eligible and sign up if you haven’t previously.
2. Become a street smart shopper
While you’re bemoaning the higher price tags you see this year, take note of just how high the price increases are. Businesses are not allowed to increase prices by more than the increase in GST. If you spot such a case, report it to the Committee Against Profiteering for investigation.
You can also check if a business is registered for GST in the first place—only GST-registered businesses are allowed to charge consumers for GST. They also have to follow price display rules that ensure transparency and clarity in pricing for the consumer. If you come across a business that violates these rules, you can report it via email to [email protected].
3. Get GST support for your business
If you’re a business owner, raising your prices to combat the increased GST isn’t your only option.
While businesses with a taxable turnover (read: earnings that are subject to tax) exceeding S$1 million a year must register for tax, others can make a voluntary registration. You’ll then be able to claim the GST you paid for your purchases.
But a word of warning: Being a GST-registered business also means you’ll have to charge your customers for GST. If the bulk of your customers are not GST-registered, they may be put off by the higher prices. Consider the pros and cons of GST registration carefully to determine if it will help you.
Finally, check out GST schemes to alleviate GST costs. For example, the Zero GST (ZG) Warehouse Scheme suspends GST while imported goods are stored in designated warehouses, excluding dutiable goods. If you import and export goods in large quantities, the Major Exporter Scheme could help you save costs. This scheme suspends GST on non-dutiable goods when they are imported and when they leave ZG warehouses.
4. Prepare for recession and inflation
The first thing you should do is plan a budget and stick to it. If you already have a budget, it’s a good idea to adjust it for the higher costs of living due to inflation and the GST hike. Your budget should ideally allocate at least 30% of your income to long-term savings and investments. This is the first step to growing an emergency fund. If you (touch wood!) get retrenched during a recession, that money should be enough to tide you over for 3-6 months.
Our final tip to ready you for the year ahead is this: Expect the worst. Unemployment spikes during recessions, so update your resume and upgrade your skills now in case you (choy!) get laid off. This doesn’t mean having to sign up for expensive courses. You could simply take up a career-boosting hobby, pick up some skills for free, or even just use your free time more strategically.
5. Reduce your recurring bills
Recurring bills are a nasty thing if left unchecked. But the good news is that it’ll only take a few minutes to go through them and save money each month.
On the first few days of the New Year, collect all your recurring bills from 2022. And not just the monthly ones like phone bills—include annual ones like insurance too.
Now, figure out if you’re able to reduce the amount you pay for each of the bills. Perhaps you can even eliminate some of the costs altogether. For example, do you really need both Netflix and Disney+ subscriptions?
One area in which many people can comfortably save costs is phone bills. Are you utilising all those minutes allocated to you? Would you benefit from switching to a SIM-only plan?
The telco scene is super competitive, and there’s pretty much a mobile plan for every lifestyle. Know your needs and research your options—you might find downgrading your plan or switching to a new telco cheaper.
Another costly recurring expense is home loan repayments. Take a few minutes to see how much money you could save by refinancing your home loan with a bank that’s offering a more attractive interest rate. Pro tip: Use the MoneySmart’s mortgage refinancing wizard to compare rates!
6. Travel, but travel smart
While spontaneity is exciting, last-minute travel bookings don’t do your wallet any favours.
In 2023, make it a New Year’s resolution to plan your travels ahead of time to save on costs. Once you confirm the flight dates you want, buy your plane tickets in advance to avoid peak-season surge pricing and snag early-bird deals.
The good news is that 2023 is a bumper year for public holiday weekends, with a total of 7 long weekends and 11 public holidays. The bad news? Everyone knows this. So in addition to the usual culprits (March, June, September and December holidays), you can expect a surge in demand and prices during these weekends. Other than booking these dates early, you can also plan your annual leave to avoid peak travel periods entirely. Travelling during off-peak seasons also means fewer crowds, so it’s a double win!
Booking accommodation is another expense that can be reduced with some forward planning. Airbnbs and hotels often jack up their prices closer to the dates of your stay, so it’s a good idea to reserve your slots early.
Not sure if that eco bamboo house in the middle of nowhere will still sound like a good idea in a few month’s time? Try looking for listings with flexible cancellation policies. Some give full refunds if you cancel the booking before your stay. Do take note of the cut-off times to cancel without a cancellation fee or penalty — this could be anywhere between 24 hours to 30 days before your stay.
Before you go jet-setting around the world, check out the best credit cards for travel and overseas spending and compare the best travel insurance plans.
7. Update your career goals
Most of us go through work day after work day in a daze, with barely a second to breathe and reflect on why we’re working so damn hard in the first place.
Has it been 3 years in your dead-end job already?
In 2023, make it a New Year’s resolution to reflect on where your career is headed, where you want to be in the future, and how you plan to get there. Put everything down on paper so you can refer to it for motivation or when faced with tough career decisions.
When thinking about what you want out of a job, don’t forget to consider factors such as work-life balance and work arrangements. Maybe you and your partner are planning on starting a family in 2023, and flexible work hours will mean more to you than a high salary. Or maybe your company asked you to start returning to the office every day in 2022, and you’re still pining for the freedom that remote work arrangements gave you.
Have no idea what you want out of your career? Then make it your mission to figure out what your goals are in 2023. Read as much as you can, talk to others in your industry and collect information on the various career paths open to you.
Lucky for you, MoneySmart has a ton of helpful career-related articles in case you need more inspiration, tips and tricks.
8. Go for health screening
If there’s one thing COVID-19 taught us early on in the pandemic, it’s that it’s best to contain a problem quickly before it becomes a big issue. After all, why react to problems when you can prevent them?
That’s why it’s important to regularly check and monitor your health. From heart disease to hypertension, medical treatments can rake up huge bills if their underlying causes are left unchecked.
So if you can’t remember the last time you went for a health screening, you might want to start off the new year by getting yourself checked out. Basic health screening packages start as low as $48—a very reasonable sum when you consider the hundreds or even thousands of dollars early detection could save you.
Stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer are just some examples of chronic diseases that can be screened for and detected early. If you do have such health conditions (touch wood!) but don’t know it, your annual health screening won’t just save you money—it could even save your life.
9. Review your investment portfolio & insurance plans
Good things do not come to those who wait passively for their insurance and investments to flourish. Even if you’ve painstakingly put together an investment portfolio and bought all the right insurance products, your work isn’t done. For optimal results (read: ka-ching!), you’ll need to review your investment and insurance plans regularly to ensure they’re still serving you well.
In general, your investment needs change over time according to your age and risk appetite. So while you might have put most of your moolah into growth stocks when you were younger, you might want to shift your cash to blue chips when you’re older and more risk-averse.
It’s also a good idea to review your insurance plans from time to time, or reassess your insurance needs.
For instance, you might not have bothered to buy life insurance when you were younger, but if you recently started a family, that’s definitely something you’ll want to consider.
Also, the vast majority of people sign up for medical insurance plans without actually reading the policy. If you last time bodoh and currently don’t actually know what you’re paying for, commit to reviewing your existing plans and shopping around for a better policy.
You can do so using MoneySmart’s health insurance wizard, but don’t forget to go for a check-up to ensure you have no pre-existing conditions first.
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