How to Save Money While Living the Single Life

Joanne Poh


People who are married with kids are often talk about single people as if they’re sitting on a gold mine and have no excuse to spend money. One of my former bosses used to make the snide remark that “he/she doesn’t have kids or a family to support anyway” when displeased about an employee declining to spend money on office-related expenses.

Well, single people might not have to blow their savings on carnivalesque weddings or bulk orders of diapers, but they do face financial pressures that people who are coupled up don’t have to worry about. Married people often fail to realise that they get to save on housing as a pair if they move in together. And then there’s the fact that most of their free time is spent making sure their kids don’t swallow any household items, which means their alcohol and entertainment budget is likely to remain at comfortable levels.


Never cook just one portion

Married folks usually have dinner together, which means cooking at home make so much sense. If you’re not in the situation where you can just rely on your parents to do all the cooking for you, there’s a high chance you head to coffee shops and restaurants every time you need food, or dine out with friends.

On the occasions when you do end up cooking for yourself, you end up having to buy ingredients in portions you can’t finish. For instance, buying a tube of mayonnaise to use just once means it will go to waste unless you cook regularly. This wastage means cooking at home eats into your potential savings.

Every time you take to the kitchen, aim to cook at least three portions. If you live with parents or roommates, you could cook for them or work out an arrangement where you take turns cooking. If you only have yourself to feed, make food for the next one or two days. Not only will you cut down on wasted ingredients, you’ll also discover that your time allocated to cooking becomes more efficient, which then encourages you to cook at home more.

Marissa, a 30-year-old bank executive, regularly cooks for her family together with her siblings. When a family dinner is being planned, everyone makes sure they are at home to eat. This helps everyone in their household of five save money, as it is much cheaper to eat at home as a family than to have everyone eat out separately.

“My family is large by Singaporean standards, so it’s quite rare that I have to cook for only myself,” she says.


Join a community that gathers to practise a cheap hobby

One of the main advantages of being single is having the time to cultivate a better social life. Well, in theory anyway. Without a spouse and kid to take up your time (or simply make you too tired to even go out), you’ll have to get out of the house to fulfill your social needs.

Unfortunately, even breathing in public is expensive these days, or it will be once people find out a way to commercialise it. Go out for dinner and drinks every evening and you could soon find yourself with an empty wallet.

One foolproof way to maintain an interesting social life on a dime is to immerse yourself in an inexpensive hobby community. If you’re finding it increasingly expensive to hang out with your usual crew, this can be a good way to expand your social circle to cheaper horizons.

Sharani, a 28-year-old private tutor, regularly attends and organises free hiking trips using a variety of online platforms. The groups hike at local spots such as MacRitchie and Dairy Farm. “Each time I attend a hiking session, I’m sure to meet a few new people. While you shouldn’t expect to make best friends immediately, joining a hiking group lets you meet a steady stream of new faces, and eventually you will click with someone. Best of all, most of the hikes are free.”


Recalibrate your social circle

If you still associate socialising with spending tons of money, you should probably recalibrate your existing social circle. That doesn’t mean you have to fake your own death and ditch all your friends. It does mean you will shift your focus and start building on the relationships and activities that are more in line with your lifestyle.

There’s a chance that there are at least a few low cost activities you and your friends enjoy. Your job is to encourage them to participate in such activities instead of expensive ones.

Arnold, a 32-year-old entrepreneur, has passed nights costing more than a thousand dollars, as well as cheap evenings out at a hawker centre, all with the same group of friends. “Nowadays I just try to do cheaper things like playing LAN as opposed to going to the casino and drinking, which are much more expensive,” he says.

On the other hand, there are some friends who are always going to be expensive to hang out with than others. Cultivate closer relationships with those whose lifestyles resonate more deeply with yours, instead of being passive and always letting other people make the first move.

For Janice, a 30-year-old editor, trying to save money means being more proactive in structuring her social life. “If I did nothing and just accepted every invitation I received, I would be drinking and clubbing a lot more. I try to be the one to initiate friendships and organise things when I meet someone I’d like to get to know better, preferably someone who’s not overly materialistic and doesn’t need to be seen at all the coolest bars. Sometimes you get rejected, but that’s life.”


Participate in the sharing economy

When you have a partner or kids, renting out your spare bedroom to strangers may invite protests. And your other half may not be too pleased to have to share the car with the three other guys in your carpooling arrangement.

One advantage of being single and unfettered is being able to exploit all your resources to the fullest in exchange for cash, and to make use of the sharing economy to cut costs.

Arnold rents out the bedrooms in the flat he shares with his mother. At times, he even rents out his own room and sleeps in the living room.

“When I’m married, I doubt I will be able to do the same in my own flat. My wife would kill me if I told her we had to sleep in the living room,” he says.

Victor, a 31-year-old legal counsel, used to have a car sharing arrangement with some of his friends who lived in his area. He would drive them to and from work. In exchange, they would chip in and pay for petrol and ERP.

These days, however, Victor has a girlfriend, and the car sharing arrangement has fallen by the wayside. “Most days after work I meet my girlfriend, so my friends can’t really rely on me to send them home anymore. Having a partner makes it harder to stick with such arrangements,” he says.

Do you have any other tips that can help single people save money? Share them with us 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.