Budgeting

How to do the Tai Tai Lifestyle on a Budget

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Joanne Poh

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It’s definitely not true that every Singaporean woman actually wants to be a tai tai, but I think it’s safe to say that most want to live the luxurious lifestyle of one.

Unfortunately, unless you really have someone very rich bankrolling such a lavish lifestyle, it’s probably not a good idea to go for champagne brunch every Sunday, bi-monthly manicures and pedicures and shop for designer handbags every chance you get. If that’s your thing, here’s how to enjoy just a bit of that lifestyle on a budget.

 

High tea

Sitting down to a luxurious high tea is one of the hallmarks of a tai tai, since it’s a sign that they’re the only ones in town who don’t have to slog away on a weekday afternoon. Never mind that high tea isn’t a particularly substantial meal yet still costs a bomb.

If that’s your thing, your best bet is to avoid hotel high tea buffets. These will usually set you back at least $40, which is a lot to pay for what are essentially snacks.

Instead, head to cafes and restaurants offering afternoon tea or high tea at affordable prices, such as the following:

  • Fosters (277 Holland Avenue) – This little cafe and steakhouse at Holland Village serves up one of the best value high tea sets on the island. The Devonshire Cream Tea set costs $11.50.
  • Marmalade Pantry (ION Orchard #03-22) – This cafe, which has been a hit with taitais since it opened, offers a value-for-money high tea set for $38, to be shared between two people.
  • Fresh Fruits Lab (351 Changi Road) – Easties will enjoy this high tea spread for $19.
  • Hyde & Co ((785 North Bridge Road) – Their classic English high tea set costs $23.
  • Tissettanta Lounge (Hotel Fort Canning) – If you have to head to a hotel, the high tea set here is one of the cheapest at about $25.

 

Brunch

Leave the real tai tais to their champagne brunches. Unless you’re willing to pay well over $80 for an afternoon meal, we suggest you instead take advantage of Singapore’s cafe boom to enjoy brunch at a much lower price. Skip the more expensive buffet options to save more. Here are some suggestions:

  • Food For Thought (1 Cluny Road #B1-00) – This cafe at the Botanic Gardens offers one of the most value-for-money brunches in Singapore.
  • Rise & Grind Coffee Co (1 Jalan Anak Bukit #L1-CA1 Bukit Timah Plaza) – When even Bukit Timah Plaza starts getting taken over by hipster cafes, you know the end of the world is close. Thanks to the ulu location, prices here are lower and you can enjoy brunch for under $15.
  • Cafe Melba (90 Goodman Road Block N #01-56 Goodman Arts Centre) – This place is a sanctuary, and their brunch dishes at around $20 are reasonably priced by Singapore standards.
  • Whisk & Paddle (10 Tebing Lane #01-01) – Their big breakfast plate costs $19.80, and à la carte brunch dishes generally cost $13 and below.

 

Manicure and pedicure

Guys have no idea how much it costs to go to a nail salon. If your salon is located in a central area, you’re looking at paying at least $60 to $80 for a full hand and foot manicure.

Those who insist on doing their nails at least once a month should shop aggressively on Groupon, since the place is a hotbed of nail and spa services, typically priced at around $20 a pop.

That’s probably cheaper than buying a package and then fearing that the nail salon’s going to disappear overnight.

 

Shopping

Everyone knows shopping is tai tais’ most important skill! If you don’t constantly update your wardrobe, you’ll lose face in front of your fashionista friends, and then it’ll be the end of the world.

To constantly refresh your clothing options without going completely broke, head to flea markets, outlet malls and teen-focused places like Scape.

It seems flea markets are now a “thing” in Singapore, and these are good places to pick up unique designer accessories. Try MAAD (first or second Friday of the month at Red Dot Design Museum) and Zouk Flea and Easy (every 3 months).

For outlet malls, the most generously stocked ones in Singapore are IMM, Anchorpoint, and Changi City Point. Prices can go as low as 90% off, and you should be able to find brands like Coach, Polo Ralph Lauren and Agnes B.

Finally, if you dress like a hipster you’ll be able to take advantage of youth-focused malls and shops like Scape and Editor’s Market. While not super cheap, you should be able to pick up some good deals, and you might be surprised to find lots of clothes designed to mimic high fashion.

Does the tai tai lifestyle appeal to you? Tell us why or why not 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.