The 3 Biggest Lifestyle Changes Singaporeans Need to Make If They Want to Save More Money

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Joanne Poh


The most common money-saving measure Singaporeans take is to declare a shopping ban. But two seconds after posting that they’re going cold turkey on Facebook, their friends call them out for a drink, and they blow $80 on two craft beers and a taxi ride home.

If you can never seem to pay off that irritating credit card balance or find yourself trying to scrape together enough to eat two days before you’re due to receive your salary each month, you need to make some lifestyle changes if you’re going to survive in this country, financially speaking. And that doesn’t just mean substituting one or two restaurant meals for hawker food.


Get a hobby and make some new friends

Sorry to break it to you, but if you have any sort of social life at all, your friends could be part of the reason you’re spending lots of money.

Thanks to the high price of mid-range to high-end restaurants and the ridiculous cost of alcohol here, socialising with friends is not cheap.

30-year-old lawyer Nigel says, “In Singapore, you constantly eat out and spend ridiculous amounts of money on very average overpriced food and on drinks. But very few people seem to have the mentality that it’s okay to be thrifty. Or perhaps I’m just mixing with the wrong crowd—overpaid lawyers and spoiled brats.”

We’re not saying you need to denounce all your existing friends. But if you hang out with the yuppie crowd or are constantly going for high tea or shopping sprees with fashion-obsessed girlfriends, then making some new friends might be good for your bank account.

Taking up a new hobby, especially low cost one, is the easiest way to meet people in a setting that’s not focused on imbibing alcohol or paying expensive club cover charges. For instance, a friend of mine is part of a hiking group that explores different trails each weekend, and whenever they have a meal together after their sessions they usually just chill at a nearby hawker centre, spending no more than $5 each time.


Learn to appreciate what you have

If your money disappears mainly thanks to online shopping and Orchard Road’s many mega malls, curbing your shopping addiction is the key to giving your savings an instant boost.

Our desire to spend comes from the feeling that what we have isn’t enough. The fact that fabulous wealth is so visible here makes things worse.

This plays out most obviously in the clothes shopping addiction many people here have. I have friends who think it’s embarrassing to be seen in the same outfit twice, even at work.

While there’s no denying that there are lower income earners who are really and truly struggling in Singapore, there are also lots of young PMETs earning above the median salary who will just never be satisfied with what they have, despite the fact that they are living fairly luxurious lives, carrying designer goods, going for expensive meals on a weekly basis and frequently pampering themselves with spas, manicures and massages.

If you constantly panic about not having a nice enough car, hip enough clothes or holidays at the most Facebook-envy-inducing destinations, an exercise in gratitude could stop the cravings.

You’ll be hard pressed to find many other countries in the world where ordinary people eat out almost every day, take off on frequent overseas vacations over the weekend and shop like maniacs not just at home but also overseas.

Take Marissa, for example, a 30-year-old bank executive who acknowledges that she can afford to enjoy the finer things in life. She includes “overseas holidays, manicures, spas and shopping in my favourite places like Tokyo and Seoul” as some of the luxuries she pampers herself with regularly.

Learn to really appreciate what you have and you might end up needing less.


Learn hacks that can save you money

Singaporeans can be very resourceful when they want to be, so it’s maddening that people act dumb when it’s convenient for them.

Kiasu parents have the super sleuthing skills to compile lists of PSLE top scores, yet the average Singaporean can barely cook a decent meal.

If you’re the kind of person who’s used to paying someone to do every damned thing for you, from blow drying your hair before a date to cleaning your house, you’d better get used to working very hard to earn the money to continue doing that.

Otherwise, a DIY mentality can end up saving you quite a bit of money. Other than essential skills like cooking and simple clothing alterations that you probably learnt the basics of in home ec class, here are other things that can help:

  • Knowing how to get fit without a gym, such as by running or doing yoga or body weight training
  • A motorcycle licence for those who go out late at night when there are no transport options other than cabs
  • Knowing how to use a plunger to unclog sinks and toilet bowls (I have a friend who paid $200 after he puked into the sink because he didn’t know he could use one of these)

Get into the habit of solving your own problems, and you won’t be so quick to reach for the phone the next time you’re too lazy to do something for yourself. Also, don’t forget to follow us on Facebook for more ways to simplify your life and maximize your money.

What lifestyle changes have saved you money? Share them 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.