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3 Expensive Ways Singaporeans Spend Time Hanging Out and Their Cheaper Alternatives

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Joanne Poh

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Having fun in Singapore can be hard sometimes, not just because this country is full of boring sticks-in-the-mud (just kidding), but because it’s so darned expensive. A single drink at a bar costs as much as a five course meal in a neighbouring Southeast Asian country, and going on a shopping spree with your girlfriends is like passing your credit card to an identify thief.

Here are three costly ways Singaporeans hang out with their friends, and their cheaper alternatives.

 

1. Drinking and clubbing

Thanks to our insanely high alcohol prices, anything involving drinking is so painfully expensive that if it were possible to inject alcohol into the veins for it to have a stronger effect, you can bet there would be people doing it. A beer pint at a standard Clarke Quay bar will set you back close to $15, and cover charge to clubs like Zouk costs around $28 for guys. Factor in the taxi fare home and you’re looking at at least $50 for a drink or two on a Friday night. Ouch.

 

2. Shopping

Whenever any of my female friends invites me to go shopping with them, I freak out, because that usually means a choice between taking a seat with the disgruntled boyfriends fiddling with their phones at the seats in the boutiques, or blowing through wads of cash on stuff I don’t need. With shopping malls at every turn and even in MRT stations, virtually any day out can morph into a shopping trip if you’re not careful.

 

3. Buffets and high tea

Virtually every Singaporean claims to be a foodie. Heck, the main reason our people haven’t all emigrated to other countries is the food (or at least that’s the first thing overseas Singaporeans say they miss about this place). While delicious food is available at hawker centres and cheap cafes, we’re so used to them they’re no longer special.

So Singaporeans who want an extra treat go to buffets and high tea, usually at hotels. A buffet lunch at a five star hotel can easily cost $80 to $100+, while you’re looking at at least $30 to $50 for high tea.

 

Cheaper alternatives

Instead of the above three money suckers, choose the following options the next time you’re craving social interaction and want to ask a friend out.

 

1. Sports

Unless you’re practising super expensive sports like competitive plane flying or golf, getting active usually costs a lot less than simply consuming food, alcohol and consumer goods, and also takes up a considerable chunk of time so you have less time to feel bored. An afternoon of ice skating at Leisure Park Kallang or JCube should cost around $20+ including rental of skates and gloves, which is even less than your taxi fare home after clubbing.

A few games of bowling or pool usually cost less than $20 per person. A game of tennis or badminton is super cheap, and you can even book facilities for free using the $100 of ActiveSG credits the government gave you this year.

 

2. Coffee

If you want to sit down at a chic F&B outlet for a heart-to-heart with a friend, unless that “friend” is a Tinder date and you need alcohol to calm your nerves, opting for coffee is almost always a cheaper option. While our artisanal coffee options are definitely not cheap, alcohol is still way more expensive.

Even the most overpriced coffee shouldn’t cost more than $7, while you’d be hard pressed to find a crappy Tiger beer at the same price unless you’re drinking at a kopitiam. If you really want to cut costs, pick the espresso, which usually costs only $3 to $4.

 

3. Parks and gardens

One of the biggest highlights of a visit to Singapore, at least from the point of view of foreign visitors who are not cashed up Chinese tours, is the parks and gardens, particularly Gardens by the Bay and the Botanic Gardens. They’re free, and a stroll through these parks sure beats crowdsurfing in the Orchard Road tunnel. Grab a sandwich or a bag of chips and a few beers from 7-11 and you’re all set. Gardens by the Bay has the added advantage of being close to the CBD, so you can legitimately hang out there after work.

What are your favourite low cost activities in Singapore? Tell 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.