It’s a little ironic that Singapore markets itself as a shopping and lifestyle destination when many of its inhabitants can’t even afford to partake in the bulk of the increasingly expensive shopping and entertainment options here. Going out for a single late night cocktail can cost well over $50 when you factor in the crazy high prices of alcohol here and the taxi ride home.
As someone who grew up in Singapore, I often find myself wondering why I feel so much poorer as a working adult than I did as an 18-year-old. Back then, I didn’t have to worry about not being able to afford a taxi ride home or spending the equivalent of a week’s lunch budget on a single drink. Times have changed, and if you like to spend time anywhere other than home, here are some costs to beware of.
The cost of dining out
It’s not just hawker centre prices that have been rising. Eating out has gotten a lot more expensive across the board. While restauranteurs like to blame the rising cost of ingredients and labour, a 2013 news report revealed that food prices at mid-range eateries have risen disproportionately, over and above the price increases caused by factors of production—simply because people are more willing and able to pay inflated prices.
Gone are the days when you could sit down to a meal at a cafe for $7 to $10. These days, spending $20 to $30 on a simple brunch is the norm.
It’s not just inflation and rising prices that have necessitated higher food budgets for ordinary Singaporeans. Palates are changing and expectations are rising. While a kid growing up in the 90s might have viewed a visit to McDonald’s as the ultimate treat, more and more middle class parents are now seen taking their kids to fancy restaurants and cafes.
As if that isn’t bad enough, alcohol is hideously expensive in Singapore—in fact, according to some surveys, we have the highest alcohol prices in the world.
It used to be that one could buy a cold can of beer from 7-11 and then drink it on a park bench or under the stars, at peace with the fact that they were rewarding themselves after a hard day at work without breaking the bank.
With the ban on public consumption of alcohol as well as the sale of alcohol at convenience stores and supermarkets after 10:30pm, those who just want a can of Tiger on the cheap are now forced to either fork out the cash for overpriced drinks or be resigned to the fact that only the rich get to have fun.
Taxi fare after midnight
There was once a time when you could enjoy a night on the town without worrying about how the hell you could afford to get back home. The Night Rider bus service, which operates on weekends and the eve of public holidays, used to operate well past 4am, so students and people on a budget were still assured an affordable ride home.
This year, SMRT decided to stop Night Rider services at 2am, saying it wasn’t cost effective for them to operate the routes till late.
That’s what happens when the provision of public transport exists solely as a profit-making enterprise, I guess.
To rub salt into the wound, taxi fares are much more expensive now than they were a decade ago. As a teenager, I remember being able to take a taxi home from the city for less than $15. These days, I’m lucky if I can get away with paying $25.
Again, the message is clear—enjoy our world class entertainment and nightlife scene if you’re loaded, otherwise you can just stay home and stare at the walls.
What are your biggest entertainment expenses? Tell us in the comments!