Many people I know are secretly in debt. While homes and cars are some of the biggest expenses Singaporeans incur, a sizeable number of these people actually live with their parents rent-free and don’t have mortgages or childcare fees to contend with. Many of them wear ties and work in the CBD in jobs that pay them salaries above the nation’s median income.
Yet each month they struggle to pay off mounting credit card bills.
Sure, the cost of living in Singapore is too high for comfort. But there’s no denying that middle class Singaporeans increasingly enjoy products and services that are actually very luxurious. Maybe that’s why so many people here are drowning in debt due to overspending.
Just people-watch at Orchard Road or Dempsey Hill for five minutes and you’ll see no shortage of genuine $5,000 Chanel handbags—and not just on the arms of the super-rich, either.
Upon closer inspection, it’s clear that designer handbags aren’t the only luxuries middle class Singaporeans enjoy, despite how much furor there is over the rising cost of living. Perhaps that’s why recently there’s been talk about how Singapore is turning into a “luxury city”. Here are some other expensive treats many average Singaporeans splash out on.
Blame it on the fact that people are stuck living with their parents well into their 20s and 30s, but these days it seems like staycations are a popular way to spend birthdays and other special occasions. Even married couples with their own homes occasionally take staycations to get away from the stresses of childrearing. Either that or my Facebook feed is lying to me.
But because of Singapore’s astronomical real estate prices, it’s actually one of the worst cities ever in which to go on a staycation. A night at Marina Bay Sands costs over $400—way above most people’s budget for overseas hotel stays. But it seems the high price tag hasn’t been enough to deter Singaporeans, based on the fact that I’ve swum in the infinity pool multiple times thanks to friends who decided to treat themselves to a staycation and invited me along for the ride.
2. Hotel buffets
Yes, we get that Singaporeans love their food. Despite the relatively willowy physiques of most Singaporeans, many of the people I know can really eat. And there’s nothing a Singaporean loves more than a good hotel buffet—I suspect it has more to do with the quantity and variety than the quality.
Sure, those dainty cafes are fine for a snack. But a buffet at a five star hotel is the ultimate treat for when you’re with people in front of whom you’re not trying to look glamorous. If you don’t believe me, tell your friends you’d like to go to a restaurant where a meal costs $80. Then tell them you’ve changed your mind in favour of a hotel buffet that costs the same amount, and watch their eyes light up.
But the fact is, no matter how much you can stuff into your mouth in one sitting, an $80 meal isn’t cheap—in fact, it’s what many people spend on food in an entire week.
Blame it on Singapore’s hot and humid weather and how it causes pores to open and oil glands to work overtime, but many Singaporeans can’t live without their facials. Ask around and you might be surprised to discover that a huge number of women (and a not insignificant number of men, though you might have to blackmail them into admitting it) go for regular facials costing over $100 (usually well over $150) each time.
We wouldn’t dare suggest that baby soft skin isn’t a worthy pursuit, of course. But fretting about the fact that your facialist didn’t extract your blackheads gently enough is a first world problem of the highest order.
What are some luxuries Singaporeans enjoy on a regular basis? Let us know in the comments!