3 Common Inflexible Beliefs That Make Singaporeans Spend More Money

waste money habits

Joanne Poh


Singaporeans aren’t known for thinking out of the box. In fact, we often go out of our way to find boxes to force ourselves into even when there’s no need to. Or at least, that can be the only reason so many people seem to be following a script here: plod through a tuition-filled childhood, take up the best tertiary course you qualify for and then snag an office job in a field you have minimal interest in but that pays the bills. Buy a car once your salary hits $5,000. Apply for a BTO flat, save up for your fancy hotel wedding banquet. Procreate.

Of course, for a few people, all the above works just fine and they die happy. But let’s be honest—they probably spent a lot of unnecessary money in the lead up to the finish line, not because they wanted to, but because they thought there was no other option. Here are three examples of inflexible thinking that causes Singaporeans to waste money.


I must have that hotel wedding banquet

A hotel wedding banquet is probably the most expensive way to celebrate a marriage. And let’s face it, cookie cutter hotel banquets can get boring and repetitive. Yet Singaporeans continue to spend obscene amount of money so they can “give face” to their parents and relatives. The amazing thing is that many of my friends who’ve pretty much resigned themselves to the need to throw a banquet for their parents have never really sat down and had a proper discussion with their parents on the matter.

Sure, their parents might not want them to elope or get married in a strip club. But even the most conservative of old folks might be willing to entertain the idea of celebrating in a restaurant (a Chinese one for the super old school Chinese parents). And seriously, if your parents knew you were turning to loansharks to finance your wedding, I doubt they would continue to insist.

In fact, according to my married or engaged male friends, more than 50% of the time, the reason couples spend tons of money on a wedding banquet is because their other half insists on it.


Tuition is the only way to help my kids survive school

It’s rather sad that tuition is a billion dollar industry in Singapore, and that half the families that hire tutors for their kids spend more than $500 a month. That is crazy, especially when you consider the fact that many of these parents are also repaying loans for their HDB flats and generally trying to survive in an increasingly expensive city.

Interestingly enough, many of my friends who don’t even have kids or aren’t married just assume that their future kids will need tuition. In fact, many cite as the very reason they don’t want to have kids in Singapore the fact that life is too stressful for them thanks to tuition and school. I’ve been a tutor myself and can confirm that for many kids, tuition is a waste of time as they’re so overloaded/tired/inattentive that they don’t benefit from the lesson at all.

There are alternatives to tuition such as coaching your child yourself, working on increasing his self-motivation or simply exposing him to fun stuff that will make him enjoy learning. Instead of sending the child for English tuition how about encouraging him to read recreationally instead?


I’ll have to give up my social life to save money

“I really envy you, being able to save so much money. But I can’t be like that. I can’t bring myself to suffer,” said my friend.

I always feel a bit exasperated when I try to explain to people that you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars a month to have a social life or have fun, even in an expensive place like Singapore. If you do, it just means you’re not creative enough.

Sure, there are people who are having the time of their lives here, with the price tag to boot. But I also know people who have tons of friends, are never home moping on a Friday night and still manage to keep their spending in check.

These are people who avoid expensive restaurants and are more likely to be wearing sneakers than stilettos on a Saturday night, whose friends know their homes like their own and who love budget travel. But more than anything, these are people who are open and don’t judge their friends based on how much money they make.

Maybe all it takes is an open mind after all.

Have you ever wasted money because of inflexible thinking? Tell us about it 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.