Opinion

3 Silly Ways Many Singaporeans Try to Save Money

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Joanne Poh

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I’ve done some dumb things to save money, from walking 4km home from the nearest MRT station after missing the last bus to wearing cheap school uniform shirts to a job interview.

But it seems I’m not the only one. Many Singaporeans try to save money in ways that, well, Einstein wouldn’t attempt. Here are three stupid ways to save money that just aren’t worth the trouble.

 

Evading ERP and illegal parking fees

Despite having a reputation for being rule-abiding, Singaporeans can be all too eager to break a few rules if they think they won’t get caught, and if it can save them a bit of money.

All road users are guilty of slowing to a crawl just before the ERP gantry or even shamelessly parking by the side of the road because they know the ERP charges are going to fall in 5 minutes’ time.

But some go to even greater lengths. Motorcyclists at the Tuas and Woodlands checkpoints often scoot around the gantries to avoid paying the tolls and ERP fees.

Then there’s parking, which nobody likes to pay. The “summon auntie” is so universally hated that there’s even a mobile app designed to warn other road users when she’s in the vicinity.

There are also people who try to park their vehicles where they shouldn’t, such as on sidewalks and anywhere with those dreaded double yellow lines.

Getting caught can result in heavy fines—you can get slapped with a fine of $200+ for a first offence of evading ERP or $70 for illegal parking. If that happens to you, get onto the LTA website and appeal for your dear life.

 

Not investing in themselves

Getting a higher education in Singapore is more expensive than it used to be. A year studying at NUS costs $8,050 to $12,500, except for dentistry and medicine undergrads who pay $26,500 a year. Multiply that by the number of years you spend in the degree course and you’re looking at a lot of student loan debt.

But if you don’t have any skills or interests that will let you carve out a more rewarding career without a degree, you might be better off spending that money, as the wage gap between degree and diploma holders is considerable.

But there are other ways working adults can invest in themselves. After getting their first degree or diploma before entering the working world, many people are reluctant to spend more money to pick up new skills. That’s why the government’s had to shell out the cash to give us $500 worth of SkillsFuture credits.

There are other ways to invest in yourself that aren’t related to your education or career. Spending a little more to eat healthily, enable yourself to cook or get enough exercise can pay off when you’re older as you’ll be in better physical and mental shape.

 

Being penny wise, pound foolish

Most Singaporeans are happy to spend on certain things, like restaurant meals or overseas holidays. But when it comes to other types of spending, we can be quite “ngiao”.

For instance, anybody who’s tried to find engineering or IT jobs in local SMEs knows that local bosses are unwilling to pay for quality. This is why people are now lamenting the talent shortage in fields like computer engineering.

This can later end up biting the company in the ass. For instance, if you hire a lousy developer just because he’s cheap, you may end up with a system that’s full of bugs and costs a lot more money to fix.

In our private lives, when it comes to doing the legwork to save hundreds or thousands of dollars, many are often too lazy or can’t be bothered to find out how.

For instance, while some people will not hesitate to aggressively beg salespeople for discounts whenever they’re in a retail store, even going so far as to ask if they can use their staff discounts (yes, it happens), they can’t be bothered to refinance their home loans, which can save them a lot more money over time.

Have you ever tried to save money in a way you later realised wasn’t so clever? 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.