Opinion

3 Terrible Reasons Why Singaporeans Spend on Impulse and Then Cry Later

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Joanne Poh

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Deep in his heart of hearts, every Singaporean knows how important it is to save money. The state doesn’t take care of you, so if you don’t save up now, that’s going to be you in a couple of decades’ time, wiping off tables at the hawker centre even as you struggle to stand upright. That’ll be you, wasting away in your rental HDB flat as a debilitating illness you could not avoid treatment for eats away at your insides.

But still, despite the insecurity and the knowledge that you’ve got to take care of your own finances, Singaporeans can be surprisingly impulsive spenders. YOLO, they cry, and then take out a 10 year loan for that chick magnet car, or drop their life savings on a handbag. Here are a few reasons Singaporeans fall prey to impulse spending despite their awareness of the importance of financial prudence.

 

Keeping up appearances

Despite being otherwise fairly rational and calculating people, Singaporeans tend to go nuts when it comes to keeping up appearances or preserving their “face” in front of others, whether they be friends and relatives or employers and even random strangers. It’s truly amazing how much big ticket spending occurs because the parents or relatives “insist”, or because “everybody is doing it”.

The most obvious examples are lavish wedding banquets and extravagant cars purchased just for the bragging rights. A generally high level of materialism in our society means that the average person is concerned about keeping up with the Joneses, and the urge to do so often overrides any common sense.

 

Holiday mentality

Have you ever seen those Singaporeans carting home huge rainbow-coloured bags filled with clothes from Chatuchak on a flight back from Bangkok? Or the rabid groups of tourists storming the Woodbury outlets in the US? A Singaporean on holiday isn’t complete unless there’s been at least a day or two of shopping till you drop. No matter where the destination might be, Singaporeans always find something to buy, whether it’s chocolate in Belgium or tea in Sri Lanka.

The problem is that Singaporeans just don’t feel complete coming back from a holiday without an entire suitcase full of shopping, as well as gifts and snacks for friends and colleagues. It’s almost a given that you have to leave some goodies in the pantry at the office if you’ve had to take leave for your holiday, and many people even buy individual gifts for every colleague on their team.

 

Hype surrounding sales

The hype generated by sales seems to affect Singaporeans quite profoundly. “The Mango sale is on!” and “Does anyone want to go to the electronics fair at Expo?” are common refrains. Could be that there’s really not much to do on the weekends, but a sale actually takes quite a high priority on Singaporeans’ list of things to do in their spare time. The Great Singapore Sale is actually something of a national event, so you can imagine how much discounts excite the city at large.

Because of the amount of money sales purportedly help you to “save”, people start feeling like they’re missing out if they don’t buy something—anything. The fact that people are willing to travel more than an hour across the island to attend an event like the NATAS Travel Fair is a testament to how sure they are that they’ll buy something, come what may, to make the trip worthwhile.

Do you ever fall prey to impulse spending and why? 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.