Sure, poring over your credit card and bank statements can help you to cut your spending, but what if there are other things in your life that are affecting you financially, even if good old DBS and OCBC don’t know they exist? You might be subsisting on rice and lentils, but maybe if you were a bit more aware of the following three things, you would be able to find a way to cut your spending further without downgrading to Maggi.
A long commute
Singapore is a small country, and people tend to underestimate the impact of a long commute to work. But guess what? A long daily commute might actually be having a much greater negative impact on your life than you think.
We don’t even need to mention the unpleasantness of waiting half an hour for a feeder bus or being manhandled on the MRT. But long commutes also make you more likely to spend money to eat out and get less sleep. It’s a no brainer, really. If your commute is 1.5 hours one way (ask SBS if you’re wondering how that is possible in a country as small as Singapore), that means you spend 3 hours on public transport. Add to that 9 hours of work (assuming you don’t work OT) and that’s 12 hours of your day. Who has time to cook?
In addition, if you live far away from the workplace, oversleep once and that cab ride to work is going to cost you at least $20, if you can even get one, that is. For drivers, a longer commute means more time spent sneaking glances at your smartphone in heavy traffic and more money spent on petrol. So the next time you get a job offer, don’t underestimate how important an accessible location is.
Your relationship status
Different people behave differently when they’re single and when they’re married or in a relationship. Some people party like crazy when they’re single and spend lots of money trying to impress dates, but once they settle down their spending becomes a lot more conservative.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are people whose single lives consist mainly of watching anime at home, and being in a relationship is the only reason they go out and spend money.
A bit of self-awareness will alert you to what sort of person you are. Then try not to go overboard the next time your relationship status changes. Of course, your choice of partner affects your behaviour as well, but in my experience after the initial excitement dies down old habits tend to die hard.
Low financial literacy
If you’re the sort of person who’s good at saving money, it can be easy to get lulled into a false sense of security. You observe with a sneer as your friends throw money at the Hello Kitty EZ-Link charm and feel superior, since you are too sensible to buy something like that, right? Well, good for you, but if your financial literacy is low, all the saving in the world won’t help you to realise your full financial potential.
For all their preoccupation with money, Singaporeans are actually experiencing falling levels of financial literacy. All is not lost, however. It’s called financial literacy and not rocket science for a reason.
If you’re the sort of person who openly professes that they hate reading, the government’s Moneysense initiative is a good way to get up to speed on the basics. Get a grip on basic money management, financial planning and investment first. Once you are fairly familiar with these three components, delving into them in greater detail and speaking with a financial planner if necessary gets a lot less overwelming.
Have you been financially screwed over by any of the above? Tell us about your experiences in the comments!