How Singaporean Shoppers Can Stop Wanting to Buy So Much

why are gen y singaporeans not saving money

Joanne Poh


To many Singaporeans, you can never spend too much on bling. We’re not even talking about the ostentatious luxury homes and the fast cars of the super rich. The average Singaporean PMET thinks carrying a $5,000 handbag is normal and can easily justify blowing a day’s wages on a restaurant meal.

That’s at least part of the reason why 55% of Singaporeans between 25 and 34 and 31% of Singaporeans over 55 have zero retirement savings. The fact is, a lot of people just don’t care that much about personal finance—their short-term desires are just too strong. Why save money when it’s so much more exciting to blow your entire month’s salary on a luxurious staycation?

If you frequently find yourself a slave to your material desires, here are some strategies that can help you just stop wanting so damn much.


Enjoy simple (or at least cheaper) things

It’s strange how so many people in Singapore think they need to blow a ton of cash in order to be happy, but then don’t end up enjoying themselves regardless. You see couples splurge on expensive restaurant meals, only to end up engrossed in their smartphones throughout the evening.

Make the effort to savour simple (and cheap) things, and you might soon find you’re getting more out of these experiences than costlier ones. Invite a friend to take an afternoon walk at the Botanic Gardens instead of sitting down to an expensive dinner, and for the love of God put your smartphone away and stop thinking about work for those few hours.

Make it habit to savour experiences no matter how small, and you’ll not only become a bastion of zen, you’ll also start to balk at spending a lot of money on things that don’t improve your life by that much.


Get a dose of perspective

Your life isn’t as bad as you think it is—that’s all a matter of perspective, and Singaporeans are so used to comparing themselves with the billionaires that hide their riches here and the regular people who try their best to consume as conspicuously as possible that everyone secretly feels like a pauper.

If your super corporate friends constantly make you feel like you have a terrible life for not wanting to spend $35 on a cocktail, get a dose of perspective by meeting a more diverse bunch of people.

Do volunteer work to help those to whom life has dealt a tougher hand of cards than yours, and spend time with people who work for the love of the job, even if it doesn’t earn them Raffles Place salaries. Bit by bit, you’ll find yourself wanting to live the high life less and less.


Find something you care about

It’s a little embarrassing that 57% of the affluent Singaporeans surveyed by the Straits Times declared that shopping was their top hobby. Is this country really as characterless as people say it is?

If you’ve got no interests other than working, eating and shopping, telling yourself to go cold turkey with nothing to fill the void is like telling a food photographer to subsist on carrot sticks.

Do yourself a favour and find a hobby (preferably not an expensive one like Ferrari racing or skydiving)—one that really and truly gets you going, not something you halfheartedly participate in for street cred.

When you find something to obsess about other than buying stuff, your material desires take a backseat. It might be doing parkour, learning Spanish or geocaching. Just find something to do besides salivating over online shopping sites.


Slow down and de-stress

Singaporeans are a stressed out bunch, and they love to shop. Could there be a link?

Yes, think these researchers, who found that the more materialistic a person is, the more likely they’ll go shopping for things they don’t need but want to show off in times of stress. The kicker is that this behaviour only offers short term relief, and actually contributes to greater stress in the long-term.

This means the worse you feel, the more you end up wanting to buy, and the worse it makes you feel.

If you’re the kind of person whose heart palpitates when you return home with an armful of shopping bags, you might be guilty of the above.

If would hence benefit you to actively work on reducing stress in your life. Take up meditation, yoga or qigong, cut out unnecessary activities in your life (do you really need to drive your kids to 5 after-school activities each day?) and be realistic about the amount of stress you’re willing to handle at work.

Maybe then you’ll stop using the “retail therapy” excuse to bring home piles of junk.

Do you often feel compelled to buy stuff? Tell us why or why not 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.