5 Ways To Cut Back on Expenses in 2024 (Without Feeling the Pinch)


Let’s face it, Singapore isn’t exactly known for being cheap. With GST sitting at 9% and the cost of groceries, transport, and housing constantly rising, we need to be more strategic with our money.

To make things more challenging, our salaries just can’t seem to catch up. Inflation is at a multi-year high, effectively shrinking the value of our hard-earned dollars. In 2023 alone, salaries in Singapore suffered a 1.5% drop—although there’s some hope that they’ll increase by 0.5% in 2024. 

Most of us want to cut back on our expenses and build up our savings accounts. A survey by YouGov on Singapore residents found that over half (53%) want to manage their money better this year. But here’s the thing. I want to save, yet I don’t want to feel deprived or lower my standard of living. This calls for some creative budget management strategies.

Here’s my 5-step game plan for how to cut back on expenses in 2024 (without feeling the pinch).

1. Switch from cafe hopping to hawker hopping

Brunch is nice and all, but have you seen the prices at some of these cafes? There are places that charge over S$30 for a dish that you can absolutely cook at home. Plus, many places sell similar types of dishes (I’m so over “truffle” fries).

Cafe brunches are something I don’t mind giving up or at least reducing. Although, I still want to have good coffee. 

While I can afford gourmet coffee at cafes, I certainly can’t do that every day, given that a cup of latte costs at least S$5. Plus, some places charge GST and service charges even if you’re taking away. Welp.

At least there are now more coffee options with ‘atas’ coffee stalls opening in hawker centres. Thanks to a new generation of hawkers, such as Generation Coffee, Coffee Break, and Kopifellas, I can get my cafe-styled coffee at non-cafe prices. Some of these hawkers even offer drinks like matcha latte and cold brew.

The alternative is to switch to local kopi, but when you’re craving a full-bodied espresso-based coffee, nothing beats one that’s made by a barista who knows their stuff.

Here’s a quick comparison: 

Latte from cafe Latte from hawker stall Kopi from hawker stall
~ S$5 – S$6.50 ~ S$3 – S$4 ~ S$0.80 – S$2

If you switch to Kopi, you can save up to S$5.70 each time. But of course, it’s not the same. If you get lattes from a new-age hawker, you’ll save up to S$3.50 and get something that’s of a similar quality. Times that by 7 (a coffee a day), and it works out to S$24.50 in savings per week.

2. Cancel my underutilised subscriptions

It’s high time I review my subscriptions to various services. We have so many subscriptions these days it’s pretty likely that we’re paying for many that we barely use. 

Think about the services that you use daily and those that you use a few times a week, and re-evaluate if they are really necessary. Perhaps you signed up for it just to get the first-time free trial and may have forgotten to cancel it or just had no time to watch the show you wanted to see.

Of course, there are mainstays that you may use every day for streaming music or TV shows, but do you really need another subscription to more than 1 video-on-demand service if you have no time to watch shows?

Here’s how much some popular subscription services cost and how much you can save if you stop subscribing to those you don’t use: 

Streaming platform Subscription fee/month
Spotify S$10.98
YouTube Premium S$11.99
Apple Music  S$10.98
Apple TV+ S$13.98
Netflix S$13.98
Disney+ S$12.98
Amazon Prime S$2.99
HBO GO S$14.24 
mewatch prime S$5.94

If you let go of 5 of these, you could end up saving more than S$50 each month.

3. Get the most out of my salary

Our salaries are where the bulk of our income comes from. And it makes sense to maximise our salaries and squeeze a little more out of it. Short of finding a new job or asking for a raise (nigh impossible in this job climate), one convenient, risk-free way is to credit our salary into a savings account that offers bonus interest for doing so—such as the OCBC 360 account. 

As long as you credit your salary of at least S$1,800 through GIRO/FAST/PayNow via GIRO/PayNow via FAST to your OCBC 360 account, you get 2.00% interest a year on the first S$75,000 and 4.00% on the next S$25,000.

Also, if the average daily balance increases by at least S$500 monthly, you’ll get an additional 1.50% effective interest rate on your first S$100K.

The account also gives a base interest of 0.05% a year, so in total, the interest is 4.05% a year on your first S$100K.

Let’s assume I credit my take-home pay of S$4,000.

Here’s what it’ll look like in the first month*: 

Credit monthly take-home pay of S$4,000 to 360 Account

Interest earned = S$6.95

Here’s what it’ll look like after 12 months*: 

Credit monthly take-home pay of S$4,000 

+ Increased my average daily balance by at least S$500 monthly

Interest earned = S$132.48 per month

With S$132.48 per month, I could potentially cover my phone bill (~ S$20), subscriptions (S$13.98 for Netflix), and even utility bill (~ S$95).

*Figures are derived from OCBC’s interest calculator

Want To Double Your Salary Bonus?

Apply for a 360 Account from 1 April 2024 to 31 May 2024 to enjoy a 4.0% p.a. interest rate on the first S$75,000 balances during the first 2 months of account application.

Terms and conditions apply. Insured up to S$100K by SDIC.

4. Take public transport instead of cabs, unless totally necessary

I’ve rationalised to myself that since I only go to the office twice a week, it’s perfectly ok to spend on Grab rides. But morning peak hour surge pricing is no joke, and I’ve become so accustomed to the comfort of rides that I somehow end up taking cabs way too often and spending way too much. 

A quick check at my Grab account shows that I’ve been on the Platinum tier for the past 2 years! (OK, this includes my spending on food delivery, which I should totally cut down as well.) Although public transport prices have increased, so has ride-hailing. Such rides are a luxury that I have decided to use only if I’m out super late after public transport has stopped or if I’m in a really ulu place. 

Say I take Grab 5 days a week, with each ride at an average of S$20. That adds up to S$100 per week.

In a year, that’s S$5,200—around the average Singaporean’s monthly salary!

5. Utilise one holistic savings account to earn bonus interest

Apart from just crediting my salary, friends have been telling me to use a bank account with high interest rates to improve my earnings. Initially, it didn’t seem like much, but I realised that it could add up to quite a bit per month if I fulfilled all the criteria. 

By just spending, saving, and crediting my salary to one account—the OCBC 360 account—I will be able to realistically earn up to 4.65% interest a year on the first S$100,000.

Here’s what it could look like for 12 months*: 

Credit monthly take-home pay of S$4,000 | Total: S$48,000

Increase daily average by S$500 monthly

Spend at least S$500 each month with selected OCBC Credit Cards

Total interest = S$156.94 per month.

*Figures are derived from OCBC’s interest calculator

But that’s not all. There’s more interest to be earned if you can fulfil the bonus categories: 

  • Purchase an eligible insurance product from OCBC – earn 1.5% interest a year on your first S$100,000
  • Purchase an eligible investment product from OCBC – earn 1.5% interest a year on your first S$100,000
  • If you can fulfil all these categories, you can earn up to 7.65% of interest a year on your first S$100,000

By having most of my money tied to one account, it’s also a lot easier to monitor my expenses and stay on track. 

Some may worry that having all their savings in one place may increase their exposure to scams. But fret not; there are safeguards in place. OCBC has a feature called Money Lock, which lets us lock some or all our funds in our 360 Account for protection against scams. And even while our money is locked, we continue to earn interest.

So having the flexibility and ease of letting your money grow safely without doing anything is all good and well. But the main thing is still to cut back on expenses and maximise our income this year due to the increased cost of living. But with a solid game plan, we don’t have to reduce our quality of life or feel deprived. 


This post was written in collaboration with OCBC. While we are financially compensated by them, we nonetheless strive to maintain our editorial integrity and review products with the same objective lens. We are committed to providing the best information in order for you to make personal financial decisions with confidence.

Any opinions or views of third parties expressed in this document are those of the third parties identified, and do not represent views of Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation Limited (“OCBC Bank”, “us”, “we” or “our”).

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Terms and conditions apply. Singapore dollar deposits of non-bank depositors and monies and deposits denominated in Singapore dollars under the Supplementary Retirement Scheme are insured by the Singapore Deposit Insurance Corporation, for up to S$100,000 in aggregate per depositor per Scheme member by law. Monies and deposits denominated in Singapore dollars under the CPF Investment Scheme and CPF Retirement Sum Scheme are aggregated and separately insured up to S$100,000 for each depositor per Scheme member. Foreign currency deposits, dual currency investments, structured deposits and other investment products are not insured.