When the birds are chirping and the sun is shining, Singaporeans flock to… not the beach or the park, but shopping malls, where they seek shelter from bird droppings and UV rays.
And obviously, at a shopping mall, one shops. A recent CNBC report revealed that Singaporean consumers are becoming more and more discerning, demanding premium products rather than the cheapest made-in-China options.
With all that very “thoughtful” shopping Singaporeans are doing these days, it’s worth taking a look at some bad habits all of us have been guilty of at one point or other.
1. Assuming they’ll make more money somewhere down the road
Despite growing pessimism amongst the young about their financial future, there is much to suggest that Singaporeans are feeling upbeat about job prospects. A tight labour market and rising consumer confidence levels show, at least amongst a significant segment of the population, that there is optimism that careers are progressing and money is being made.
Trouble happens when people spend too much than they should, but assuage the guilt by telling themselves that their income will increase later on to make up for it.
This often happens with young professionals. A recent study revealed that moneyed career professionals default on 2.7% of the unsecured debt products they have, and that this group is likely to favour expensive consumer goods and consume in an aspirational way.
The psychological reasons for this kind of behaviour are numerous. Still, you would think that a professional would be educated enough to be aware of the pitfalls of spending money they didn’t have, right?
When you’re riding the career wave and the future looks bright, it’s easy to spend money that you might not have now but that you assume you’ll earn tomorrow.
You might be surprised to know that many of the young professionals who spend hundreds on a single visit to an upscale club and are often seen dining at chi chi restaurants are actually living from paycheck to paycheck, although they will only admit it to those close to them.
The problem with this habit is that while more money might indeed come your way in future, lifestyle inflation may ensure that when the time comes you’ll find something even bigger to get into debt over.
2. Coming up with excuses for their purchases
A recent news report showed that more and more Singaporeans are getting into debt, and their main reason is just overspending, plain and simple.
And I think it’s safe to say that most overspenders do feel little pinpricks of guilt, no matter how faint, whenever they whip out the plastic.
But as every employee who’s ever had to take a phony MC knows, the human mind is capable of coming up with excuses for virtually any situation.
Just bought five new outfits? Couldn’t help it, you’ve got five weddings to attend in the next few months and you can’t possibly wear the same thing all five times.
Upgraded your iPhone again? Your mobile phone subscription was expiring, so it would have been a waste not to take advantage of the deal.
Spent $100,000 on your wedding dinner? Your wife has influential relatives who might be important business contacts in future, so you had to put on a good show for them.
The above are all excuses I’ve heard spring forth from the mouths of actual people.
3. Spending on impulse
Most of the time, nobody plans to spend their entire months’ salary on senseless purchases. It just happens.
And to be perfectly honest, you can’t really blame them. In Singapore, we spend 99% of our time indoors, and whether you’re in an MRT tunnel or a shopping mall, your surroundings are practically dripping with brands and advertising.
These days, it’s not even possible to make it to an MRT station without getting waylaid by thousands of stalls and eateries in the preceding tunnels.
This means that if you’re not careful, you’re going to end up spending on impulse, just because it’s so convenient to do so.
A recent study unveiled the power of a pleasant store environment in triggering impulse buying. In fact, upbeat music and a warm colour scheme were found to encourage spending. Now you know why the average shopping mall is as quiet as a fish market.
And as putting customers in a good mood and surrounding them with pretty things can make them whip out their wallets, you can be sure that the lilting shoegaze music and vintage inspired décor at your favourite shop didn’t just happen by chance.
4. Trying to keep up appearances
Anyone who’s grown up in Singapore knows how high the pressure is to keep up appearances. Fail one too many exams and your parents are going to have a hard time playing up your achievements during the annual Chinese New Year show ‘n’ tell.
In fact, this desire not to lose “face” in front of others influences more decisions than you might think, from what to study at university to what car to drive.
Singapore is very much a conformist society, and as a result, struggling to keep up with appearances is a neverending battle for many.
This happens not only amongst peers but also between bosses and employees, service providers and clients, and clients at different levels of seniority.
In professions such as finance and law, many bosses would consider wearing a Casio watch an act of rebellion by an employee.
The next time you alight upon a dapper outfit at an Orchard Road boutique, ask yourself if you’re buying it because you think it will make other people see that you have impeccable taste.
At the moment, society still has a long way to go before it evolves and sheds its kiasu roots.
Till then, Singaporeans had better learn to keep their wallets in their pants.
Have you ever managed to break any of these habits? Share your secret in the comments!