7 Inexpensive Buys That Give Disproportionately High Levels of Satisfaction

Joanne Poh


Nobody is better at buying stuff than Singaporeans, whether you’re talking about aunties at NTUC or tai tais at Takashimaya. While there’s no better way to get Singaporeans moving in one direction than a “SALE” sign, we’re not always as circumspect when it comes to buying inexpensive things that give high satisfaction.

In fact, more often that not, Singaporans are guilty of spending tons of money on the opposite—expensive items that, on hindsight, just didn’t make us that much happier.

Stop throwing away your money on senseless things. Here are seven items that don’t cost a lot but punch above their weight when it comes to giving us satisfaction.


Head massager

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Forget about those expensive, sometimes dodgy-looking contraptions from OSIM. A manual wire head massager costs less than $2 at HDB shops (and less than $1 in Malaysia), and gives your skull the tingles! Don’t slam it before you’ve tried it, seriously. The best $2 I’ve ever spent in my life.


PAssion card

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While admitting you have a PAssion Card doesn’t exactly make you sound like the edgiest person, it honestly offers some of the best discounts on experiential stuff that might actually have a positive impact on your life, unlike that Hello Kitty plush toy.

Not only do you automatically get upgraded to a National Library Board Premium member, enabling you to borrow twice the number of books and almost three times as many videos, you also get discounts at all PA or community club and water venture courses and activities.

Renting a kayak or taking Korean classes at a CC are now significantly cheaper at the very cheap membership fee of $12 for 5 years. Sign up for the PAssion POSB Mastercard debit card for even more perks.


Coffee maker

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Everyone has a bad morning from time to time (or every time if like me you’re not a morning person). The stupid cat/dog who wakes you up for food, the baby who wanted some help after a big poop, etc. Those times are hard without having to spend $5 on an overpriced and mediocre Starbucks coffee or, worse, resorting to Nescafe.

A moka pot or basic coffee maker should cost you no more than $50, but can give you the daily dose of caffeine you need to become a non-psychotic member of society (forget Nespresso if you’re on a budget as the coffee pods and machine dramatically increase the per-cup price of your brews).



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While the ridiculous COE prices have increased the price of a Class 2B motorcycle by 2-4 times, it still remains one of the most cost-effective modes of transport in Singapore.

Free parking within walking distance of most commercial areas, immunity to traffic jams and, most importantly, not having to rely on the maddening bus and MRT services, all for a few thousand dollars—less than some people spend spray painting their cars.


Portable fan

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Ask Singaporeans what they hate most about Singapore and the unbearable weather usually comes up quite quickly.

If you’re too embarrassed to carry an umbrella when there isn’t a raindrop in sight, like many office workers intent on keeping their skin lily white do, a portable fan might be the answer. Make the other people sweltering in the hawker centre queue jealous as you enjoy the wind in your hair.


Slow cooker

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Singaporeans’ biggest excuse for not cooking at home is not having enough time. I’ve burnt my meals one time too many by trying to sneak in a shower while the food was cooking.

Thanks to a slow cooker, you don’t need to spend more than a few minutes in the kitchen ever again. Just cut and toss in the ingredients, go about your life and return an hour or two later to find a meal ready to eat. It’s better than having a maid in the house.


Subscription to The Entertainer

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If you’re not a big shopper, we’re willing to bet that most of your disposable income goes towards food or alcohol. Any self-professed foodie needs a subscription to mobile app The Entertainer, which gives you 1 for 1 on mains at a huge selection of restaurants, from old favourites like Spizza and Da Paolo to establishments like Fat Cow, Bedrock and Au Petit Salut.

Use the app two or three times and you’ll have made back the cost of the annual subscription. For a 10% discount, sign up through this site right here on MoneySmart.

While I’ll be the first person to tell you that eating out a lot is a waste of money, I get a real kick out of using this app and calculating how much I’ve “saved”.

What are your favourite value-for-money buys? 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.