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3 Things Singaporeans Hardly Do But Should to Save Money On Overseas Holidays

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Joanne Poh

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Never try to part a Singaporean from his overseas holidays. If you’re denying an employee his annual leave for that weekend trip, you could well find him on MC on Friday or Monday. And who can blame him? He’s not slogging away at work so he can spend all that money at Sentosa.

When you go on multiple vacations a year, you can’t spend as freely as that guy who’s saved up all his life for that one big trip. If you want to fulfil your goal of leaving the country every month, as some of my friends have sworn they’ll be doing, here are three tips that can help you cut costs so you can go on even more trips.

 

Cook at your accommodation

More and more people are turning to Airbnb accommodation when they travel. It’s a no brainer really—you get boutique hotel-standard accommodation at hostel prices. But you very rarely hear of Singaporeans actually using the kitchen at their Airbnb accommodation.

While limited cooking skills are part of the reason, for many it’s just the mental barrier of not being used to shopping at grocery stores and preparing their own meals on holidays, because in the past when holiday accommodation meant hotels, it was simply not an option.

If you want to maximise the money-saving potential of staying in Airbnb accommodation, start cooking your meals, especially in developed countries like Japan and France, where the gap between the price of groceries and restaurant meals is huge.

Of course, don’t deny yourself that special restaurant meal every now and then, all in the name of sampling the local cuisine. But constantly ducking into substandard, touristy restaurants locals would never eat at or paying $15 for a McDonald’s meal because you don’t know where else to eat is not smart.

And while there might be no cheap hawker food where you’re travelling, you might be pleasantly surprised to find that groceries in many developed countries actually cost less than they do in Singapore (so long as you’re not looking for specialty Asian groceries). Most people don’t realise it, but Singaporeans pay a lot for their groceries at home because everything is imported.

Airbnb is not the only place you can cook meals. Some hostels and guesthouses provide shared kitchen facilities, while serviced apartments, which can be a cost-effective accommodation option for families, will probably have kitchens better than your own

 

Turn your photos into souvenirs for friends, family and colleagues instead of buying useless trinkets

If you’re the sort of person who feels obliged to buy souvenirs for your entire team at work each time you go on holiday, since they are the ones who’ve been slogging away to cover for you in your absence, know this—they are probably sick of receiving keychains and fridge magnets from you each time you go on a trip.

You may not realise it, but the cost of all those gifts add up. If you buy a $3 trinket for your entire team of 10 each time you go abroad, consider that a $30 surcharge for every trip. And you haven’t even factored in the cost of souvenirs for your spouse/significant other, parents, grandparents, kids, best friend and so on.

Obviously, the easiest thing to do is to just become an unfeeling monster and quit giving people souvenirs altogether. But if you absolutely must, here’s a cheap way to do so: select some of your best holiday snaps, head to one of those Kodak photo development booths and print out a nice picture for each person on your gift list.

Write a little note behind each picture addressing the person whom it’s for, and thank them for covering your ass at work or whatever. That’s a lot more personal and, above all, cheaper than some made-in-China Eiffel Tower figurine.

 

Ask your boss to let you work on holiday so you don’t have to use so much leave

Most of us think of overseas trips as chances to spend money. And working during your vacations sure sounds like a drag. But if you’re able to make money while you travel, that means you’ve got more cash to go on even more vacations. If you can work while on holiday in order to avoid using your annual leave, that means you can stay abroad for a longer time.

Whether this is a good idea really depends on your travelling and working style. Obviously, if you’re the kind of person who likes package tours or insists on waking up at 6am and sightseeing for 15 hours nonstop then it’s out of the question for you.

But for those who like to take long, lazy vacations and sightsee in moderation, working during your holiday can help you to save on annual leave, and so take longer trips each time. Most accommodation options offer wifi these days, and a quick Google search should point you to cafes that offer free wifi.

If your boss allows you to work remotely from time to time, you might be able to spend one day working on holiday in order to save on annual leave. This is especially useful for people who find that they work fewer hours when allowed to work remotely than when they sit in the office for a whole day.

A friend of mine who works for the Singapore office of a European bank often gets permission to work in overseas offices of the bank when she’s travelling. She’s worked in the Hong Kong and Melbourne offices while on vacation, which means she gets to stay in her destination longer without eating into her annual leave.

We’re so used to thinking of the year as 365 days of work, sprinkled with a few days of overseas vacation, that we forget that the lines between the two are blurring. If there is any way you can do your day job while on vacation, broker an agreement with your boss so you can stay overseas for an extra day or two while continuing to work.

Your boss would probably prefer to have you working remotely one day in the week, rather than for you to be gone for a stretch of 9 days, assuming you plan to take leave from Monday to Friday.

I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather put in a day of work at a resort in Bali than have to commute to the CBD to do the same job.

Have you ever put any of the above tips into practice? Share your experiences 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.