The last time I checked, Singapore was one of the world’s least romantic places. Half of local marriages occur because HDB says so, and a curt “no money” is the usual reason for not getting married. A recent news report revealed that Singaporeans are marrying at a later age because they want to focus on their careers.
Assuming you actually have a healthy dating life and think you’ve found someone who’s just swell, and you don’t want to have to delay your marriage till the day you get promoted to CEO of your current workplace, here are some tips for keeping it cheap.
Remember that nobody is forcing you to have an expensive wedding
When Singaporeans say they don’t have enough money to get married, they conveniently forget the fact that a marriage licence when you ROM costs only $26.
But the wedding photoshoot in Paris, the massive banquet so your parents can show off to their mahjong kakis, the excessive tuition for your future kids… that’s your own problem.
Getting married in itself isn’t a problem, if that’s what you really want and you aren’t just doing it because of pressure from society or because you’re being forced to in order to keep your HDB flat.
Considering the average cost of a wedding banquet has been estimated to be in the $30,000 to $50,000 region, you save a ton by just skipping the whole event. If your spouse insists on some kind of celebration, you can save tens of thousands just by organising your wedding at a restaurant, cafe or park, instead of getting one of those cookie cutter hotel packages.
Take full advantage of HDB grants early in your career and buy a smaller flat
Buying property is daunting in Singapore, but that doesn’t seem to deter many young couples from trying to buy as big a flat as they can possibly afford. They then sign themselves up for punishing mortgages they’ll spend their entire lives trying to pay off.
MAS warned in 2014 that 5% to 10% of Singaporean mortgage holders were overstretching themselves. But many people who don’t fall within this category are still having difficulty paying off their home loans because there is an endless stream of other expenses to cope with.
One good thing about buying HDB property when you’re relatively young and haven’t reached your full earning potential is the fact that you qualify for much higher grants.
For instance, let’s say you and your partner decide to get married fresh out of university, when you have a combined income of $5,500. You’ll qualify for a CPF Housing Grant of $35,000. Conversely, if you wait just a few years when your combined income has risen to over $8,000, the CPF Housing Grant you qualify for will be just $5,000.
In addition, if you’re a first time applicant and your combined income is still under $5,000, you’ll qualify for the Additional CPF Housing Grant. Then there’s the Special CPF Housing Grant, which has different income ceilings depending on the launch.
By buying a flat when you guys are still young and poor, you may also be able to qualify for a smaller and cheaper flat. You can only buy 3-room flats in non-mature estates if your income is under $6,000 or $12,000, depending on the project. Once your income rises above this ceiling, you’ll only be able to purchase 4-room flats or larger.
Now, the difference in price between a 3-room flat and a 5-room resale flat in the same area can sometimes be as much as $300,000.
The point I’m trying to drive home here is, if you know you want to get married at a young age, you might actually end up saving money in the long run by buying a flat while you’re still poor enough to qualify for grants, especially if you’re willing to settle for a smaller flat.
Go for a 3-room BTO flat, max out those CPF grants and you could find yourself in debt for a far shorter time than your friends who wait till they’re more established in their careers.
Of course, this only applies if you’re sure you’ve found the love of your life. If you aren’t absolutely sure you want to get married, don’t just ballot for fun, or else you could end up becoming one of those dissolved couples who lose money to the HDB after they are forced to pull out of a purchase.
Marriage does not have to mean childrearing, at least not right away
While marriage itself is not expensive so long as you can control your bridezilla tendencies, childrearing is another matter altogether. Even if you’re determined to never send your kids for tuition, unexpected expenses like medical bills do crop up.
No matter what the government says about boosting the birth rate, you should never have a child until you’re financially ready and have done your sums. Here’s an estimate of how much it will cost you.
Still, marriage and childrearing aren’t one and the same. You can get married early and still postpone childrearing till when you’re sure you can afford it. In the same vein, many couples are deciding not to have children, or at least to have fewer.
If you and your spouse-to-be are on the same page about when, how or if ever to have kids, there is no reason you can’t tie the knot early. Having a few (or many) years to yourselves without being plunged straightaway into the world of parenting can actually be a good thing for your relationships.
Are you someone who got married early, or is thinking of doing so? Share your experiences in the comments!