How to Save Money in Singapore - Spend Less

18 May 2021
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How to Save Money in Singapore - Spend Less

Spend less. Yes, that's right. I'm going to insult your intelligence. The best way to save money in the expensive city that is Singapore, is to spend less. But where's the lie in that? 

As our good friend Ruiming of The Woke Salaryman put it, "I cut shit out of my life"

Now, I'm not saying that we should all become freegans overnight (not that there's anything wrong with that lifestyle - I have a great deal of respect for Daniel Tay and the rest of the Freegan in Singapore community). What I am saying is that we can definitely afford to cut some excessive spending out of our lives.

Here's a quick checklist:

  • Cut down on subscriptions
  • Take note of credit card benefits and fees
  • Get out of high-interest debt
  • Refinance your home loan
  • Eat and drink healthy, and do it right
  • Switch to a cheaper electricity retailer

1. Cut down on subscriptions

Take something as seemingly harmless as the online subscription services, for example. With both streaming services and software now pivoting to a monthly or annual subscription format, you may end up spending more than you actually realise. When was the last time you watched something on Amazon Prime Video, for example, or used one of the products in the Microsoft 365 family? Cancel the services you don't actually use, let alone the ones you don't need, because they add up.

These subscription services charge intentionally small amounts - Prime Video is only $2.99 a month in Singapore, for example, and also includes all the benefits of Amazon Prime, like free delivery and free Twitch subscriptions. But combined with what you're paying for Spotify Premium ($9.90 a month), Netflix Premium ($19.98 a month), Disney+ ($11.98 a month) and Apple TV+ ($6.98 a month)? That's $51.83 a month or over $600 a year on possibly more entertainment than you can truly consume. And I'm not even talking about the slew of SaaS options that's out there, from Microsoft to Adobe.

One thing you can do is go through your credit card statements and take note of how much you are committing to subscriptions - if you're spending more than 15% of your monthly income on streaming services for example, that's a significant drain on your potential savings.

Consider switching from the individual subscription option to a group subscription option - several family members could chip in to help share the cost of the Netflix account or the Microsoft 365 account, two of many that have the option of multiple users under one bill.

But if spending 15% on services and products you may or many not be using seems like small amount to you, then maybe your lifestyle could do with even more reflection.

2. Credit Card Benefits and Fees

Sure we can tell you to spend less till the proverbial cows come home, but if you're going to insist on spending more, why not get something out of it?

Credit cards in Singapore are so competitive that they're often fighting tooth and nail to offer the most enticing benefits. Several cashback cards for example, offer as much as 10% or more cashback for categories like dining and transport. Although the latter may be less useful while the pandemic is still raging, we've all got to eat no matter what, right?

While we're on Phase 2 (Heightened Alert), be on the lookout for credit cards that offer up to 10% cashback for food delivery - terms and conditions apply of course.

But of course credit cards can easily bite you hard if you're not careful. Always be sure to pay back the full amount and on time according to your credit card statement. Don't be like me, missing just one payment on my credit card accounts and having to pay $100 per card in late fees! Talk about being disappointed after working so hard to earn that cashback!

If you get slapped with a credit card fee - such as annual fees and late fees, always try to get them waived first. Most banks nowadays automate their fee waiver processes online or over the phone because they make up almost 90% of all credit card requests. Just do keep in mind that some banks are notoriously hard-hearted when it comes to fee waivers - no amount of pleading or threats can get you out of paying the fees. Do your own research and see what the word on the street is regarding which banks are more willing to waive your fees upon request.

3. Get out of high-interest debt

Speaking of banks, do take note of your personal finances, especially your secured and unsecured loans. No point investing and building your retirement fund if you are paying off debts at high interest rates at the same time.

Here's what I mean: Let's assume you're paying off a car loan, a student loan and a personal loan at the same time. With car loans at 2.38% right now, education loans at 4.38% and personal loans going up to as high as 5.43%? You'll probably be paying off the interest on your loans for years. And how well are your investments going to do during the same period? Maybe 4%? Your investment returns are just going to go towards paying off your loan instead of contributing to your nest egg.

So make sure to pay of your loans as soon as possible, starting with the highest interest rate. Now there's a difference between good debt and bad debt, which brings me to my next point.

4. Refinance your home loan

Housing loans easily have the lowest interest rates in Singapore. And in case you haven't heard, we're currently enjoying some of the lowest home loan packages in the past two decades!

It's 2021, so if your home loan package is charging you a rate of 2% or more, then you're definitely paying more than you should. Refinancing your interest rate to a 1.12% fixed rate package, for example, could save you more than $200 a month or almost $2,500 a year!

But of course you can't be expected to just contact every bank and ask them what their best rates are. That would simply take too much time that would be better spent mourning your gym memberships during Phase 2 (Heightened Alert).

That's why you come to Mortgage Master - we know the latest home loan packages in the market and sometimes can even offer exclusive interest rate packages that you cannot get directly from the bank. If you're looking to purchase a new property, or refinance your existing home loan, fill up our enquiry form and our mortgage consultants will follow up with a call.

5. Eat and drink healthy, and do it right

It's a common understanding that eating healthily is expensive and time-consuming. Spending on food is always a tough decision to make. You often have to choose between the seemingly unhealthier diets supported by the value-for-money options at the food courts and hawker centres, or commit to a more expensive keto diet, for example, in order to keep you eating healthier.

One way is to buy healthier food in bulk when grocery shopping. This is not only because they often have more affordable prices but because the average cost can be spread over a month for example, which would help you budget better.

All that said, however, it's important to take note that the cost of food prep may not hurt your wallet, but is more of an opportunity cost - the time taken to prepare enough food for the week is not insignificant. You also may not get to enjoy much fresh produce, since it's definitely unwise to buy that in bulk.

Oh, and one more thing... stop buying bottled water. What's wrong with tap water anyway?

In fact, do away with any kind of disposable water bottle, especially if they're not meant for more than one use! The Earth could do with one less plastic bottle of water! We live in Singapore, after all, where we can drink tap water straight from the tap! 

6. Switch to a cheaper electricity retailer

Competition is great for the customer, and now that the electricity market is open in Singapore, it's really no excuse to still be paying such ridiculously high electricity bills.

Regards of your electricity usage, it's in your best interest to compare the options given by each of the top electricity retailers in Singapore. Don't just focus on the promo code that some give out, but think of the long-term savings as well.

The current electricity tariff, including GST, is at 24.13 cents per kWh. However, some retailers offer plans where you get a discount of 25% or more off the electricity tariff!

This could save you as much as $20 a month in electricity bills!

*What did you think of these money saving tips? Were they relevant to you? Let us know.

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Let me know when interest rates drop!