9 Simple Tips to Lower the Cost of Living in Singapore

Earlier this year, Singapore was ranked the world’s most expensive city for the second year running by the Economist Intelligence Unit. Transport, groceries, and even shopping cost more than they would in New York.

But it’s not impossible to live here, especially if you’re armed with tips and tricks on how to maximise the value of each buck.

#1 Take Free Morning Train Rides to Town

For early-risers, take advantage of the SMRT’s Travel Early, Travel Free programme that has been extended to 30 June 2016. You get to take train rides to the city for absolutely nothing if you tap out of the designated stations before 7:45am on weekdays.

The 18 designated stations include Bayfront, Bras Basah, Bugis, Chinatown, City Hall, Clarke Quay, Dhoby Ghaut, Downtown, Esplanade, Lavender, Marina Bay, Orchard, Outram Park, Promenade, Raffles Place, Somerset, Tanjong Pagar and Telok Ayer.

If you miss 7.45am by just a few minutes, you still get a 50 cents discount from your train fare.

#2 Buy the Off-Peak Pass

SMRT has introduced an Adult Monthly Travel Card (AMTC), a personalised ez-link which allows us to buy travel concessions.

Concession Pass BenefitsCost
Adult Monthly Travel Pass (AMTP)Unlimited rides on basic bus services and trains$120
Off-Peak Pass(OPP)Unlimited rides on basic bus services and trains during off-peak periods.Off-peak periods:

- Start of service to 6.30am
- Between 9am to 5pm
- 7:30pm onwards
- All day on weekends and public holidays
$80

The good thing about the off-peak pass is that it will apply for the entire journey as long as the trip starts during the off-peak periods. Furthermore, it’s applicable on weekends and holidays. Assuming you spend about $4 a day on transport, you can save up to $40 a month.

#3 Eat at Hawker Centers

One of the best things living in Singapore is our food and the most authentic local food you can find is in our hawker centers where you can get some of the best meals in town for less than $3. Don’t be mistaken that you have to spend a bomb on lunch if you work in the CBD.

Here’s a list of cheap and good hawker centers around town.

Tanjong Pagar
  • Maxwell Road Food Centre
  • Amoy Street Food Centre
  • Tanjong Pagar Market and Food Centre
Raffles Place
  • Golden Shoe Hawker Centre
  • Lau Pa Sat
City Hall/ Dhoby Ghaut/ Bras Brasah
  • Raffles City Food Court
  • Waterloo Street Hawker Center
Lavendar
  • Golden Mile Food Centre

#4 Have Healthy Salads for Just $4.90

If you are on a diet and trying to eat clean, try either of these salad shops: The Salad Corner or Sun Moon Salad. The queue can be as long as 30 minutes during lunch time. They serve very affordable and healthy salads, with portions big enough to last you till dinner.  For just $4.90, you get a basic salad with five toppings of your choice. Just add an additional $1 for a meat to have more wholesome meal.

The Salad Corner
  • Amoy Street Food Centre #01-41
  • Golden Shoe Hawker Centre #01-10
  • Tanjong Pagar Plaza #01-04
Sun Moon Salad
  • Tanjong Pajar Plaza, #01-24

#5 Use a Credit Card when Dining at Restaurants

Some credit cards, especially dining, offer discounts and reward points when you eat at partner restaurants. Take the American Express Platinum Credit Card for example: You’ll get 50% off when person dining for two, 33% for three, and so on at selected restaurants.

If you’re out with friends, you can offer to pay first to chalk up reward points that you can convert to cashback or air miles.

The OCBC 365 credit card is another card which offers great dining privileges, with 6% off for dining on weekends and 3% off for weekdays. Assuming you spend $100 on weekend dining and $50 on weekday dining a week, you can save more than $300 a year.

If you’re looking to save on dining out, you’ll have to find the right credit card for you by using a loan calculator in Singapore.

#6 Shop Online

With just $100, you can easily get 6-8 pieces of clothing when you shop online. You can easily get a dress on Taobao for less than $20, and Zalora sometimes offers big discounts on their site.

Zalora offers free return service, which means that you can shop for cheap in the comfort of your own home without having to worry about getting low quality clothes as you can easily return them. Free shipping is also included with purchases above $40.

Shopping on Taobao requires you to engage an agent such as 65daigou and Peeka to ship your goods over. Shipment takes about two weeks to arrive if you choose the cheapest option. 65daigou.com offers a “Buy For Me” option which will help settle any disputes you may have with the seller. The downside is that you will have to pay a 4-8% agent fee.

Peeka rates are volume-based. S$6 for 3,000 cubic cm and below, which is equivalent to the size of three one-litre bottles. This means that you can buy as many stuff as you want and they will squeeze it into a tiny box for you. Delivery to your door-step is free of charge. Any disputes with the sellers are handled by Peeka.

#7 Save on Groceries with NTUC Plus! Card

The NTUC Plus! Card allows you to earn LinkPoints on your groceries at a hundred NTUC FairPrice outlets. You can also earn LinkPoints when you make taxi bookings with Comfort and CityCab Taxi, purchase OCBC Banking Solutions, or NTUC Income’s insurance or trading with Lim & Tan Securities.

You earn 1 LinkPoint for every dollar spent and 150 LinkPoints can be converted to S$1. Assuming you spend about $200 on groceries a month, you would have saved $16. Only a one-time membership fee of $10 is required.

#8 Workout for Free at ActiveSG gyms

In a bid to encourage people to stay fit, ActiveSG is giving $100 cash credit which can be used at any of their 16 ActiveSG Sport Centres for either the gym, pool, or badminton courts. All you have to do is to sign up for your free ActiveSG membership before 31 December 2015. $100 cash credit last for a year from the point of registration.

While you do not enjoy the newer facilities as in private gyms, you can still get your workout done effectively in these ActiveSG gyms. Approach the trainers whenever you need help and they are more than willing to guide you on how to use the equipment.

#9 Apply for Community Health Assist Scheme to Lower your Medical Care Expenses

The Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) allows Singaporeans from lower and middle-income households to receive subsidies for medical and dental care at participating GPs and dental clinics near their home. To qualify, the monthly household income per person must be less than $1,800.

Conclusion

So there you have it. There are still many ways you can lower the cost of your spending if you just do a bit of homework and find creative ways to stretch your dollar in Singapore!

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Allyson Dulnuan is a seasoned writer who writes about money, saving & spending, and personal finance. She also writes for SingSaver.com.sg, a free price comparison site in Singapore.

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