No thanks to inflation, the cost of living in Singapore has risen exponentially. However, not all prices have increased. In fact, the cost of some items has gone down, such as mobile data and entertainment. Let’s take a look at how much things cost back in the good ol’ 1990s compared to the 2020s.
Is avocado toast really to blame for millennials not being able to afford housing as some boomers claim?
It can be easy to gripe about the younger generation and their S$5 coffee habits, but the truth is that millennials face a harder life than their parents did but in different ways — we’re largely struggling with different financial burdens and higher inflation rates.
While you may argue that the salaries of millennials have increased, many significant expenses, such as the cost of owning a car, buying a home and raising a kid, have skyrocketed at an even faster pace.
Thankfully, not everything has soared.
So how have prices changed from the 90s as compared to now? Let’s take a look.
15 Price Differences In Singapore: 1990s vs 2020s
|Item||Price in 1990s (then)||Price in 2020s (now)||📈or 📉|
|HDB (5-room BTO)||S$230,000||S$448,700||📈|
|Movie tickets (weekend)||S$6||S$14.50||📈|
|Petrol||S$1.30 per litre||S$3.10 per litre||📈|
|Certificate of Entitlement (COE)||S$2,000 to $30,000||S$70,000 to S$100,000||📈|
|Water bill||S$2.15 per cubic meter||S$2.75 per cubic meter||📈|
|Electricity bill||S$0.15 per kWh||S$0.32 per kWh||📈|
|Medical and dental treatment||-||S$1,000 and above||📈|
|Marriage Registration fees||S$26||S$42||📈|
|Clothes||S$70 to S$100||S$5||📉|
|Brokerage fees||Sky high, need a large capital to invest||S$10 and below||📉|
|Mobile/ broadband data||S$100+||S$6.90 for unlimited mobile data||📉|
|Newspaper, books, music, TV shows and entertainment||S$1.50 to S$29.90||Free||📉|
1. Public transport
- MRT fares increased 225% from S$0.65 to S$2
- Bus fares increased 150% from S$0.60 to S$1.50
- Take a look at the chronology of fare adjustments here
Still using your EZ-link card? Ditch that. It’s time to pay for your public transport fares with a credit card instead. According to this Tik Tok, one of the best credit cards to use to make the most out of your MRT and bus fares is the Standard Chartered Smart Card.
Here’s why the Standard Chartered Smart Card is fantastic:
- No annual fees
- Get 6% cashback on MRT and bus rides via SimplyGo
- Snag a Dyson AM07 (worth S$499) or a Xiaomi Mi Robot Vacuum-Mop 2 (worth S$399) or S$300 cash when you sign up before 31 July 2022
2. HDB and housing
- The price of a 5-room built-to-order (BTO) HDB flat which would have cost around S$230,000 in 90’s now cost at least S$400,000.
For more BTO-related topics:
- Step-By-Step Guide To Buying Your First HDB BTO
- 6 Things To Prepare Yourself For HDB Flat Selection Process
- 3 Ways to Finance HDB BTO Flats
- 7 Lesser-Known Things You Should Be Aware Of Before Purchasing A BTO Flat
3. Movie tickets
- Weekday movie ticket prices increased 116% from S$3 in the 90’s to S$9 to S$10.50 now
- Weekend ticket prices increased 116% from S$6 in the 90’s to S$14.50 now
How to save money on movie tickets in Singapore
Movie tickets in Singapore are generally more expensive compared to our neighbouring countries, and we try to avoid watching movies on weekends because why pay S$14.50 when you can watch the same movie for S$6 on Tuesdays?
4. Car ownership
- Cars in Singapore have been expensive all along
- New cars in the 90’s cost around S$70,000
- Expect to pay around S$120,000 for a new car in current times
How to save money on buying a car in Singapore
It’s crazy how expensive owning a car is in Singapore. Save a whole tonne by buying a second-hand car or simply use public transport. In fact, even if you use private hire transport every day, it would not be as expensive as owning a car in Singapore (unless your job requires you to travel around often).
How to save money on petrol in Singapore
We know, nothing beats the kind of savings you get from pumping petrol across the causeway. But if you’re in Singapore, it just isn’t practical to keep driving over to do so.
Here are Singapore’s best petrol credit cards to enjoy great fuel discounts and save money for other joys in life:
6. Certificate of Entitlement (COE)
- COEs cost around S$2,000 to $30,000 in the 90’s
- Right now, expect to pay around S$78,000 to S$114,000 for a car’s COE
Fun fact: Category A COE once cost merely S$2 during the 2008 global financial crisis that saw Singapore’s economy slipping into a recession. Just two weeks earlier, it cost S$10,455.
7. Water bill
- What used to be S$2.15 per cubic meter has increased 30% to S$2.75 per cubic meter
How to save money on your water bill in Singapore
8. Electricity bill
- Electricity tariffs rose more than 100% from S$0.15 per kWh to S$0.32 per kWh
How to save money on electricity bill in Singapore
Before 2018, Singapore Power (SP Group) was the only electricity retailer around. Currently, there are nine Open Electricity Market (OEM) retailers offering competitive pricing and promotions that help lower your monthly electricity bills.
Using the right credit card on top of changing your electricity retailer is another surefire way to multiply the savings you can potentially scoop up on your electricity bills.
9. Medical and dental treatment
According to the Singapore Department of Statistics and AIA, the cost of medical and dental treatment has risen nearly 78% in the last 20 years, or more than 2.9% per annum. This is almost double the 20-year inflation rate of the MAS Core Inflation Measure, which is 1.5% per annum.
How to save money on medical and dental treatment in Singapore
If you are working, check your employment benefits for medical and dental reimbursement. You may also consider adding a rider to your existing insurance policies to include emergency dental care and more. For regular dental check-ups, here’s where you can go for affordable dental cleaning and maintenance in Singapore.
10. Marriage Registration fees
- Singaporean and PRs: S$26 → S$42
- Foreigners: S$128 on weekdays, S$198 on weekends and S$298 on popular days. Now, they will now pay a flat fee of S$380
11. Coca-Cola (canned drinks)
- S$0.50 in the 90’s to S$0.60 now
If you account for inflation, the price of Coca-Cola in the ’90s cost the same in these current times.
But here’s the thing — Coca-Cola (along with other household items and groceries) is sneakily accounting for inflation by shrinking their products instead of charging more. This is called shrinkflation, a hidden form of inflation.
In this case, Coca-Cola has reduced their drink quantity from 350ml to 320ml over the years.
- S$70 to S$100 for an entire set of office wear in the ’90s
- S$15 to S$20 for an entire outfit in 2020s
Buying clothes in the ’90s wasn't as simple or cheap as it is today. Buying a basic top can cost as low as S$4 online whereas a whole set of office wear (according to this writer’s dad, at least) can cost as much as between S$70 to S$100. Back then, there was no such thing as online shopping and they had to go down to the departmental store to buy clothes.
How you can save even more money buying clothes online in Singapore
Find yourself spending too much on clothes? Here are 8 Simple Life Hacks To Spend Less Money On Your Wardrobe as well as the Top 10 Below-S$10 Fashion Must-Haves in Singapore.
13. Brokerage fees
- From S$10 in the 2020s
When you wanted to buy stocks in the past, you would have to call your banker or fund manager and ask them to make a trade on your behalf. There were hefty fees on top of your trade, so people would usually invest large sums of money to make the fees worth it.
These days, you can start investing with as little as S$50 a month. Just like OEM, you can pick and choose your favourite online brokers with low fees ranging from moomoo SG, Tiger Brokers, Saxo Markets, Interactive Brokers and more.
- 90’s: unlimited internet access for S$100 a month
- 2020’s: S$6.90 for unlimited mobile data
Remember the times when we accidentally pressed the internet button on our flip phones and had to quickly shut it down to prevent our parents from paying for such luxury? Well, mobile data now costs as low as S$6.90 per month for unlimited internet.
15. Newspaper, books, music, TV shows and entertainment
Previously, people had to buy CDs, cassettes, newspapers, books and DVDs. Nowadays, everything is available online for free. Even if you want to pay for Netflix or Disney+, it will merely cost you a few dollars a month if you share it with your friends and family.