15 Ways Life Is Financially Different Today For Singaporean Millennials Than Previous Generations: 1990s VS 2020s

Kendra Tan

Kendra Tan

Last updated 22 July, 2022

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. 

This is why no matter how frugal we may try to be, we still see ourselves steadily spending more as inflation has increased the prices of even the most basic daily necessities.

Thankfully, not everything has soared.

While the cost of some consumer goods such as fresh chicken and hawker food has risen, many items including mobile data, plane tickets and entertainment have plummeted.

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

ItemPrice in 1990s (then)Price in 2020s (now)📈or 📉
Public transportS$0.60S$2📈
HDB (5-room BTO)S$230,000S$448,700📈
Movie tickets (weekend)S$6S$14.50📈
Car (new)S$70,000S$120,000📈
PetrolS$1.30 per litreS$3.10 per litre📈
Certificate of Entitlement (COE)S$2,000 to $30,000S$70,000 to S$100,000📈
Water billS$2.15 per cubic meterS$2.75 per cubic meter📈
Electricity billS$0.15 per kWhS$0.32 per kWh📈
Medical and dental treatment-S$1,000 and above📈
Marriage Registration feesS$26S$42📈
Coca ColaS$0.50S$0.60📈
ClothesS$70 to S$100S$5📉
Brokerage feesSky high, need a large capital to investS$10 and below📉
Mobile/ broadband data S$100+S$6.90 for unlimited mobile data 📉
Newspaper, books, music, TV shows and entertainmentS$1.50 to S$29.90Free📉

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

How to save money on public transport in Singapore

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

For more BTO-related topics: 

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

The trick here is to keep your student pass with you even though you’re a working adult so that you can still enjoy student discounts.

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). 

5. Petrol

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: 

Best For Caltex — OCBC 365 Credit Card
Best For Esso — DBS Esso Card  
Best For Shell — UOB One Card
Best For SPC — POSB Everyday Card
Best For Sinopec — OCBC 365 or OCBC Frank

6. Certificate of Entitlement (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

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. 

12. Clothes

  • 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.  

14. 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.

Avid promo code hunter and haggler. Kendra doesn’t like paying full price for anything. She’s the best person to bring along if you’re travelling on a budget. Have an interesting story to tell? E-mail her at kendra.tan@singsaver.com.sg