As much as food is considered a necessity, you shouldn’t wreck your finances when you dine out in Singapore.
The best sign you spend too much on dining is usually your waistline, and this is one way in which budgeting is also the same dieting.
Since our wallets tend to empty faster than we put on calories though, we should look for financial indicators as well. Watch out for these signs that you’re overspending on restaurants in Singapore:
1. There is a Consistent, Quarterly Increment in Dining Costs
A one-time bill of S$300 for a Michelin Star restaurant, or a big reunion dinner, is not an always an indication you overspend on food. These are exceptional events, and the cost is so high that you tend to quickly scale back afterward. What you want to watch for is the creeping, upward movement of the food budget.
Track the amount you typically spend on each of the three meals. You can use any number of personal finance apps for that these days. At the end of every three months, find the average you spend on restaurants.
If you see this average moving up throughout the year, you know that you may be spending too much on dining, and it’s time to scale back. This is a more accurate indicator than just looking at your bill for a specific month.
2. Your Expense Ratio on Dining is Above 25%
To determine what your expense ratio on dining is, measure the amount of money you spend on restaurant meals and compare it to your monthly income (after CPF).
For example, say you spend S$930 a month on food (around S$10 per meal), and your monthly pay after CPF is S$4,000. This is around 23% (S$930 / S$4,000), somewhat close to the 25% mark but still tolerable.
An expense ratio is more accurate than tracking the total spent on food. The simple reason is that if you earn more, you can afford a higher expense before straying into “overspending” territory. If you earn S$10,000 a month, for example, spending S$2,500 a month on restaurants and cafes is not entirely out of the question. Let that be motivation for you to go out and earn more.
But once you go past the 25% mark, you’re probably overspending, regardless of what your income is. You have other bills to pay, right? And don’t be fooled, with Singapore prices it is easy to spend over a quarter of your income on food.
3. Dining Costs are Contributing to Rollover Debt
At no point should you have rollover debt (an unpaid amount on your credit card). If used correctly, the total interest paid on your credit card should always be S$0 (you pay in full every month).
Nonetheless, if you do have rollover debt, check your credit card transaction history. You may want to print it out and circle every expense related to eating out. If the bulk of the expense is related to restaurant meals, you know where your problem lies.
You should only use credit cards for dining as a mode of payment, to earn points or discounts. Pay using the card, but pay it back in full immediately after. You will come out ahead because of savings from cash rebates and points.
You can use SingSaver.com.sg’s free comparison tools to find the best dining credit cards in Singapore.
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By Ryan Ong
Ryan has been writing about finance for the last 10 years. He also has his fingers in a lot of other pies, having written for publications such as Men’s Health, Her World, Esquire, and Yahoo! Finance.