50 Painless Ways to Save Money in Singapore

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After 50 years of independence, Singapore’s economy has grown beyond imagination. Here are 50 ways to save money in order to keep up with it.

In celebration of our nation’s 50th birthday, SingSaver.com.sg presents 50 different ways to save money without it hurting. Try these out, and see how much you’ve managed to save up before Singapore’s 51st birthday:

1. Automate Your Savings

Have your bank automatically deduct a portion of your paycheque, and send it to a different account. When you don’t have to think about it, it’s much easier to save.

2. Make Your Savings Account Inaccessible

Lock away the ATM card for your savings account, or cut up the card. When you want to spend, it will take you at least a day to get a replacement. This will cool impulsive buys.

3. Convert Your Money to US Dollars

Can’t resist spending your money, even when it’s in a savings account? Try converting it to US dollars. This will make it super inconvenient to spend, and the thought of paying for the currency exchange will likely dissuade you from using it.

4. Aim to Save a Target Number

Target a specific number, such as six months of your income. Once you hit this number, you can spend your future pay cheques down to the last dime–you’ll still be safe with your emergency fund.

5. Get Someone Else to Shop for You

Can’t help spending money at malls? Hand a shopping list to someone, who will help you buy only what you need. No more fighting temptation.

6. Compare Potential Losses

Tempted to buy something? Okay, think of a favourite item that costs less (e.g. music lessons for S$60 a session, or S$10 for your favourite overpriced nasi lemak).

Now if you want to buy a S$900 tablet, ask yourself: would you rather have that tablet or almost four months of music lessons? How about the tablet or 90 delicious, indulgent lunches? This should ease the temptation somewhat.

7. Use Credit Cards as a Mode of Payment, but Not for Credit

Use your credit cards in Singapore to buy things, and then reap rewards and discounts. Then pay it back in full immediately, so there’s no interest rate to worry about. You get all of the advantages, none of the drawbacks.

8. Save Even While Repaying Your Debts

Never throw all your money at debt repayments. You must still save a bit, even as you pay down your debt. This is because an emergency, if you have no savings, can force you into using credit again (thus undoing your repayment efforts and keeping you poor).

9. Change Your Company

The most common cause of overspending is the company you keep. If you keep hanging around people who overspend on food or vacations, you will as well. If you hang around thrifty people though, you will become accustomed to their saving habits.

10. Don’t Bulk Buy When You Don’t Have To

You do save money by buying in bulk, but not if it’s something you don’t even need. If you have no use for grapefruit concentrate, don’t buy any just because it’s a two-for-one deal.

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11. Plan Your Groceries for a Week

If you find you are overspending on groceries, and you often plan for a month, try reducing the time frame involved. Some people tend to greatly overestimate how much they will need on long time frames, such as a month. So try buying on a per week basis instead.

12. Don’t Save Your Credit Card Info While Shopping Online

When you can “buy with a click”, you are far more likely to make impulse purchases. All those “just a dollar” apps or in-game purchases can add up to several hundred dollars a month, once the addiction kicks in. If you have to manually enter your credit card information each time however, you’re less likely to spend. Also, this helps protect you from identity theft.

13. Have a Project at Home

Have some kind of extended project at home, such as building your own herb garden, knitting a sweater, finishing War & Peace, etc. When you’re excited to go home and tend to your project, you’re less likely to go shopping after work.

14. Lower Your Credit Limits

Try to lower the credit limit on your cards (e.g. don’t have it raised even if you find a higher income). When your monthly income exceeds your credit limit by at least S$2,000, it is very difficult for you to get into serious debt problems. If your credit limit really is twice or four times your income–which is the standard–you can end up drowning in debt.

15. Pay Back Your Credit Card the Same Day You Charge Items on It

In effect, your credit card will be treated like a debit card. This prevents you from accumulating debt, which has an “out of sight, out of mind” effect. Remember, you save a lot of money by not paying interest rates.

16. Be Willing to Negotiate

Always make an attempt to negotiate bank fees, telco services, and even late payment fees. Not a lot of people realise how some companies prefer to forego these small losses in order to retain a paying customer. If you don’t ask for it, you won’t get it.

17. Be Open to Refinancing Your Home Loan

Home loan packages change all the time, and most of them jump sharply on the fourth year. If you have a private bank loan for your house, contact a mortgage specialist and start looking for a better loan package every four years or so. You may not find one (in which case keep your current package), but you can save thousands a dollars a year by keeping to the cheapest home loans.

18. Got a Joint Account? Set a S$100 Rule

Establish a rule that, for purchases of S$100 or more, you must speak with the other joint account holder before drawing the cash. Their job–along with yours–is always to act as the devil’s advocate, arguing why the expense is not needed. This is a good way to dissuade impulsive buys.

19. Never Face a Sales Pitch with Your Wife or Husband

The salesman wants you both there so you can’t make the excuse that “I need to ask my wife or husband”. Now you know why people selling timeshares or vacation packages always insist you go as a couple. Provide yourself an out, so you don’t feel pressured into buying something you don’t need.

20. Open the Mail From Your Bank and Read It

Everyone hates doing this, but just do it. You need to be reminded of bills to avoid late payment charges, and because the transaction histories will make it obvious that you need to stop spending so much. This monthly reminder is a miracle cure for the urge to buy more unnecessary junk.

21. Know Your Billing Cycles

Your credit card payment is not due “at the end of the month”. It is due at the end of the billing cycle. This may even be on the 15th or 21st of the month. Never assume you will be charged interest only if you cross the 30th or 31st of the month. Call your bank to check the next due date if you’re uncertain.

22. When Buying Big Ticket Items, Never Compromise

Want to buy a S$10,000 watch? Then save up for the next five years or seven years if you have to. Don’t compromise and buy one that’s S$2,000 or S$3,000. You won’t be satisfied with it, and you might end up buying the real thing anyway. That makes your compromise nothing more than a waste of money. Either save up and buy it, or do without.

23. Pay Down Your Loans in the Right Sequence

Pay off your loans from highest interest to lowest. This is usually credit cards first, personal loans second, and all other loans third. This will minimise the impact of interest rates.

24. Get Some Exercise

Get off the bus or train one stop earlier, or get your cab to stop just a walkable distance from your destination. The walking will be good exercise, and over time you can save quite a significant amount on transport.

25. Compare Loans and Credit Cards in Detail

Do your homework before taking loans or credit cards. Some have much better deals than others, and loans can have widely varying interest rates. When a bank reaches its quota of loans, it tends to raise interest rates and its products are no longer as cheap.

26. Adopt a Pet, Don’t Buy One

It is often much cheaper to adopt a pet (a few hundred dollars) rather than buy one (a purebred dog can cost over a thousand dollars). It is also better for animal welfare as whole, since unadopted animals are killed, and buying new pets can encourage unethical breeding businesses.

27. Lay Off the Cheap Junk Food

Buying junk food may seem cheaper, but it’s a false savings. Note that being overweight can raise your insurance premiums by significant amounts, when it comes time to renew your policy. And in the long run, the deleterious effects of cheap junk food will run up medical bills that far outstrip any “savings”.

28. Check the Share Economy Before Buying

Need a place to stay abroad? Try Airbnb before checking hotels. Need to buy a laptop for work? Scout for a used one on E-Bay. The wonder of the share economy is how much it has lowered prices across the board. Make it a habit to search there first.

29. Share Your Savings Goals

Declare your savings goals to someone you meet or speak to often. Just like dieting, it helps to get someone else to enforce your behaviour. Also, you are more likely to follow through on a commitment when you have declared it aloud.

30. Make Sure Your Savings Goals are Specific

There’s no point aiming to just “save some money”. That’s too vague. Instead, aim to save a specific amount by a given point. This can be S$300 a month, or S$50,000 in a year. If you set savings goals for the long term, you can compensate your monthly savings to make up for the times when you fall short.

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31. Make Your Savings Goals Visible

Stick your savings goals somewhere you’ll see them every day. Your computer desktop is a good choice, as is your phone’s wallpaper. The more often you’re reminded of it, the less likely you are to slip and make an impulse buy.

32. Check if Your Medication is Cheaper Abroad

Certain kinds of medication, such as asthma inhalers, are almost half the price in Malaysia or Batam. They can also be purchased there without prescriptions. You can make full use of this when your friends or family travel there – have them buy a few months of your medication there and bring it back to you.

33. Going Out for Drinks? Turn Up Late.

Time your arrival to be about 40 minutes late. By then the drinks would already have been ordered, so there’s a good chance you can get some S$0 alcohol. Just don’t do it too often or your invitations might start disappearing.

34. Set Aside Gifts for Events Once a Year

Pick one time in the year to look over all the significant birthdays and related events (Christmas, your anniversary, and so on), and plan out the purchases for each one. Then get it all bought within the first week or so, and label the gifts.

This serves a dual purpose–you will be reminded of the event, and you will have time to find the right gifts at the right price.

35. Set Reading Objectives

Reading is one of the best ways to save money, and it improves your language skills and erudition at the same time. If you need to distract yourself long enough to meet savings goals, have a list of reading targets as well. Perhaps aim to read every novel by Austen, or at least 10 books on Singapore history.

Most of what you need is free in the library, and even if you have to buy a book it will keep you occupied for months. Improve your mind while saving!

36. Check Your Employer- or Career-Related Associations for Discounts

It’s quite common for vendors to give discounts to a whole company or association. For example, some childcare services give a discount to everyone in a law society, or to every employee of companies in a banking association. These can be a good source of discounts, which most people forget to check.

37. Compare Insurance Policies Before Buying

Don’t give in to the first insurance salesman you meet just to get rid of him. There are numerous places where you can compare insurance quotes online–try to find the ones that charge the lowest premiums, and which have the lowest Effect of Deduction.

38. Clear Your Cache When Shopping for Cheap Flights and Hotels

Some websites, upon seeing you return repeatedly, will raise the prices. This is because they know you are almost certainly going to buy, as you keep coming back to the page. Just clear your cache before returning.

39. Buy Travel Insurance from Your Insurance Agent

Avoid buying cheap travel insurance where you never quite see the agent. It might seem like quick and convenient deal, but you will end up spending much more when you file a claim and it fails to be accepted. Use your insurance agent instead, as they are interested in long term business with you.

40. Never Use Phones from Hotel Rooms When Travelling

Never skimp on buying a prepaid sim card, and believe you can use the hotel phone when needed. It’s not unusual for hotels to charge as high as S$7 a minute, so your call to arrange dinner with your friend could mean S$35+ down the drain.

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41. Where Possible, Buy Your Home and Don’t Rent

At the end of your stay, all the money you spent on rent went down a black hole. You will get absolutely nothing out of it. If you bought the home, at least the monthly repayments have netted you an appreciating asset. Also, monthly rent will generally cost more than home loan repayments (that is, after all, the point of renting out the property).

42. Don’t Exchange Money at Banks or With Credit Cards

Unless you have multi-currency options, you will lose a lot of money making a currency exchange at a bank. There is usually an administrative charge, which you will not face with money changers. The same rule applies for making foreign exchanges on credit cards–Visa, Master, and Amex all impose additional charges on the exchange (check your credit card terms and conditions for the exact details).

43. Rent a Car, Don’t Buy One

The down payment on a car in Singapore (usually around S$60,000) is better invested elsewhere. A car is a depreciating asset, so all the money you spend on it will ultimately be lost. It makes more sense to rent a car if you absolutely need one.

44. Have a Dedicated Credit Card for Petrol, if You Own a Car

There are specific credit cards just for motorists, like the DBS Esso MasterCard. These cards are not too great for retail or dining, but they can drastically reduce your petrol points through cashback or direct discounts. These are often on top of any offers the petrol station gives, so it’s a significant savings over the course of a year.

45. Purchase Food Near Closing Time

Some supermarket foods (like the Japanese section, or the grill section) are cheaper near closing time. The same is often true of bakeries, or any outlet that serves food that doesn’t keep. Just pop by after work, if you’ve got overtime.

46. Establish Gift Rules in the Family

Cap the value of gifts (S$20 is a good number) between family members. This ensures that you won’t have to feel bad when you give your wife new socks, and she buys you an iPad or something. That kind of thing often leads to gift escalation, where the prices go up until everyone is poor.

47. Aim to Eliminate Two to Three Main Expenses Every Month

Identify three things that you often spend on (e.g. food, travel, and clothes), and aim to reduce the expenses on each one by 10%. This is much more effective than the “spreadsheet” method, where you try and follow a planned list of expenses. Also, if you fail in one you will probably succeed in the other two, which should keep your morale up.

48. Use Your Card for Group Dining

When you dine with friends, put the total expenses on your credit card, and collect cash from your friends. Remember to pay back the amount in full, on the same day if you can.

Why do this? Because if you have a cashback card or reward points, you will be racking them up faster by putting the combined expenses all on your card. And you lose nothing since your friends are paying you back anyway.

49. Buy Insurance When You are Younger

If you are in your 20s, purchase a good insurance policy as soon as you can. As you get older and develop inevitable medical conditions, your premiums will rise significantly. The younger you are when you buy your policy, the less you will pay over the long term. You should consult an independent financial adviser before deciding on the form of policy you want.

50. Learn to Sell Instead of Trash Things

Get used to E-Baying used items or letting them go on Carousell. This will allow you to minimise the cost of purchases, by letting you get some money back from them afterward. Besides, it’s a great way to find cheap buys as well.