12 Biggest Spending Watchouts in Singapore

Alevin Chan

Alevin Chan

Last updated 06 December, 2019

When living in one of the world’s three most expensive cities, high expenses are somewhat to be expected.

But there’s no reason why we can’t whip our monthly budgets into shape by trimming the fat. Chances are, some of your lifestyle choices are costing you to blow your monthly budget. Here are the 9 biggest spending watchouts Singaporeans should look out for. 

1. Gym memberships

With monthly subscriptions at major gym franchises in Singapore going for upwards of $150 -- and even more for specialised regimes like kickboxing, and boutique gyms with personalised programmes -- your gym membership can easily be one of the biggest expenses in your monthly budget. 

Going to the gym takes time and mental focus, two things which are in increasingly short supply these days. Hence, it’s oh-so-easy to postpone your weekly workouts this week… and the next… and the next. 

Think of it this way: If you go to the gym twice a week, and pay $160 per month, that’s $20 per visit. Every time you skip a workout, you’ve wasted $20 for nothing. However, if the gym is where you go to get recharged -- by this I mean you go several times a week and make full use of the facilities and types of classes offered -- then by all means, your gym membership is well worth the price per month and good value for money. 

How to save money on a gym membership?
Firstly, be clear about your fitness goals. Are you looking to pump iron several times a week and get swole? Or just want someplace comfortable for the occasional run? The frequency of your gym visits will vary accordingly. Which means you may not need a full membership; a pay-per-entry gym might suit you better. 

Secondly, ignore the bells and whistles that big-name gyms like to dangle. You know, things like saunas and juice bars. You’re there to get fit; all you need is the proper equipment and/or classes. Everything else is optional, and only makes you spend more money. 

How much can you save in a year?
There are a few different options to get a workout in Singapore, and it ultimately comes down to balancing price against factors like location, facilities and even the crowds. Pay-per-use gyms may be cheap, costing just a few bucks to enter, but you may have to contend with overcrowding, or even shift your workout to odd hours just to be able to get in. Other gyms may have attractive rates, but don’t have a branch near your office or home.

Hence, how much you can save on gym memberships really depends on individual preferences and circumstances. Always choose the option that suits your goals the most, and don’t be afraid to give smaller gyms a try. Above all else, remember that even the cheapest gym membership is money wasted if you don’t go. So only sign up if you’re absolutely sure of your commitment. 

2. Coffee and bubble tea

Dropping by the Starbucks or Koi stall is a common morning and/or lunchtime ritual for many working Singaporeans. Yet this seemingly innocuous habit could be draining more of your bank account than you think. 

Certainly, spending anywhere between $4 to $10 for an occasional perk-me-up won’t send you to the poorhouse, but these overpriced coffee drinks and bubble teas are laced with syrups and flavourings designed to get you hooked. Being able to customise them simply makes it easier to keep buying cup after cup.

And don’t even have any illusions about getting good quality coffee beans and tea leaves. Why would they give you the good stuff, when all you can taste is the sugar and flavourings anyway? 

How to save money on coffee drinks and bubble tea?
Make your own. Look, have you ever tasted good quality Jin Xuan, with its buttery, creamy notes? Or the minerally, peach-like sweetness of Dongding Oolong? Or the fruity bouquet of a cold-brewed Tie Guan Yin? Ever tasted coffee that turns sweet with just a dollop of fresh milk?

Once you encounter the sublime difference of proper tea and coffee, you’ll never want to drink anything else. Your afternoon indulgences will be much more enjoyable and healthy, and both your waist and wallet will thank you for it. 

How much can you save in a year?
Brewing your own tea or coffee can save you up to $600 a year. 

Let’s assume you buy coffee or bubble tea 5 times a week, at $5 per cup. That works out to $100 a month, or $1,200 a year. If you go to a proper tea shop or good quality cafe, a budget of around $50 per month (or $600 a year) will get you some great tea leaves or coffee beans.

3. Home electricity bills

Have you switched to an Open Electricity Market supplier yet? Or at least, compare the various Open Electricity Market plans out there? If not, you could be leaving money on the table, and no small amount at that.

You probably are aware that OEM suppliers offer two types of price plans: fixed price plans, and fixed discounts plans. Both models work slightly differently, but will give you between 25% to 30% savings on your bill. 

How to save money on electricity bills? 
The answer is simple: switch to an OEM supplier, and you’ll start seeing lower electricity bills. 

How much can you save in a year?
Generally, households can expect savings of between 20% to 30% on their electricity bills. If you keep the aircon on full blast 24/7, that can add up to several hundreds a year -- enough for a new washing machine or refrigerator!

4. Home fibre broadband

It used to be that faster Internet is better. But that doesn't necessarily apply anymore. By comparing the best home fibre broadband plans, you may realise 1 Gbps is more than enough for the everyday consumer. Paying more for higher speeds is more than likely a waste of money. 

How to save money on fibre broadband? 
Before increasing your Internet speed, check if there are any other issues affecting your connection. Insufficient WiFi coverage in your home or office may be the culprit, or your router may be outdated, and need a replacement. 

How much can you save in a year? 
Internet plans that offer 2 Gbps (or so-called gamer bundles) can inflate your fibre broadband bill by as much as 20% to 30%. 

5. Grab subscription

Grab subscription plans give you vouchers that saves you money on Grab rides and food delivery. But the bundled savings, while attractive, may not always benefit you.

This is because:
1) it only makes sense to use your Grab vouchers if your ride exceeds a certain distance
2) the vouchers expire after one month, which encourages you to use Grab more often than necessary
3) your Grab food orders exceed a certain amount. 

Therein lies the catch: if your normal consumption habits don’t fall within the qualifying criteria, subscribing to a plan may actually cause you to increase your spending, in order to make use of the vouchers. 

How to save money with Grab subscription?
Evaluate how much you spend on your monthly commute and food orders. If they do not meet the plans’ criteria, not subscribing may be a wiser financial choice for you. Not to mention that the subscription plans make you lazy when you could be walking or saving money by taking the bus or MRT. 

How much can you save in a year?
It depends. If you do not subscribe, you will save the face value of the plan. If you subscribe, you may end up spending more overall if you increase your Grab and GrabFood usage. You can also use these cards to maximise your Grab spending

6. Spotify subscription

While being able to listen to your favourite music anytime you want is undeniably a pleasure for music lovers, spending $10 per month for a Spotify subscription is not necessarily a good deal.

Sure, you’ll get ad-free listening, can download your tracks, and play your music overseas without any license restrictions, but really, how often do you go anywhere without Internet these days? And if you can’t listen to music without hearing a few ads along the way, what must it feel like to have all the #firstworldproblems in the world? 

How to save money on Spotify subscription? 
Stick with the free service, period. Or if you really must, go for the Family Subscription, which gives you 6 Premium accounts for US$14.99 per month. Note that all 6 accounts must share the same address, but otherwise are separate accounts with their own logins. 

How much can you save in a year?
You can save up to $120 a year if you’re an individual subscriber. Meanwhile, a Family Premium subscription can save you up to $540 a year. 

7. Netflix subscription  

Netflix is a bit of a sociological mystery. Binge-watching is objectively the worst way to consume TV content, yet millions of us happily pay up every month for the privilege. 

But the thing to take note here is that at $11/month for a basic subscription, your family’s Netflix habit can cost you a pretty penny. 

How to save money on Netflix subscription?
Learn to watch Netflix together as a family. Not only will this create valuable bonding time, you can also stick with the cheapest plan available..

But if you really need to have the service available on multiple screens, then subscribing for the Standard Plan (2 screens) or the Premium Plan (4 screens) will save you a couple of bucks.  

How much can you save in a year?
With the difference between the Premium and Basic plans at $6 per month, watching Netflix on one screen only can save you up to $72 a year. Otherwise, the Premium Plan can give you potential savings of up to $324 a year.

8. Mobile plans

When was the last time you made a good old-fashioned telephone call? Well then, it’s time to switch your mobile plan so that you can stop paying for unused talktime and SMSes. (Remember those?)

How to save on Mobile Plans?
With apps like Whatsapp, Line and WeChat, data is really all you need to maintain a meaningful connection. So switch to a data only plan to bring down your bills, or at least stop paying for services that you no longer use. 

How much can you save in a year?
The savings you will get will depend on your mobile plan. Switching to a data only plan will also likely give you more data, which will help you avoid over usage fees. 

Let’s say you apply for a Circle Life 20GB plan for $18/month. With the nearest competitor coming in at $25.35/mth, that’s $88.20 savings in one year. But whichever plan you choose, know that these are introductory prices that will increase after 12 months. So plan accordingly. 

9. Cigarettes

With smoking rates in Singapore at a low of 14.3% today, Singaporeans are slowly but surely kicking the unhealthy habit. If you’re one of the last remaining holdouts, know that with today’s cigarette prices ranging between $13 to $14 a pack, your tobacco habit is costing you more than ever before.

How to save money on cigarettes?
Quit, period. All other alternatives are illegal and not worth the trouble. But most importantly, you’ll be reducing your risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke and other nasty, crippling conditions, saving you a fortune in medical bills.

How much can you save in a year?
At $14 a pack, smoking one pack a day will cost you $5,110 in a year (365 x $14). How about you swap out smoking for a holiday to Japan instead? 

10. Groceries

Food, glorious food! Whether it is for a simple family dinner or meal-prep for the work week ahead, your grocery bill could add up if you aren’t conscious about what you’re putting into your grocery basket. 

How to save money on Groceries?
Plan your meals a week ahead and if possible, around items that are on sale. Supermarkets announce their weekly sale items on their website and in the newspaper every Thursday. To save more, you could also bulk buy commonly consumed items like rice, noodles or oil that are on sale.  

How much can you save in a year?
From a couple of dollars to a few hundred. This would depend on your diet, eating habits and if you are purchasing groceries just for yourself or for the entire household. 

11. Drinks

A couple of years ago, it used to be $5, then $8 and now $10 for a glass or pint. Enjoying a tipple or two after a long day at work is slightly more expensive now, but it doesn’t always have to be.

How to save money on drinks?
Take advantage of bars that offer happy hour drink promotions. Some bars offer great happy hour promotions on cocktails but not beer, and vice versa, so be sure to do research before visiting.

How much can you save in a year?
It depends on how often and how much you drink. On average, the price difference between a drink during happy hour and other times is $4. So if you consume 2 drinks a week during happy hour, you could save up to $384 a year. 

12. General insurance

It might be less of a hassle to just renew an existing plan, but newer plans could offer more coverage for a lower premium and sometimes you even get free gifts thrown in! 

How to save money on General Insurance?
There are two ways to go about this. The first option would be to inquire about newer plans with the representative who first sold you the general insurance. All it takes is a call or message, followed by a meet up to sign off on the official documents. 

The second option would be to head online, cut out the middleman and purchase directly from the insurance company. This may take some time, but you would be able to compare all the available general insurance plans available before deciding on one. 

How much can you save in a year?
Depending on the type of general insurance, you could save anywhere between a couple of dollars to a few hundred dollars a year. 

How else can you save?

Well, by getting the right credit card that suits your spending needs! Not only would you get exclusive bank discounts and earn points that can be exchanged for cashback or vouchers, you would also get sign up bonuses if you apply through SingSaver.

Read these next:
Ultimate Guide To Digital Multi-Currency Accounts
RedMart Promo Codes and Credit Card Vouchers
Travel Insurance Promotions and Discounts
Are You Making The Most Of Your Credit Card Points?
1-for-1 Buffet Dining Promotions in Singapore

An ex-Financial Planner with a curiosity about what makes people tick, Alevin’s mission is to help readers understand the psychology of money. He’s also on an ongoing quest to optimise happiness and enjoyment in his life.


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