Whether or not you believe in these common superstitions in Singapore, they make an impact on how you spend.
There’s no denying that superstitions cost (or bring) significant amounts of money. Regardless of whether you believe in it, the fact is that other Singaporeans do. Some are so superstitious that they are willing to pay a premium for lucky things, or pay a hefty sum to avoid unlucky things.
Here are the most common superstitions in Singapore, and how they affect your spending.
1. House Numbers
Chinese home buyers dislike the number four (which sounds like “death” in Chinese), but love the number eight (which sounds like the word for prosperity).
Past studies have shown that, in Singapore, house numbers that contain the number four (e.g. Unit 44) have been sold for about 1.5% less. On the other hand, houses that feature the number eight tend to be sold for almost 1% more.
That’s a significant amount of money: assuming the subject is a S$350,000 flat, being unit #44 would cost the seller S$5,250. If it was unit #88, the seller might just make an additional S$3,500.
This means non-superstitious types should be in search of “unlucky” houses if they are looking for a discount! It could be great savings if it makes no psychological impact on them.
2. Car License Plates
As with houses, the notion of lucky and unlucky numbers also affect car license plates.
Now as it turns out, car license plates have a very established bidding system; you may not know it, but it involves huge sums. For example, with regard to vintage car license plates, someone recently paid S$355,000 for plate number S32H. With regard to “lucky” plate numbers, such as 8888, bid amounts have been known to reach between S$16,000 to S$18,000.
Perhaps some drivers feel those 8’s are a valuable form of car “insurance”!
On a somewhat related topic, car license plates get some Singaporeans to gamble more. Have you noticed that, when there’s a car accident, the radio announcement often pleads with motorists not to slow down and look? Well, that happens because some drivers slow down to write down license plate numbers. They want to use it for 4D or Toto!
3. Feng Shui Home Services
Feng Shui (wind and water, or Geomancy) plays a big role in Asia’s housing markets; Singapore is no different. In fact, not a lot of people realise that the Singapore Flyer had the direction of its rotation changed for Feng Shui reasons. It was changed to rotate toward the island, so that wealth would come inward rather than flow outward.
Feng Shui believers are very particular about the facing of a house, as well as the placement of items such as furniture, beams, and windows. Feng Shui believers want to maximise the flow of chi (energy), which they believe affects their well-being and prosperity.
As such, many people will consult a Feng Shui expert when moving into a new home. The price can range from a flat fee (S$200 to S$500 for a three-room flat) to a per-square-foot cost. The most famous Feng Shui masters in Singapore can charge up to S$2 per square foot. That would make even a tiny studio apartment cost S$1,000 for a consultation!
4. The 7th Month Housing Effect
During the Hungry Ghost Festival (the 7th Lunar Month), Singaporean Chinese believe that the souls of the departed return to visit. It’s a time for Taoists to venerate their ancestors, through various burnt offerings.
One of the taboos, during this period, is scheduling renovations or moving into a new home. It’s thought that this confuses visiting spirits and rebukes the notion of cherishing the past. It’s a little ironic to be moving to a new home, at a time when you are supposed to revere your family’s past.
Whatever the case, there is an actual impact on the housing market. Sales volumes fall because there are fewer buyers. Many property developers now refuse to launch at times close to 7th-month celebrations.
Buyers who are not superstitious might be able to find a good deal on property during this time. Sometimes, a salesperson desperate to meet quotas might give them a better price, if they agree to buy at such an inauspicious time.
5. Li Chun Day Deposits
Have you ever noticed that, on a particular day of the Chinese New Year, the bank deposit machines get crowded? That would be due to Li Chun day, which marks the start of Spring. It falls between the 3rd and 4th of February.
During this day, it’s considered to be auspicious to deposit money while wearing a red top. This symbolises fortune and financial security for the rest of the year. The most commonly deposited about it (you’ve probably guessed it by now) S$1,888.
Not only must you wear a red top while doing it, you must make the deposit at the right time. A fortune teller can be paid (about S$20 if you find one hanging around near Fortune Centre), to tell you the correct time of deposit based on your birth star. This is a cause of many headaches, as people plead to swap places in line to make “their” timing!
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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.