The Real Cost: How Much Do I Need to Earn to Live Comfortably in Singapore?

Emma Lam

Emma Lam

Last updated 24 June, 2022

Ready to carve your new life out as a young adult? Here are some costs to expect to give you a headstart in adulthood.

There may be hidden costs on every dollar you spend. The Real Cost, a SingSaver Series, uncovers all the unexpected expenses you’re incurring.

Whenever we come of age, most will desire to leave the home nest in search of personal freedom and independence. Moving out marks a significant life milestone, with new ventures and horizons of adulthood to explore. Unfortunately, moving out in Singapore tends to be a little more complicated.

Currently, the statutory age permitted to own an HDB as a single is 35 years old. And with more Singaporeans marrying later, this demographic is growing larger by the year. Furthermore, Singapore consistently outranks other countries in terms of cost of living standards.

Whether you’re a young working adult or a potential expat looking to immigrate, finding a comfortable middle ground to sustain your cost of living will be challenging. So just how much would one actually need to support themselves financially in Singapore? 

Overview of cost of living in Singapore 2022

Monthly cost breakdown
Category Estimated cost
Accommodation/Housing S$700 (HDB rental) to S$3,500 (Condo rental)
Transportation S$70
Groceries S$200
Utility bills S$200 to S$600
Mobile data S$8 to S$30
Insurance (e.g. medical, health) S$20 onwards (for premiums)
Exercise S$30
Recreational activities Depends on activity

Related to this topic:
School Didn’t Teach Me: How to Deal With The Cost of Living in Singapore in 10 Years
What Type of HDB Flats Can Single Singaporeans Buy?

Accommodation or housing costs

Despite housing loans and grants available to make houses more affordable for locals, prices certainly don’t come cheap; we won’t even get started for foreigners. Furthermore, factors like estate location, unit size and condition, age of the property, proximity to amenities and city centre, the lease term (if renting) and others will affect the purchase or rental price of the house.

At present, there are three main types of housing properties in Singapore: HDB flats, Executive Condominiums (ECs) and private properties

Singaporeans and PRs are entitled to purchase any of them whereas foreigners are only permitted to purchase private properties like ECs (at least 10 years old). The latter will also require government approval if they set their sights on specific landed properties like bungalows. HDBs are strictly off-limits to foreigners except for applying for rent with a maximum tenure of two years.

Average housing rental cost in Singapore

HDB flat type Monthly rental Condo type Monthly rental
3-Room S$1,600 to S$2,100 Shoebox (< 538 sq ft) About S$1,533
4-Room S$2,000 to S$2,800 1-Room (750 sq ft) About S$2,138
5-Room S$2,100 to S$3,000 2-Room (1,000 sq ft) About S$3,463
- - 3-Room (1,250 sq ft) About S$3,563
Source: Housing & Development Board

For renting an HDB flat, expect a budget ranging from S$1,480 (2-Room) to S$2,550 (Executive) per month. If you engage an agent to help you with the search, the agent fee is half a month for every 1 year’s lease. 

The more affordable estates comprise the West like Bukit Panjang and Choa Chu Kang and the North like Woodlands, while the pricier estates are located centrally in Bishan, Toa Payoh, and Kallang or the Northeast and East like Punggol, Pasir Ris, and Marine Parade.

Alternatively, if you don’t mind a shorter, remaining lease term, resale flats are an excellent rental option too. Once again, the same principle of affordability applies where the more expensive estates reside near central while the cheaper estates are sprawled across Singapore in the West, Northeast and East.

For condominium rentals, begin by scoping out the average price per square foot (psf) within a general district. There are over 25 districts in Singapore. 

According to Property Guru, the median rental price ranges from S$2.18 to S$4.77 psf. However, the title for most expensive goes to High Street and Beach Road in District 6 with a whopping S$7.71 psf.

Factoring out District 6, renting a regular condominium can cost anywhere between S$1,173 (Shoebox; under 538 sqft) to S$6,138 (3-Bedroom; 1,250 sqft). Although the price range is fairly varied, it really depends on what your lifestyle preferences are. 

Additionally, occupants should always be aware of their landlord’s rules and vice versa. For instance, some landlords will state no or light cooking only. 

As a tenant, you have your own set of rights that landlords should respect. For instance, it is obligatory for landlords to obtain written permission and inform you prior to entering your room. Otherwise, it’ll be a legal violation of your privacy.

Alternatively, sharing a unit with roommates or renting an entire unit out on your own would be the next best bet. Whatever your choice is, you can experience both modest or upscale living in either an HDB or condominium. It all falls on your budgeting priorities.

Estimated cost summary
Shared rental HDB flat Shared rental condo unit Entire rental HDB flat Entire rental condo unit
From S$600 From S$700 S$1,480 to S$3,000 S$1,500 to S$5,000 and above

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Average housing purchase cost in Singapore

HDB flat type Price Condo type Price
2-Room S$90,000 to S$315,000 1-Room (750 sq ft) EC: S$420,000 to S$560,000
Private: S$600,000 to S$700,000
3-Room S$163,000 to S$474,000 2-Room (1,000 sq ft) EC: S$640,000 to S$720,000
Private: S$800,000 to S$900,000
4-Room S$283,000 to S$688,000 3-Room (1,250 sq ft) EC: S$776,000 to S$960,000
Private: S$970,000 to S$1.2m
5-Room S$338,000 to S$728,000 4-Room  EC: S$1.12m to S$1.4m
Private: S$1.4m to S$1.8m
5-Room EC: S$1.6m to S$1.76m
Private: S$2m to S$2.2m

In 2022, an average 4-room HDB flat typically costs around S$500,000 and an average condominium costs around S$1.7 million. That said, there are restrictions when it comes to eligibility to purchase your first home.

For purchasing an HDB BTO, your budget can range anywhere from S$90,000 to S$728,000 while condominiums start from S$420,000 and above.

For resale HDB flats, the minimum age is 21 years old and you must belong to either of the following family nuclei:

  • Spouse and children
  • Parents and siblings
  • Children under legal custody (if widowed or divorced)

For those single, the minimum age bumps up to 35 years old — unmarried or divorced. However, if you’re widowed or orphaned without children as a single, the minimum age remains at 21.

With those base criteria established, it becomes clear that home ownership in Singapore — especially as a young, single adult — is by no means straightforward. In fact, it seems almost impossible.

Moreover, even if you do fulfil the bare requirements, there’s a whole slew of monetary considerations suddenly put on your plate. Would you be prepared for that?

For instance, you could either fork out a minimum 15% downpayment (under the HDB Concessionary Loan) or a 25% downpayment (under a private bank loan) to finance your first HDB. For private condominiums and ECs, you’ll have to rely on private bank loans. 

Note: 5% of the 25% downpayment needs to be paid in cash. The remainder can be afforded using your CPF Ordinary Account (CPF-OA) or a combination of both.

Estimated cost summary
HDB BTO flat Condo unit
From S$90,000 From S$400,000

Related to this topic:
How Much Do You Need to Buy Your First Home in Singapore
How to Buy a House in Singapore: A Complete Guide (2022)
How to Get a Housing Loan if You’re Single
Getting a Bank Loan For HDB VS. HDB Housing Loan

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Transportation costs

As a city dweller, taking some form of transport will be a regular part of your daily living. The overall cost incurred varies largely depending on the type of transport you take. 

In Singapore, the combination of Certificate of Entitlement (COE) premiums stacked with the actual vehicle purchase has skyrocketed to near all-time-highs. Thus, the recent trend has been for more Singaporeans to opt out of purchasing brand new cars. At best, they’d buy a secondhand one

But in general, a typical CAT-A car would cost you around S$103,000 in total at the time of writing. This includes excise duty, GST, registration fee and other miscellaneous charges. That’s almost one-third the price of the cheaper HDB units in Singapore. 

As a result, public transport is the staple for the majority of our population.

Furthermore, your working situation matters when calculating your transport costs. Those that are still on a flexible work-from-home basis will no doubt enjoy the luxuries of saving on transport. Conversely, those that have to commute to work would incur round-trip costs to and fro work. Again, your housing proximity to your workplace will contribute a difference too.

To put things in perspective, the base bus and MRT/LRT fares (up to 3.2km) start from S$0.92 to S$0.95 depending on the operating company. Meanwhile, the base bus and MRT/LRT fares (before 7.45am on weekdays) start from S$0.42 to S$0.45.

For high-frequency long-distance commutes, applying for a monthly Adult Concession Pass for S$136 (first-timers) or S$128 (return buyers) would be the most cost-effective. Simply put, your public transport fare is calculated by distance. This allows commuters to reduce travelling time and make transfers without additional charge.

However, if your work-related commute is relatively short, this concession pass is actually more expensive and unnecessary.

From personal experience, the standard taxi or Grab/Gojek fare teeters between S$9 to S$15 during non-peak periods. However, once rush hour (or any other surge period) commences, be prepared to face S$20 to S$30 fares. It might even go higher at some points.

Pro-tip: Apart from Grab and Gojek, commuters have also been recommending Tada and ComfortDelgro Taxi App as substitutes with more competitive rates.

Although public transport is decently subsidised and affordable, travel fares do accumulate substantially if you’re not strategic about your commute — especially if you’re guilty of frequent Grab or Gojek rides.

Estimated cost summary
Public transport trips (MRT/Bus)  Taxi and private hire services (Grab/Gojek/etc.)
S$128 per month Non-peak (one-way, daily): S$200 to S$345 per month
Peak (one-way, daily): S$460 to S$690 per month 

Related to this topic:
Credit Cards You Can Use As Your EZ-Link Card
The Real Cost: Returning to Office
The Complete Guide: How to Own a Car in Singapore

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Medical and healthcare costs

Thankfully, public healthcare is fairly subsidised by the government too. A typical medical consultation at a polyclinic costs S$14 for Singaporean adults. Meanwhile, polyclinic dental checkups start from S$16.

But that’s just for your one-off illness. What about for more chronic cases and hospitalisations? It’s reported that an average hospital bill in Singapore ranges from S$1,000 to S$10,000 while private hospitals start higher from S$4,000 to S$19,000. These estimations are notwithstanding other additional charges incurred.

This explains why possessing a comprehensive medical insurance plan is important to safeguarding both your well-being and your bank account. Apart from that, you’ll also want to cover your other bases like personal accident, critical illness, cancer, and life insurance.

You might not think it’s necessary, but life can change in an instant. So it’s best to be prepared at all times.

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Education costs

A typical three to four-year university degree programme in Singapore can cost between S$60,500 to S$84,500, inclusive of on-campus accommodation. 

In general, the National University of Singapore (NUS) and Nanyang Technological University (NTU) share similar tuition fees between S$25,000 to S$29,000. Singapore Management University (SMU) and Singapore University of Technology and Design  (SUTD) are on the upper end, costing roughly S$35,000 to S$40,000 respectively.

Additionally, note that these tuition fee calculations are heavily subsidised (up to 80%) by the government under the Ministry of Education’s Tuition Grant (also available to international students). 

Otherwise, international students should be prepared to fork out a sum of at least S$30,000 upwards, excluding GST. If you’re a prospecting undergraduate in need of financial assistance, consider applying for an education loan to fund your studies.

Read this to find out how much it really costs to study in Singapore.

Pro-tip: Applying for scholarships is a great alternative to education loans in funding your schooling career. Don’t be afraid to try — it’s free.

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Daily expenditure

Needless to say, how much you spend daily heavily depends on your lifestyle. For instance, do you eat out a lot or cook more at home? Do you take exercise classes or prefer running outdoors? What kind of recreational activities do you enjoy? How often do you hit the town with your friends?

Taking into account all these variable expenses, it’ll look something like this:

Category Estimated cost Total
Groceries About S$200 per month to cook at home  S$200 per month
Eating out (Hawker/Food court) A two-meat-one-vegetable cai fan order at a CBD hawker centre can cost S$3.30.

A Japanese or Korean meal at a food court could cost from S$6 onwards.
If you have one daily meal: S$76 to S$140 per month
Eating out (Restaurant) Plenty of food options (ala-carte, meal) under the S$15 range.
A bill at a cheap to mid-tier restaurant could cost between S$30 to S$60.
If you eat out once a week: S$60 to S$240 per month 
Fitness A monthly peak hour unlimited pass at Activesg costs S$30 per month.
Other gym memberships and classes will cost on average S$90 to S$120 per month.
S$30 per month
Recreation Shaw Theatres, Cathay Cineplexes and Golden Village Cinema offer the cheapest weekday movie tickets at S$9, S$10, and S$10 respectively.
Weekend ticket prices for all three are S$14.50 each.
Go cycling on Anywheel bicycles for only S$1 per 30 minutes.
Depends on how many movies you frequent per month
An hour of Anywheel costs only S$2 compared to other typical bike rental kiosks.
Mobile plan Compare the best SIM-only plan prices here.
A moderate-data use plan will cost between S$8 to S$30.
About S$20 per month
Insurance S$20 onwards for premiums About S$20 per month

Pro-tip: Capitalise on bank card promotions to unlock more worthwhile movie deals. For example, Maybank offers S$1.50 discount and up to 20% F&B perks for Thursday and Friday screenings at Golden Village.

DBS also offers discounted tiers for movie tickets purchased with any debit or credit card. Each ticket purchase comes with a discounted popcorn and drinks combo. Valid till 30 June 2022.

DBS/POSB Credit Card Welcome Gift: Receive up to S$388 cashback or 85,000 miles when you apply for select DBS credit cards and fulfil the relevant promotion criteria. T&Cs apply.

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Miscellaneous costs

Other additional costs you might want to look out for include your utility bills, monthly subscription plans and streaming services, and broadband internet connection

If you have children or require a domestic helper, childcare services, supplementary tuition fees and maids will add on to your monthly spending too.

Related to this topic:
Best Credit Cards For Paying Utility Bills in Singapore
8 Ways to Lower Your Electricity Bill in Singapore
New S$1.5 Billion Support Package Announced to Help Lower-Income & Vulnerable Families Cope With Inflation

So is Singapore really that expensive to live in?

Yes, and no. There are ways to cut corners in your expenditure while simultaneously, there are ways to live lavishly.

Per month Thrifty Modest Luxury
Accommodation S$700 (Shared HDB flat) S$2,200 (Shared condo unit) S$160,000 and above (Owning a house)
Daily expenses (Groceries, dining out, recreation, mobile data, miscellaneous shopping) S$400 and under S$700 to S$1,000 S$1,500 and above
Transportation S$70 to S$128 S$128 to S$345 S$350 and above
Utilities (Electricity, water, gas, internet) S$100 to S$200 S$150 to S$300 S$300 to S$600
Exercise Free to S$30 S$30 to S$100 S$100 and above

There is no right or wrong way to live in Singapore; it all depends on your personal preference and financial circumstances. Spend within your means and save wisely wherever you can. 

Help yourself to better financial shape in the new norm, with SingSaver's all-new Ultimate Savings Guide! Got your free copy yet?

Although she struggles *slightly* in resisting good deals and sales, Emma is on a lifelong journey to understand what financial independence as a Z-llennial means. That said, her inner child is still very much alive… with animals and gaming being her weaknesses.


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