Eating at work can be pricey, especially if your office is in the CBD area. But you don’t have to lose your paycheque to meals at work. Here’s how to have cheaper lunches in Singapore.
You can do better than a cheap lunch–you can have a free lunch. All you need are co-workers who pack their own lunch, fast hands, and good excuses. Unfortunately, this blog limits us to methods that would not socially ostracise you, so here’s ways to trim the cost instead:
1. If Quantity is Critical, Choose Soup Based Dishes
You need to pig out and feel full, but your slave labour wages have reduced you to your last five bucks. There’s virtually no way that plate of $2.50 chicken rice, with slices of chicken thin enough to shave with, is going to feed you. The answer is soup.
Soup is just flavoured hot water, which is a good way to con your body into it’s full. In fact, a staple dieting technique is to just drink hot water before meals so you’ll eat less. Fishball noodles, Bak Chor Mee, and Yong Tau Foo are the best for this purpose. Those dishes can be had for around S$3.50, and you will feel full for a lot longer.
It’s not healthy to do this all the time, but if you’re broke and truly starving this can ease your pains a little.
2. Stock Up for Your Packed Lunches at Closing Time
Packing lunch can save you money… if you also know how to buy groceries for cheap. The simplest way to do this is to hit the supermarkets (Cold Storage is a good one) right after work. Visit near closing time, and you can often get things at the deli counter for less. Take advantage of lower prices on whole roast chickens, ribs, sausages, etc. Get it in the fridge and it will keep until lunch tomorrow
You can shave as much as 30% off the prices this way, but an important note: avoid buying and keeping the cut-rate sushi. You can have that for a budget dinner, but it’s not a good idea to keep it till lunch tomorrow.
3. If You Have to Entertain Clients, Do the Legwork Early
If you don’t plan these business lunches, you will end up anywhere that’s convenient. That often means somewhere expensive, especially if you are dining somewhere in the Central Business District. So here’s what you want to do instead:
Scout out an affordable locale, and then come up with a reason why you should all eat there instead (e.g. they make the best prawn noodles in Singapore). You could also pick a place where you know you’ll get discounts – either because it works with your credit card, or because you have vouchers.
You can check out SingSaver.com.sg to find the best credit cards for dining, and save money on every lunch out. Try the OCBC 365 Credit Card, which gives 3% cashback on weekday dining. Remember to pay the card in full, or the interest rate will eclipse the savings.
4. Split Upsized Portions in Coffee Shops
Dishes that are meant to be shared (oyster omelette, kway chap, etc.) often have multiple size options. The good news is that the price difference between a $5 portion and an $8 portion will usually feed two others, not just one more person.
Getting the biggest portion often puts you in a viable position to resolve famines in third world countries. Check out places like Bedok market, or the Maxwell Road hawker centre, to see what we mean.
A simple way to save money is thus to drag along a colleague or friend. Order the bigger portion, and then split it between all of you.
5. Skip the Drinks
If you have to eat out, skip the drinks. These typically add S$4.50, per person to the bill. Ask for water, and dodge the joints that insist on serving you bottled water (that’s not a comment on their overall quality or business decision to charge for water, it’s just that if you a budget they’re not an option).
If you need to sit for a drink and talk, consider having your meal there but getting a drink somewhere cheaper.
6. The Online Deal You Found Isn’t Really Saving You Money
Oh look! A coupon with a 20% discount in a place you wouldn’t normally even consider eating at. This is how people end up blowing their budget eating a croissant in a setting with a chandelier – by not realising that coupon savings are in fact enticements to spend.
There are plenty of dining clubs that spam your mailbox with coupons, some with discounts as steep as 50%. Others have direct dollar deals (e.g. S$10 off). However, many of these come with terms and conditions, such as:
- Having to spend a minimum amount, which will bust your budget
- Not being applicable on certain days
- Only being usable with certain debit or credit cards
By the time you find about these, you may give up and pay the full bill because you’ve already walked there, or because you already ate.
Above all, remember you wouldn’t be spending all that money in the first place, if not for the coupon. It tends to be pricier places that advertise that way.
7. Go in with a Budget Plan
This is the easiest way to ensure a budget-friendly lunch. When you walk in, have a budget plan. Stick to the given costs, and don’t be swayed by the smells and sights.
This may not be a fun way to dine, but in tight times it’s another way to keep you from overusing that credit card.
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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.