If you buy cheap, you buy twice. Here are some expensive things in Singapore you shouldn’t try to save money on.
There are times when trying to save money will just cost you more. As the old Singaporean saying goes: if you buy cheap, you buy twice.
That isn’t to say discounts are bad; you just have to be careful of what you accept at low prices. All too often, cheap also means substandard.
Here are the things you shouldn’t try to save money on, unless you’re willing to risk paying more later.
1. Furniture That Keeps You From the Ground When You Rest
This includes beds, mattresses, sofas, and chairs. The most important are your bed and mattress.
The average human being spends almost a third of their life in bed, so don’t try and skimp here. Bad beds and mattresses cause a wide range of expensive health problems.
In 2014, it was reported that Singaporeans are among the most sleep-deprived people in the world. Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that productivity has been declining in the past three years. But no amount of work-life rebalancing will fix an uncomfortable bed, or a mattress with bad springs.
For example, backaches caused by old, sagging mattresses can put you out of work for weeks. Also, a bed that is too small prevents you from changing positions at night – this can get in the way of proper sleep, and significantly lower your productivity at work.
Similar health and productivity issues are caused by bad seats. In 2013, for example, a woman was hospitalised after her office chair “exploded”. Other less dramatic effects include increased fatigue, back pain, and risk of blood clots from prolonged periods in an uncomfortable chair.
We are well aware that good furniture does not come cheap (averaging around S$70 if you buy at IKEA), while beds range into the thousands. But if you buy a cheap one that’s not comfortable, you’ll end up buying again or being in pain.
2. Dental Visits and Oral Hygiene
Sure, regular visits to the dentist are expensive and painful. But should you be inclined to skip them, we’d like to refer you the Ministry of Health pricing guidelines for oral care.
Root canal treatments are S$272 to S$353 per tooth, and that’s the guide price for a public clinic. If they’re your molars, the price jumps to S$678 to S$815 per tooth. Crowns go from S$650 to S$786 per tooth.
You may have noticed that these amounts could pay the monthly mortgage on some flats.
So if you think you’re saving money by skimping on regular dental appointments, or not buying mouthwash and dental floss, we can confidently assure you that you are wrong. When your teeth deteriorate, treatment will wipe out whatever “savings” you made.
In addition, anyone who has ever experienced a toothache will know it’s almost impossible to work when you have one.
3. A Well-Tailored Suit
Women can get away with spending less than men here, but for either gender it’s best not to go too far.
Everyone should have at least one or two well tailored, high-end outfits for important events. One such event is an important presentation or a job interview.
People should not be judged by their appearances. But that does not change the fact that they are, particularly when a client or prospective employer is checking them out.
Cheap, ill-fitting clothes suggest you are unable to maintain yourself well. Alternatively, they may give others the impression that you do not consider the situation important, and cannot be bothered to dress well for it.
By all means, save money on everyday clothes. But buy the best you can afford for one or two pieces of formal wear. If they land you a job or close a sale, they will pay for themselves many times over.
As you will not often find good outfits in the discount bin, the only real way to save on them is through a cashback credit card. These could net you around five per cent of the purchase price back. We suggest the DBS Black Card – until 30 September 2016, it gives you 5% cashback on shoes and clothes.
A rewards card can also offset costs by earning points that you can redeem for vouchers. The Citi Rewards Card gives 10X reward points per S$1 on shoes, clothes, and bags. And from 1 May until 31 July 2016, cardmembers can earn up to 20 points for every S$1 spent at Topshop, Topman, and other stores.
You can find the best credit cards for shopping at SingSaver.com.sg.
4. Wedding Photography
Some of you may recall the disastrous photoshoot that went viral in April this year.
To be fair, the couple in question did not pick the photographer. Their wedding planner did, and chose a photographer who charged S$350 for a whole day shoot. The typical going rate ranges from S$90 to S$200 per hour, so that’s a very low cost. Unfortunately, it’s apparent the couple might have been much happier had the planner chosen another photographer, whatever the savings.
The problem with low cost, low quality wedding photographs is that it’s still a significant cost. S$350 is not an irrelevant sum. And that money becomes a complete waste if you need to take another round of pictures later. You would save more if you just get proper pictures the first time around.
If you are using a wedding planner, check the previous work of the photographer they select.
Cheap tattoos are something you will regret for life. Rates vary widely in Singapore, from as low as S$70 an hour to well over S$200 an hour for the top artists. But should you find something questionably cheap, like S$20 for three hours of work, reconsider the appointment.
The cost of laser removal for a bad tattoo ranges between S$700 to well over S$3,000. Getting another tattoo artist to cover up mistakes is an example of paying for something twice. This dollar cost also doesn’t into account the potential for diseases, such as HIV transmission via needles.
All in, it’s a bad idea to try save money by going to a back alley tattoo parlour (e.g. the ones found in the literal lorongs of Geylang, with no license), or by going to countries with poorly regulated tattoo businesses.
6. Wood Flooring
Never try to skimp on proper flooring.
When you insist that your contractor or interior designer use cheaper materials, it’s their job to fulfil your request. However, they have a good reason to recommend against second rate wood.
Cheaper wood may come in the form of laminates – effectively, random bits of waste wood that are pressed together to form a single board. Because all the wood comes from different trees, there is no uniform ageing – the wood will change colour in some parts, but not others.
The wood may also come from a production facility that emphasises volume over quality; it may not be properly dried, and will warp or rot after a few years. This is especially problematic in Singapore’s tropical environment.
If you are a landlord and rent out your property, consider the impact of having to redo the flooring. It could result in vacancies as you cannot take in a tenant while the floor is redone.
It’s best to take your interior designer or contractor’s advice when it comes to housing materials. They usually work within a budget, so when they recommend something costly, they don’t do so lightly.
Sure, you could get a cheap pair for S$100 or less. But cheap eyeglasses tend to be made of flimsy material. Expect screws that bend and pop out, or frames that change colour on contact with sun and perspiration. Where metal is used, the frame is either too heavy or brittle and snaps like soft plastic.
Again, this is a “buy twice” issue. Because the spectacles don’t last, you often end up buying another pair after just a year or two.
This doesn’t mean that you need to buy expensive $500 designer frames. The S$200 mark will get you that will last for years. Beyond this amount, there isn’t much difference besides brand name.
So get the decent pair, and don’t skimp on the warranty either; spectacles are one of the most common things we break by accident. We’ve got some insider tips on how to save money on spectacles in Singapore.
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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.