The haze might already be affecting your health. Don’t let it cost you more money. Here’s how you can save while staying safe.
You can’t fight the haze with a fire hose (well not unless you have training and very good health insurance), but you can with your wallet. Besides being a conscientious buyer, some simple preparations and price-checking is all it takes:
1. It’s Not Expensive to Buy Green
Prevention is better than cure, and the easiest way to prevent the haze is by watching what brands you buy. Companies responsible for deforestation (palm oil producers, paper manufacturers, etc.) are ultimately controlled by their buyers–if you make it clear you won’t buy from companies with poor practices, they will be pressured to change their methods.
For example, you could buy only Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO). This will ensure your money only goes to palm oil producers who do not engage in mass forest burning, or other environmentally damaging forms of land clearance.
CSPO products are admittedly a bit more expensive. However, if you use a credit card for groceries, the rewards and discounts can make up for the difference.
2. Buy Effective Masks, Not Fancy Masks
We’re all told to use N95 masks, but most of us have no idea what N95 actually means. N95 is actually a rating, which is given by the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). N95 is one of seven different grades of surgical mask.
There is an actual, strict definition of what makes a real N95 mask, complete with an official product list.
Unfortunately, most people don’t know this. Some buy fancy looking, space age masks that cost upward of S$3.50 per piece, but may be less functional. Real N95 masks seldom cost more than S$2.50, and can be even less when purchased in bulk (in NTUC you can buy a box of 20 masks for S$43).
So look up the linked product list and buy from one of the brands there – don’t buy pricey and unusual looking masks just because they appear special.
3. Take a Cab If You Have To
It can take you up to three days to realise you’ve gotten sick from the haze. Common symptoms (headaches, red eyes, a bad throat, runny nose, etc.) are precisely the things that wind up with you sick in a bed, and unable to work for a week.
That means hazy days shouldn’t be taken lightly. Sure, you might be fine if you work outdoors for today–but think of the potential downside. A doctor’s consultation is $30+, medication will probably be another S$20, and developing a condition–such as chronic asthma from prolonged exposure – can mean a lifetime on medication.
You might think you’re saving a few dollars by refusing to use a cab, and walking in the haze. But if you catch something in the process, the medical costs will quickly overshadow the cost of a single cab ride.
4. Eat at Home
Now is the time to skimp on eating out. Not only will you save money by eating at home, you’ll evade potential medical costs from exposure to the haze.
Load up on a month of groceries at a time, and stock up the fridge in one monster trip. Alternatively, you can get your groceries delivered if you order online, but there’s a delivery charge.
Considering the average restaurant meal in Singapore is now S$25 per head, and the average home meal is just S$12 (if it’s super simple, like canned chicken soup and bread, it can be as low as S$7), haze months will become savings months.
5. Buy a Secondhand Air Purifier
Air purifiers are more for the benefit of people with allergies or existing breathing problems; if you don’t have such issues don’t splurge, since you probably won’t even use the air purifier after the haze.
Check E-bay or Carousell, or just ask friends if they have a used one. An effective air purifier can cost above S$300, but you can find a used one online for as low as S$100 to S$200. It just takes a bit of time to look around and compare.
The biggest cost of the haze is the health cost. While you can shave dollars off here and there, the most important thing is to keep yourself out of the haze. That might mean spending a little bit more sometimes (e.g. paying for food delivery or an Uber ride), but the expense will not be higher than the cost of getting sick.
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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.