From expensive lunches to pay day drinks, Singaporeans working in the CBD are constantly tempted to make impulsive purchases.
So you’ve landed a job in the Central Business District, and are looking forward to living it up. Afterall, Raffles Place is still the swankiest location to be seen in formal attire – outside of the ridiculously posh Marina Bay district that is.
We hate to burst your bubble, but having a job in the CBD comes with some costs you may not expect. Beware these 5 ways your paycheck could get unknowingly syphoned off.
Expensive Lunches: S$150 Per Month
Food courts and hawker centres offer a variety of cheap and tasty lunch options. But in exchange, you have to be willing to fight for your seat.
It’s an experience that’s not for the faint-of-heart. Sweaty crowds, noisy surroundings, spitting out, ‘yes, the seat is taken’ for the fourth time in the past 5 minutes… it’s enough to wear down the most determined office worker.
Lunchtime is meant for you to refuel, and not a daily battle royale where to the victor goes the good chicken rice. Sometimes, all you want is a decent meal you can enjoy in cool, relaxed surroundings.
That’s why you end up in that poke bowl place, ramen bar, or Korean bistro more often than you’d think.
There’s nothing wrong with buying a hearty lunch now and then. But when ‘casual dining’ lunches cost about S$20 each meal, 2 lunches per week can bump up your expenses by S$150 or so per month. Make sure you save on your meal with a credit card that gives dining rebates.
Transport and Parking: S$200 – S$800 Per Month
Those who’ve ever needed to hail a ride to work already know how pricey it gets, thanks to surge pricing and the morning rush hour. Although you can use Grab promotions or Uber discount codes to save on your fare, it’s unnecessary expenditure all the same. Using ride-sharing apps to get to work can set you back anywhere from S$200 – S$400 a month.
Driving to work everyday seems like a good solution, until you factor in the overpriced car park rates in the business core. With parking rates averaging S$3 to $5 per hour, you can expect to spend an additional S$500 to S$800 per month just on parking alone.
Lunchtime Pampering: S$200 Per Month
We won’t deny that one of the more alluring aspects of working in the CBD is the convenience of having services within easy reach. But that’s also where your downfall lies.
It’s so easy to slip in a lunchtime manicure. How about a spot of shopping while you’re at it? Your wardrobe could do with new clothes. Took half the day off on Friday? Might as well zip in to that hair salon for a cut and blow before heading out for dinner.
Rent in the CBD is expensive, so you can bet your bottom dollar that the businesses setting up shop there didn’t do so without a plan.
As you might expect, office workers are the main targets for shops downtown. They’re paying to put themselves in your way, hoping that almost-daily exposure to their offers lets you give them your business.
Once you start patronising that salon that you walk past daily, you’re likely to make it a habit. Never mind that you’re paying more than at the neighbourhood shops you normally patronise.
Pricey Coffee (And Snacks): S$60 Per Month
Despite the sterling examples of hip tech companies like Google and Airbnb, the sponsored staff cafeteria offering free meals and snacks failed to catch on in Singapore.
This means that sleepy office workers wanting a pick-me-up are left to our own devices. Sure, there’s always the office pantry, but how many of us have an office pantry stocked with more than instant coffee, tea dust and those weird-tasting biscuits nobody bothers to throw away?
Starbucks and other coffee chains are easy to blame for those overpriced sugar bombs that they pass off as real coffee, but religiously avoiding these outlets won’t make you rich. In fact, there’s evidence that letting yourself have the occasional treat is very helpful in having a productive day.
And don’t think our corner kopitiams (as wonderful as they are) are the answer to all your mid-afternoon snacking needs. Even if you avoid chains like Ya Kun and Wang, you can expect to drop an average of S$5 to S$6 for coffee, toast and eggs at coffee shops located in the CBD.
Assuming you indulge 3 times a week, that’s S$60 extra a month. Mix it up with a handcrafted Starbucks drink every now and then and you can expect to pay more.
Payday Drinks: S$100 – S$200 Per Month
One of the best things of dutifully going to work is getting a regular paycheck in return. And when you’ve worked hard for your money, you want to reward yourself at the end of the month.
Professionals in the CBD have options galore. From the pubs lining Boat Quay and Clarke Quay, eateries at Marina Bay, to the restaurants at Tanjong Pagar, Bugis and Orchard, there is no lack of F&B establishments eager to take your money.
Going out for drinks when payday comes round is an easy habit to slip into. Throw in birthday celebrations, farewell parties and the occasional team outing, and you’ll see a larger chunk of your salary disappearing.
Depending on how hard your office likes to party, you can expect to drop anywhere between S$100 to S$200 a month on payday drinks and such.
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By Alevin Chan
A Certified Financial Planner with a curiosity about what makes people tick, Alevin’s mission is to help readers understand the psychology of money. He’s also on an ongoing quest to optimise happiness and enjoyment in his life.