Real stories about money from real people. Money Confessions, a SingSaver series, will excite you, inspire you, and leave you wishing to get financially woke.
Three-hour spa sessions at only S$50? Free meals, parking and hotel stays at Marina Bay Sands? Been there, done that. Here’s how I bargain my way into enjoying the finest things in life, but without the price tag.
My name is Kendra Tan, and I’m a lifestyle writer at Singsaver. I’m 25 years old this year, but everyone calls me an auntie. Why? Because I know of almost all the latest promos in town and I bargain. Hard.
Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a sucker for good deals. I’m not talking about 10%, 20% off — those are rookie numbers — it has to be at least 50% off to attract my eyeballs.
It all started when I was young
Saving money and seeing the balance in my savings account go up every month spark joy in me, all thanks to my parents who instilled this habit in me since I was a child.
Growing up, I thought my family was not well-to-do because my parents never splurged on almost anything. We don’t own any luxury items and I didn’t get the latest phone, gaming console or cable TV — something most of my classmates had (and I was really jealous, to say the least). My pocket money when I was a Polytechnic student was a mere S$50 a week, just enough for my basic necessities.
We also don’t wine and dine much, only on special occasions such as birthdays. And even so, we would opt to go to mid-tier restaurants for lunch, because of set deals.
My parents are the type who refuse to pay 20 cents for a takeaway container or plastic bag, and would scorn at the supermarket if they raised their prices and then take their business elsewhere. They know all about the fruits/veggies/meat sold in the market and memorise all the prices so they’d know exactly which shop to go to get the cheapest items.
But as I grew older, I realised that they weren’t poor at all — my dad was a banker/trader at DBS for over 15 years (he achieved FIRE when he was 55), while my mum is currently working at a bank. The bottom line is that they’re financially comfortable. I didn’t know this until recently.
Anyway, because of how they controlled my spending, I learnt the importance of money management from a very young age. Their frugal habits rubbed off on me, and just like them, I also enjoy going around looking for deals that give me the best bang for my buck.
Bargain and deal hunting allow me to save 85% of my salary
A lot of working adults have this 50-30-20 rule when it comes to allocating their monthly paycheck. But for me, the more you save and invest, the better. I don’t follow a certain percentage and I don’t chase the common financial milestones like S$100,000 by 30.
Personally, I only spend around 15% of my salary each month. Friends who follow me on Instagram find that hard to believe, because of the many staycations I go on every month and the restaurants I dine at. But here’s the secret: I get them for cheap.
How? It’s all about your connections and the amount of effort you’re willing to put in to find the best deals. I’ve done staycations at four- and five-star hotels for around S$150 per night, and the restaurants I eat at typically cost less than S$20 per person. I go for occasional spa sessions at S$50 for three hours, and try my darndest to get free parking anywhere I go (more about how I save on those later).
But this isn’t just limited to my lifestyle — my bargain hunting skills also come into play with my personal finance, sussing out the best credit cards, banks with higher interest rates, trading platforms with free shares such as Tiger Brokers and moomoo, and insurance policies, because let’s get real — saving is just the first step. I can’t possibly have 85% of my monthly savings sitting in the bank. l also need to invest my money to grow and beat inflation, with the ultimate aim of FIRE, just like my dad.
There’s a discount for everything; don’t pay full price for anything
For almost anything and everything you want to do in Singapore, there’s always a way to save more.
Massage/spa: Fave (Fair warning: Fave vouchers are not for the faint-hearted. More on this later.)
Food: Eatigo, Burpple, Chope
Hotel: Trawl through every travel website (Klook, Agoda, Trip.com, etc), and do not forget about the hotel’s website. If you find a cheaper deal on external websites, you can always call the hotel to bargain. Remember to stack promo codes wherever possible.
Parking: I wrote this article about free parking in Orchard Road, where I reveal my favourite, free parking palace in town available 24/7. For more free/affordable parking in other places, click here.
Clothes: Shopee, SHEIN
This list is just a very brief version of what you can save on. Check out 5 Habits of Super Frugal People You Should Follow If You Want To Save Money for more details.
More tips on how to spend less and live the bougie life in Singapore
Warning: This is going to sound really cheapskate. But if you’re going to follow some of my hacks, you’re going to require a really thick skin.
Ask, just ask
Want a discount? Ask. Want free things? Just ask. The worse the salesperson can do is just say no, but at least you’ve tried.
Life tip: Let other people say ‘no’ to you, don’t say ‘no’ to yourself.
This works for:
- Clothing shops at Lucky Plaza/Bugis/Far East Plaza
- Beauty packages
- Whenever you buy something in bulk
- Online marketplaces such as Shopee and Carousell
While you might not exactly be able to ask for a discount on that chocolate bar at NTUC or a beauty product at Watsons/Guardian, you can try asking for a discount or additional freebies when you make purchases at small businesses (but please don’t be ridiculous).
Many salespeople, especially beauticians, are given some authority to knock a few dollars off a package or throw in free services.
Clothing shops in areas mentioned above also allow customers some leeway for a bit of bargaining. If you plan to purchase a couple of items at the shop, you can ask for a discount.
I usually buy my clothes online, but in the rare event where I buy them at those ‘one for S$10, two for S$18 and three for S$25’ brick-and-mortar stores at Bugis Street, I’d team up with other random shoppers for discounts and then split the difference outside the store. Works every time, because who doesn’t want to save money? Like I said, you just need to be thick-skinned enough to approach strangers.
Do not give in to hard-selling
Fervent Fave-users will know this very well. Previously, I mentioned that Fave vouchers are not for the faint-hearted. Reason: Because the voucher you bought is cheap, the salesperson will try their hardest to upsell packages and add-ons.
The trick to not forking out additional money is to constantly refuse their offers, and question everything they do.
Be aware that they might sometimes toss in add-ons without telling you that you have to pay extra. And then you’ll get the shock of your life once the treatment or session is over. That’s when the trouble starts.
Fave vouchers are a fantastic way to save money (imagine three-hour spa sessions for only S$50, and classic gel mani-pedis for only S$30), but it’s only for people with a strong resolve. I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re someone who easily succumbs to hard-selling tactics because you will most likely end up paying more than you’re willing to.
Spend a lot of time online
My screen usage is through the roof. I don’t actively suss out the latest deals, but I follow telegram groups, Instagram and Facebook pages that share about such promotions so that I’ll be in the know when they appear on my timeline.
Sign up for memberships
Signing up for membership entitles you to perks, and a tonne of them out there are free. Here are a few I think are worth signing up for:
Sands Rewards Lifestyle Card
- Earn up to 20% rebate as Rewards Dollars when you spend at over 250 shops, restaurants, entertainment, attractions, hotel and spa
- Use Reward Dollars to offset your bills at participating outlets
- Complimentary parking privileges
- Enjoy promotional rewards, seasonal treats, birthday discounts and other privileges
- You’ll need to pay S$8 for membership but it’s worth it
- You can use your Invites$ to offset purchases at over 100 participating outlets, redeem hotel stays, attraction tickets and more
- Redeem all-day parking with Invites$2.50
- More than S$350 worth of welcome vouchers
- Occasionally has random surprises. I once received an SMS for a free USS ticket
- 1-for-1 bubble tea upon free sign-up
I have memberships at most malls — CapitaLand, Frasers Property, Landlease… You name it. Many malls in Singapore are owned by these companies so you’re most likely to spend there pretty often. Simply sign up for a free account (most have point bonuses upon signup too), scan your receipt every time you spend there, rack up points and get free cash vouchers.
Click here for more picks of the best memberships in Singapore that every savvy spender should check out.
This may be a slightly ‘grey area’ kind of hack, but another thing I like to do is to find loopholes. But of course, don’t do it so much (and illegally) that you end up facing the law like this guy and this guy.
Here are some of my favourites loopholes:
Don Don Donki
Sign up as a member with your email and phone number (will be verified). Members get a free S$5 voucher with no minimum spend on their birthday month. Grey-area hack: Sign up with different phone numbers and input your date of birth in the same month of your visit to Don Don Donki. Save S$5 on every visit. Rinse and repeat for stores with such membership promos.
Hai Di Lao
After countless visits to the hotpot chain, if there’s any tip I can give, it’s to buy dishes in half portions and don’t purchase the sauce and drinks.
For free sauces: Simply tell the server that you want to try a bit of this sauce, and hope they don’t charge you. Or buy the prawn paste dish — it comes with free sauce.
For free drinks: Take pre-packaged drinks from the waiting area outside.
- Buying soup in the quad is the cheapest. Purchase two quads of soup and fill the rest with water. They’re refillable anyway.
- Go late at night after 10pm for free sauce and drinks (tried and tested, but it also depends on your outlet and how crowded it is)
- Make friends with the server and be a regular — you’ll get better service and freebies in terms of side dishes
- Bring your own instant noodles and eggs if you’re extra cheapskate. Once it’s in the pot, it’s fair game
I may be in my mid-twenties but I’m still proudly holding on to my student card. They unlock magical savings that adults do not have access to, including student set meals, movie tickets and more.
Charge everything to your favourite credit card
Cash is not king. Cash doesn’t allow you to collect points/miles/rewards/cashback. When I head out, I consciously pick places where I have membership or restaurants situated in Fraser/CapitaLand/Landlease malls. I rarely eat at places that only accept Nets or cash.
When you go out with a group of friends, offer to pay with your credit card first. You get the points without spending your own money. If your friends are also point-chasers, take turns to pay. To be fair, right?
While this whole article is about hunting for best deals and saving money (and being a cheapskate), you should still know your limits so that you don’t lose friends in the process of saving money. After all, you still need to spend a little, live life and have fun sometimes.
What’s your favourite money-saving hack? I’d like to know about it!
Read these next:
Money Confessions: I Am A Cash Queen And I Went On A Week-Long Cash Cleanse—This Is How It Went
Money Confessions: Super Mums Share Their Personal Finance Management Story
Money Confessions: I Bought More Than S$700,000 In Critical Illness Coverage While In My 30s—Here’s Why
Money Confessions: Why I Moved Out of My Parents’ House At 24, And How I Afford It
I Am An Artist/e — Here’s How I Make Money From The Arts: Chen Yixi
By Kendra Tan
Avid promo code hunter and haggler. Kendra doesn’t like paying full price for anything. She’s the best person to bring along if you’re travelling on a budget. Have an interesting story to tell? E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org