Is It Possible To Save Money In Singapore?

Is It Possible To Save Money In Singapore?

“Money no enough” is a true blue Singaporean saying that seems to be getting more and more relevant, nearly two decades after Jack Neo first echoed our collective sentiment.

Sure, we’re doing rather well in the broad sense. However, it seems that the average or even upper middle-class Singaporean will at many points wonder why their savings account just doesn’t seem to be moving along.

It goes without saying that earning more money will help, but remember, a penny saved is a penny earned. So, is it nearly impossible to save money living in the most expensive city in the world?

It’s really not if you know where and how to cut your expenses. Start by going through the checklist below and ask yourself how many of these can you check off to save more?

Mode of transport

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1. Get rid of the car

This is a tough one. Many car lovers say that once you own a car and get used to being in total control of your commute, it’s hard to go back to using public transportation. This could be true especially for families. But really, if you can, getting rid of the car will mean very significant cost savings.

Taking into account the Certificate of Entitlement (COE), which lasts for a mere 10 years, a humble car would easily cost over S$100,000. Add on to that the price of petrol, road tax, maintenance, ERP, insurance, and parking fees that sometimes cost the same as 10 MRT rides, a car seems like the most economically illogical thing to own if you’re an average Singaporean. 

Here’s the annual estimated cost of owning a vehicle in Singapore, assuming a 30-year-old male, driving a brand new Honda HR-V.

ItemAnnual cost
Car instalments (S$1,095/mth)*S$13,140
Car insuranceS$1,819
Road taxS$684
Parking at HDBS$960
Petrol (17,500km)**S$2,111
Total estimated costS$18,714
* 70% of the vehicle listed price over a period of 7 years at a flat rate of 2.78% per annum.
** Based on Shell’s petrol price of S$2.11 per litre of RON95, as at August 14, 2017.
Source: Housing Development Board (HDB)


That’s a lot of money to fork out every year!

If you forego the luxury and comfort of having your own car and opt for public transportation, here’s how much you may spend in a year.

ItemAnnual cost
MRT fare to work (Pasir Ris – Bugis)S$772.80
Taxi or e-hailing ride (8 trips per month x S$10)S$80 x 12 months = S$960
Miscellaneous for other ad hoc tripsS$600
Total estimated costS$2,332.80

Based on the estimation above, you can save about S$16,381.20 in a year just by selling your car and taking public transportation.

There are so many public transport options that you can use and interchange flexibly. There’s the MRT, Grab and Uber and the regular taxi, and now there are the ubiquitous yellow and orange bicycles everywhere thanks to bike-sharing.

The cost of owning a car is at the very minimum S$1,000 a month, and it could well be closer to S$2,000 depending on the car you have. On the other hand, an Adult Monthly Travel card for buses and trains cost you S$120.


MRT station

2. Stay away from shops, online or offline

It’s difficult to stay away from shops in Singapore. Getting to the MRT station will almost ensure that you’ll walk through or past a shopping mall. Even if you’re able to resist and have ‘no time to shop’, there is still online shopping where your casual browsing sessions can end up with a full cart ready to checkout.

Reserve your shopping for the times when you really need to, and refrain from window-shopping too often.

Have time to kill while waiting for your friend? Read a book instead. Tempted by a gadget? Think about how well you’ve been doing without it and practice ‘waiting it out’. You may find that after a number of weeks, your urge to get the object of fancy may pass and you realise that you don’t actually really want it that badly.

National Gallery

3. Hang out differently

Have you been hanging out with your friends in restaurants, bars, cinemas, and feeling like your wallet is starting to empty the moment you step out of the house?

Socialise in a different way that’s no less fun. Instead of partying out, invite your friends over for a cookout and have home parties and dinners instead. Get your friends out to the park, go cycling, or simply explore different neighbourhoods together on a walkabout.

Your S$100 night out could easily be cut to S$50 or even less if you have a home party, plus it’s a lot more intimate and cozy. Instead of shopping, visit the National Gallery, which has free admissions for Singaporeans and PRs.

Food in Singapore

4. Be conscious of where you eat

It’s nearly impossible to resist eating out in Singapore. In the past, eating out every day may not mean spending a whole lot on food. However, with the increasing number of hipster cafes, bistros, and mid-range restaurants in nearly every neighbourhood, you can easily wander into a restaurant in a heartland mall where you spend $20 instead of $5 for a meal.

It’s even harder when your colleagues aren’t fans of the hawker centre, and during the weekends you’re meeting your friends for a round of drinks.

Spending on food seems to be rather justifiable in Singapore, and sometimes it’s even something to boast about. With food fads coming and going quicker than ever before, the temptation to spend on a whim is indeed great.

Download an expense tracking app, set a reasonable limit on how much you actually need to spend on food and make sure it’s in proportion to your monthly income. Conscientiously track your daily food and drink expenditure and don’t be afraid to tell your friends that you’re not up for splashing another S$100 on a night out, or resist the urge to jump on yet another food fad just because it looks good on Instagram.

While you’re dining out there, consider using a credit card that gives you cash back on dining. For example, AmEx True Cash Back Card is rewarding cardholders up to 3% cash back on dining.

American Express True Cash Back Card

American Express True Cash Back Card

1.5% cashback on anything, anytime + First year annual fee waiver

Enjoy 3% cashback on all spend up to S$5,000 in the first 6 months!

Saving money in Singapore is definitely possible if you’re willing to make changes to your lifestyle. It may take some time to adjust and change your habits, but you don’t necessarily need to sacrifice fun and a social life in order to save a little more for the future.

Saving money can be a challenge, especially when there are so many financial goals that you are saving for. However, the ultimate savings goal for most Singaporeans should be saving for their retirement. If you are struggling, here are some ways you can grow your retirement savings!

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