Hacking expensive Singapore: Tips for Minimalists, Mustachians, Newcomers & Backpackers

Saving on Food

Food courts

One great thing with Singapore is that you can still eat for realtively cheap in the beloved local “foodcourts” and “hawker places”. There you will find all sorts of local, regional and sometimes international cuisine for prices ranging from 3 S$ to 10 S$ (and more for seafood). You might ear the locals complaining about the rising prices in these places, but in the 8 years I have spent in Singapore, I observed no more than a price increase roughly following inflation. Some foodcourts have also somehow gentrified and hipsterised with craft beer stall, international fares, etc…
Still the best option to eat out deliciously, on the cheap, in a convivial, most local setting.
Warning though, the frequent consumption of these dishes has to be integrated in a well balanced diet, otherwise of the pounds added to your waistline.

Loyalty programs

The thing with big, dense cities like Singapore is that there is a fierce competition between companies for floor space (quite abused by landlords too), manpower, and clientele which results in strong efforts to create loyalty within the customer base for certain merchants. So if the loyalty card is free, take it! Frequent purchases will reward you handsomely at certain eateries.

“No go zones”

There are some places that are better left undiscovered in general. I’m thinking in particular about riverfront restaurants in the city centre, particularly on Boat Quay, but also on Clarke Quay. Basically tourist scams selling overpriced seafood for the most obvious kinds.

Eat later

Some apps such as Eatigo offer discounted price if you make bookings for outside peak hours. A solution that might appeal to Night Owls and other smart spenders.
Also:
Why don’t you “ta pao” the rest of this delicious and large size pizza for your next home meal?

Go on “Reduced to Clear” shopping sprees

Like most supermarket chains throughout the world, singaporean ones tend to overproduce, and if you are thrifty enough, you can find good food that’s close to the end date and with a 50% off price. Give me that Brie. Oh, and that whole watermelon too.

Saving on Rent

Share a flat

If you are not a family with kids, why not share a flat when you arrive in Singapore? It is a good way to split the bills and meet more people when arriving in a new city?
A single room in a condo flat will cost you somewhere between 600 and 1000 S$
A double room somewhere between 800 and 1,400
A master bedroom somewhere between 1000 and up to 2000 in more luxurious appartments

HDB

“When in Rome, …” Most singaporeans live in collective housing towers known as HDB (for Housing Development Board). Whilst looking very rustic, brutalist, and overdense from the outside, many appartments can be found that are very spacious and comfortable. For french people out there, it might remember you of the “HLM” of our cities’ suburbia, but forget it immediately: Singapore HDBs are operating at a much higher standard of quality and especially security. Living in a HDB will cost you probably somewhere between 20 to 50% cheaper as a condo flat of the same size. So if you are not sure you are going to use this pool and this tennis court, think twice.

Government houses on auction

I am letting you in a special little secret. There is a website which list government property up for rent. Usually unfurnished, they have the particularity to represent some aspects of Singapore heritage, usually architecturally. Now, you have to make a bid on auction after quite a bid of red tape, and be ready to drop in a substantial deposit for the place. But, you will find some stunning, charming, unique places out there that you could score for a very good price if you are lucky.

Saving on Party

Don’t hit the obvious spots

Ladies, there are plenty of bars courting you for your presence on some nights of the week. Use it.
Ladies, there are plenty of men keen to take you out for dinner & drinks after meeting a first time online or in the real world. Do not abuse it. If you are not interested, be respectful, and don’t go on Tinder-sponsored dinners. Don’t be that person.

Go KTV

Not necessarily the cheapest option out there, but definitely a good solution to go out and have fun and a good laugh with your friends!

Join club guestlists on FB

Some people specialise in bringing people to clubs by having guestlists under their name. Find them on Facebook and hit up some cool events and parties for free

Buy your alcool at the duty free

If you are lucky enough to travel for work, buy your alcool at the duty free on your return! If your own bar is full, be a good friend and ask around you!

The weather is good, make Barbecue

At home, in your condo, or even at one of the public BBQ pits (such as at East Coast Park), that can be rented out for the evening!

Saving on Sport, Clothing & Gear

Government public facility

Singapore has very high quality public sport facilities. Most expats don’t know it and prefer to spend fortunes in downtown gyms or yoga studios asking for fortunes.
Check the Active.SG portal to register and find your sport facility nearby that you can use for pennies.

Sport passes

Some companies have developped subscription models that let you access to a high number of classes and sport sessions for an affordable monthly fee

Fave (ex-Groupon)

Sport places desperate to attract new clients will post great trial deals on these platforms to entice you to open their door. You probably will have to survive the sales pitch for you to sign in at the end of the class, but if you do, well, you could probably try 20 different sports and facilities for a full year before having to start paying the ‘real’ price for these activities.

Carousell

Do you absolutely need a brand new sport bag or tennis racket bought at the full price at the shop?If you know what you want, go onto the Carousell mobile app and try to find it a second hand first. Your wallet will worship you.

Saving on Travel

Bank rewards

If you are eligible for credit card with cashback rewards, go for it. As with all credit cards though, beware of hidden fees and make sure you set up an automatic repayment at the end of the months so that you don’t end up which silly high fees to pay.

Anti-Taxi

Some might think taxis are still cheap in Singapore. The truth is, they quickly add up to your monthly spending. So keep it for these times where you can’t afford to get somewhere with a sweaty shirt thanks to SG heat.
Public transport is very good, clean and cheap in Singapore, use it!

Bus it from Golden Mile Tower

For trips to nearby Malaysia, think that you can actually go there by land. Keep the plane for longer distance. There plenty of companies that offer comfy bus trips to the main cities in peninsular Malaysia for pretty cheap. Think about bringing:
– ear plugs as some bus drivers think it’s cool to play  terrible malay series at over 100dB from the crappy TVs and stereo. Not worse than the screams of duty free and food offering of low cost plane carriers, if you have to compare.
– sleeping masks for the same TVs lights
– jackets/sweater/beanie: you’d not think that modern buses can recreate polar temperatures under tropical lattitudes, but trust me, they can, and will.

Keep an eye on the weekly sales : newsletter

If you are a compulsive traveler consumer, actually read the airlines newsletter as you might found great deals for traveling around the region.

Fly from Indonesia / Malaysia

If you have time, flying from Batam or Johor Bahru will help you score great flight prices as compared to flying off from Singapore. You can reach JB airport by bus + taxi, and Batam airport by ferry + taxi. Especially valid for far away Indo destinations.

Book ahead of time / Play with departure dates / Avoid public holidays and long weekends effects…

Usual money saving rules apply in Singapore as everywhere else. Try and use different computers between first checking the prices and booking as airlines might track your cookies and jack up the prices as they already know if you are likely to book that flight. NB: this practice is now prohibited in Europe and carefully monitored but I am not sure about Asia…

Voila! Hope this list can help some of you. Do you have some more tips? If you do, please share them in the comments section below.

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