Enjoying Singapore: Saving Money in Singapore
Saving Money in Singapore

It's true that Singapore today rates as one of the most expensive cities in Asia to live in, behind possibly Tokyo and Hong Kong. The economic boom of the last 20 years, as well as our ridiculously small land area, have led to expensive houses, cars, food, clothes, and just about everything. There are however, ways you can make that Sing dollar stretch, and all perfectly legal too. No doubt you will learn of many during your own stay here, but here's a list of our own to help you get started:

Join car-sharing or car-pooling schemes

One of the things you will soon discover about life on our tiny island is that a car in Singapore is probably the most expensive in the world. Forget about your US$25,000 brand new BMW - we're talking almost 5 times that over here. Solution? Make use of the excellent public transport or if you really need a car for a few hours, there are a few car-sharing schemes available. It's a bit like renting a car, only better. Here's how they work:

  • Join a scheme, like the one at Suntec City
  • Pay an entrance fee of about $100
  • Pay the annual fee of between $100-$150
  • Call, fax or email in advance to book a car - usually a couple of hours are enough
  • Pick up your car at the designated points - usage fees are about $7 to $10 for an hour, or even as low as $55 a day. There are also "overnight packages" that cost only about $35 from 7pm to 8am the next morning

Viola! You are driving a Mitsubishi, Fiat or even a Volvo.For more information, check out NTUC's car-sharing co-op scheme.

Car-pools are also available, and although they are usually arranged between friends or colleagues, you can sometimes find requests for car-poolers in magazine or newspaper listings.

Shop at wet markets

Your first experience at a wet market is unlikely to be very pleasant. So-called because the floor always seem to be wet, these markets are huge places where you can find just about every basic food item, from fresh fish to chicken to vegetables and dry goods. You will be assaulted by a whole gamut of sights, sounds and smells, and depending on your sense of adventure and humour, you may actually learn to like shopping there. Prices are usually lower than the supermarkets but you won't be able to find that pasta sauce or ice cream you like so much. Also, 95% of the hawkers will not get past the basic "hello!" and "goodbye" level of spoken English, so be prepared for pointing and sign language. There's practically a wet market in every housing estate, and as a bonus, there's usually a food hawker centre next to it. At the very least, we guarantee you'll have lots of stories to tell the folks back home.

Try hawker centres and food courts

Hawker centres and food courts are part and parcel of every true-blooded Singaporean and there should be no reason why they can't be the same to you. Hawker centres are huge, everything-under-one-roof food complexes that serve the most basic local dishes like chicken rice to more exotic ones like turtle soup. Expect to pay no more than $5-$6 for a hearty meal with drink and dessert thrown in. Food courts are air-conditioned and slightly more expensive, and they are found in just about every shopping centre. Some actually have stalls selling French and Italian food in addition to the local fare.

Look out for warehouse sales

Warehouse sales are becoming an increasingly common sight in Singapore, selling everything from branded clothes to computers to sports wear. The prices are kept low as the items are either out-of-season or older models that are no longer in demand. If you don't mind getting a pair of running shoes that were the "in" thing a year ago, you can expect a discount of up to 50% or more. Look out for advertisements in the newspapers.

Discount cards

Many establishments offer discount cards to customers in an attempt to seal product and brand loyalty. BP petrol stations, for example, offer card holders discounts for petrol purchases. NTUC Fairprice supermarkets gives you an 8% rebate on your purchase at the end of the year if you sign up as a member. Even music stores like HMV and Tower records have a stamp card which you can exchange for a free CD once you have filled it up.

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