How to Live on a Budget in Singapore

The South-East Asian giant, Singapore has topped the list of the World’s most expensive cities to live in. However, it is possible to still manage one’s expenses, spend very little, and yet enjoy a comfortable life. Here’s a list of some of the most important factors to consider when moving/living in Singapore on a very tight budget as well as the most effective ways to limit spending.

Bank Accounts

Often overlooked, this is arguably the most effective way to ensure that you know how much is available to spend or save so you do not exceed your limits. For salaried workers or anybody earning a living, it is crucial to create at least two different bank accounts if you’re planning to save more money. If you’re earning about $3000 each month, you can easily transfer $2000 to a separate savings account, and leave the remaining $1000 for your expenditure. Since you will not touch the money in the savings account, you have a clearer view of how you spend the $1000, as well as the things you can and cannot afford. Once you’re able to set a goal for yourself, you can then move on to find out other cost effective ways of taking care of yourself while you are in Singapore.

Accommodation

For expats who are moving into this country, it would be advisable to apply for public housing, rather than for private rentals. Especially if you are single, renting a studio apartment is a more budget friendly option than renting a full apartment. Be mindful though that if your desire is to live in a modern house with all its amenities, you would have to pay much more, than renting an older place.

People who are entering the country with a family will need a larger facility. This group should expect to spend about S$2000 to S$10,000 monthly, an equivalent to about US$1,600 and US$7,500 every month.

Below are two recommended locations to pursue if you want to get the most affordable housing options.

Admiralty

This location is particularly excellent because of its proximity to transit points. It is quite near to the MRT network, and commuters can easily take a trip with the City Direct service 665, which moves from Marsiling and Woodlands to the Central Business District. One can enjoy the Woodlands Waterfront Park, and a visit to the Zoo during weekends. Rent in this district ranges from about $500 a month for one room to about $1500 for a whole HDB unit.

Bedok

The Bedok neighborhood is loved for its famous food centers including the Fengshan Market & Food Centre, as well as the affordable hot traditional eateries at East Coast Road, and Katong. The Bedok Reservoir Park is also available for exercise and other recreational activities. One can save some more by renting either a condo or an HDB room for about $400 a month.

Food

One item that can quickly dry out the pockets of expats is food. Every human requires a good amount of food each day thus provision has to be made for this necessity always, no matter the size of your pocket. Fortunately, certain food vendors in Singapore are aware of this fact and are accommodating towards even the person on the tightest of budgets.

The Maxwell Food Centre is noted for its extremely affordable hum chimp eng (fried dough). You can get as much as six pieces for $1, and add a bowl of hot peanut soup for the same price.

With $2.50 you can buy a plate of rice with a piece of meat and two vegetable choices at Fei Zai Mixed Vegetable Rice Porridge. Soya bean Drink is a nutritious but affordable drink one can purchase for about $1 or an outrageous price of about 30 cents.

IKEA is one of the places you can save money while getting a sumptuous hot dog with up to $1, as well as a  vanilla ice cream cone for just 50 cents.

If you’re a lover of noodles you can visit the Le Gong Noodle House on Bedok North Street for a tasty bowl of fishball noodles for about $2.50 with its average price being about $3 at several other food hawker stalls.

803 King George’s Avenue sells 80 Cent plain pratas, while the average price is about $1.

The list of restaurants that offer affordable but top-notch meals is endless. Check out the list below to see more.

  • Meatsmith Telok Ayer sells $10 tasty burgers during weekdays.
  • Restaurant Aisyah is noted for selling a plate of minced beef, or lamb with sauce and eight dumplings for a measly $8.80
  • Tenya Singapore serves its signature tendons for a low price of $8.50. The bowl comprises French beans, red fish, pumpkin, squid, prawn and crispy tendons.
  • For $7.70 once can get a beef toastie at Syohaci Wagyu Hamburg.
  • For more than six years, Go Noodle House has served $9.90 noodles stocked with minced pork, anchovies, chilli oil, fried shallots, and century egg to its guests.
  • The Fu Lin Bar and Kitchen serves Yong tau foo at an affordable $7.
  • For a $7.80 balanced meal with meatballs, one can get a bowl of Hakka tofu at Ah Lock & Co.
  • Seng Kee Black Chicken Herbal Soup could be one of the most budget-saving foods on this list. With just $5, one can get a bowl of soup filled with pork slices, liver, kidney and vermicelli.

Travel & Transport

Living on a tight budget in the Lion City means that you may have to relinquish your desire to own a car there as it is expensive. Unlike other countries where it is inexpensive to own a car, Singapore is quite the opposite. Aside from the purchase of the car itself being very pricey, you will be burdened with paying additional fees including insurance, parking fees, tolls and numerous taxes, which could leave you drained.

The good news on transportation however is that public transport here is quite dependable and affordable as well. A comparison of the train and bus costs by the Public Transport Council has shown that while a 10km trip in Singapore ranges between $1.33 and $1.48, New York fares of the same distance is usually $3.28. And that of Tokyo can reach as high as $4.17 for the same distance. The major service providers are SMRT and SBS Transit with fares ranging from $1 to $2.10. Ensure that the exact amount is dropped into the fare box though.

Use the MRT

The Mass Transit Railway is extremely fast and one of the most economical transportation means around the Lion City. It is active from 5:30 am till midnight and is available at about 90 stations. Trips cost an average of $1 to $2.

Boarding Taxis

To save some cash, you can make a habit of picking taxis mostly during off-peak hours. The fares cost much less at an average of $9.80 for a distance of 10km, while it could cost about $26.62 for a taxi in New York and about $14.71 if you’re in Hong Kong.

Free Parking at certain times

If you do have the budget for getting a car, you can save even more money by parking at certain places as you go about your daily affairs. The IMM Building in Jurong East gives drivers two hours to park freely upon entry each day. The City Square Mall on Kitchener Road also gives free parking opportunities for one and half hours between 12 pm and 2pm during weekdays. During public holidays and on Sundays, one can also park for free at almost all HDB car parks between 7am and 10:30 pm.

Free Shuttle Services

The most cost-effective transport means is probably to hop on some of the available free shuttle services offered by some shopping malls in Singapore. Marina Square in City Hall for instance provides a free shuttle bus during weekday lunch hours from 11:30 am to 2:30 pm. The ride is free from Clifford Pier, through The Sail@Marina then to Marina Bay Financial Centre. One can also board free buses provided by the IKEA furniture store in Alexandra, from Tion Bahru, Redhill MRT stations and Buona Vista to the store during weekends.

Get an EZ Link

This is particularly important for visitors who plan on staying in the country for more than a week. An EZ Link card can help you reduce commuting costs if you often use the train and bus services. For purchasing an EZ Link card at any MRT station, passengers can earn a discount of up to about 30 per cent on their rides.

Health

Since health services are extremely vital to each individual, expats in particular need to pay attention to its affordability when moving to a different country. For people on a tight budget, polyclinics are a better option for visiting general practitioners than private clinics. Consultation fees can be anywhere around $41.70 for non-residents and about $11 for residents.

A much-less costly option will be to visit free/low-cost clinics such as the Singapore Budhist Free Clinic, or the Public Free Clinic Society. With branches in Jurong, Sembawang, and Tanjong Pagar, the Singapore Buddhist Free Clinic offers traditional Chinese medicine treatments and acupuncture for free with just a $1 payment for registration. The Public Free Clinic Society also charges just $2 for registration, while the Chung Hwa Medical Institution and Thye Hua Kwan offer quality medical services at very low rates.

One can ultimately get a basic health insurance policy to save more money for US$90.50 for the whole year.

Fun & Leisure

There are numerous ways to entertain oneself in Singapore. Just because your budget is tight does not mean you cannot have a very comfortable and fun stay in this amazing city. Take a look at some fun activities you can have access to for free or at extremely low prices.

Free Movie Show

Instead of spending about $12 on a movie ticket, you can opt to watch for free outdoors. MovieMob for instance regularly screens drive-in outdoor movies for free. They are mostly seen at the Marina Bay Sands Event Square. A number of community centers and shopping malls also offer free movie screening sessions on an off the cuff basis, so  you might want to be on the lookout for such opportunities to grab.

Free Performances

The Esplanade Concourse is the place to be if you want to enjoy free theatrical performances. These performances can be watched every single evening throughout the year.

Free Art viewing

To the lovers of art who don’t want to spend a ton of money appreciating people’s work, the Singapore Art Museum will not drain you of any cash whatsoever. It contains the world’s biggest contemporary South-East Asian art collection and allows visitors for free between 6pm and 9pm each Friday.

Free Playgrounds

Your kids can also play and enjoy certain tourist attractions for free when they visit Gardens By The Bay, Changi Airport and East Coast Park. Children can also gain access to free playgrounds in various shopping malls, particularly the Marina Square.

Free tourist attractions

If you’re new to Singapore and want to explore the numerous tourist sites the country is noted for, it is absolutely possible to do so on a very low budget. Sisters’ Islands Marine Park organizes free tours to visit its coral reefs, seagrass areas and sandy shores. The tours take about 45 people at a time, thus require prior registration, but are absolutely free.

The Ministry of National Development also provides tourists with instawalks which allows them to explore the City’s nature and beauty while sharing it with more people on Instagram. During these walks, refreshments, guides and transport is freely provided.

Free SSO Concerts

Music lovers on a budget could still enjoy free concerts held by the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO). Most of these are held at Gardens by the Bay and Botanic Gardens. Apart from the free ones held, the SSO also holds concerts which only require a $10 ticket fee from students.

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