We’re all familiar with the saying “When in Rome, do as Romans do?” but when it comes down to it, it can be difficult to adapt to a new lifestyle, especially when you’re accustomed to certain kinds of comforts that you were able to afford previously. How would you feel if before, you and your wife could own a car each, but after moving abroad, you can barely afford one for the family? According to the Letzelter family, it can be very trying, as they learn to find ways to adjust to life here.
Photo caption & credit: Mr Letzelter with his wife Jennifer and their daughters, three-month-old Lucy and 23-month-old Olivia. The couple find that it helps to stock up on clothes in the US during their visits home, as they can cost less there. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE
Recently, corporate pilot Cyril Letzelter and his family have received much criticism by Singaporeans after appearing in the news, in which they lamented about the high cost of living in the island city-state, and remarked that if they are facing any monetary problems, it’s due to their inability to live frugally. Locals pointed out that the family’s lifestyle is much too “extravagant”, as they are spending SGD 2.4k on groceries, in addition to paying SGD 4.4k for rent, SGD 1k for a maid, and SGD 800 for transport. To quote a reader, “My God, to spend $2.4k on groceries monthly; are they eating gold?”
Well, that’s one way of looking at it.
Team Expat feels that it’s unfair to expect new expatriates to give up their luxurious lifestyle and eating habits just because they moved to a country with a higher cost of living. After all, they expected life to be more, if not just as, cushy as it was back home—otherwise they wouldn’t have consented to move at all. So if you’re an expat who has just moved to Singapore, fret not for we are going to tell you how you can save money by living like a local, without having to skip out on the finer things in Singapore.
Do your shopping online
Chances are you may not have a corporate pilot as a husband like Mrs Letzelter, but you can still get affordable and appropriate clothes for you and your children by shopping online. There are a lot of online shops that offer free shipping, such as:
- Amazon – Not every country gets to enjoy FREE shipping with AmazonGlobal Saver Shipping, but thankfully, Singapore is one of them—providing if your order costs USD 125 or more. As the world’s largest online retailer, you can be sure to find just about anything on their site, so take this chance to stock up on goods to enjoy the free shipping.
- ASOS – You can find a varied selection of wardrobe staples, fast fashion and high street labels, as well as designer pieces ranging from petite to plus size apparel. Best of all, get free shipping to Singapore when your order comes to SGD 40!
- Book Depository – Kinokuniya carry a wide range of books in their stores, but if you would rather in USD, you can shop at Book Depository, where they accept payments through PayPal AND offer FREE international shipping.
- Zalora Singapore – If all else fails, ZALORA is the one to turn to. While their prices are not exactly cheap (considering the Letzelter family is complaining about children’s clothes costing USD 15 apiece in Singapore, the online fashion retailer offers promotions and free coupons often, which makes shopping with them so much more affordable than it is.
Make use of Singapore’s public transport
The advantage of living in Singapore is the availability of affordable public transport, which not only covers the whole of the island city-state, but is extremely efficient as well. Check out our recent article on getting around in Singapore titled First-Time Expat in Singapore: Tips for Getting Around
If taking the bus, train, or taxis is not your thing, you can opt to carpool with other travellers. Aside from GrabHitch, you can also try out RYDE, Singapore’s first and number one carpooling app, or SwiftBack, a ride-sharing app that connects passengers with verified drivers for rides to carpool as a greener and affordable transport alternative. Carpooling is a great new way to meet locals and make friends, especially if you have no time for partying or joining communities, AND it gets you to your destination for a lower cost—now that’s killing two birds with one stone!
Understandably, having young children makes it a hassle to get around with public transport, but that’s where rental cars come in. You can join clubs like Car Club, which allows you to book a car from 190 options, anywhere in Singapore, and anytime you need a car. Unlike most car rental companies, Car Club only charges you when you use the car, meaning that you get to save on maintenance and parking fees (some condos require you to pay extra for your very own parking lot).
Buy early online
Keen on seeing a tourist attraction or concert? Every now and then, popular tourist attractions such as Resorts World Sentosa and online shopping sites like 11street
will have timed special deals and promotions for passes, which enables you to save more than you would’ve if you bought tickets at the door, as well as save yourself queue time, and it’s not like you’re seeing a different version of the tour.
In that same vein, usually concerts have pre-sale or early bird tickets, which costs significantly less than tickets sold after sales are open to the public, so remember to sign up for an account with the official ticket distributor or event organiser months ahead to enjoy these special privileges and save dollars in the process! The same goes for overseas trips and hotel bookings—according to CheapAir; the prime time to book your tickets is 47 days in advance unless you’re travelling during the summer or with a big party.
Eat local at hawker centres
It’s true that “one man’s meat is another man’s poison”, but in the case of the local fare in Singapore, this is phish-posh. With dishes like chilli crab, char kuey teow
, roti prata
, fishball noodles, and chicken rice, you’ll want to order whatever he or she at the other table is ordering if you’re having a meal in a hawker centre. There’s not only plenty of variety for you to choose from before you get bored, and they are cheap enough for you to have seconds if one dish doesn’t fill your stomach! Have we mentioned that eating out at hawker centres or local family-owned restaurants will let you have a much-needed break from cooking spaghetti or burgers for the kids? If you’re concerned about the sanitary conditions at hawker centres, Singapore was voted one of the top 12 cleanest cities in the world and the cleanest in Asia
Enrol your children in private schools
Plan a vacation in Singapore
Thinking of taking the kids on a trip somewhere for the weekend? Instead of planning an expensive trip to Bali, why not head to one of these kid-friendly getaways in Singapore for an equally fun time? After all, when you move back to your country you could probably afford to travel to most places, so why not see all you can around the little red dot for even lower cost since you’re travelling domestically? For more interesting sightseeing ideas, check out our article on the 10 New Singapore Attractions You Won’t Want to Miss Out On!
Do you have any additional budgeting tips for enjoying life like a local that you’ve devised on your own? Share it with our expat readers below!