How To Survive On $500/Month In Singapore

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Is it really possible in Singapore?

Back when we were students, we largely survived on a shoestring budget, relying on funds from our families, student loans or even part-time jobs.

When we graduate and start working, we start to lose control of our spending. Here are 5 tips on how we can potentially go back to surviving on $500 a month and live like a student again!

Tip 1: Create two bank accounts

This is probably the most extreme of all but also the most effective. Forced savings creates a forced expenses limit. The best part of this is that it’s a challenge to you to stay motivated and see how long you can actually last on this $500 (or budget) you set for yourself.

The moment your salary gets credited into your bank account, set up a GIRO automated transfer to your expense account. Do this as an experiment for one month and see how you can survive and adjust accordingly in the following month. Especially useful here in Singapore when all big banks have almost $0 fees and good payment options.

  • Take home Salary = $2000
  • Transfer to Savings account = $1500
  • Remaining to spend = $500

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Tip 2: Seek out value-for-money group deals

Apart from looking from the usual student/Groupon deals etc, you can consider buying items as a group rather than an individual to save on shipping fees.This actually happens quite frequently in the corporate junior world. Here are some examples usually from Taobao:

Some common examples usually from Taobao:
  • Phone cases, accessories and screen protectors
  • Laptop stands and screen shield
  • Grocery deliveries
  • The list is endless. Consider gathering as many friends as possible and try to negotiate discounts with the suppliers.

For an F&B example, it will be something like this – you have a group of friends living in close proximity who are die-hard durian lovers, the group of you can go and savour durians regularly. When you guys patronize the outlet often enough such that the stallholder feels that he can get a guaranteed minimum sales from you guys, you can negotiate with the stallholder such that whenever you guys come and make a purchase, you will get a special price or discount. But watch the weight though! ????

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Tip 3: Sync up your calendar activities

For instance, say for a particular week, you have three errands to run.

  • Go to the SAFRA gym
  • Do your groceries
  • Meet up with a friend for dinner

Assuming your schedule permits, you can try to lump all three activities within a day. This can easily save you at least 50% on transport, assuming they are all located in the same vicinity. Better still if the activities can be done within 45 minutes, you can actually enjoy the transfer rebates for public buses. Even more if you take GRAB or UBER.

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Tip 4: Head over to Johor Bahru!

Depending on what you aim to do, your savings can be rather substantial. During off-peak hours, customs clearance on both sides can be done within half an hour.

Top things to purchase in JB:
  • Groceries and staples (usually 2x cheaper or more)
  • Household items (snacks, drinks)
  • Phone accessories (e.g screen protector, cables)
  • Petrol (especially if you drive, at 3x cheaper prices)
Top things to do in JB:
  • Get a haircut + wash, manicure (RM39 compared to SGD30)
  • Watch a movie (RM10 compared to SGD12)
  • Get a massage from a local spa (RM30 compared to SGD30)
  • Have a sumptuous meal (RM30 compared to SGD20)

The return bus fare to and from the border will cost anything between SGD3-SGD10 depending on where you live in Singapore and which part of JB you visit. A top tip is to just GRAB everywhere in Malaysia, you can get from point A to B in 3x less the price anywhere in Singapore.

Tip 5: Have a cheap hobby

Here are some classic examples we love to share about:

  • Instead of spending time going to movies why not watch free videos on youtube or online streaming services?
  • Instead of cafe hopping, why not hop around hawker centers in Singapore and savor local food which is affordable and tasty.
  • Instead of going to the gym to train and incurring entrance/membership fees, why not utilise the free workout stations in the neighborhood park or to undertake activities like jogging where you do not have to pay for facility usage.

If you have good ball sense, consider an activity like basketball or soccer where you can play the game with your neighbours in the nearby court. Eventually, if you play often enough and are reasonably skilled, you can start to coach part-time to earn some passive income! 

Conclusion: It’s all about minor lifestyle changes!

As a young adult, living on a shoestring budget is an inescapable reality… you have to be willing to make some changes.

With prudence, discipline and good planning, we can make the best of the amount of money we have been given. In fact, you may be interested to read this article on the top money saving tools we crowd-sourced with our community!

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