February 13

20 hacks to deal with the GST increase Singapore (2023)


2 months after the dreaded GST increase from 7 to 8%, how has it affected you?

Inflation making you go... NOOOOO?
Inflation making you go… NOOOOO?

You might think that it’s not by a lot. After all, a few cents here and there seem to count for little.

But the 1% does add up. Especially when wages may not necessarily be rising in lockstep with the rise in prices.

Despite Singapore introducing the Assurance Package to cover the cost of the GST hike, the initial screams of joy when you saw the hundreds from Mr Government may have now evaporated.

Let's all hope DPM Wong has some good news for us tomorrow during his Budget statement.
Let’s all hope DPM Wong has some good news for us tomorrow during his Budget statement.

Paying for Christmas, Chinese New Year and the expensive Valentine date you have may end up costing you by a lot.

What can you do?

A caveat

You probably hate those articles telling you to drink less lattes from Starbucks. Or to tell you to stop your Netflix and Spotify subscriptions. But you and I know that these things add a lot of joy to your life.

Why would you want to cancel those, and end up being miserable?

There’s a better way.

It involves you saving on the things you don’t want, so that you spend on the things you want.

It sounds simple, but not many do it because it involves you taking time to look back at your spending habits, and understanding what you actually enjoy spending on.

The context

I confess.

Running a business isn’t the easiest thing. In April last year, things got so bad that I had to eat baked beans for 3 straight weeks.

It made me fart a lot.

So I upgraded… to tuna cans.

But living on the edge of poverty for those months taught me to be a lot more aware of how to pinch the penny, and save money.

Here’s the principles you can use in thinking about how to cope with the rising cost of living.

Nah, there's no need for you to start eating only sandwiches with lettuce
Nah, there’s no need for you to start eating only sandwiches with lettuce

Know what you actually like spending money on

What’s more interesting is that what you buy, may not even be what you are like.

You’ve probably been in those situations where your friend pays for an expensive brunch, and you think to yourself,

But this is just going to come out from my butt… is it really worth $28 for some atas-looking eggs?

Forgive me.

But it was always what I thought when we were pretentious 18-year-olds cafe-hopping in Singapore.

I mean, sure, the eggs looked well done, but I couldn’t tell the difference between that, and the sunny-sides I did on my Teflon pan at home.

According to research done at Cambridge University, which studied the spending habits of 625 customers, and mapped them according to the Big Five personality traits,

‘spending buys happiness when spending fits our personality’.

As one of the researchers Joe Gladstone shared,

“spending can increase our happiness when it is spent on goods and services that fit our personalities and so meet our psychological needs.”

Source: Cambridge University, https://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/spending-for-smiles-money-can-buy-happiness-after-all
Source: Cambridge University, https://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/spending-for-smiles-money-can-buy-happiness-after-all

For example, if you were extraverted, spending on entertainment or travel might make you happier, compared to buying stationery.

The key is to know what you enjoy, and spend on things that maximise your joy.

So that you save on the things you don’t actually like

Look back at your spending habits. When have been the times when you’ve felt happy and fulfilled from the purchase?

Knowing what you want to spend on will give you a goal to save all these money.

Rather than saving ‘for the sake of it’, you save for a reason.

Save for a reason, not just to be money-faced
Save for a reason, not just to be money-faced

Don’t save money, save time

Yes yes yes. I was that stupid uncle who hopped from Sheng Siong to FairPrice trying to find the cheapest price.

But after doing that for a while, I realised that the 20 cents I saved probably wasn’t worth the time.

Have an aspirational hourly rate. This advice, from Naval Ravikant, the angel investor behind the likes of Airbnb, Yammer, and Uber, suggests that when you have an aspirational rate (say $1000/hour), anything that comes beneath that may end up costing you, rather than adding to your life.

How does this apply to life?

Travel to the budget supermarket that you can walk or cycle to

Rather than traveling to the supermarket in the shopping centre, go to the one that’s closest to your home. Spending the additional money for transport doesn’t make much sense.

Even if it might be somewhat limited in range, without your buckwheat noodles, that may not be a bad thing. You won’t be tempted to shell out money for what may end up to be fancy food.

Combat how grocers get your money by going with a full stomach

Mind you, the bigger supermarkets also do have greater experience in terms of thinking of how to get your money.

Go to the Sheng Siong in Clementi and that’s would be a great exercise in figuring out how grocers tempt you to take everything you don’t need.

Travel up the escalators, and you will see your favourite snacks littered along the escalator. Ripe for you to take.

Go to the checkout counter, and they hit you with all sorts of promotions.

Or let’s take the Cold Storage as another example. Immediately when you walk in, you will have the smells of delicious roast wafting up your nostrils. And then when you walk further in, there will be freshly baked bread.

It’s specially designed to make you checkout fresh foods, that are more expensive.

The easiest way is to go with a full stomach. This way, you won’t take based on craving, but based on your list.

Buy smarter

You would probably be familiar with the dollar shops that sell toiletries and strange brands at a much cheaper price. These are shops such as:

  1. Value Dollar
  2. Japan Home

But they can also be a great place to get cheaper items.

Buy toiletries at Value Dollar or the dollar shops

Is there a difference between the Colgate at FairPrice and the Colgate at Value Dollar.

Yup. One is imported into Singapore, whilst the other at Value Dollar is parallel imported from a cheaper country.

For example, Value Dollar may buy thousands at the local Thai price of $0.50, import it, and sell it to you at $1.20.

It’s the same brand, and may even be made at the same place.

But the cost is a big difference.

Cook from scratch

Singapore spoils you.

When you’ve great hawkers all around at $4, you may not see the point of going to the trouble of cooking.

Why is it worth cooking?

Because its cheaper. An average $4 meal would set you back by $10 a day, and $300 a month.

Compare that to grocery shopping, where you might spend an average of $200 per month, per person.

Start cooking something simple

Sure, you might not know how to cook that well now, but start from something simple.

Often the biggest resistance to cooking is that of time.

Then use batch cooking. You might not be familiar with this, but in the U.K., when meals outside cost an average of $15, batch cooking wasn’t a luxury.

It was a must.

That means you might want to start cooking a big batch of fried rice for a week. Take it to the office, microwave it, and you have a good meal.

Stop using top ups for transport

Topping up your EZ Link doesn’t make much sense. You have to queue up, load the value on the card, and then reload it everytime it runs out.

Use the SimplyGo function instead, where you pay from your debit or credit card.


Because it means that your money is not locked up in stored value cards. Rather, you pay as and when you use transport.

This might sound like a small thing, but it gives one crucial thing in a period of inflation.


Liquidity is key during times like these, even when you’re just talking about $50 top-ups for your EZ Link.

By paying through SimplyGo, you get to lengthen and extend your cash out cycle, rather than putting upfront money to pay for transport.

It also allows you to cope with the already long monthly cash-in cycle of your salary.

Use more of what you already pay for

If you’re paying for things like:

  • a gym membership,
  • a coworking space,

Use more of it to do things you need to do. I don’t mean staying at the gym to charge your phone for a few hours. That’s probably a waste of time.

Bathe at your gym or office

But what I mean is that you can use your gym to take a shower. That can seem difficult because you have to bring your clothes, towels, and shower gel, but it can help you feel fresher at the office.

Just make sure you don't get sacked for bringing your friends to your coworking space
Just make sure you don’t get sacked for bringing your friends to your coworking space

Use your coworking space to meet friends

Or your coworking space to meet friends, rather than paying for an expensive coffee in a cafe, with fancy beans that you frankly don’t know the difference with the Kopi-O at the hawker centre.

Aim for cashback, rather than points back

Whilst there has been a spate of attention on the new digital banks like Trust giving LinkPoints, and the Yuu Rewards Card giving you YuuPoints, the problem with these points are that they are not cash.

That means you have to spend to redeem them.

The danger there is that you may end up in a never ending vicious cycle of spending to get more points, and then spending to get rid of those points.

That’s a dangerous cycle.

The One card to rule them all

UOB probably doesn’t strike you as the hottest kid on the block, but it is still the best in terms of cashback for debit cards.

3% cashback, no questions asked. No minimum spend required, just money back in cash, every month.

Pay nothing for credit cards

If you’re paying an annual $192 for your credit card, stop.

Cancel it.

Trust Bank has credit cards that have no fees, ever.

I suspect that other banks would find their fees impossible to justify and slowly bring down their fees too.

But Trust is really the bank to use for credit, with their digital-first bank making the mobile experience, fast, and uncluttered.

Gone are the days where you have to look through the icons on DBS, trying to figure out how exactly to pay your credit card bill.

Use memberships to pay for fun

When you’re in Singapore, life can seem a little boring. After all, what else is there to do beside working, and spending your time in a mall?

The normal list of fun things might include:

  1. Movies
  2. Food
  3. Walks
  4. Shopping

That’s where we want to introduce you to the idea of fun through experiences, and for that, go to Crane.

Crane is a coworking space, but more importantly, a community. They host many events that bring people together, such as

  • comedy clubs
  • yoga
  • sound healing clubs
  • conversation clubs
  • Brunch

Imagine this.

You’ve signed up for a brunch. You walk into a shophouse in Joo Chiat. And there, you see another person you’ve never met before, seated there.

You have a choice. Do you walk up to say hi, or do you just sit and eat your own brunch?

I would walk up and say hi.

The problem is, in most Singaporean brunch places, that would be seen as very weird.

But no so in Crane.

GST increase singapore
Ah no need to have an awkward brunch by yourself

Crane has a communal vibe, that’s deliberately cultivated through the spaces they create and the events they curate. It’s designed to break down the traditional barriers to going outside of your comfort zone to speak and thereby help you make friends, organically.

For this, you don’t have to pay the full price.

Get the Crane membership at $129 per month

If you’re also a solopreneur looking for a space to work, the Crane membership is worth getting. On top of that, you’d get discounted tickets to these events.

2 other memberships that have really helped us to bring the cost down are:

The SAFRA card for movies at Shaw

Whilst this is only for NSmen, you can ask your friend or boyfriend to buy tickets through his SAFRA card.

It’s simply incredible value, with off-peak movies at $7.50 and movies during the peak times (Friday, weekends, and public holidays) at $11.50.

The Projector

Want more indie movies?

The Projector has them. Whilst their annual membership is $70 a year, this gives you 4 free movies and also $2 off their ticket prices.

It might make sense if you watch more than 9 movies a year at The Projector.

How did I get that?

Item Value
4 free movies at $13 each $52
Remaining cost to be covered $70 yearly membership fee -52 = $18
$18/$2 discount off ticket prices = 9 tickets to cover your cost  

Coping with inflation is about being intentional

Whilst the GST hike can seem painful initially, with some minor tweaks, you can start combating it.

The key is to be intentional, knowing how you spend your money, rather than spending just because your friend wants to.

Spend instead on the things that matter to you, and save on the things that don’t.



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