July 24

Hacks you never knew: Here’s how to save more money in Singapore


I confess

Let me make a confession. I’m probably the worst ever cheapskate you will see. I’m embarrassed to admit the things I’ve done to save dollars and cents.

From cutting up my face wash bottle to get the last dredges of face wash cream that couldn’t be squeezed out, to walking an hour to save money on transport, I’ve done many things. Especially after quitting my job without a job lined up, I realised that I was doing even more to try and save.

The lengths I went to just to save a few cents
The lengths I went to just to save a few cents

When I’ve gone for the weddings of friends, I’ve even quietly slipped past the reception table (Like a ninja!) to avoid giving the wedding angbao money. If you’re that friend reading this, please forgive me.

And from those experiences, I’ve come to learn that sometimes, saving money doesn’t make sense.


Money can sometimes get you better things

My father likes saying that he wouldn’t buy an iPhone because of its price. Well, his phone regularly gives him problems, so much so that he will change is every 18 months. I’ve used my past 2 iPhones for 4 years each. Starting from 2013, each iPhone lasted 4 years before it got too slow for it to be effective.

They were also of comparable prices to the regular Android phones you could get, as they were the SE versions.

Money can sometimes get you a certain degree of quality that doesn’t just come because of the brand. It can bring you a longer-lasting object, that functions better.

That’s priceless. Thus in weighing between saving money and spending more money, sometimes it does help to ask,

Is this brand known for its quality products?

Spending money on healthier things can sometimes give you long tail positives

For example, another luxury item I do not save on are health classes. I’ve paid for health coaching, salsa classes, and pay for a monthly gym membership. You may say,

You can exercise outdoors! You can jog!

You don’t have to have a coach!

how to save money in singapore
Sometimes being happy is priceless

But these things that you pay for can have long term positives that simply don’t show up now.

Sure, you can save on these classes, but the happiness you get from being in a salsa class, or the pump you feel after lifting some iron, is something that improves performance massively.

That’s a long tail positive.

Spending money can save you time

Before Naval Ravikant was the angel investor behind the likes of Uber and Yammer, he was a software engineer. At that time, even though his per hour pay was about $100 an hour, he put his aspirational hourly pay as wroth $5000 per hour.

That helped him to make decisions about whether he should spend his time doing a certain thing. Sometimes, to save money, we may choose to do the housework ourselves.

Spending 3 hours sounds reasonable when house help may be $50 an hour.

But if you look at your aspirational per hour rate, that looks like a complete waste of your resources.

Think about it this way. You can always have more money, but you can never have more time. Time is finite. Once its used up, it’s gone. You can never buy more of it.

That’s why choosing to use your precious time on the things that you want to, rather than things you need to, is vital for your longer term happiness.

Besides, if you hate that role, you wouldn’t be fulfilled by it at all. Why do you force yourself to do that?

That brings us to the next point.

how to save money in singapore
Sometimes saving time matters

Money can buy you happiness

For all the people who say that money can’t buy you happiness, they just haven’t lived on a dollar a day before.

Even though I’m not broke, I live as if I’m broke. That experience, is really not nice. I don’t go to restaurants to eat. When I’m hungry, I would hold my hunger until I reach home, rather than buying something to eat outside.

Therefore the hardest time came one evening, as I was passing by a Starbucks cafe. I saw a silver of cake on the table.

I sat down. Looked at it.

And wanted to eat it.

That’s not a nice experience to sit through. For the first time, you realise that money can bring you a certain degree of freedom, such as being able to buy a meal without worrying about what it will do to your bank account.

When you’re broke, living on a dollar a day, you will realise the power of money to bring you happiness. Maybe buying luxuries everyday will not make you happy, but don’t let it be a case of sour grapes – where you say something is not good just because you cannot get it.

how to save money
Don’t be sulky and angry just because you can’t get something you want

Treating yourself to something nice regularly can remind you of how nice it can be to earn money, and to encourage you to continue earning more and more money.

Spending money can grow your value to organisations

I’ve spent more than $20,000 on personal development courses. This has helped me to grow my value to organisations, that cannot be measured in dollar terms.

Sometimes, when we think of spending $2000 on a personal development course, it may seem expensive. But I invite you to divide that amount by 5 years, as that is likely the time when you can see the skills you build show themselves over the course of your work.

$400 a year doesn’t seem that steep after all.

It is a balance

I highly advocate that people save money.

But after living the past few months on the complete end of the spectrum, where it was almost as if I was living on a dollar a day, I’ve realised my folly. I don’t want that to happen to you.

It’s no fun looking at people’s food through the restaurant window, and hoping they would pass you the scraps. It’s no point trying to figure out how many cents you’ve saved just by traveling from one supermarket to another.

Saving and spending money is a balance. It’s about recognising that there are times when you can treat yourself, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

You’ve earned it.


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